With the release of Ivy Bridge on the horizon (currently April 8 ) we are also anticipating the release of the next series of chipsets to go with it – this time it will be Panther Point or 7-series chipsets. Check out the article on Ivy Bridge for a brief overview. In this article, I’m going to quickly touch on the Z77 chipset.
The Z77 Panther Point chipset is the top of the line chipset complimenting the Intel Ivy Bridge CPU. The Z77 chipset is going to be the most advanced of the chipset options (think an upgraded version of the z68 chipset).
Some of you have asked whether it is worth waiting for the Z77 chipset over building a system right now with Z68 (and then upgrading to Ivy Bridge later). While it has not yet been released – so we don’t know how it will perform – we can look at features that the Z77 chipset will have.
There are two major differences between the Z77 and Z68 chipsets. This is native USB 3.0 and slightly different PCIe configuration. Currently, in order to get USB 3.0 onto a motherboard, manufacturers are using third parties.
The most noticeable effect of using a third party is an increase in price, as the manufacturer has to purchase the chips (ICs) from those third parties. With Intel including USB 3.0 natively (for up to 4 USB 3.0 ports), this should mean that the relative cost will be slightly less (in the neighborhood of $20) – granted, when Panther Point is released, the previous generation will likely drop in price anyways.
One could also surmise that native hardware implementation makes it easier for manufacturer’s to build custom configurations.
This is where the different PCIe configuration will come into play. The new chipset will provide a more flexible pcie configuration for the manufacturers, making it easier to implement multiple card configurations for PCIe 3.0 – wheras currently it looks like the most you can do on Z68 is two PCIe 3.0 cards (at x8/x8), and then not all Z68 motherboards allow this.
The rest of the Z77 chipset configuration is very similar to Z68. Both Z77 and H77 will include SSD caching – the increase in number of options for SSD caching suggests a trend in that direction, but thats for another article.
In terms of overclocking both Z77 and Z75 will be capable, while H77 will not. Similarly, it looks like there will be K (or similar) versions of the Ivy Bridge processors indicating overclockability.
Unlike the Sandy Bridge release, where the enthusiast chipset (P67) was limited with on board video, all version of Panther Point will include built in video. This is likely due to the utility of Virtu (which again, does not affect gaming performance).
So on the surface, the Z77 chipset appears to be perhaps only a slight upgrade (some might say that about the Ivy Bridge CPU as well). The new platform may prove to be not worth upgrading from Sandy Bridge, but I’m personally trying to wait until April to build a new system – I plan on diving into Ivy Bridge + Z77 with gusto ^_^