Intel’s new Sandy Bridge architecture is certainly raising a few eyebrows since its launch back at the early part of the year, not only for the right reasons regarding the superb performance but also for the wrong reasons because of the SATA defect at launch time which has now thankfully been resolved.
In the past month a new eyebrow has risen regarding all the chipsets available for sandy bridge chips. There are no less than 4 chipsets available and the purpose of this article is to help you choose which chipset is right for your PC.
Before I start to break down each chipset, it is worth noting that performance wise they are all pretty much the same, it is just the features of each chipset vary.
Introduced along with the P67 chipset at launch is the H67 chipset.
Each Socket 1155 CPU all have in built graphics, and to be able to utilise that embedded graphics card the motherboard must have a video output such as a VGA, DVI or HDMI port. All H67 motherboard have at least one video output so that the CPU GPU can be used. Whilst this is a great feature it is worth noting the integrated graphics are not much cop and only really suited to HD video playback and very basic gaming. The main advantage of this is to eliminate the need for a small sub £30 graphics card and to bring down the overall cost of a workstation PC or media Centre that does not require a dedicated graphics card. The H67 like all the other chipsets does support dedicated graphics cards too, so should the need to add a higher end graphics card arise, it is a straight forward procedure.
The downside of a H67 chipset is it supports very limited overclocking even if an unlocked ‘K’ Series CPU (i5 2500K & i7 2600K) is installed. To the overclockers, this is a completely no go chipset, but for everyone building a sandy bridge system on a budget it makes a great choice.
The P67 chipset was also available at the launch of the Sandy Bridge CPU. The upside of this chipset is it supports the option of running two dedicated graphics cards in SLI or Crossfire and the option to overclock K series CPU’s.
The downside is not being able to support the integrated graphics on the CPU so a dedicated graphics card is a must. It makes it a popular choice for the enthusiast and gamer.
Launched 5 months after the P67 and H67 chipset the Z68 chipset combines the advantages of the H67 and P67 Chipset so that overclocking, dual dedicated graphics cards and use of the integrated CPU graphics is available. Whilst on the surface it would seem that this would be the chipset to go for, how many users that have 2 dedicated graphics cards will actually want to use the onboard graphics when they already have 2 more powerful graphics cards in their system anyway?
The only real advantage is for users that wish to access the HD graphics features such as quick sync, but considering it’s only supported by very few transcoding programs and there are not many people out there that need or will want to transcode, it makes it almost pointless to choose Z68 over a P67 chipset.
Same applies to users that want to overclock the CPU but use the onboard graphics card; it’s a very limited market.
Finally, another feature of a Z68 chipset is known as SSD caching which is where it allows the use of a small (say 10 or 20 GB) Solid state hard drive to act as a cache for a larger ‘traditional’ hard disk. If you are already planning the use of a Solid State drive this feature is redundant.
If you can’t afford a decent size SSD (40GB+) then there are more cost effective ways around using a small SSD and SSD cashing like spending less on a motherboard, (H67 chipset or even a P67 chipset) and putting the saved money into a decent size SSD.
Another chipset that was released late on. The H61 is pretty much the same as the H67 but are designed for the bottom end of Sandy bridge builds. Whilst marginally cheaper than H67 chipsets they lack the following features;
Native USB 3.0 ports
Native SATA III ports
Clear Video Technology
They also have less memory slots (only 2), Less PCI-E Lanes and less USB 2.0 ports.
H61 is only recommended for users that can do without those features, are not too bothered about the upgrade potential of the motherboard and simply cannot afford to step up to a H67 chipset.
There you have it, hopefully your answers have been cleared up. Quite clearly the original H67 and P67 chipsets are still, and will remain, the most popular choice for socket 1155 Sandy bridge custom PC builds unless the machine is needed for a rare and specific task.