We cant help but wondering if Intel is planning to pull the launch of its Ivy Bridge processors forward, as the kind of detailed information that is starting to leak with regards to the second generation LGA-1155 platform is quite surprising, especially considering were still some eight months from the supposed launch. This time around were looking at the full specifications of Intels upcoming 7-series chipsets and although there are no huge surprises, there are one or two.
We were quite curious about what the difference between the Z77 and Z75 chipsets was going to be and seemingly there are only two, both of which are quite silly to have a second chipset for. The Z75 chipset is the most basic model you need if you want to install a pair of graphics cards in a dual x8 PCI Express 3.0 configuration and of course if you want to use a K series processor to overclock. However, Intel has castrated the Z75 chipset by removing support for its Smart Response technology, so in other words, no SSD caching. This seems like an outright silly move by Intel, especially as the company is trying to push the sales of its SSDs with it.
The Z77 chipset on the other hand gains support for a second PCI Express slot configuration option beyond dual x8, namely single x8 plus dual x4. This might seems utterly and completely useless, but bear in mind that PCI Express 3.0 doubles the bandwidth of PCI Express 2.0 and until we get PCI Express 3.0 graphics cards that can take advantage of the full bandwidth on offer, a single x4 PCI Express 3.0 slot should offer the same bandwidth as a PCI Express 2.0 x8 slot. Another reason for this could be Intels planned PCI Express SSDs, as this option would allow for two graphics cards plus an SSD, all connected to the CPU for the best possible performance for the SSDs.
The H77 chipset on the other hand doesnt support overclocking, just as the current H67 chipset, but oddly enough Intel has decided to add support for its Smart Response technology here. The H77 chipset is of course limited to a single x16 PCI Express slot as well. All three chipsets supports Intel Rapid Storage technology 11, four USB 3.0 ports, two SATA 6Gbps ports, eight PCI Express 2.0 lanes and support for up to three independent displays (Ivy Bridge CPU required) and dual audio streams over HDMI or DisplayPort.
On the business side of things were looking at the Q77, Q75 and B75 chipsets where all three supports four USB 3.0 ports, but only the Q77 supports two SATA 6Gbps ports whereas the other two have to make do with only one. Again, the Q77 is the only chipset that supports Intels Rapid Storage technology 11 and Smart Response technology. Otherwise most of the features are similar to the consumer chipsets with the one small addition of native PCI support.