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When I was just thinking things were getting a bit boring here in the PC business in the pre-holiday void, here come Intel with something new to shake the tree in the desktop arena. Enter the new Sandy Bridge Extreme, the next Generation of Intel Core I7 Extreme Family 64-bit low-power/high performance CPUs for the new X79 Platform and LGA-2001 ZIF Socket motherboards. Traditionally Platforms are made up of three core components: (processor, MCH, and ICH), but with the new Sandy Bride Extreme that has changed to a two component design that consists of the processor, and a Platform Controller Hub (PCH). This is supposed to increase performance, allow easier validation and an improved x-y footprint. The CPU is much larger now than previous looking Sand Bridge CPUs and reminds me of older generation Xeon CPUs of yesteryears in fact the LGA-2011 Socket is the largest I have yet seen for the desktop platform although it is still built on the 32nm package. The X58 was the High-End enthusiast/desktop/gamer platform, but move over X58, X79 has now come to town and with it new technologies to make their new CPUs the fastest desktop solution on the planet.
The big improvement for gamers in general is the evolution of the PCI Express Bus, which now has reached revision 3.0, thus allowing 40 lanes of PCI-e links capable of 8.0 GT/S and 4 lanes of DM12/PCI Express 2.0 lanes with rumored peak transfers rates of 5.0 GT/s. In the 2nd Quarter of 2012 we will begin to see the arrival of VGA cards using the new 3.0 standard and until then the actual how well this equates to gamers is yet to be seen, but on paper this new I7 Sandy Bridge Extreme features look very impressive and ready to obviously work with next generation technology looming just around the corner. Using an SLI or CrossFire Mult-GPU solution will be better able to handle the bandwidth required for optimal performance. The new SBE CPUs supports up to 46 bits of physical address space and 48 bits of virtual address space. Included in this family of processors is an integrated memory controller (IMC) and integrated I/O (IIO) (such as PCI Express and DMI2) on a single silicon die. This single die solution is known as a monolithic processor. The bottom line here is better overall performance, lower power requirements and improved support for multiple VGA cards in a bigger LGA package that should take the desktop solution to the next level. I admit I always look forward to testing out the latest CPUs and motherboards; it’s always very interesting!