Desktop Intel 7 Series Chipsets (Panther Point)

Much has been written about Ivy Bridge, Intel's next generation processors. As is usual for any new processor, there are many new features that are provided by the accompanying chipset, in this case Panther Point. For the desktop computer user that initially consists of 6 chipsets in Q2 2012, with USB 3.0 as standard, Intel Rapid Start technology and a host of other features.

Initially, there will be 6 Panther Point chipsets, 3 for consumer platforms and 3 for business platforms. The 2 performance chipsets for the consumer market are known as Z77 and Z75, while the mainstream consumer chipset is H77. The high-end business chipset, also known as the Stable Platform, is the Q77. Next comes Q75, with a few less features. Lastly, we have B75, the Transactional Platform chipset.

Panther Point is the first generation of chipset to have USB 3.0 integrated, offering 4 USB 3.0 ports on all versions. These are accompanied by 10 USB 2.0 ports on all except B75, which has 8 USB 2.0 ports.

Rapid Start Technology, with a claimed 5-8 seconds resume from hibernate, is available on all chipset. Smart Connect Technology, which provides a smoother cloud experience by constantly updating content, is also available on all chipsets. Smart Response Technology, which was introduced with Z68, is also available with Z77, H77 and Q77 chipsets.

Panther Point also adds wireless display/music ports to the chipset, as well as providing 3 separate displays when supported by an Ivy Bridge processor. Support includes HDMI 1.4a, DVI, DP, eDP and VGA.

On the desktop, there are 16 PCIe lanes available. All boards will be able to use a single PCIe x16 device, while the two Z7x chipsets add the option to use two devices at x8. On Z77 boards there is also the option of using one device at x8 and two more devices at x4 speeds. Information about what PCIe slots will be available on the business chipsets is unclear at the moment. Business chipsets will also have PCI available, which is not available in the consumer chipsets.

All the chipsets will have 6 available SATA ports. B75 and Q75 will have one that is able to operate at SATA III speeds. Other chipsets will have two SATA III ports. Remaining SATA ports will run at SATA II speeds.

Features that will be common accross all chipsets include Intel Rapid Storage Technology 11, single disk migration and RAID 0/1/5/10. An integrated audio codec, supporting HDMI and DP audio, as well as an integrated gigabit Ethernet MAC, are also included. All boards will be able to support 4 DIMMs in dual-channel configuration.

Business chipsets add a few security and manageability features, which vary across the range. Intel vPro Technology, available on the Q77 chipset, with i7 and supported i5 processors, adds a few new features, including Identity Protection, OS Guard and Secure Key. These features provide a level of hardware based security to those that need it. Intel Standard Manageability is available on Q77 and Q75. Finally, Q77 and B75 support Intel Small Business Advantage.

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