It’s well established that Intel has an Extreme version of its hugely successful Sandy Bridge processors in the pipeline, and despite the company keeping a tight lid on specifications, we were able to take a sneak peak at the new enthusiast chips in action last week when motherboard manufacturer Asus unveiled its line-up of compatible motherboards.

On display were enthusiast-level Maximus boards, full of overclocking features and tools, Sabretooth boards geared at professionals and the entry-level Pro boards – the entire line-up will support eight DIMM slots, UEFI BIOS and one-touch USB BIOS updates.

The mainstream P9X79 Deluxe will likely be the go-to board for system builders. Although the Asus reps weren’t ready to reveal pricing, we expect entry-level X79 boards to cost roughly the same as X58 when it launched – around £200. You still get plenty of overclocking features, USB3, CrossfireX and SLI support, but no video outputs – like AMD’s enthusiast-level Bulldozer processors, LGA2011 is designed for use with a dedicated graphics card.

Asus Ports

Extreme overclockers are sure to appreciate the new temperature sensors built into the Maximus board, the latest entry in the Republic of Gamers series. Two probes are each capable of measuring sub-zero temperatures, useful when working with liquid nitrogen. System tweaks won’t be limited to the BIOS either, as each motherboard will include a video pass-through key that overlays voltage and CPU ratio controls onto the Windows desktop.

Like X58 before it, the new high-end processors will require a different chipset from the ones currently being used by regular Sandy Bridge chips. LGA 2011 will also use a different screw configuration for CPU coolers, meaning existing heat sinks might not be compatible (unless manufacturers release free 2011 upgrades).

We can’t reveal performance benchmarks for LGA2011 just yet, but based on what we’ve seen, expect X79 to demolish Bulldozer when it appears in the next few months.

Author: Tom Morgan

 

 

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