Intel will start shipping its high-performance X79 Express chipset for motherboards supporting LGA-2011 and LGA-1356 processors in August, states a recent report that cites sources from Taiwanese motherboard makers.
As previous leaks have suggested, the first LGA 2011 processors will be available in the first quarter of 2012.
As many of you know, the chipset that will power the motherboards which support these processors carries the X79 designation, as Intel decided to skip right over the 6-series classification with this platform.
Just like the P67 and the P55 released before it, the X79 features a PCH (platform controller hub) design as most of the tasks that were handled by the X58 chipset previously, such as PCI Express connectivity, were integrated inside the Sandy Bridge-E CPUs.
However, the X79 packs an impressive array of features compared with its predecessors as it now supports no less than 10 SATA 6Gbps, while the PCH is linked to the CPU via a DMI 2.0 interface as well as through an additional PCI-Express 2.0 x4 link.
This can be enabled or disabled by the user in the motherboard's EFI BIOS and should bring a noticeable performance increase in systems that pack high-performance storage systems.
In addition, the X79 PCH also features an Intel Rapid Storage enterprise controller that enables RAID 0/1/5/10 support and eight of the available SATA interfaces can be configured as SAS ports by motherboard manufacturers.
The rest of the specs list includes an 8-lane PCI-Express 2.0 hub, which can be used to drive the x1 and x4 slots, as well as 14 USB 2.0 ports.
Sadly, the PCH doesn't feature native USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt support, which is an important omission considering its target market.
The first motherboard models to carry the Intel X79 PCH are expected to be announced soon after the chipset starts shipping. However, availability will be limited to 2012, although some server models could see the light of day in Q4 2011, provided that Intel sticks with its plans to release Sandy Bridge-E Xeon CPUs by the end of this year.