Intel preps new CPU socket for next year

Not content with introducing two new CPU sockets in less than two years, Intel apparently already has plans for a brand new CPU socket to be released next year.

The guys at fellow UK tech site bit-tech dug up the gossip while chatting to some of its industry-friends in Taiwan, and the new socket will apparently be accompanied by a new chipset in the third quarter of 2011. There’s no word on how many pins will be featured on the new socket, but it will apparently not be backwardly-compatible with Intel’s LGA1366 socket.

A higher pin-count will presumably be required in order to implement new features into the CPU, and because more grounding pins will be needed. According to bit-tech, the first CPUs to use the socket will feature eight cores, meaning that up to 16 threads could be addressed using Intel’s Hyper-Threading technology.

Interestingly, it also looks as though Intel will also be using the new socket as an opportunity to overhaul its memory controller architecture. While today’s chipsets can control a pair of triple or dual-channel memory banks, the new accompanying chipset (which will probably be called X68) will apparently feature four DDR3 DIMM channels, using only one DIMM per channel.

The chipset will presumably take advantage of dual-rank DDR3 modules, although this will also mean an end to motherboards with six slots. Even so, it’s worth bearing in mind that 4GB memory modules may well be much more affordable by the end of 2011, meaning that 16GB systems could easily be built using just four sockets. As well as this, the new chipset will apparently also feature more PCI-E lanes.

On the plus side, this means that owners of LGA1366 motherboards still have at least 18 months before their hardware becomes obsolete. On the downside it’s yet another CPU socket that’s being introduced in a comparatively short space of time.

As a point of comparison, Intel’s LGA775 platform spanned the dual-core NetBurst era, while also providing a home for several generations of Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad CPUs. Meanwhile, AMD’s AM3 CPUs are backwardly-compatible with older AM2+ motherboards, giving them a longer lifespan in the upgrade cycle.