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Intel's new LGA-2011 and X79 get an early outing

Board partners at Computex 2011 have risked raising Intel's ire by unveiling products based around the as-yet unannounced X79 chipset and new LGA-2011 socket format for the Sandy Bridge E series of processors - and we've had a look to see what's going on.

Speaking to motherboard manufacturer Gigabyte, we were told that the unveiling of the LGA-2011 socket format and X79 chipset was pushed forward due to the launching of Socket AM3+ boards from Intel's bitter rival AMD - but that the company isn't allowing any running samples to be shown, for fear of AMD getting wind of the potential performance gains the new platform brings.

The design of the socket has changed dramatically from the current LGA-1155 and LGA-1156 sockets: to prevent damage to the chip, Intel is insisting on a dual-catch mechanism which ensure that the processor is clamped evenly at each side. This 'balanced' approach even extends to the memory - with two banks of two DIMMs located at either side of the socket, due to an Intel-mandated design requirement.

The board on show, a Gigabyte GA-X79-UD3, features four DIMM slots for DDR3 memory - due, we were told, to the X79 making the move to quad-channel memory from triple-channel in the current Sandy Bridge chipset lineup. This, potentially, could lead to an impressive boost in performance over current systems.

Gigabyte's board also supports both Nvidia's SLI and AMD's CrossFireX for multi-GPU gaming across multiple graphics cards, and features a six-phase voltage regulation module design described as 'innovative' and aimed at those who like to tweak their systems.

While the board on display was an engineering sample - still featuring its Intel-mandated debugging connector - much of the finished product's features can still be seen. Chief among these is a wealth of SATA connectivity - 14 ports in total - for use with Intel's Rapid Storage Technology enterprise, or RSTe. USB 3.0 is also included, along with third-generation PCI Express slots featuring an impressive 56 lanes in total.

The board will require a Sandy Bridge E processor to operate - a high-end 'enthusaist' chip designed as Intel's answer to AMD's Bulldozer. While firm specifications aren't yet available, preliminary information points to a 3.3GHz six-core or eight-core chip with plenty of cache, and prices as high as $1,000.

A source close to proceedings suggested to thinq_ that Intel may be pushing the Sandy Bridge E series out ahead of time to prevent AMD's Bulldozer getting a stranglehold, but this is as yet unconfirmed.