A leaked slide suggests that while Intel's latest Sandy Bridge E processors require an entirely new motherboards, next year's Ivy Bridge E chips will be a simple drop-in upgrade.
Intel's tick-tock development cycle - following one year's simple process shrink with next year's new architecture upgrades - is often a mixed bag for those upgrading their existing systems. While the latest mainstream Sandy Bridge chips use the company's existing LGA-1155 socket type, the top-end Sandy Bridge E series uses the new - and totally incompatible - LGA-2011.
With LGA-2011 boards costing somewhere between £200 and £300 at present, that's a significant investment on top of the supremely expensive processor and high-end cooling system required - and that's without even considering a graphics card upgrade or some of the new high-performance DDR3-1600 memory that's appearing as an accessory for the chip.
While the Sandy Bridge E processors are the kings of the performance hill at present, next year they'll be drifting towards the top of the mid-range as Intel launches its Ivy Bridge processor family in 1H2012.
Intel will, of course, capitalise on the success of its Sandy Bridge E series with an Ivy Bridge E series - but if it requires another £300 motherboard, all but the most hardcore of gamers will likely leave well alone.
Although as-yet unconfirmed by Intel - which "does not comment on rumour or speculation," as it so often reminds us - a slide deck leaked by a user on the Chinese XFastest (opens in new tab) forums claims that the current LGA-2011 motherboards with X79 chipsets will be compatible with the Ivy Bridge E processors, making them a simple drop-in upgrade.
That's great news for those who simply have to have the biggest and the best new chips on the market, but will come as little consolation to those looking at the company's more mainstream offerings: the first mainstream Ivy Bridge chips, codenamed Haswell, are expected to use a new LGA-1150 socket type which is incompatible with Sandy Bridge motherboards.