Intel X79 Express Chipset
Launched November 14th, 2011, the Intel X79 Express chipset is very similar to the Intel P67 Express and Intel Z68 Express chipsets launched earlier in 2011. The Intel X79 Express platform supports 40 PCIe 3.0 lanes via the CPU for graphics, while the Intel Z68/P67 Express chipsets support only 16 lanes. The Intel X79 Express PCH itself supports eight lanes of PCIe 2.0 connectivity for external devices, as well as housing all of the I/O functionality via dual SATA 6 Gb/s ports and quad SATA 3 Gb/s ports, all of which are managed via Intel Rapid Storage Technology 3.0 for RAID support. USB 2.0/3.0 and HD Audio are also supported as is eSATA and Gigabit Ethernet connectivity.
The SKT2011 CPUs that the platform supports are very similar to the previously released SKT1155 CPUs, but nearly everything offered in the SKT1155 platform has been doubled, including cache and core count. Going by the marketing material given out by Intel, the SB-E CPUs (as they are referred to in enthusiast circles) feature eight total processing cores with two having been disabled to keep power in check. Rather than a total of eight active cores we find six, but they appear, as these cores feature Hyper-Threading, as twelve separate cores to the OS.
The PCIe on the CPU can be split many ways, including dual x16 links and a single x8 link at the same time, a single x16 link with triple x8 links, or a single x16 link with dual x8 and dual x4 links. Together these options offer a lot of flexibility for multi-card GPU configurations while supporting up to five total devices connected directly to the CPU. While only four discrete GPUs maximum are supported in current multi-GPU rendering options, the 5th link can be used for an external RAID controller or other PCIe devices that are commonly found in high-end builds.
The ASRock X79 Extreme11 does, of course, take advantage of those possibilities, and has a RAID card built right into the board's PCB!!! Not only that, it also features two PLX PEX8747 PCIe 3.0 bridge chips to expand those four remaining PCIe links into full PCIe x16 links, instead of four PCIe x8 links.