Intel X79 Express Chipset
Launched on 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 only support 16 lanes. The Intel X79 Express PCH itself supports eight lanes of PCIe 2.0 connectivity for external devices and houses all of the I/O functionality for dual SATA 6 Gb/s ports and quad SATA 3 Gb/s ports, 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 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 Intel's marketing material, the SB-E CPUs (as they are referred to in enthusiast circles) feature eight total processing cores, although two have been disabled to keep power in check. Rather than a total of eight active cores we have six, but they appear as twelve separate cores to the OS because of Hyper-Threading.
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-GPU configurations while supporting up to five devices connected directly to the CPU. While only up to four discrete GPUs are supported in current multi-GPU rendering options, the 5th link can be used with an external RAID controller or another PCIe device that is commonly found in high-end builds.