Motherboard Memory Lane: Intel P67, ASUS Maximus IV Extreme and Intel Core i7 2600K

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Motherboard Memory Lane: Intel P67, ASUS Maximus IV Extreme and Intel Core i7 2600K

Today we roll out the eighth edition in our Mother Memory Lane series, this time focusing on the Intel P67 platform. Dubbed the 2nd Generation Intel Core processor platform, the P67 chipset arrived alongside the new and shiny Sandy Bridge architecture CPUs, probably the biggest game change in processor design that Intel had experienced since the arrival of Conroe several years earlier. In terms of Overclocking, the P67 platform saw Intel offer ‘unlocked’ K-SKU processors for the first time, another major shift. Today we’re going to take a look at the P67 platform itself, the most popular motherboards and processors of that particular generation and the record scores that were made around that time.

Intel P67: Overview

The Intel P67 chipset was launched on January 2011 and was codenamed Cougar Point. Like its predecessor, the P55 chipset, it was a single chip solution technically referred to as a PCH, or Platform Controller Hub. Cougar Point included several PCH options of which the P67 variant was deemed the ‘Premium’ offering. Other 6-series PCH chips in the Cougar Point family included H61, B65, Q65 and H67. Being the premium PCH offering targeting enthusiasts, the P67 PCH was in fact the only variant that offered full CPU overclocking, provided you also had a K-SKU Core i7 or i5 processor. Indeed this was the first time that overclocking was embraced by Intel as an enthusiast feature, a feature used for the first time in both platform and CPU-level marketing.

It’s virtually impossible to talk about the Intel P67 PCH without talking about the Sandy Bridge 2nd gen processors that arrived with it. The new platform included pivotal changes in design. Once such change was the move to place the CPU clock generator off the CPU itself and on to the chipset where (to the dismay of many overclockers) it was completely locked. Thus Intel had found a way to monetize overclocking. If you wanted an unlocked, full overclocking experience you would have to pay a premium and opt for a P67 motherboard plus a K-SKU processor, both of which would cost more than standard, non-P, non-K options.

In terms of PCH features, the P67 differentiated from it’s H67 brother by offering a total of x16 lanes of PCI Express Gen 2 connectivity for graphics cards that could be split into a pair of x8 lanes for dual GPU Crossfire and SLI configurations (as with Intel’s X58 platform, SLI licenses were paid at the motherboard level). The other main reason to choose a P67 board was of course CPU overclocking support (although H67 boards could offer memory and GPU overclocking).

Another improvement that arrived on 6-series chipsets was the arrival of faster storage connectivity. To meet the growing need for speed with the continuing adoption of faster SSDs, Intel gave both H67 and P67 PCHs a pair of 6Gbps SATA ports alongside four standard 3Gbps SATA ports. Another innovation that arrived with this series is the implementation of UEFI BIOS, which apart from more graphical interfaces and faster boot times, also eradicated storage limitations on drives of 3TB or more.The P67 PCH chip was manufactured using a 65nm process and had a TDP of 6.1 watts.

Most Popular Intel P67 Motherboards

In previous Motherboard Memory Lane articles we’ve seen companies like GIGABYTE, MSI and EVGA nibble away at ASUS’ dominance in the enthusiast and overclocking space. With the Intel P67 platform we find ASUS has put together line up of boards that make up the vast majority of the top ten.

  • -ASUS Maximus IV Extreme – 26.75%
  • -ASUS P8P67 Pro – 8.46%
  • -ASUS P8P67 Deluxe – 8.41%
  • -GIGABYTE P67A-UD7 – 6.72%
  • -GIGABYTE P67A-UD4-B3 – 5.44%
  • -GIGABYTE P67A-UD4 – 4.03%
  • -ASUS Sabertooth P67 – 3.66%
  • -ASUS P8P67 – 3.29%
  • -ASUS P8P67 Evo 3.28%
  • -MSI P67A-GD65 – 3.27%

As we enter the era of the P67 it’s clear that the two big hitters are ASUS and GIGABYTE. EVGA, ASRock, MSI and others have but a small percentage of the pie, while other smaller vendors have disappeared completely. ASUS rules supreme, not only due to it’s P67 ROG offering, the Maximus IV Extreme which is responsible for 26.75% of all P67-based submissions on HWBOT, but also with its two other high-end offerings, the ASUS P8P67 Pro and ASUS P8P67 Deluxe. When combined the six ASUS boards in the top ten list represent 53.85% of all P67 submissions.

GIGABYTE are ASUS’s closest rival. Their high-end P67A-UD7 board managed to glean 6.72% of P67 submissions. In total GIGABYTE has 16.19% of the top in terms of score submissions in this era. MSI manages to make tenth spot on the table with its P67A-GD65 board. In this era we can see the motherboard vendor field narrowing. The only other manufacturers represented in the top thirty are ASRock, Biostar and Intel.

The ASUS ROG Maximus IV Extreme

This is what HardOCP had to say about the ASUS ROG Maximus IV Extreme back in September 2011:

At about 4.0GHz we had to increase the CPU voltage to 1.375. We went from that to 1.4v because we knew where we were headed. Increasing the CPU voltage to 1.475v, we were able to reach a stable 5.1GHz! Normally it takes about 1.5v to do that if you can do it at all. We were even able to achieve this using only a Core i5 2500k. This is our previous 2500K (one of two we use for OC testing) that we had never seen beyond 4.9GHz.

Most Popular Intel P67 Compatible Processor: Intel Core i7 2600K

By far the most popular model in the Intel 2nd Generation Core series on HWBOT is the Core i7 2600K. The top SKU at launch, the Core i7 2600K, arrived with four cores and eight threads, a base clock frequency of 3.4GHz (boosting to 3.8GHz), an 8MB L3 cache and a TDP of 95 watts. It used the 1155 LGA socket that would span two generations – Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge. The platform supported default DDR3 speeds of DDR3-1066 and DDR3-1333 out of the box.

The new platform also boasted Intel’s latest and greatest integrated graphics solution, the Intel HD Graphics 300 which had a GPU base frequency of 850MHz and a maximum frequency of 1.35GHz. The new architecture also debuted Intel Quick Sync technology – GPU accelerated video transcoding that offered encoding speeds significantly beyond what a single CPU core could do.

In terms of Overclocking, multiplier adjustments were only possible with K-SKU processors. At launch that meant either an i7 2600K or an i5 2500K. Compared to non-K equivalents, K-SKU processors retailed for around $20 USD more than non-K-SKU models. Sandy Bridge processors were easily overclocked using air and water cooling. Most custom water cooled system and even some air cooled system could push a 3.4GHz Core i7 2600K close to 5GHz. However in the sphere of extreme overclocking, most Sandy Bridge architecture processors struggled to break 6GHz.

Looking at the data we find that the Core i7 2600K is responsible for a massive 70.09% of all P67 submission on HWBOT. As you might expect the decision to limit Overclocking to just two SKUs had a massive impact on processor purchasing choices. This picture looks even more complete when you consider that the Core i5 2500K commands 18.05% of all submissions. A product refresh in Q4 of 2011 offered the Core i7 2700K, a product which garnered 5.63% of P67-era submissions. Collectively, K-SKU Sandy Bridge processors represent 93.77% of all submissions.

ASUS ROG Maximus IV Extreme: Record Scores

We now take a look at the highest scores posted using the most popular P67 platform motherboard, the ASUS ROG Maximus IV Extreme motherboard.

Reference Clock

Reference clock overclocking was less significant in the P67 era as multipliers offered the simplest path to higher clock speeds. However, in the spirit of consistency we will again take a look at the highest reference clock made with the Maximus IV Extreme. The highest reference clock submitted on HWBOT came from Behzad Tak from Iran. He managed a reference clock of 113.71MHz, using an Ivy-Bridge Core i7 3770K processor.

You can find the submission from Behzad Tak here on HWBOT:

CPU Frequency

Today we don’t always pay too much attention to raw CPU frequencies or treat them as true benchmarks, however it remains an important performance metric for most overclockers.The highest CPU frequency ever submitted to HWBOT using the Maximus IV Extreme motherboard and a Sandy Bridge CPU came from Italy’s Hellbert who managed to push a Core i7 2600K to a massive 6,061.24MHz, +78.27% beyond stock settings.

You can find the submission from Hellbert here:

SuperPi 32M

Finally we come to the classic SuperPi 32M benchmark, an important benchmark in terms of historical relevance. The fastest SuperPi 32M run submitted on HWBOT using an ASUS Maximus IV Extreme motherboard was submitted by German legend der8auer who completing a run in just 4min 49sec 937ms using a Core i7 3770K ramped up to 6,842MHz (+95.49%).

Here’s a shot of the LN2 cooled rig as used by der8auer:

Check out the submission from der8auer here:

Thanks for joining us for today’s trip down Motherboard Memory Lane. Come back next week when we take a look at the Intel Z68 platform.

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