Chipset and CPU Line-up at Launch

As mentioned before, Ivy Bridge is backwards compatible with existing LGA-1155 motherboards but you'll want one equipped with a 7-series chipset to get all the latest features. New chipsets available at or around launch include Z77 and Z75 to replace Z68 and P67 offerings. An H77 chipset will take the place of existing H67-based boards and Q77, Q75 and B75 chipsets will cover business models, replacing Q67, Q65 and B65 products.

The new chipsets -- codenamed Panther Point -- will finally support USB 3.0 natively; Sandy Bridge based systems already offered widespread support for the faster interface but they relied on third-party solutions from NEC and others. All the aforementioned 7-series chipsets will offer up to four USB 3.0 ports and a maximum of 10 USB 2.0 ports, except for the B75, which drops the USB 2.0 count to eight.

SSD caching via Intel's Smart Response Technology will be supported by Z77, H77 and Q77 chipsets. All include support for 6 SATA ports, on the Q75 and B75 only one supports 6Gbps speeds through the newer SATA III interface and the rest is 3Gbps SATA II. The other chipsets support two SATA III ports.

Ivy Bridge processors feature 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes to be used for graphics and/or other add-in PCI cards. All consumer chipsets support a single PCIe x16 device, while the two Z7x chipsets add the option to use two devices at x8. On Z77 boards there is also the option of using one device at x8 and two more devices at x4 speeds. Details about PCIe configurations on the business chipsets is unclear at the moment.

We should note that Gen 3 PCI Express speeds will be available on qualified motherboards and depending on the processor -- PCI-E 3.0 cards will function in PCI-Express 2.0 mode when connected to a Core i3 system.

Overclocking is supported on both Z-chipsets but not the H-chipset, and both support Intel's HD Graphics, unlike with Sandy Bridge where P67 boards didn't. Here's a summary of what we know so far:

Z77 Z75 H77 Q77 Q75 B75
Overclocking CPU + GPU + RAM CPU + GPU + RAM GPU ? ? ?
Supports built-in GPU Yes Yes Yes ? ? ?
SSD caching Yes No Yes Yes No No
Max. USB 2.0/3.0 10 / 4 10 / 4 10 / 4 10 / 4 10 / 4 8 / 4
Max SATA II/III 4 / 2 4 / 2 4 / 2 4 / 2 5 / 1 5 / 1
PCIe Config 1 x16 or 2 x8 or
1 x8 + 2 x4 PCIe 3.0
1 x16 or
2 x8 PCIe 3.0
1 x16 PCIe 3.0 ? ? ?
RAID Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Launch lineup
Intel hasn't officially announced a product lineup or exact dates for Ivy Bridge's much anticipated release. However, with a number of leaks over the last few months -- including slides that Intel inadvertently posted and quickly pulled from its own site -- we already have a pretty good idea of what will be on offer.

On the desktop, as many as 17 different processors have been detailed so far. Most of them are quad Core i5 parts with 6MB of cache and no Hyper-Threading, ranging from a low-power 2.3GHz i5-3570T to a 3.4GHz i5-3570. An official-looking slide leaked last week suggest six Core i5 parts will debut on April 29 along four Core i7 and the Z77, Z75, H77, and B75 chipsets. On June 3, just a couple of days before Computex kicks off in Taiwan, Intel would purportedly launch the business-oriented Q77 and Q75 chipsets alongside five more Core i5 processors. A "holiday" launch is listed for Core i3 and Pentium CPUs based on Ivy Bridge.

We'll soon know if those dates pan out. Here's the full rundown of outed SKUs and their respective specs:

Model Cores Threads Frequency Turbo Frequency L3 cache TDP Intel HD Graphics
i5-3570 4 4 3.4 GHZ 3.8 GHz 6MB 77W 2500
i5-3570K 4 4 3.4 GHz 3.8 GHz 6MB 77W 4000
i5-3570S 4 4 3.1 GHz 3.8 GHz 6MB 65W 2500
i5-3570T 4 4 2.3 GHz 3.3 GHz 6MB 45W 2500
i5-3550 4 4 3.3 GHz 3.7 GHz 6MB 77W 2500
i5-3550S 4 4 3.0 GHz 3.7 GHz 6MB 65W 2500
i5-3475S 4 4 2.9 GHz 3.6 GHz 6MB 65W 4000
i5-3470 4 4 3.2 GHz 3.6 GHz 6MB 77W 2500
i5-3470T 2 4 2.9 GHz 3.6 GHz 3MB 35W 2500
i5-3450 4 4 3.1 GHz 3.5 GHz 6MB 77W 2500
i5-3450S 4 4 2.9 GHz 3.5 GHz 6MB 65W 2500
i5-3330 4 4 3.0 GHz 3.2 GHz 6MB 77W 2500
i5-3330S 4 4 2.7 GHz 3.2 GHz 6MB 65W 2500
i7-3770 4 8 3.4 GHz 3.9 GHz 8MB 77W 4000
i7-3770K 4 8 3.5 GHz 3.9 GHz 8MB 77W 4000
i7-3770S 4 8 3.1 GHz 3.9 GHz 8MB 65W 4000
i7-3770T 4 8 2.5 GHz 3.7 GHz 8MB 45W 4000

On the other side of the spectrum, a total of 11 mobile Ivy Bridge processors have been detailed so far, including four low-voltage, dual-core i5 and i7 parts destined for systems like the MacBook Air and its Ultrabook counterparts. Also listed are three quad-core i7 chips with stock clocks ranging between 2.1GHz and 2.3GHz. They all support Hyper-Threading and feature Intel's HD 4000 graphics built-in.

Model Cores Threads Frequency Turbo Frequency L3 cache Intel HD Graphics
i5-3427U 2 4 1.8 GHz 2.8 GHz 3MB 4000
i5-3360M 2 4 2.8 GHz 3.5 GHz 3MB 4000
i5-3320M 2 4 2.6 GHz 3.3 GHz 3MB 4000
i5-3317U 2 4 1.7 GHz 2.6 GHz 3MB 4000
i5-3210M 2 4 2.5 GHz 3.1 GHz 3MB 4000
i7-3667U 2 4 2.0 GHz 3.1 GHz 4MB 4000
i7-3615QM 4 8 2.3 GHz 3.3 GHz 6MB 4000
i7-3612QM 4 8 2.1 GHz 3.1 GHz 6MB 4000
i7-3610QM 4 8 2.3 GHz 3.3 GHz 6MB 4000
i7-3520M 2 4 2.9 GHz 3.6 GHz 4MB 4000
i7-3517U 2 4 1.9 GHz 3.0 GHz 4MB 4000

Intel acknowledged that Ivy Bridge's launch schedule was pushed back by a "few weeks" to ramp up production of their ULV processor models amid high demand for Ultrabooks. Some have suggested it actually has more to do with PC vendors having trouble clearing up inventory of Sandy Bridge based systems.

We're not sure exactly when Ivy Bridge notebooks will finally launch but Intel says it'll still be within the second quarter schedule that it had envisioned, which means we'll have to wait until sometime around May or June. If you are in the market for a thin and light notebook and can wait just a bit longer, you should definitely hold off your purchase to benefit from Ivy Bridge's power draw and performance optimizations at low voltages.