Intel has recently been awash with news about upcoming processors. In March, Intel released information on an upcoming unlocked Haswell Pentium processor, an upcoming Haswell-K processor with overclocking enhancements, an unlocked Iris Pro processor coming to Broadwell, and some details regarding an 8-core Haswell-E processor due later this year. This is a bit of an odd article – various motherboard manufacturers have posted new product images online for an upcoming platform, with all the juicy bits redacted. Here is our analysis of some of those products.

So What Are We Looking At?

The motherboards we are detailing today come from multiple sources.  In the case of GIGABYTE and MSI, both of these companies released edited images on their social media pages and gave copies to the press. In the case of ASUS, a leak from an ASUS APAC event provided small blurry images. ASRock provided some media with its image deck, only to have them leaked – we subsequently got the go ahead to publish them today. We should see a full range of images and motherboard specifications at launch.

The motherboards all use the 1150 pin socket designation, which suggests they are for Haswell processors. However the images have the chipset blurred out, but ‘Z_7’ is clearly visible giving us an overclocking chipset. On several of the motherboards we have M.2 slots as well as SATA Express, although without looking closer it is hard to see how these are configured (either via the chipset or a controller). Kristian looked at SATA Express earlier this year with a beta motherboard supplied by ASUS. mSATA seems to have disappeared almost entirely.

A lot of the motherboards adorn their name with some form of WiFi or AC, with text on the PCB all pointing towards 802.11ac 2T2R solutions. Given our past experiences, these are either Broadcom or Intel modules, with the Intel side of the equation being more expensive. Audio seems to get a revision change from Z87 across most of the manufacturers as well.

Technically the launch date of these products is under NDA. The NDA is such that we can't even mention the chipset by name, even if it is visible on some of the images we are sharing today. MSRP is still being decided on most fronts. Haswell processors were launched in June 2013, and all expectations for Broadwell are putting it at the end of the year, perhaps Q4 or later. Thus it should be straightforward to expect that this is a refresh, updating the mainstream platform to newer technology like M.2 and SATA Express. It also gives the motherboard manufacturers and system integrators a chance to upgrade their lines and offer the potential for new sales. Given that Intel has already announced an upcoming Haswell-K processor for ‘mid 2014’ and prices for Haswell refresh processors have already been leaked, it is not hard to put two and two together.

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  • Marlowe - Monday, April 28, 2014 - link

    Yeah this transfer to PCIe based storage is really exciting. But why don't we see any drives in the shops? The PCIe M.2 SSD's are impossible to find, just the "fake" SATA based ones that offer no performance advantage over mSATA are available. Also where are the 1 GB/s+ fast 2,5" SATA-express drives?

    Do you think the x2 M.2 will just be a stopgap solution until we get x4 across the board? ASRock seems to already be on the way. And how fast do you think we'll see x8 and x16 based M.2?
    Reply
  • SirKnobsworth - Monday, April 28, 2014 - link

    The M.2 spec only supports x4 at the moment. I don't know if there are enough pins to support more lanes in a future revision. We are starting to see x8 PCIe SSDs though, not that consumer level PCs will have enough lanes to support those for another year or so. Reply
  • Marlowe - Tuesday, April 29, 2014 - link

    Thanks for the answer. Reply
  • Antronman - Monday, April 28, 2014 - link

    Because PCIe storage is (currently) very expensive.
    It's the fastest available, but comes at a steep price.
    Reply
  • James5mith - Monday, April 28, 2014 - link

    I would love to see more coverage of the "industrial" side boards from Asrock. I only recently discovered them, and just like on the consumer side, they give their competitors (for me, Supermicro) a serious run for the money on both cost and feature set. Reply
  • xeizo - Monday, April 28, 2014 - link

    Wake me up when Haswell-E is available ... Reply
  • dj_aris - Monday, April 28, 2014 - link

    Storage in 2014 is a mess. We know SATA and mSATA are limited to 6GBps but M.2 and SATA Express come in several flavors (speeds) but without any actual availability (excluding from the SATA M.2 drives which are actually mSATA drives with M.2 adaptors). So, since 9-series boards are actually all about supporting new storage options (Broadwell support is another reason I guess but there is no Broadwell yet), it's way too early to pick a board because you don't actually know which format will take off. So frustrating. Reply
  • willis936 - Monday, April 28, 2014 - link

    Perhaps that's went they're all strutting their usual marketing fluff before even announcing a chipset. Reply
  • Edkiefer - Monday, April 28, 2014 - link

    On first 2 Gigabyte MB with 4 PCIe slots , why do they have the 16x slot at very top slot . this way your limited on big air coolers like D14/15, NH 14S .unless second pcie can support 16x with single card . Reply
  • sherlockwing - Monday, April 28, 2014 - link

    Because people with that much money to buy a 4PCIe board are going water most of the time anyway. This have been the trend on all flagship boards(ASUS ROGs the last few generations for example). Reply

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