THE INTEL 9 SERIES
In May this year, Intel launched two new 9 Series chipsets, the Z97 and H97. As a result, a slew of newly-minted motherboards based on these chipsets were launched by partner board makers. This occurred before the launch of the company’s next generation, 14nm Broadwell processors. The upcoming desktop Broadwell CPUs will be offered in the same LGA packaging as the previous gen Haswell chips; however, it isn’t known for certain if the current crop of Intel 8 series boards will support Broadwell processors. If you’re looking to upgrade, it is best to secure a 9 series board in order to futureproof your purchase. Let us examine the two new chipsets in detail, and the boards that feature them.
Z97 and H97
Intel’s latest 9 series chipset has two additional new features, which distinguishes it from the previous 8 series. The 9 series chipset showcases the Intel Rapid Storage Technology ( RST) for PCI Express Storage, and Intel Device Protection Technology with Boot Guard. The first improvement is the upgrading of Intel RST to support storage devices over PCIe 2.0 lanes. This upgrade to the Intel RST allows the usage of two PCIe 2.0 lanes, for a maximum bandwidth of 10Gb/s. As a result, SATA Express and M.2 connectors can be found on Intel 9 series boards; however, the latter is currently more popular. It is also meant to replace the existing mSATA interface. The M.2 specifications are tailored for internally mounted flash-based storage and add-in cards like Wi- Fi/ Bluetooth modules, Near Field Communication ( NFC) devices, and wireless Wide Area Network cards. As for SATA Express, its specifications are meant for 2.5- and 3.5-inch storage devices. It is also compatible with current SATA drives. Though both interfaces allow for usage of PCIe lanes for data connectivity; however, they are clearly segmented for product differentiation.
As an enhancement to platform performance and security, the Device Protection Technology with Boot Guard is supposedly able to prevent the execution of boot block malware. It offers additional protection against such unauthorized software that may fall beyond the reaches of traditional anti-virus applications.
However, in order to enable this feature, a new 4th generation Intel Core CPU, from the new series of CPUs commonly known as Haswell Refresh, is in order.
Another major change is CPU support of the new 9 series where both chipsets are ready for the upcoming, 14nm Broadwell processors, as well as the new refresh of 4th generation Intel Core CPUs. It is not confirmed if the current crop of 8 series boards will support the Broadwell chips.
For now, the Intel 9 series chipsets comprise the Z97 and H97. There are rumors the X99 chipset will be launched by the end of Q2 this year; however, this enthusiast level desktop chipset is targeted at a different market segment. In a nutshell, the Z97 chipset is one that supports multi- GPU setups, as well as CPU overclocking functions. The H97 chipset is a step down, as it doesn’t showcase the same distinguishing features of the Z97. The only thing that H97 can call its own would be the Intel Small Business Advantage ( SBA) technology. It is essentially a computing platform for small businesses without a managed network. Its bundled applications will allow such businesses to manageg securityy and productivity issues.
"The 9 series chipset showcases Intel Rapid Storage Technology (RST) for PCI Express Storage, and Intel Device Protection Technology with Boot Guard.”
The H97 chipset doesn’t have official support for multi- GPU configurations and CPU overclocking.
The Z97 chipset officially supports CPU ratio overclocking, and multi- GPU configurations.