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Unless you count them, you may not notice the reduction in the number of connection pads (1,155) from the previous generation of Core i7 chips (1,156). On the CPU die, in addition to the four cores, is Intel's HD Graphics module, which is fully integrated on the ring bus and shares the top-level cache with the processing cores, boosting performance. We haven't made use of that in our system, however, opting instead to install an nNvidia PCI-E card. The range-topping Core i7-2600K supports overclocking and is aimed at those requiring maximum performance, yet consumes only 95W.
Installed in a brand-new (also top-of-the-range) Intel DP67BG motherboard, this Sandy Bridge processor needs a new 1,155-pin socket, one fewer than the previous generation. Intel's argument for the change is that the new architecture is too different to make compatibility worth maintaining and that the performance increase is worth it. The DIMM sockets, supporting a maximum of 32GB of DDR3 memory up to 2,400MHz, sit right next to the CPU as you'd expect, while at the bottom you can just see the first of the two PCI-E slots. The header at the top of the photo supplies the CPU fan, while the one lower down supplies the rear chassis fan.
This view of the motherboard shows the general arrangement of components. Note the two blue PCI-E x16 slots, which are separated by enough distance to fit a pair of double-width SLI-enabled graphics cards, and the trio of PCI-E x1 slots. At the bottom sit six outward-facing SATA sockets — two of them 6Gbps-enabled, the rest 3Gbps — and an eSATA socket. The on-board RAID function offers RAID levels 0, 1, 5 and 10.
Under the 'Desktop Board' heatsink lurks the P67 chipset, which provides what Intel calls the Platform Controller Hub. There's a single Gigabit Ethernet socket, support for 7.1 audio, 14 USB 2.0 sockets and a pair of USB 3.0 sockets on the back panel. Also noteworthy is the 'Back to BIOS button' on the back, which forces the board to power-on to the BIOS menu using default values while retaining previously saved changes.