Sandy Bridge Desktop CPUs and Motherboards

UPDATE: Mac OS X 10.6.7 Update for early 2011 MacBook Pros delivers native support for Sandy Bridge CPUs.  The motherboards listed here are unavailable due to the Sandy Bridge recall

Earlier this month, Intel officially announced it's new Sandy Bridge LGA 1155 CPUs and chipsets.  While we've installed and configured Mac OS X Snow Leopard successfully on these components, unfortunately they are not used in any Apple computers yet.  Therefore, they are only in the experimental stages of support, and require a non-vanilla "Legacy Kernel" to boot.

Sandy Bridge LGA 1155 CPUs are Intel's direct successor to the previous LGA 1156 Core i3/i5/i7s.  While all older Core i3/i5/i7 CPUs are able to be overclocked, all but the new K models are locked down.  The 2 unlocked models, the Core i5-2500K and Core i7-2600K show unbelievably high performance when overclocked.

Intel Sandy Bridge Desktop CPUs
  • Core i7-2600K - 4 cores/8 threads - 8 MB Cache, 3.40 GHz - Unlocked for Overclocking
  • Core i7-2600 - 4 cores/8 threads - 8 MB Cache, 3.40 GHz
  • Core i5-2500K - 4 cores/4 threads - 6 MB Cache, 3.30 GHz - Unlocked for Overclocking
  • Core i5-2500 - 4 cores/4 threads - 6 MB Cache, 3.30 GHz
  • Core i5-2400 - 4 cores/4 threads - 6 MB Cache, 3.10 GHz
  • Core i5-2300 - 4 cores/4 threads - 6 MB Cache, 2.80 GHz
One of the improvements that Intel included in Sandy Bridge is the new integrated graphics controller. The new integrated Intel HD 2000 or HD 3000 graphics controller offers much better performance over the previous generation Intel HD.  However, all modern Intel onboard graphics are unsupported, and there are no workarounds.  For now the only option is to use a supported graphics card.

Please note that the P67 chipset does not support the integrated graphics controller.  If you want to utilize it in other OSes, you'll need a motherboard with a H67 chipset.

Also revealed this month were most major motherboard manufacturers' LGA 1155 offerings. Interestingly, ASUS, MSI, and others have chosen to use UEFI instead of BIOS.  This allows for more user-friendly setup and customization of CPU settings, as well as providing a full OS-style graphical user interface.  Gigabyte has instead gone the traditional route, and uses the same Award BIOS most users are accustomed to.  They will however, be transitioning to a new hybrid UEFI setup within the first part of this year.  Luckily, the Chameleon bootloader works as well with UEFI as it does with BIOS.

In initial testing, it seems as if Gigabyte and ASUS motherboards could be the best bet.  They all include new features like USB 3.0 and SATA 6.0 standard.  Most also feature the friendly Realtek 8111E Gigabit Ethernet network controllers, fully supported by Lnx2Mac's RealtekRTL81xx kext.  The good news continues on the audio front, as these motherboards all use Realtek ALC888b, ALC889, or ALC892- all supported codecs using MacMan's ALC8xxHDA.
Gigabyte P67 Motherboards
Gigabyte H67 Motherboards
ASUS P67 Motherboards
ASUS H67 Motherboards
CPUs and Motherboards listed are available at the time of this posting.

All of the new Gigabyte motherboards will be added to the DSDT Database. In addition, we'll be broadening the DSDT Database beyond our current Gigabyte offerings to include a verified library of pre-edited ASUS DSDTs.

PLEASE NOTE:  Sandy Bridge CPUs and chipsets are not currently supported natively by Mac OS X Snow Leopard. We can't recommend Sandy Bridge systems yet, as there is no official support.  Hence, please don't view this as buying advice.  We don't recommend using a patched kernel for the long-term. The vanilla kernel is a much more desirable solution for a stable system.

For those of you buying new systems anyway, we've opened a special section of the forum dedicated to Sandy Bridge.  Good luck!  Let us know how it goes with these new components!

-tonymacx86 & MacMan

Related Posts: Intel's New Sandy Bridge and Mac OS XSandy Bridge Overclocked on Mac OS X
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