Shopping around for a mid-range Intel chipset can be difficult, particularly if you’re shopping for one supporting Intel’s Core i3/5/7 range of processors. With that in mind, below are the two mid range Intel Core i3/5/7 chipsets currently used by gamers:
Intel LGA 1156 (Ibex Peak)
Intel’s mid range socket released in 2009, LGA (Land Grid Array) 1156 was released along with the Lynnfield range of processors. These processors are based on a 45nm version of the Nehalem micro-architecture, similar to the processors for Intel’s socket LGA 1366 X58 boards.
The processors come in Core i5 and i7 variants, with i5-7xx and i7-8xx model numbers. Like the LGA1366 i7 processors, the i7 processors on LGA 1156 feature hyper-threading, meaning they have 4 cores and 8 process threads, as opposed to the 4 cores and 4 process threads of the Core i5 processors.
In 2010 Intel released a second range of processors for LGA 1156 codenamed Clarkdale. These processors are branded Intel Core i3/5, Pentium, and Celeron, and are based on a 32nm architecture. The Core i3 and i5 processors had i3-5xx and i5-6xx model numbers, while the Celeron and Pentium brands featured G1xxx and G6xxx model numbers respectively.
There is a range of different chipsets that made use of the LGA 1156 socket. The first was P55 which released alongside the first generation of processors. This was the high-end chipset for the socket and did not allow processors to make use of their integrated graphics; user had to instead rely on discrete graphics cards made by Nvidia or AMD.
The H55, H57, and Q57 chipsets followed and allowed Intel processors to make use of their integrated graphics. However, if an Intel processor without integrated graphics (such as the Core i7-8xx models) was used with one of these chipsets, the built in graphics ports would not function.
Intel LGA 1155 (Couger point and Panther point)
Intel’s latest mid-range socket is LGA 1155, released alongside Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors, and then updated alongside the release of Ivy Bridge-based processors.
The first generation of Sandy Bridge processors were based on a 32nm manufacturing process, and had Core i3/5/7-2xxx model numbers. There are also Pentium and Celeron branded CPUs based on the Sandy Bridge architecture, which have Pentium- or Celeron-Gxxx numbers.
Socket 1155 boards released with Sandy Bridge CPUs included B65, H61, Q67, H67, P67 and Z68.
P67 was the high-end chipset for Sandy Bridge processors and debuted with the processors in January 2011. It was followed by Z68 as the new high-end LGA1155 chipset, as well as Q67, H67, H61 and B65 as lower and mainstream chipsets.
Intel then released Ivy Bridge processors that made use of the LGA 1155 socket in late April 2012. These processors were compatible with previous LGA 1155 chipsets after a BIOS update, with the exception of B65 and Q67.
Ivy Bridge processors have a i5/7-3xxx model number, and feature 2 to 4 cores. The i7 CPUs have hyper-threading (so 8 threads) while the i5 CPUs do not (so 4 cores and 4 threads).
A new range of chipsets released with the Ivy Bridge CPUs, and supported new technology including PCI Express 3.0, as well as native support for USB3 and SATA 3. New chipsets include B75, Q75, Q77, H77, Z75, and Z77. The x77 chipsets are aimed at the higher-end of the market, while the x75 chipsets have a low-end and main-stream focus.