The Sad End of Intel Desktop Boards

As previously discussed on this blog, Intel decided to quit the desktop board business in 2013. What has not been discussed is how Intel treated the buyers of the last generation (i.e. 8-series Lynx Point chipsets) of those boards. Since I have now acquired two of those boards, DZ87KLT-75K and DQ87PG, I had an opportunity to familiarize myself with the situation.

The DZ87KLT (Kinsley Thunderbolt) and DQ87PG (Spring Cave) were released in mid-2013 and were sold for about three years. They supported the then-new LGA1150 socket for Haswell CPUs.

In 2014, Intel released the updated and faster Haswell Refresh CPUs, as well as the Devil’s Canyon i7-4790K, Intel’s first 4.0 GHz processor (ten years after the Pentium 4 very nearly got there first). For most owners of existing LGA1150 boards, supporting the new processors was just a matter of updating the BIOS.

Not so for the owners of Intel boards. To show just much Intel values its customers, they were informed that BIOS updates were not forthcoming and the newer, faster processors were not supported on Intel boards. That was no doubt particularly galling to the owners of the DZ87KLT boards, which sold for around $300 when new and are worth $150 or more even today (2019).

Of course the owners of these boards did not leave it at that. They soon found out that the Haswell Refresh CPUs mostly work, with just one minor but highly annoying issue: Instead of rebooting, the machine hangs. But even that could be resolved by manually updating the Management Engine (ME) firmware. That nicely illustrates Intel’s behavior: They had all the pieces, but refused to provide them to their own customers.

Customers understandably complained, but the official Intel position was that it’s just too much work to update the BIOS/firmware and validate the refreshed CPUs. End of story.

Except not quite. After all the hoopla in 2018 about Meltdown and Spectre, guess what happened: Intel somehow magically managed to update the BIOS for those boards after all. For the DZ87KLT-75K, nothing really changed because the ME firmware did not get updated. But for the DQ87PG board, the 2018 BIOS updates did update the ME firmware as well.

What that means is that a DQ87PG board updated to the latest BIOS from Intel works with Haswell Refresh CPUs (an i7-4790 non-K in my case, because I wanted VMCS shadowing) without any need to separately update the ME firmware. Of course the Haswell Refresh CPUs are still not officially supported on these boards, but if Intel does not care about its customers, why should those customers care what Intel officially says…

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14 Responses to The Sad End of Intel Desktop Boards

  1. Peter says:

    This is nothing new. Back in the days of the D975XBX2 ‘Badaxe 2’ it was designed to support Core2 processors. Then Penryn came along. Practically all other motherboards could be tweaked to support them, but not Intel.

    They create solid, if sometimes quirky boards, but they absolutely do not do extended support (with possible exceptions going back to 440BX/GX boards)

  2. Michal Necasek says:

    In the D975XBX2 case they at least had understandable motivation, they wanted to sell new boards. With the last generation of Intel boards it just seems spiteful.

  3. Michal Necasek says:

    I see that there’s a bit more to the story. When Intel first showed off Penryn CPUs, it was in a D975XBX2 board. And there are reports that it is in fact possible to run Penryns in the D975XBX2, but 3rd party utilities must be run after boot to get the CPUs working properly. Clearly Penryn support was just one BIOS update away.

  4. Chris M. says:

    To add salt to the wound, Intel is pulling all support downloads for Desktop Boards at the end of the week, someone on VOGONS archived it: https://www.vogons.org/viewtopic.php?f=46&t=69184

  5. Michal Necasek says:

    Yeah, not nice. And really, some of the boards were probably manufactured less than five years ago, and they are definitely perfectly suitable for everyday work (there’s absolutely noting wrong with, say, DQ87PG + i7-4790).

    Surprised no one mentioned this archive: http://download.viglen.co.uk/files/Motherboards/Archive/ (there’s more one directory up). Viglen did not sell all Intel boards so they don’t have everything, but they have quite a bit, going back to the Socket 4 Pentium boards.

  6. Meanwhile to save a few dozen megabytes Intel is purging all old driver/bios archives for all their old stuff.

    As far as old machines being useful, the high end of 2006 stuff works just fine in this day & age. We really hit peak computing over a decade ago for the vast majority of people. A good workstation class machine, powered by a Xeon with at least 4+ cores, 16GB of ram, and at least an 8x PCI express bus slot for a modern GPU still gets you a solid machine.

    My 2006 MacPro is going solid with the 3Ghz processors, and 16gb of ram, and a GT 1050.

  7. Michal Necasek says:

    Totally, a Yorkfield/Harpertown quad core is still a perfectly serviceable CPU, especially at 3+ GHz. With enough RAM, there’s really nothing wrong with such a system.

    And Intel is removing the support files even for boards that are another five or so years newer, for Haswell generation CPUs. A ~3.5 GHz quad core Haswell is really not that much slower than today’s quad cores. There’s a reason why a used i7-4790K CPU still often sells for around 200 Euro and you have to be very lucky to find one for less than 150.

  8. Christian says:

    The i7-4790K probably goes for that much because it’s overclockable. A non-overclockable i7-4770 can be had for less than 100 Euro.

  9. Michal Necasek says:

    Yeah, but you still have to be lucky (I guess I wasn’t when I bought mine, that was like 105 Euro or something). But yes, the i7-4770 is worth somewhere around 100 Euro, the 4770K quite a bit more. The ‘K’ also runs 400 MHz faster so that’s another reason.

    Fun fact: The i7-4770 supports “VMCS shadowing”, which is a feature extremely useful for people who want to run nested VMs. The 4770K does not have that feature (or more likely, has it disabled). Thanks, Intel.

  10. Christian says:

    Great, I love nested VMs (Windows 10 on Windows 2000 on OS X anyone?) so the 4770 it would have to be.

  11. Then i guess my i7-4790k with a GTX 970 for 20,000 yen was a good bargain… Although it needed storage and a new CPU cooler. It was so hot, it was reporting temps in the 90s and not shutting down. And once I replaced the cooler it’s mid 40s.

    I don’t know why I don’t see any all in one’s anymore in Hong Kong, I’ll have to pick up a pair in Japan and put them in my dual Xeon.

    I’m nervous about over clocking the i7-4790k, especially as it was used for who knows how long with that dead cooler. It’s probably amazing it works as well as it does.

  12. Michal Necasek says:

    My experience with Intel CPUs is that at least short term, they are very good at thermal throttling. You notice that the CPU does not run at full speed, but it still works pretty surprisingly well. Not sure how it might impact the CPU long term.

    Was the problem with the cooler itself or with the thermal paste? The “TIM” (Thermal Interface Material) makes all the difference, and if it’s old/bad/whatever, you might as well not have a cooler at all, pretty much. A lot of the thermal paste stuff is known to go “bad” over time as it loses effectiveness. You replace the paste and shazam, suddenly the thing runs 20-30C cooler. Sadly I think old 486s were the about last CPUs that didn’t need more than the ceramic housing to dissipate all heat.

    Fans are another thing, and a lot depends on the heat sink and the case design. I’ve seen heat sinks that are still effective even with a dead fan, but typically without the fan the heat sink isn’t enough, as it needs to be pretty huge to not need the fan.

  13. I didn’t hear it in the store, but the pump was busted it made a strange loud noise once I got it home, that I couldn’t place.

    After I got it playing bluray discs the noise was driving me crazy that I couldn’t finish a movie so I had pulled it apart. I thought it was a case fan, but when I pulled the power to everything but the CPU and then looked at the monitor numbers did I see it was the processor.

    They were so dead set on it being ‘as is’ that I can imagine it being more of a thermal problem more so than anything else.

    But new grease and a new all in one sorted that out right away.

    Although I’m going back next week, I might just buy a new machine. I’m so on the fence between the thrill of rescuing old shit vs having new kit.

  14. Michal Necasek says:

    Half the time I end up rescuing old shit and then buying new kit anyway. Worst of both worlds I guess.

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