Core i7 CPUs have an embedded memory controller, just like it happens with AMD processors. All other Intel CPUs use an external memory controller, which is located on the north bridge chip (a.k.a. MCH or Memory Controller Hub) from the chipset. This means that with other Intel CPUs the chipset (and thus the motherboard) is the component that says what memory technologies and the maximum amount of memory you can have on your PC.
Since now the memory controller is inside the CPU, it is the processor, and not the chipset, that defines the memory technologies and the maximum amount of memory you can have. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.
The Core i7 integrated memory controller accepts only DDR3 memory (up to 1.65 V; memories that require more than that won’t work and may even damage the CPU) and supports the new triple-channel memory architecture. Even though first Core i7 CPUs officially support up to DDR3-1066, ASUS P6T Deluxe supports memories up to DDR3-1600 (Intel DX58SO “Smackover” supports memories up to DDR3-1333). This is achieved by bypassing the CPU memory clock multiplier (the memory clock is achieved by multiplying a 133 MHz base clock signal).
The triple-channel architecture allows the CPU to access three memory modules at the same time to store or retrieve data, increasing the number of bits that are transferred per clock cycle from 128 (on dual-channel architecture) to 192. Thus this makes a 50% improvement on the maximum theoretical memory bandwidth compared to dual-channel architecture, if both are running at the same clock rate. For example, DDR3-1333 memories running on dual-channel have a maximum theoretical transfer rate of 21 GB/s while on triple-channel they have a maximum theoretical transfer rate of 32 GB/s.
One of the highlights of ASUS P6T Deluxe is the presence of six memory sockets and not only four, like Intel DX58SO. This allows you to make future memory upgrades without having to replace your current memory modules and keeping the maximum performance possible.
Just to clarify, in order to achieve the maximum performance you have to install three or six memory
modules. If you install three memory modules you have to use sockets with the same color (on P6T Deluxe three sockets are black and three are orange). If you install a different number of memory modules the system won’t achieve its maximum possible performance.
On motherboards with only four memory sockets you have a problem: if you add a fourth memory module this module will be accessed at single-channel performance (1/3 of the maximum transfer rate) so for you to add more memory keeping the maximum performance you have to remove your old three modules and install new ones. This upgrade is more expensive than using a motherboard with six sockets, where you can simply add three more modules and keep your old modules installed.
With ASUS P6T Deluxe you can have up to 24 GB if six 4 GB modules are used.