The former was targeted towards mainstream and some enthusiast users. This chipset offered the ability to overclocked multiplier unlocked K series parts with impunity. At least, through turbo multipliers. The H67 chipset on the other hand featured support for Intel’s Integrated Graphics Processors, or IGPUs which are part of the Sandy Bridge core processors’ dies. Furthermore Intel’s quick sync feature was tied to H67 and anyone who might have wanted to take advantage of these features had to choose between using the IGPU’s and Quick Sync or overclocking. This didn’t sit well with many enthusiasts and of course, many people made their opinions on this well known. Well if Z68 proves anything, it’s that Intel has been listening. No longer must you choose between the feature sets of P67 and H67. You can now have both feature sets and more. And when we say "more" there is a LOT more.
Z68: The Best of Both Worlds
So what’s new with Z68 Express? A lot that isn’t new, and a lot that is. Z68 Express supports overclocking through turbo multipliers and therefore is a good match with Intel’s Sandy Bridge "K-Series" SKUs. All the media features available with H67 are also available. Intel’s HD graphics and Quick Sync Video are among them. The new feature is support for "Switchable Graphics." Essentially Intel is brand agnostic on this but when combined with either an NVIDIA GeForce card, or an AMD Radeon card, the LucidLogix Virtu GPU Virtualization technology allows you to connect your monitor to the onboard graphics and use Intel’s IGPU for general desktop use. When you want to play games, you can use the power of your favorite discreet graphics board to accelerate your games and anything else you might need. This can also amount to power savings and efficiency as your graphics card can be put into a low power idle state. And again Intel is brand agnostic on this feature as it works with both NVIDIA and AMD based graphics cards. Intel refers to this as "Dynamic virtualization" which eliminates the need for restarts and cable swaps. So you can take advantage of all the IGPU and a discreet add-in board have to offer. All the benefits and none of the drawbacks of either configuration in theory.
Intel didn’t stop there. It has added two more noteworthy features. Intel’s IPT or Identity Protection Technology and Intel’s Smart Response Technology. The IPT feature is essentially an RSA token type feature built into the hardware. This can be used for additional layers of authentication through something like Valve’s new Steamgaurd feature. It can also be used for authentication for corporate networks, financial institutions and even social media sites. Essentially this is technology businesses have had available for years but can now be brought to the desktop level cost effectively. It’s too early to tell how well a feature like this will be accepted, or whether or not it will become a more mainstream feature, or something that goes unnoticed by anyone but the most hardcore security freaks and computer enthusiasts.
Probably the most interesting, and beneficial feature to most users will be Intel’s Smart Response Technology. In a lot of ways the feature is reminiscent of Microsoft’s Ready Boost feature and its SuperFetch feature. At least in a broad sort of way though the technical details are undoubtedly different. In simple terms you can now connect a small footprint SSD (think 20GB) which would be otherwise useless for installing your OS and games, and use it as a cache for your conventional hard drives. In theory this offers SSD like performance for the volume or volumes of your choice. This basically allows you to buy a tiny SSD drive and add it to your system and gain SSD like performance for your larger storage volumes, or so the story goes. It is recommended for use with the OS volume for best results. I will talk more about the feature in the subsystem testing section and we also have a feature article up today on this technology as well. It is a complex feature and a complicated subject when it comes to testing.
It is also important to note that the IGPU features of Z68 do not have to be implemented by board makers. They can choose to use it in lieu of P67 in order to offer the Smart Response Technology and Identity Protection Technology features in a package that’s more like P67 than H67. In fact some boards like some of those made by Gigabyte are designed and built that way. So Z68 won’t necessarily give you all these features unless the motherboard manufacturer decides to use them. So check your feature sets on specific products and do not make assumptions.
The ASUS P8Z68-V Pro is actually fairly close to the standard P8P67 line in terms of its physical appearance. The board features the same power design and similar layout. However the Z68 is fully leveraged here. Connections are provided for the iGPU built into the processor. The Lucid Virtu feature provides the graphics switching technology, and of course SRT and IPT are supported as well. Like many other ASUS boards the P8Z68 offers all the usual ASUS exclusive features such as all digital VRM’s which they call "Digi+VRM," Energy Processing Unit or EPU for power savings, TPU, Bluetooth support built in, a UEFI BIOS, USB 3.0, IEEE1394 support, SATA 6G, eSATA, Intel LAN, SLI support and more. The P8Z68-V Pro utilizes a 12-phase CPU and 4-phase iGPU power setup for a total of 16 phases. There are also two dedicated phases to memory. Additionally you’ll find load-line calibration added to the iGPU as well as the CPU.