Z68 Express Roundup: Three Motherboards Do Battle Around $200

ASRock Z68 Extreme4

Likely the best-equipped motherboard in today’s roundup, the Z68 Extreme4 uses a PLX PCIe bridge to keep all of its features active simultaneously. Five onboard interface controllers and two PCIe x1 slots share four of the Z68’s eight PCIe 2.0 lanes, while the other four are directed to a single x16-length slot at the bottom.

Those controllers include dual Etron USB 3.0, Marvell SATA/eSATA 6Gb/s, VIA IEEE-1394, and a Broadcom gigabit Ethernet IC. ASRock sees the reputable BCM57781 as an unusual strength, while we still spot the sharing of one SATA and eSATA connector on a single port as an unusual weakness. Those who wish to keep eSATA available must view this as a seven-internal-drive design.

Those eight lanes originating from the Z68 PCH are, of course, in addition to the sixteen provided directly by the CPU, allowing one graphics card full x16 lane width. The second card borrows eight lanes from the first via automatic pathway switches, allowing x8/x8 SLI and CrossFire at the lowest possible latency.

ASRock keeps its USB 3.0 port at the bottom edge, in spite of our previous protests, but its engineers did work to slide it forward to allow the included two-port bay adapter easier cable reach from any enclosure's mid-mounted 3.5” bay. Power and reset buttons make bench testing easier, a Port 80 diagnostics display makes it easier to figure out the origin of a boot failure, and a replaceable BIOS IC makes it easier to repair the board in case an overclocker does something terribly wrong.

Encouraging those over-the-top overclocking efforts is a 12-phase voltage regulator with fairly large chokes. ASRock has been providing overcurrent protection with its boards for a while, and has more recently increased the capacity of these components to a size where we no longer bump up against its limits.

ASRock’s Z68 Extreme4 comes with four SATA cables, the minimum we require of mid-range-or-better installation kits. ASRock’s big bonus is its dual-port USB 3.0 to 3.5” drive bay adapter, which includes a 2.5” drive tray in its frame and a card slot bracket for optional rear mounting. An SLI bridge and stereo mini-jack bridge add finishing touches.

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  • user 18
    ASrock comes with 4 eSATA cables?
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  • Kisakuku
    The first UEFI screenshots for ASRock and Asus are switched.
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  • Crashman
    user 18ASrock comes with 4 eSATA cables?
    KisakukuThe first UEFI screenshots for ASRock and Asus are switched.
    Fixed, thanks!
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  • pirateboy
    mayankleoboy1a little something from MSI would have made this more interesting.


    +1
    2
  • evga_fan
    ->Thomas

    "Gigabyte’s Quick Boost application sets our processor at 200, 400, or 700 MHz beyond its rated frequency."

    Just so you know. Anyways, keep up the good work!

    Cheers
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  • crisan_tiberiu
    so, basicaly there is no difference in performance between theese boards as i can see.
    2
  • Anonymous
    hmm .. was thinking of getting an Asus P8Z68-V Pro .. not so sure now knowing that the other boards offer the same performance and are both cheaper.
    1
  • Olle P
    One additional feature of the ASRock card that isn't mentioned is its set of holes matching a socket 775 cooler. That feature was the main reason I ordered one of these cards three days ago, since I won't have to spend money on a new CPU cooler.
    2
  • tommysch
    So a P67 is superior... interesting.
    2
  • crisan_tiberiu
    Olle POne additional feature of the ASRock card that isn't mentioned is its set of holes matching a socket 775 cooler. That feature was the main reason I ordered one of these cards three days ago, since I won't have to spend money on a new CPU cooler.


    ermm thats pro, since i have a socket 775 core 2 duo atm. Any other motherboards out there that suport this?? i would love to know
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  • adamcom25334
    mayankleoboy1a USB 3.0 speed comparison between them would be more informative

    Agree. A USB 2.0 speed comparison would have been nice as well. Otherwise, nice review.
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  • Olle P
    crisan_tiberiu... socket 775 core 2 duo atm. Any other motherboards out there that suport this?
    The other two (cheaper) ASRock Z68 mobos do support it as well, but I haven't seen it with any other manufacturer.
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  • User69
    It would be interesting to experiment with having multiple graphics cards, adding hard drives, using controllers, basically testing how performance between all motherboards is affected by eating up bandwidth by using the pci-e slots and controllers.
    1
  • huron
    Thanks for the excellent review. How appropriate for me, since I was just in the market for a Z68.

    Also, thanks (to the commentor) for the info about the LGA 775 compatibility with coolers - I was wondering if I was going to have to replace mine...not it looks like I might be able to use it still.
    1
  • Onus
    I'm itching for June to get here so I can finally decide, BD or SB, but in either case, the mobo will likely be ASRock.
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  • cryptz
    16/0/4 pcie is a joke. that really doesnt leave you room for much of anything. video card, i cant even use my raid card properly (x8) at that point. i hope x68 hurries up and gets here fast.
    -1
  • compton
    I sure do love motherboard roundups. Incidentally, when I ordered my 2500k, the only motherboard in stock at the time was a H67 uATX board. So I bought it, and figured that the Z68 chipset would certainly be worth the wait. I think that it is for the most part. I'm using a pretty stripped down H67 board to boot. Even running at stock speeds, the 2500k and 2600k are pretty damn fast, so I really haven't regretted the decision. It sure feels like an upgrade from an aging Phenom II/Athlon II. The Z chipset might be icing on the cake.
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  • festerovic
    In previous reviews of various chipsets, I've noticed that ASrock consistently has boards with slower than normal bus speeds. Perhaps this is why they are slightly off the performance of other boards (especially the ones with faster bus speeds ie over 100Mhz)
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  • huron
    huronThanks for the excellent review. How appropriate for me, since I was just in the market for a Z68.Also, thanks (to the commentor) for the info about the LGA 775 compatibility with coolers - I was wondering if I was going to have to replace mine...now it looks like I might be able to use it still.
    0
  • huron
    Ooops...sorry...clicked the wrong button - was hoping to edit the post, not re-post
    0