Z68 Express Roundup: Three Motherboards Do Battle Around $200

Asus P8Z68-V Pro

With a name like P8Z68-V Pro, one might expect Asus’ upper-mainstream model to be targeted at business users. A quick look at the features and design reveals that this model is better suited to the price-conscious enthusiast.

Asus loads the board up with a bevy of spec sheet-boosting features, including dual USB 3.0 controllers, separate SATA 6Gb/s and eSATA controllers, a Bluetooth interface, and Intel’s low-latency gigabit network PHY. Asus believes it's time for this class of customer to leave their PS/2 based clicky-keyboards and high-speed gaming mice behind. But strangely, we find support for last century’s CRT monitors.

Asus even adds two PCIe x1 slots and a four-lane x16-length slot, in addition to the two primary graphics card slots. But this is where the math goes wrong. While the top x16 slot is capable of providing full bandwidth to a single card or split bandwidth (x8/x8 mode) to two cards, other PCIe devices must share the Z68 chipset’s eight lanes without the benefit of a PCIe bridge.

Lacking the PLX bridge found on the company's more expensive products, it’s impossible to populate all of the P8Z68-V Pro’s interfaces simultaneously. The second PCIe x1 slot is, for example, shared with the front-panel USB 3.0 controller and the four-lane x16-length bottom slot. When one of the two slots is filled, electronic switches disable the other two interfaces. The features get even sparser when the bottom slot's x4-mode is enabled; doing so disables the first x1 slot and the eSATA controller.

Knowing that most performance-oriented builders won’t use the problematic bottom slot, Asus caters to them in other ways. Designed to add exceptional overclocking stability, the sixteen-phase voltage regulator is the first example of Asus’ attempt to satisfy budget-minded enthusiasts.

Other advanced features include the Asus Mem OK button to automatically lower memory frequency and/or timings when using dodgy RAM, the Asus TurboV automatic overclocking switch, and Asus’ EPU switch to activate power management for voltage regulator phase control.

The P7Z68-V Pro adds a flexible SLI bridge and a front-panel-to-slot-panel USB 3.0 adapter to the expected four SATA cables, I/O plate, installation CD, and manual.

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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!
    0
  • 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
    0
  • 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
    0
  • 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.
    0
  • 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.
    0
  • 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