Z68 Express Roundup: Three Motherboards Do Battle Around $200

Gigabyte Z68X-UD3H-B3

Let it be known that pre-B3 stepping Z68 chipsets (ones without the now-famous Cougar Point SATA bug) never made it to the market. With that noted, one of the distinguishing features of Gigabyte’s long model number is no longer relevant. With that aside, there’s plenty to like about Gigabyte’s GA-Z68X-UD3H-B3 (henceforth abbreviated as Z68X-UD3H).

For example, many readers have likely noticed by now that those rear-panel video connectors eat away at available back-panel space, forcing ASRock to eliminate USB ports and Asus to eliminate PS/2. At first, Gigabyte looks more like ASRock in this regard, but addresses the lack of external ports by adding more internal ports. An incredible eight USB 2.0 ports (four headers) and two USB 3.0 ports (one header) are available internally, to be connected to front-panel devices or slot brackets.

Gigabyte does not use an add-in controller for eSATA, but instead redirects one of the Z68 chipset’s SATA 3Gb/s ports to the I/O panel. That reduces the integrated controller to five ports, but allows users who don’t need more than five internal ports to disable any third-party controllers without disabling eSATA. Users who need up to seven internal ports will still find two internal ports on a third-party controller, though RAID arrays on separate controllers can’t be combined.

In other words, Gigabyte’s design makes sense for the majority of the Z68X-UD3H’s target market. Buyers with more exacting needs will likely seek a more expensive product anyway.

Similarly, Gigabyte eliminates Asus’ PCIe lane sharing problem not by adding a PCIe bridge, but by getting rid of the four-lane slot Asus and ASRock place at the bottom of their boards. Asus’ solution can’t be used in x4 mode without disabling several onboard controllers, and ASRock’s addition of the PCIe bridge makes it a more expensive product. Gigabyte and ASRock are probably at opposite ends of the $150-200 market when it comes to production cost, yet the only real difference most builders notice is the lack of support for a third graphics card.

In fact, the only cost-saving measure that really concerned us was Gigabyte’s seven-phase voltage regulator. Gigabyte is one of the few manufacturers who hasn’t received a nasty email from us concerning flaming voltage regulation circuitry. But even a well-protected circuit will become unstable (or shut down) when pushed beyond the limits of its components. That is to say, our chief concern is whether or not this reduced-cost design can take our processor anywhere close to its 4.7 GHz limit at 1.35 V.

The Z68X-UD3H installation kit contains four SATA cables, a flexible SLI bridge, an I/O panel plate, a manual, and the software CD.

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60 comments
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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.
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  • huron
    Ooops...sorry...clicked the wrong button - was hoping to edit the post, not re-post
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