Z68 Express Roundup: Three Motherboards Do Battle Around $200

Intel reserved its most feature-rich LGA 1155 platform for (or four?) months past the launch of its Sandy Bridge-based processors, but was it worth the wait? We compare three upper-mainstream Z68 examples to a top-quality P67 predecessor to find out.

We were initially stoked by how much better Intel’s current-generation processors are than their predecessors, combining quantifiable per-clock performance gains with lower power consumption, higher clock speeds, and vastly superior overclocking capability.

And yet, perhaps the most significant addition to the company's second-gen Core processors, Quick Sync-accelerated video transcoding, was limited to very inflexible H67 Express-based platforms. The P67 chipset allowed us to taste the new processor’s awesome overclocking, while its inability to access the architecture's integrated graphics core left a bad taste in our mouth.

Intel changes all of that with the release of Z68 Express, the uninhibited chipset that now sits atop Intel's mainstream-performance lineup. Now we even have the motherboards to prove it.

If you aren't yet familiar with the new platform, check out our coverage of the chipset itself in The Intel Z68 Express Review: A Real Enthusiast Chipset.

P67 Motherboard Features
 ASRock
Z68 Extreme4
Asus
P8Z68-V Pro
Gigabyte
Z68X-UD3H-B3
PCB Revision1.011.010.2
ChipsetIntel Z68 ExpressIntel Z68 ExpressIntel Z68 Express
Voltage Regulator12 Phases16 PhasesSeven Phases
BIOSP1.10 (04/22/2011)8801 Beta (04/28/2011)F2e (04/28/2011)
100.0 MHz BCLK99.8 (-0.2%)100.3 (+0.03%)100.3 (+0.03%)
Clock GeneratorZ68 IntegratedZ68 IntegratedZ68 Integrated
Internal Interfaces
PCIe x163 (x16/x0/x4 or x8/x8/x4)3 (x16/x0/x4 or x8/x8/x4)2 (x16/x0 or x8/x8)
PCIe x1/x42/02/02/0
Legacy PCI222
USB 2.03 (6-ports)3 (6-ports)4 (8-ports)
USB 3.01 (2-ports)1 (2-ports)1 (2-ports)
IEEE-1394121
Serial Port1None1
Parallel PortNoneNoneNone
FloppyYesNoNo
Ultra-ATA 133NoneNoneNone
SATA 3.0Gb/s443
SATA 6.0Gb/s444
4-Pin Fan232
3-Pin Fan432
FP-AudioYesYesYes
CD-AudioNoNoNo
S/PDIF I/OOutput OnlyOutput OnlyOutput Only
Power ButtonYesYesNo
Reset ButtonYesYesNo
CLR_CMOS ButtonJumper OnlyJumper OnlyJumper Only
Diagnostics PanelNumericPass/Fail LEDsPass/Fail LEDs
I/O Panel Connectors
P/S 22None1
USB 2.0464
USB 3.0222
IEEE-13941None1
NetworkSingleSingleSingle
eSATA111
CLR_CMOS ButtonYesNoNo
Digital Audio OutOptical OnlyOptical OnlyOptical Only
Digital Audio InNoneNoneNone
Analog Audio566
Video Out1 Each: DVI, HDMI,
VGA, DisplayPort
1 Each: DVI, HDMI
VGA
1 Each: DVI, HDMI,
VGA, DisplayPort
Other DevicesNoneBluetooth TransceiverNone
Mass Storage Controllers
Chipset SATA2 x SATA 6Gb/s
4 x SATA 3Gb/s
2 x SATA 6Gb/s
4 x SATA 3Gb/s
2 x SATA 6Gb/s
4 x SATA 3Gb/s
Chipset RAID Modes0, 1, 5, 100, 1, 5, 100, 1, 5, 10
Add-In SATAMarvell 9120 PCIe
2 x SATA 6Gb/s
1 x eSATA (shared)
Marvell 9172 PCIe
2 x SATA 6Gb/s

2 x eSATA 3Gb/s
Marvell 9172 PCIe
Add-In Ultra ATANoneNoneNone
USB 3.02 x Etron EJ168A PCIe2 x ASM1042 PCIe2x Etron EJ168A PCIe
IEEE-1394VT6315N PCIe
2 x 400 Mb/s
VT6308P PCI
2 x 400 Mb/s
VT6308P PCI
2 x 400 Mb/s
Gigabit Ethernet
Primary LANBroadcom BCM57781 PCIeWG82579V PHYRTL8111E PCIe
Secondary LANNoneNoneNone
HD Audio
HD Audio CodecALC892ALC892ALC889
DDL/DTS ConnectNoneNoneNone
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60 comments
    Your comment
  • user 18
    ASrock comes with 4 eSATA cables?
    0
  • Kisakuku
    The first UEFI screenshots for ASRock and Asus are switched.
    0
  • 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.
    0
  • 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.
    0
  • 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)
    0
  • 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