Round-Up: Four Z68 Motherboards From $220 To $280

Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD5

Gigabyte knows how to make a serious-looking motherboard using dark grey anodized heatsinks, black nickel-plated heat pipes, and black slots on the Z68XP-UD5’s black circuit board.

A single HDMI output facilitates access to integrated graphics without wasting space performance-oriented enthusiasts typically want for other features. Those other features include four USB 3.0 ports and two USB-powered eSATA ports.

Recognizing that most enthusiasts use three or four internal hard drives, max, Gigabyte doesn’t bother adding another internal controller to the Z68XP-UD5. The motherboard does, however, have four internal USB 3.0 ports and an incredible number of CPU voltage regulator components.

Perhaps you noticed that the Z68XP-UD5 has twice as many USB 3.0 ports (internally and externally), but half as many controllers when compared to similarly-priced products. Gigabyte achieves this by placing its eight ports on two USB 3.0 hubs, so that all eight devices share a single 5 GT/s PCIe 2.0 pathway to the chipset. Though we aren’t very concerned about multiple devices sharing the chipset’s DMI connection, eight 5 Gb/s ports sharing a single 5 Gb/s pathway seems like a recipe for a more serious bottleneck.

Even more worrisome are slots that cannot be utilized. What we mean is that the two x1 slots gobble up two of the third x16-slot’s four electrical lanes. If you populate either x1 slot, it kicks that third x16 slot down to x1 mode.

All of these missing controllers and shared lanes point to a less-obvious device missing from the Z68XP-UD5: the PLX bridge used by ASRock and Asus. That device acts as a smart switch (similar to those found in networks) to negotiate traffic between an over-abundance of devices and too few PCI Express lanes. Yet, because of the pared-down PCIe device count, we can still treat the Z68XP-UD5 as a fully-functional product if we ignore its x1 slots or its x16 slot wired with four lanes. 

Slot layout is identical to that of Asus’ competing model, making the Z68XP-UD5 a board designed for two-way SLI or CrossFire, at most. If none of the x1 slots are filled, a graphics card in the third x16 slot (again, it runs with only four lanes) could be used separately to host additional monitors. The only problem we see with putting a graphics card into that slot is that most GPU coolers are too large to fit over the notoriously stiff, straight USB 3.0 connectors plugged into the motherboard's front-panel port headers.

Taking a cue from the competition, Gigabyte adds a USB 3.0 bay adapter to the Z68XP-UD5’s support kit. On the other hand, its inclusion of only four SATA cables looks a little too budget-minded for a board that costs well over $200.

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47 comments
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  • crisan_tiberiu
    I own an AsRock Z68 Pro 3 MB, and i am vere pleased with it.
    0
  • RazorBurn
    Only Asus and AsRock for me.. Tried severals boards thru the years yet only this two has never failed me..

    My AsRock AliveNF6G-VSTA in my warehouse full of dust, mites, cobweb still works.. Recently upgraded to 4GB RAM and GTS 450 1GB video card..
    2
  • iam2thecrowe
    i would like to see a more budget oriented roundup, not everyone wants to spend that much on a motherboard for 0.5 of an FPS increase, or overclock 100mhz more out of their cpu.....
    3
  • beenthere
    Intel mobos are way over-priced IMO. In my many years of building PCs the only two mobos that I ever had fail were Asus. As far as performance and reliability I'd rank these mobo brands as follows:

    Gigabyte
    MSI
    Asus
    Asrock
    -7
  • flong
    I own the AsRock Extreme 4 Gen 3 board and it seems to be a very good board. I had the Asus Pro V before and had problems. I can say from experience that Asus's customer service is VERY poor to say the least. While their boards seem to be high quality according to most reviews, if you do have a problem don't count on Asus being around to help you out. I sent my board back to NewEgg and I had to argue with Newegg to get them to warranty it which was disappointing. Amazon does not have this problem and for my next motherboard purchase I will probably go through Amazon.

    The answer to my first email question to Asus came a three full weeks later AFTER I had decided to return the board. AND the answer was an absolutely stupid response that did not address the real problem. Still wanting an answer to my question, I clarified the question and sent it back to Asus again. TWO weeks later I got ANOTHER asinine response from them. At that point I realized I was wasting my time.

    I don't know how good AsRock's customer service is since I have not had a problem with the board.
    0
  • Crashman
    iam2thecrowei would like to see a more budget oriented roundup, not everyone wants to spend that much on a motherboard for 0.5 of an FPS increase, or overclock 100mhz more out of their cpu.....
    I believe you missed this:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/z68xp-ud3-dz68db,2980.html
    1
  • Mark Heath
    8708 said:

    Crashman to the rescue again :)
    0
  • Novuake
    Intel boards are not that bad, yes their Enthusiast boards are, but for a good while after LGA1155 came out they had the cheapest USB3/SATA 3 LGA1155 boards available, I think they still do... I would have to check.
    0
  • Luay
    The Asrock Extreme7 belongs in another NF200 equipped Tri-fire/Tri-SLI round-up with the UD7, ROG and FTW boards, and I think it would still win based on value.
    Real enthusiasts, on the other hand don't use integrated graphics and already have a dedicated SSD. Enter P67 in the round-up and the winner would still be for almost 18 months running, the $255 Asus P67 WS Revolution.
    0
  • ojas
    Hey Tom's. Make Wolfgang read articles like these too. He needs them.
    6
  • ghnader hsmithot
    I think there is no such thing as a warranty...
    -5
  • ghnader hsmithot
    I think no one should think about warranties cuz companies never give them anyway, I think its a marketing scheme.
    -5
  • JamesSneed
    I have the AsRock Extreme 4 Gen 3 and really like that board. I had have had zero issues with the board and that is even with a mild 4Ghz overclock on the 2500k.

    Luay, real enthusiasts do use integrated graphics just they use it for Quick Sync only.
    0
  • Novuake
    416554 said:
    I think no one should think about warranties cuz companies never give them anyway, I think its a marketing scheme.


    lol I have succesfully RMA'd many a part!!! Asus, Seagate, Sapphire, Asrock, you name it...
    2
  • CaedenV
    while none of these boards are for me, it is nice to drool and think 'what if....'

    I am surprised at the gigabyte board. The power regulation seems too complicated to be useful, and the lack of UEFI seems strange and will hurt boot performance.
    0
  • tomskent
    while all these mobos are out of my price range, I would choose the MSI.
    I could care less about using the 3rd pci 16x lane
    0
  • jamie_1318
    ghnader hsmithotI think no one should think about warranties cuz companies never give them anyway, I think its a marketing scheme.


    If you've never gotten a warrenty back than you must have very bad luck. Most companies will happily send a replacement product. OCZ even works with oyu to ensure that you are satisfied with what you recieve back. Out of all the products I've sent in for warranties in the past 3 years, all 4 of them got a working product back. One I didn't bother to ship out because shipping was more than it was worth at the time.
    -1
  • Novuake
    428607 said:
    while all these mobos are out of my price range, I would choose the MSI. I could care less about using the 3rd pci 16x lane


    Agreed, Quads and Tri GPU's are just not worth the price at this stage.
    0
  • Bluex610
    Asrock extreme 7 has only 1 PCI-e 3.0 slot, while the Fatal1ty PRO has 2 PCI-e 3.0 slots. Weird... But the Extreme 7 has NF200 chip that allows x16/x16 with 2 cards. I'm going with the Fatal1ty since I want 2 PCI-e 3.0 slots, might not use it for a while, but it's nice to know I have the option.
    0
  • spookyman
    What no EVGA boards?

    Always had luck with Asus, Gigabyte and MSI boards.
    0