From $100 To $160: Five Z68-Based Boards, Compared

Gigabyte Z68XP-UD3

The Z68XP-UD3 firmly targets performance fanatics with a layout that eschews the use of integrated graphics as a primary output, instead favoring SLI and CrossFire. This begins with an I/O panel that addresses most of the USB 2.0 ports missing from competing products, but lacks even a single DVI interface.

We’ve been told that at least one physical graphics connection must be present for a Z68-based motherboard to support Quick Sync hardware accelerated video transcoding through the CPU’s integrated graphics engine, and Gigabyte addresses this need by adding a single HDMI connection. The firm also adds a legacy FireWire port, separating the -UD3 from previous upper-range parts only in its lack of secondary network and outdated digital coaxial audio outputs.

Four internal two-lane switches allow the Z68XP-UD3 to automatically change from x16/x0 to x8/x8 transfers whenever a second graphics card is installed, while three PCIe x1 slots connect slower devices. The Z68XP-UD3 uses all eight of the Z68’s PCIe pathways, with a PCIe to PCI bridge, a two-port SATA 6Gb/s controller, network, and dual USB 3.0 controllers consuming the remainder.

Up against the limits of our intended budget, the Z68XP-UD3 is one of only two motherboards in today’s roundup to include a front-panel USB 3.0 header. The entirety of features would have made this a $160 board even if it had used the P67 chipset, so we’re not entirely clear how Gigabyte managed to retain this price with a Z68 product that includes Lucidlogix's Virtu license.

And yet Gigabyte wouldn’t let us get away without mentioning its mSATA socket, a feature used in its more expensive Z68XP-UD3-iSSD to add a bundled 20 GB SLC-based SSD for caching. Buyers of the model viewed today are also able to add their own mSATA drive; just bear in mind that doing so with either board disables one of its SATA 3Gb/s ports.

Other limitations include the 5 Gb/s PCIe interface for the motherboard-down two-port SATA 6Gb/s controller. Dual-drive data rates exceeding 5 Gb/s are limited to the controller's interface performance.

After many years of placing its front-panel audio jack in a more-convenient location, Gigabyte decided to regress to the more traditional bottom-rear-corner. This makes sense for builders whose extra-long cables have been diverted around the back of the motherboard tray, but leaves those with shorter cables stranded. The front-panel FireWire port’s similar location is similarly-inconvenient for owners of conventional cases. Fortunately, most new cases lose this legacy interface.

The Z68XP-UD3 includes four SATA cables and an SLI bridge, which are our minimum standards for a mid-priced SLI motherboard. Cheaper boards can get away with fewer cables, since the lower price often appeals to budget builders with fewer drives.

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    Top Comments
  • The Greater Good
    vilenjanWhat about looks? The gigabyte board looks so meh, while the MSI board is sexy!


    Do you stare into your case whilst computing, or do you look at the monitor?
    14
  • hatethisbull
    90% of this article could've been compressed into the summary page. I would've preferred to see comparisons between, say, a $70 h67 and a high-end z68. Instead of four pages of unsatisfying gaming benchmarks, how about focusing on board usability? Which of the boards have cheap PCI-E retention clips that are going to pop off on first use? Which ones will have blocked ports, etc.
    10
  • Other Comments
  • vilenjan
    What about looks? The gigabyte board looks so meh, while the MSI board is sexy!
    -13
  • compton
    I temporarily used a Biostar TH67+ 1155 mobo until I picked up my new board. After seeing the description of the Z chipset's Graphical UEFI I checked Biostar's website. It looks as though they're released the graphical UEFI for all biostar 1155 mobos.

    Now I just wish Intel would do the same -- can't they just rip off Asus's UEFI implementation?
    0
  • johnnyb_27
    Why not use the MSI's Z68A-G65 instead of the MSI's Z68A-G55? They were the same price but now the drop MSI's Z68A-GD55 to 154 before rebate.
    0
  • dirtmountain
    Sorry, but rebates don't count. A nice test of the other 4 motherboards though.
    3
  • hatethisbull
    90% of this article could've been compressed into the summary page. I would've preferred to see comparisons between, say, a $70 h67 and a high-end z68. Instead of four pages of unsatisfying gaming benchmarks, how about focusing on board usability? Which of the boards have cheap PCI-E retention clips that are going to pop off on first use? Which ones will have blocked ports, etc.
    10
  • The Greater Good
    vilenjanWhat about looks? The gigabyte board looks so meh, while the MSI board is sexy!


    Do you stare into your case whilst computing, or do you look at the monitor?
    14
  • aznguy0028
    The Greater GoodDo you stare into your case whilst computing, or do you look at the monitor?

    I look into my case daily when I use the computer. There's a reason why there is a window, and hours of hard work for your perfect wiring job deserves much credit and to be stared at. Not to mention coloring schemes that matches your case/mobo pcb color/fan led colors/etc.
    5
  • jerreddredd
    isn't it time we lost the PS2 port? and maybe even the DB15 VGA port also?
    2
  • Crashman
    johnnyb_27Why not use the MSI's Z68A-G65 instead of the MSI's Z68A-G55? They were the same price but now the drop MSI's Z68A-GD55 to 154 before rebate.
    MSI picked the GD55 because it's SUPPOSED to cost $160. MSI did NOT pick the GD65 because it's SUPPOSED to cost $180. MSI's predictions from a few weeks back simply didn't pan out.
    3
  • Crashman
    jerreddreddisn't it time we lost the PS2 port? and maybe even the DB15 VGA port also?
    Not PS/2, just VGA. They leave the Multi-I/O controller on the board for compatibility in other areas, so PS/2 is "free" and some people still use it at the high end.

    Some cheap monitors still use VGA, but these boards are not for the budget market! For VGA compatibility (for external capture devices and such) they could just use DVI-I and let the oddball user who needs VGA for that oddball purpose supply his own adapter.
    7
  • joshyboy82
    I have been recommending this board based on other reviews and specs in the forum to people and I always get undermined by some guy who tells me he doesn't really like Gigabyte and z68 is just a fad. I am going to repost the shit out of this conclusion on my build recommendations.
    2
  • cobra5000
    The Biostar is available for $99 @ the egg. Man, that is tempting..
    2
  • Why_Me
    Yay for the little Asrock that could. Simple, cheap and yet effective. ;)
    4
  • spookyman
    jerreddreddisn't it time we lost the PS2 port? and maybe even the DB15 VGA port also?


    Actually I like the PS/2 port for my keyboard. I have an old 1983 PS/2 IBM 101 keyboard that I still use. Still the most rock solid keyboard that is comfortable to use and its built like a tank. Best part of the keyboard, no "Windows" keys.
    0
  • jerreddredd
    Anonymous said:
    Actually I like the PS/2 port for my keyboard. I have an old 1983 PS/2 IBM 101 keyboard that I still use. Still the most rock solid keyboard that is comfortable to use and its built like a tank. Best part of the keyboard, no "Windows" keys.



    Ok, I guess leaving the Keyboard PS2 port might be ok. I figured everyone moved to USB by now. I think I still have an old PS2 KB laying around. I do remember the feel of the full stroke keys and mechanical contacts. mmmm maybe I should dig it out on day.
    1
  • torque79
    I read through the specs twice, and I still can't find Bluetooth mentioned. The ASRock board is listed as a "pro" version, does that have bluetooth? You know lots of people have cell phones that synch contacts and calendar using bluetooth right? I have a hard time beleiving none of the TH reviewers don't, so why is it never listed in your motherboard shootouts? In another recent (higher-end) motherboard shootout it was also missing.
    -1
  • davewolfgang
    Anonymous said:
    I read through the specs twice, and I still can't find Bluetooth mentioned. The ASRock board is listed as a "pro" version, does that have bluetooth? You know lots of people have cell phones that synch contacts and calendar using bluetooth right? I have a hard time beleiving none of the TH reviewers don't, so why is it never listed in your motherboard shootouts? In another recent (higher-end) motherboard shootout it was also missing.


    Actually "most" people (as you put it) sync using a USB cable, because then they can CHARGE the phone at the same time. You can't charge your phone using BlueT. So why charge using a USB cable plugged into a wall outlet converter plug (I haven't seen a phone that doesn't come with this in the past 2+ years), and then have to go the BlueT thing, when you can just plug that USB cable right INTO your computer and Charge and Sync at the same time.
    2
  • torque79
    Because then you have to have your cell phone charging at your pc, and your pc must be turned on. Surely I'm not the only person in the world that finds both of these restrictions inconvenient.
    -2
  • davewolfgang
    Anonymous said:
    Because then you have to have your cell phone charging at your pc, and your pc must be turned on. Surely I'm not the only person in the world that finds both of these restrictions inconvenient.


    Since you actually need to power your computer ON for it to Sync in the first place.....................................
    3
  • 1foxracing
    Gigabyte boards don't require the PC to be turned on for the charging function to work through USB.
    9