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

Asus P8Z68 Deluxe

Asus’ entry into our enthusiast-class roundup is more deluxe than premium—hence the name. Yet, a Bluetooth transceiver and chipset-direct Intel gigabit network controller set it apart from every other product in this roundup. A “CLR_CMOS” button hidden between analog audio outputs and USB 3.0 ports is our first clue that this might be a serious overclocking board, though that feature is not necessarily unique to Asus.

We previously heard that a physical video output had to be present for Quick Sync to work (at least, that's what we were led to believe about Gigabyte's Z68X-UD7-B3). But that never made sense to us because most enthusiasts hook straight into their discrete card and utilize Quick Sync through Lucidlogix's Virtu software. 

Asus proves those rumors wrong, as Quick Sync does work with this board. By eliminating those generally-unused outputs, Asus limits Intel’s integrated GPU to the one thing it does well: hardware-accelerated transcode acceleration.

Ridding the P8Z68 Deluxe of any video outputs allows Asus to give it a more traditional enthusiast-oriented rear panel, replete with USB 2.0 connectors, in addition to eSATA, USB 3.0, dual gigabit networking, and audio.

The P8Z68 Deluxe uses a straightforward method for connecting the first two graphics cards: a set of pathway switches that automatically detects the second card and changes the lane configuration from x16/x0 to x8/x8 as soon as another board is installed. Our tests show that eight PCIe 2.0 lanes per slot are enough to optimize both CrossFire and SLI, which is why we refuse to play into the introduction of PCI Express 3.0 connectivity that so many of Asus' competitors are already emphasizing.

On the other hand, three-way CrossFire and SLI are not the among P8Z68 Deluxe’s specialties. As with most competing products, the bottom slot is only four lanes wide and served up by the Z68 PCH, which kills its SLI approval and is too slow for CrossFire. The P8Z68 Deluxe is really intended for two-card performance combos. You could conceivably add third graphics card, running independently, to attach more monitors.

A USB 3.0 connector near the center of the P8Z68 Deluxe’s front edge eases cable routing to front-panel ports. Matched only by ASRock in today’s comparison, other manufacturers still haven’t caught on to this whole easy cable management idea.

A PLX PCIe 2.0 bridge allows Asus to connect two D720200F1 USB 3.0 controllers, 88SE9128 SATA 6Gb/s and JMB362 eSATA controllers, a VT6315N FireWire controller, the RTL8111E secondary network controller, and an ASM1083 PCIe-to-PCI bridge to the eight-lane Z68 Express chipset without disabling any PCIe slots. Asus’ combination of eSATA and SATA seems like it wouldn't be as fast as ASRock's, but its use of two second-gen PCIe lanes gives this combination twice as much bandwidth to the Z68 PCH. Bandwidth to the board's x1 devices and the four-lane slot is still limited by the chipset’s 20 Gb DMI. But again, most enthusiasts don’t use all of their peripherals at full throughput at the same time.

The presence of six SATA cables in the P8Z68 Deluxe box is completely satisfactory, and the firm also adds an SLI bridge and USB 3.0 bay adapter. Though the bay adapter is completely enclosed (and therefore more expensive to produce than ASRock’s competing design), its not adaptable to a slot panel and not able to serve as a 2.5” drive tray.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • crisan_tiberiu
    I own an AsRock Z68 Pro 3 MB, and i am vere pleased with it.
  • 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..
  • 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.....
  • 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:

  • 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.
  • 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:,2980.html
  • Mark Heath
    9519804 said:
    I believe you missed this:,2980.html
    Crashman to the rescue again :)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • ojas
    Hey Tom's. Make Wolfgang read articles like these too. He needs them.