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.