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.

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.