ASRock Z68 Pro3
This is the least-expensive of today’s competing boards. The only frills included with ASRock’s Z68 Pro3 are two USB 3.0 ports connected to a single controller. VGA is still supported for buyers who can’t afford a modern monitor, yet ASRock still manages to slip a license for Lucid’s Virtu software into this $120 package.
While most performance-oriented users will only be interested in the Quick Sync capability of Intel’s on-board graphics controller, anyone using discrete graphics and looking to add a third display should find the choice of integrated DVI and HDMI outputs satisfactory. We only question why the space above the HDMI port was left empty when only eight of the chipset’s 14 USB 2.0 ports have corresponding connectors.
A single-port network controller, dual-port USB 3.0 controller, and two-slot PCI controller consume only three of the Z68 Express’ eight single-lane PCIe links. Three more pathways are presented as PCIe x1 slots, with simplicity preventing any of the lane-sharing issues often found on more elaborate products.
Simplicity also left ASRock with less potential for layout mistakes. Our only complaint is that the rear-corner front-panel audio cable is a difficult location that results in messy (and occasionally noisy) cable routing, though the mid-placed front-panel USB 2.0 ports are only slightly better.
While we’d normally rage about any full-sized motherboard including only two SATA cables, the Z68 Pro3’s price is low enough to offset those concerns.