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Z68 motherboard roundup: AsRock, Asus, Gigabyte and MSI
by Guillaume Louel
Published on November 14, 2011

Launched last May, the Intel Z68 chipset was introduced to complete the Intel LGA 1155 offer by unifying the capabilities of two previously launched chipsets, the P67 and H67. P67 chipsets had the particularity of allowing overclocking (henceforth implemented on the Sandy Bridge platform using the multiplier) and support for two PCI Express 16x (cabled at 2x8) graphics ports but did not support the video controller integrated in Intel processors. H67 chipsets supported the IGP to the detriment of overclocking and PCI Express. This segmentation from Intel was brought together, at least in terms of functionality, in the form of Z68 motherboards, something we have previously discussed.

Note that Intel does not allow you to benefit from the IGP technologty, QuickSync, unless the IGP is used for the display. There is a get-around for this however, with the Lucid Logic Virtu software that comes with most Z68 boards and uses d-Mode to virtualise the IGP via the GPU. In iMode the display is connected to the IGP and the GPU is virtualised and used for gaming loads, but this feature is based on profiles that aren’t necessarily updated, has a negative impact on performance and doesn’t give a notable gain in energy consumption… so to be avoided!

We wanted to come back to the motherboard offer from manufacturers on this new chipset, within the €140 to €170 price range and with full use of the Z68 Express features, whether this be in terms of the IGP (several video outs linked to the IGP) or the PCI Express (two PCI-Express x8 ports). We chose four models, one from each of the main manufacturers on the market (in alphabetical order!):
  • ASRock Z68 Extreme4
  • Asus P8Z68-V Pro
  • Gigabyte Z68X-UD3H-B3
  • MSI Z68A-GD65 B3
It’s also worth noting that these motherboards systematically share characteristics found on other P67/Z68 models from the same manufacturers, whether in terms of the main design points, components used, new BIOS interfaces or software suites. These features could be rolled out, at least partially, across the rest of the LGA 1155 range.

For this roundup we looked at what differentiates these various models which often have a very similar base. From the spec to the EFI BIOS and the overclocking capabilities, energy consumption and performance of additional chips, we’re going to try and look as fully as we can at the offer available from each of the manufacturers.

Let’s start by introducing the models.

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ASRock Z68 Extreme4  

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