Futurelooks' INTEL Z68 Round Up: ASUS vs GIGABYTE vs ASRock vs MSI - FIGHT! Eric Garay November 3, 2011 Reviews 9 Comments 87 Flares Twitter 6 Facebook 80 Google+ 1 Pin It Share 0 Reddit 0 Email -- 87 Flares × Prev1 of 6NextUse your ← → (arrow) keys to browse Some say Z68 killed the P67 star. That really depends on what features you require and will realistically use. If gaming and other fun activities like home or office work are the primary purpose, a highly affordable P67 system would more than make you happy. However, if productivity is more important and you work with very large data intensive programs, the Intel Z68 Chipset is the platform of choice thanks to the new enhanced features like LucidLogix Virtu and Intel Smart Response (ISR). While Virtu and Intel Quick Sync are very handy for video projects, ISR still brings one of the most useful performance boosts to the table. Let's have a look at a wide array of the Z68 motherboard choices available and see if it's possible to crown a winner. Common Platform Features and Specifications This is a very different looking bunch of Z68 motherboards. But many offer the same or similar features and specs across the spectrum. The main differences occur with network, video out ports, audio, and prime features. Otherwise, they all offer USB 3.0, SATA 6Gbps, 2-way NVIDIA SLI and AMD CrossfireX support as well as LucidLogix Virtu and Intel Smart Response Technology. However, when Z68 first launched, GIGABYTE was the only manufacturer to omit Virtu on their higher model boards citing that power users wouldn't really want or use the feature. With consumers seeing Virtu as a tangible asset, most all of GIGABYTE's boards now offer at least a single HDMI port to meet the licensing specifications. It's good to see GIGABYTE offer the GA-Z68XP-UD5 in that respect. However, boards without it you can save yourself $30 to $40 more at retail which may be worth considering. On a side note, ECS is the only manufacturer to skip making Z68 motherboards despite what was shown at Computex 2011. ECS believed that Z68 had a limited shelf life of sorts and would instead focus on the upcoming X79 which as you know is rumored to reach us by 2nd quarter of 2012, but it's looking like it may be a lot sooner based on unconfirmed reports. Considering how Z68 sales went, that wasn't entirely the best choice by ECS. Many of the boards can be found with updated PCI Express 3.0 support which adds more PCI bandwidth for data transfer. This is only active if you have a PCIE 3.0 capable processor which aren't out yet. If you decide to upgrade your CPU when Sandy Bridge-E comes out, you're all set. Otherwise, it's a feature you can't utilize. With the recap of the features of INTEL's Z68 platform out of the way, let's meet our contestants in this gruelling showdown! ASUS P8Z68-V PRO Motherboard This board was our first experience with the Z68 chipset. It was featured in our INTEL Z68 launch article because of its tangible integrated, user friendly features. In other words, with features like MemOK, users are all but guaranteed to get up and running. The board features the best of its P8P67 sibling's performance along with all of the latest updates. It's also the only board in the round up to feature BlueTooth Go. In terms of design and layout, the black PCB, blue heat sink and socket theme attracts the enthusiasts. And, most every expansion port, button, power connector, fan and front panel header are all placed on the outer edges of the motherboard freeing up space for your expansion slots. There's plenty of SATA support on this board too. In regards to the BlueTooth Go! feature, it includes extra capabilities like Folder Sync, BT Transfer (make moving files easy), Shot & Send (Very hand for tuners), BT to Net (have to show off sometimes), Music Player (get your jam on), and Personal Manager to keep you in order. And, if you want to show off to your friends, you can interface your P8Z68-V Pro with Turbo Remote via your iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile and Symbian devices. Overall, a very good bundle of features for $199.99 US MSRP. Prev1 of 6NextUse your ← → (arrow) keys to browse Toto Concerning the combo cooler option on the ASRock. I don't find to be outdated, actually it's particularly useful. In my case at least. And, if I'm not mistaking, most coolers "back in the day" were sold with both the 775 and 1366 mounts, so the "bigger" one is not that special. Given the fact that no vendor in my country sells 1155 mounting kits for the Megahalems cooler, or other proper coolers for that matter, I can use the 775 socket kit (with some minor modifications). Yes, the cooler sits a bit crooked, but it doses its job on the 2500k perfectly, and to no added cost. I don't have to buy another tower cooler or kit, which actually turns out to be very pricey. http://twitter.com/ericgaray Eric Garay Hi there Toto, that's cool that the feature works for you. I don't always point out my market perceptions are based on the popular market countries. So, you can't get 1155 mounting kits from in manufacturers in your country? If you don't mind me asking, which CPU cooler do you use and where do you live? If manufacturers are selling coolers in your country, we should do our best to point that out so they remedy the issue. It also could be your retailers there just don't care to order in those kits. Noctua sends you an upgrade kit for free which is awesome. Toto Thanks for the reply Eric. I found out about the CCO thanks to users from France and Brittain, so I guess it's pretty popular in the bigger market countries as well. I live in Bulgaria and buying a new cooler wasn't a problem for me. The real reason that I preferred the CCO from ASRock is that the vendors here don't offer that big of a variety of options. In my case the only suitable ones were the Thermalright Ultra Extreme, the Armageddon from Prolimatech and the a couple of Scythe models. The TRUE I neglected because of its mounting and contact surface problems, I just didn't want the hassle. The Armageddon and Scythe had very impractical sizes and dimensions. Also the top of the line Noctua was and still is available but that's waaay too expensive and over the top for my needs. You're right for saying that the retailers here don't care about ordering in the kits. I had a Prolimatech Megahalems Rev.A from my old system with the 775 bracket. Drilled a hole in the plate so it didn't interfere with the screws on the mobo's backplate and "voila". I tried ordering a 1155 mounting kits for my 1155 Extreme4 from the US but the shops there either didn't ship overseas, or the delivery cost were extremely high (~20USD for a 6USD kit - no thanks!). It turned out that except Noctua, Prolimatech also supplies 1155 mounting kits for free. I contacted the company and they were extremely helpful and kind enough to send me one. The trouble was that I never got the kit, because it got lost (or stolen) during shipping, and I didn't have the decency to ask for another one. On the other hand CCO works perfectly for me, if you don't mind the botch job on the back, which except for looking bad does not interfere with the proper operation of the system. http://twitter.com/ericgaray Eric Garay That's pretty smart modding right there Toto! I tried to drill and dremel out a few back plates before with poor success. I've noticed more board makers like Intel offering extra holes for previous generation cooler support. Honestly, if they're going to keep changing the pinouts every new CPU launch, making it easy to use our existing coolers is the least they can do. kroff hmm the asus board has an intel nic, not broadcom http://twitter.com/ericgaray Eric Garay Did I say Broadcom on the ASUS board? If so, it's because I have several boards on the brain. Even I know that ASUS features Intel LAN Pro on all their boards now. ASRock has used Broadcom. Not sure if anyone else is doing that at the moment. MSI has used Realtek for P67/Z68 boards. Thus far, Intel LAN Pro has offered the best performance balance. That could change with ASRock using Broadcom bundled with ASRock XFastLan.