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Ivy Bridge is Here – An Overview

7093651619 c69ea33e4f o Ivy Bridge is Here   An OverviewThis week brought us the release of Ivy Bridge.  This particular release is especially strange and rather challenging to cover as a lot of the critical parts are spread out over a 3 month period. Earlier this month we saw the release of the Z77 chipset, which is the primary enthusiast chipset to support Ivy Bridge (like the Z68 Chipset).  This week we get the release of the Quad Core CPU versions of Ivy Bridge.

The article below is a great extensive look at the Ivy Bridge release and more specifically, the Core i7-3770K.  I just want to touch on a few key points here which will be important to you.

The number one question I am sure:  ”Is it worth upgrading to Ivy Bridge from Sandy Bridge?”  From a value standpoint my answer is no – UNLESS you want to run PCIe 3.0, or you want to support Thunderbolt technology.

Before I continue, there is a HUGE caveat about Thunderbolt.  If you are wanting to use Thunderbolt devices with your new Ivy Bridge System – DO NOT BUY ANYTHING YET.  The Z77 chipset will be supporting Thunderbolt with an additional controller, but this will not be released until the end of May.  So that means you can’t buy a Z77 motherboard right now, and have it support Thunderbolt.  If you don’t care about using Thunderbolt, then don’t worry about it.

Ivy Bridge CPU Ivy Bridge is Here   An OverviewThe largest benefit for building an Ivy Bridge system is PCIe 3.0 – or it will be eventually.  Currently you can play any game at max settings with PCIe 2.0 cards – though I am interested to see the effect PCIe 3.0 will have on current benchmarks.  There are currently PCIe 3.0 capable cards on Tom’s Benchmarks, but it is difficult to compare the current offerings.  AMD’s 7XXX series cards are PCIe 3.0 capable, and they perform better than the previous generation – but that is to be expected for a new generation video card.  nVidia has released the GTX 680 as their only PCIe 3.0 video card, and it outperforms everything except certain cards with higher memory at higher settings – the Extreme benchmarks are dominated by 3 and 4 GB cards, which is to be expected considering the large resolution (keep this in mind when Retina Displays become mainstream).

My take on this is that if you have a Sandy Bridge system right now, don’t upgrade just yet (unless of course you simply enjoy doing that, then feel free to go nuts :).  There is no value justification in upgrading from a Sandy Bridge / Z68 system to an Ivy Bridge / Z77 system at this time.

Just to wrap up some other notes about this release.  This release is only for the Quad Core Ivy Bridge CPUs.  The i7-3770k reviewed below is the IB version of the i7-2600k/2700k.  The i5-3570k is the IB version of the i5-2500k.  So the mid-range build will likely consist of an i5-3570k on a Z77 chipset board.  As I am writing this, I haven’t actually seen these chips available in retailers, so I am not sure when that will happen.  It’s nice to note that the new versions of these CPUs are actually going to be slightly cheaper than their predecessors – the i7-3770k being $19 cheaper than previous, and the i5-3570k being $13 less.  This says to me that retailers are going to likely drop prices on Sandy Bridge not insignificantly (or at least provide sales).

So again, if you currently have a Sandy Bridge system of at least the mid range build, there’s really no reason to upgrade to Ivy Bridge (other than for the heck of it).

I’ll be building a new Ivy Bridge system in the next couple of months – I’m waiting on Thunderbolt for Z77 as well as the rest of nVidia’s Kepler lineup.

For now, do check out this article for more extensive information on the Ivy Bridge release.

The Intel Ivy Bridge (Core i7 3770K) Review
http://www.anandtech.com/show/5771/the-intel-ivy-bridge-core-i7-3770k-review

The times, they are changing. In fact, the times have already changed, we’re just waiting for the results. I remember the first time Intel brought me into a hotel room to show me their answer to AMD’s Athlon 64 FX—the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition. Back then the desktop race was hotly contested. Pushing the absolute limits of what could be done without a concern for power consumption was the name of the game. In the mid-2000s, the notebook started to take over. Just like the famous day when Apple announced that it was no longer a manufacturer of personal computers but a manufacturer of mobile devices, Intel came to a similar realization years prior when these slides were first shown at an IDF in 2005:

 

image from IntelFreePress

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The Asus P8Z68-V Pro Review

Today I have for you an excellent review of the motherboard I prefer for the mid range build.  You will see me constantly say that I prefer Asus motherboards, and there is a reason for this.  They are not only well built, but they also consistently score high on benchmark tests.

This review is a look at the Gen 3 version of the P8Z68-V Pro, which supports PCIe 3.0.  There aren’t any PCIe 3.0 tests yet of course, but if your intention is to build a Sandy Bridge Z68 system, then this is the motherboard to go with.

Asus P8Z68-V Pro Gen 3 Motherboard Review
http://www.kitguru.net/components/motherboard/zardon/asus-p8z68-v-pro-gen-3-motherboard-review/

This motherboard features UASP mode, which stands for USB Attached SCSI Protocol. Asus say “With USB 3.0 Boost technology, a USB device’s transmission speed is significantly increased up to 170%, adding to an already impressive fast USB 3.0 transfer speed. ASUS software automatically accelerates data speeds for compatible USB 3.0 peripherals without the need for any user interaction.”

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Z77 Motherboards – an Introduction

I’m starting to get pretty excited for the release of Ivy Bridge.  I’ve been running the same system for about 4.5 years now and while it’s still in great condition, I’m itching to build a new powerhouse.

Last week I shared with you an article giving our first preview of Ivy Bridge performance.  Today I bring you an article showcasing our upcoming 7-series motherboards.

It looks like things are likely to line up similarly to Sandy Bridge.  While we don’t have benchmarking of any kind yet it’s looking like my value recommendation will be the i5-3570k with the Asus Z77 Pro.

A Brief Look at Some Upcoming 7-Series Motherboards

http://www.anandtech.com/show/5666/a-brief-look-at-some-upcoming-7series-motherboards

With Intel’s next generation processors firmly on the horizon, we should also turn to what motherboards will be on offer when we have the opportunity to root around in our pockets to invest in an next generation system.  With appropriate vendor support, 6-series motherboards will support these new processors with little more than a BIOS update, however to get the most out of the new processor, we have to look at the new range of motherboards about to hit the market.

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Z77 Chipset – Panther Point

51ro87u2ZkL. SL160  Z77 Chipset   Panther PointWith the release of Ivy Bridge on the horizon (currently April 8 ) we are also anticipating the release of the next series of chipsets to go with it – this time it will be Panther Point or 7-series chipsets. Check out the article on Ivy Bridge for a brief overview. In this article, I’m going to quickly touch on the Z77 chipset.

The Z77 Panther Point chipset is the top of the line chipset complimenting the Intel Ivy Bridge CPU. The Z77 chipset is going to be the most advanced of the chipset options (think an upgraded version of the z68 chipset).

Some of you have asked whether it is worth waiting for the Z77 chipset over building a system right now with Z68 (and then upgrading to Ivy Bridge later). While it has not yet been released – so we don’t know how it will perform – we can look at features that the Z77 chipset will have.

There are two major differences between the Z77 and Z68 chipsets. This is native USB 3.0 and slightly different PCIe configuration. Currently, in order to get USB 3.0 onto a motherboard, manufacturers are using third parties.

The most noticeable effect of using a third party is an increase in price, as the manufacturer has to purchase the chips (ICs) from those third parties. With Intel including USB 3.0 natively (for up to 4 USB 3.0 ports), this should mean that the relative cost will be slightly less (in the neighborhood of $20) – granted, when Panther Point is released, the previous generation will likely drop in price anyways.

One could also surmise that native hardware implementation makes it easier for manufacturer’s to build custom configurations.

This is where the different PCIe configuration will come into play.  The new chipset will provide a more flexible pcie configuration for the manufacturers, making it easier to implement multiple card configurations for PCIe 3.0 – wheras currently it looks like the most you can do on Z68 is two PCIe 3.0 cards (at x8/x8), and then not all Z68 motherboards allow this.

The rest of the Z77 chipset configuration is very similar to Z68. Both Z77 and H77 will include SSD caching – the increase in number of options for SSD caching suggests a trend in that direction, but thats for another article.

In terms of overclocking both Z77 and Z75 will be capable, while H77 will not. Similarly, it looks like there will be K (or similar) versions of the Ivy Bridge processors indicating overclockability.

Unlike the Sandy Bridge release, where the enthusiast chipset (P67) was limited with on board video, all version of Panther Point will include built in video. This is likely due to the utility of Virtu (which again, does not affect gaming performance).

 

So on the surface, the Z77 chipset appears to be perhaps only a slight upgrade (some might say that about the Ivy Bridge CPU as well). The new platform may prove to be not worth upgrading from Sandy Bridge, but I’m personally trying to wait until April to build a new system – I plan on diving into Ivy Bridge + Z77 with gusto ^_^

 

Reference

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OCZ demonstrates PCIe 3.0 based SSD

My strange enjoyment of OCZ's Revodrives leads me to find this PCIe 3.0 based SSD (16 TB at 6.5 gb/s transfer rate?  yes please) very exciting.  I'm sure there will be a day sometime in the next few years when I will find it affordable…I'm sure.

In any case, with the release of PCIe 3.0, we should start seeing some interesting tech upgrades, and possibly some new internal hardware that takes advantage of the increased data transfer rate.

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Z68 Motherboards and PCIe 3.0

With the upcoming release of Ivy Bridge and PCIe 3.0, one question that might be on your mind is “will my current Z68 chipset board support a PCIe 3.0 video card?” Today I just want to take a quick look at the situation and hopefully answer that question.

First, a quick look at PCIe 3.0. This is the next iteration of PCIe, following the update to PCIe 2.0 in 2007. PCIe 3.0 is going to double the memory bandwidth of PCIe 2.0 – this is the most important change to realize. Some sites have taken a look at how that might affect current gaming – but this analysis has yet to be done with an actual PCIe 3.0 video card (as none are available yet).

The other thing about PCIe 3.0, is that in order for it to function you will be required to be running at least an Ivy Bridge CPU (presumably any CPUs released after Ivy Bridge will be compatible as well). Some of these motherboards have PCIe 3.0 capability, but only if you install an Ivy Bridge CPU into them. Currently Intel has indicated that Ivy Bridge will be compatible with the LGA 1155 motherboards – z68 and P67. You also of course need a PCIe 3.0 video card.

 

51nZvs2L9XL. SL75  Z68 Motherboards and PCIe 3.0ASRock EXTREME7 GEN3/EXTREME4 GEN3 - these motherboards come with PCIe 3.0 capability. As previously mentioned, you must have an Ivy Bridge CPU installed. The way the PCIe 3.0 is activated is that the second x16 slot is directly connected to the CPU (where the PCIe 3.0 lanes come from in Ivy Bridge). This means that this particular motherboard can only run 1 video card at PCIe 3.0 (so no PCIe 3.0 SLI/Crossfire). The notes on the Gen 2 version of the next motherboard make me stress that you should only get the Gen 3 of this board if you are looking for future PCIe 3.0 capability.

51eRxCJnGhL. SL75  Z68 Motherboards and PCIe 3.0ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3 – just like the Extreme7, this motherboard has the capability of switching one of it’s PCIe 2.0 slots to 3.0 with an installed Ivy Bridge CPU – again, no SLI/Crossfire. ASRock notates that the Gen 2 version of this motherboard will only provide PCIe 2.0 speeds even with Ivy Bridge installed – though you can run a PCIe 3.0 card in the slot (with 2.0 speeds).

 

51xkQ3Z91aL. SL75  Z68 Motherboards and PCIe 3.0ASUS Maximus IV GENE-Z/GEN3 – This motherboard comes with 2 PCIe 3.0 capable slots. Ivy Bridge CPU Required. This suggests that this motherboard would be capable of running two PCIe 3.0 in SLI – notations indicated x8/x8, though at PCIe 3.0 speeds, this would be similar to running PCIe 2.0 SLI at x16/x16.

51Ny0QpwDEL. SL75  Z68 Motherboards and PCIe 3.0ASUS P8Z68 DELUXE GEN3/P8Z68-V Pro GEN3/P8Z68-V GEN3 – these motherboards also has 2 PCIe 3.0 capable slots (totally 3 PCIe 2.0 capable slots). No notations claim SLI in PCIe 3.0 is capable, however with 2 PCIe 3.0 slots, it is reasonable to assume this will be possible.

 

613BQPN1ZcL. SL75  Z68 Motherboards and PCIe 3.0Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3P/GA-Z68x-UD3H-B3/GA-Z68XP-UD3 – all three of these motherboards support PCIe 3.0 with what appears to be two x16 slots. The wording of their specifications suggests that these boards may only support one slot as PCIe 3.0. If they do support two, then they would run in x8/x8.

 

Of all these choices I have been most skeptical of the Gigabyte boards – they released “pcie 3.0 supported” z68 motherboards first, but as I recall they were shown to only be running at pcie 2.0 speeds (like the ASRock Gen 2 motherboards). The take home from this is that if you want to build a system right now, but with the ability to upgrade to PCIe 3.0 video card(s) – be sure you grab a Gen 3 Z68 board from ASRock/Asus or a UD3/B3 board from Gigabyte. Even though some P67 boards may support Ivy Bridge, it doesn’t appear that any will support PCIe 3.0.

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Welcome Sandy Bridge E – a CPU Fit for a King

Welcome Sandy Bridge E, a true enthusiast processor. Intel is between mainstream CPU architectures right now, with Sandy Bridge out and Ivy Bridge coming around 6 months from now (no official dates on that). What they like to do in between is release their enthusiast level processors. Sandy Bridge E processors will run you at least $1000, so they aren’t for the typical pc gamer or computer builder. These are for those folks who love to build a powerhouse system for the sake of building a powerhouse system – and for who can afford it ;). Granted I would love to build a system around this setup, but it’s a bit out of my budget range currently.

325080 intel sandy bridge e cpu Welcome Sandy Bridge E   a CPU Fit for a KingSandy Bridge E brings us two 6 core processors (and later a 4 core), each with hyper-threading for 12 threads. The i7-3960X is a 3.3 GHZ processor which comes with 15MB L3 Cache. The i7-3930K is a 3.2 GHZ processor bearing 12MB L3 Cache. In a few months Intel will also be releasing the i7-3820, a 4 core 8 thread processor at 3.9 GHZ with 10MB cache – this being part of the Sandy Bridge E series and sitting between the i7-2700k and the i7-3930K. The i7-3960X will run you around $1000, while the i7-3930K will be an ‘affordable’ $600.

To play with these delicious 6 core processors, Intel has also released the x79 chipset. The x79 chipset boasts quad channel memory capabilities (up to 64 GB RAM support), and enough PCIe bandwidth to support true x16/x16 SLI, x16/x16/x8, x16/x8/x8/x8, and even x16/x8/x8/x4/x4 – all depending on the specific motherboard of course. Anandtech showed a sparkling review of Asus P9X79 Pro, which looks to be a slam dunk for me. If I were to be building a Sandy Bridge E system, I would surely go with that motherboard. It should be noted that the x79 chipset is more like P67 than Z68 – it doesn’t come with on board video nor does it include SSD caching. Asus has included it’s own version of SSD caching on the P9X79 Pro which you can read about here – however, if I were spending this much on a processor/motherboard combo, I would be sporting full sized SSDs (probably in RAID) and would have no need for the ssd caching feature.

4381 03 asus p9x79 pro and deluxe intel x79 motherboard preview full 300x220 Welcome Sandy Bridge E   a CPU Fit for a KingTo me, the increased performance in gaming over a i5-2500k system is not worth the $$ in terms of value. As we know, there aren’t games which take advantage of 6 cores and 12 threads (one of the reason’s that AMD’s Bulldozer fails). The benefit comes in the video and memory bandwidth increase. As is shown in the Anandtech analysis, games like World of Warcraft actually benefit not insignificantly (13% boost in performance over an i5 system). Still, performance in those games is fantastic in the ‘lesser’ system..

Sandy Bridge E is really for the super enthusiast. It’s part of my dream build that I drool over. So that begs the question: should you consider the Sandy Bridge E? Well, if you are willing to spend $3k minimum to build a computer when a $1200 system can play most games maxed then yes. I myself hope to one day put together a glorious $5,000 gaming system, and I will love every minute of it – but that day is not today. One thing is for sure, that system is going to last you for a number of years. Unless the pc gaming world gets its act into gear and starts putting out games that take advantage of 8-12 cores, PCIe 3.0, and other advancements like quad channel memory and multi-card SLI systems.

For now though, I’m certainly going to have fun dreaming about ultra gaming systems that blow the pixels out of my monitor…keep an eye out for my High End Gaming PC Build icon wink Welcome Sandy Bridge E   a CPU Fit for a King

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SSD Caching – an Overview

So the Z68 chipset introduced the interesting addition of ‘ssd caching’ to the motherboard. I just wanted to take a quick look at the SSD caching and hopefully clarify it’s functionality and why you may or may not want to utilize it.

On RAM – as SSD caching and RAM is a similar functionality. The system uses RAM to temporarily store currently used programs – the reason is that RAM has a much much higher data transfer rate than a hard drive – but is vastly more expensive in terms of $/size. RAM is also not permanent – once the RAM no longer is receiving power, it loses the data. Solid State is a cross between a High Density Disk (standard disk based hard drive) and RAM. It has much higher transfer rates than an HDD, but keeps information after power is no longer being supplied.

So the standard operation of the system: Programs being accessed by the system are temporarily loaded into RAM, where the processor can quickly access information.

SSD Caching is in similar function to this, where the SSD sits between the HDD and the RAM. When freshly starting out, the SSD will be completely empty. Upon first load, the system will load the OS onto the SSD to be accessed directly from there. Unlike RAM, however, on restart and shut down the OS will remain on the SSD – so subsequent restarts will be much quicker. The same goes for the programs you use – upon startup of a program it will be first loaded onto the SSD and then subsequent access of that program will have SSD speed (as if it were installed on the SSD). So in general, your frequently accessed programs will be sitting on the SSD – depending on the size of the SSD they would only fall off if you have a habit of using a lot of different programs. If the SSD fills up, the ssd caching program will start clearing programs from the SSD.

This allows for the same loading speed in OS and programs as if you had everything installed on the SSD – after the initial load. The benefit being that you can get a smaller SSD (20-40GB) at a lower cost ($80-$100ish) vs acquiring a larger SSD (120-240GB) at a higher price ($250-$500). Going larger than 40 GB is not necessary, but it’s good to know that Intel has limited the max cache size to 64 GB. In any case, at this size and higher it may be better to simply have your OS and programs just installed on the SSD – depending on how much you have.

All that being said, the current trend of SSDs and pricing will probably see easily affordable SSDs in the 100GB+ range – making SSD caching obsolete.

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PCIe 3.0 – Looking at Future Tech for Computer Building

Don’t you just love how everytime you purchase some new technology, the next version is just around the corner? It always seems like you have a very short lived time until whatever you have bought new becomes obsolete. Fortunately I like to think otherwise, and my strategy towards building gaming computers is to build a gaming pc that has a certain level of value which will allow it to perform well, even if it is two or three generations of technology old. That being said, every time you purchase a new system, it can be prudent to ask – what is next? Should I buy new now or should I wait? Should I upgrade?

I just wanted to take a quick look at some technologies that aren’t too far around the corner – PCIe 3.0 and Ivy Bridge Intel chipset which will start making their appearance next year. Before I go into them, it is safe to say that with the release of Z68, any Sandy Bridge built system on H67 chipset, P67 chipset, or Z68 chipset will last you a long time. The improvements made with this current generation are the kind with which one can build a pretty decently budgeted system that could easily last 5 years. I currently have a system built around older technology that is like this.

I run a Q6600 with 8 GB RAM (upgraded from 4 originally) and an EVGA 8800GT. There isn’t a game out there that I am unable to play – though I tend to stick to games like Starcraft 2, World of Warcraft (not so much these days), and soon to be Diablo 3. They are certainly more forgiving on graphics than Crysis 2 for example, but I use them to show that a system can be built with value to play even brand new games 4-5 years down the road (I built this in early 2007). So all that being said, if you are ready and want to build a new gaming system right now, then you shouldn’t wait potentially 6-8 months for the next iteration.

The current PCIe version is 2.0, or 2.1 on some graphics cards. The PCIe 2.1 cards are simply cards which are primarily PCIe 2.0 compatible, but have some capabilities which will be usable when PCIe 3.0 finally comes out. Now for the techy part: Currently PCIe 2.0 provides 4 Gbps (Gigabits per second), or 500 MB/s per channel per direction (500 Megabytes up and 500 down -> 8 bits = 1 byte). On a board which provides a 16x (16 channels) PCIe 2.0 slot (all the boards I consider have this), you get 16 GB/s full bandwidth. PCIe 3.0 will provide 8 Gbps, or 1 MB/s per channel per direction. This doubles the information bandwidth at 32 GB/s full bandwidth. Needless to say, driving double the information is likely to lead to some pretty awesome graphics architecture.

The reason I talk about PCIe 3.0 right now is that we are likely to start seeing motherboards released over the next 6 months which provide PCIe 3.0 slots. Here is the very important key to understand: PCIe 3.0 is only going to work with an Ivy Bridge CPU. The Sandy Bridge CPUs do not interface with the PCIe 3.0 bandwidth. So you wouldn’t be able to take advantage of that until you have an Ivy Bridge CPU loaded in the system – not to mention you would also need a PCIe 3.0 video card which do not exist yet either.

IF a Z68 motherboard were to be developed with PCIe 3.0 capabilites, AND the Z68 chipset is confirmed to support the new Ivy Bridge Intel architecture, AND the board tests better than my current recommendation in the Mid Range Build list. One such board which could fill that slot is the ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3 – judging from the press release, it appears that the board may supply 16x/16x PCIe 3.0 SLI/Crossfire. That sort of board is likely going to run on the expensive side. I will be keeping an eye on these developments and will post new recommendations as they arise.

Until then, Ivy Bridge looks to make its appearance sometime early/mid 2012, which means we won’t see any serious implementation of PCIe 3.0 until then as well. If you are looking to upgrade, and you want to do so now then I would say don’t hesitate!

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Choosing a Z68 Motherboard for Gaming

People will often ask, “what is the best motherboard?” That might seem like an obvious question to ask – and 10 years ago that was certainly a more important question to ask – but these days manufacturer quality has increased quite a bit, and figuring out the ‘best motherboard’ is not such a clear process. Aside from figuring out good manufacturers to purchase from, there are so many different options for different objectives that there is no one best motherboard. I definitely have a recommendation, but that doesn’t mean that making a different choice is going to be bad.

Now we are looking at the Z68 motherboard offerings, and we can see that there are a number of quality options. For the key elements of the Z68 chipset, see my previous article ‘The Z68 Chipset – What it Means to Gamers.’ In this article, I am going to go over some Z68 motherboard offerings from the three major motherboard manufacturers as they stand today. As you may have noticed from previous articles, I tend to prefer motherboards made by Asus. Not only do they consistently present a high level a quality in performance, they also present a high level of quality in workmanship – as well as customer service. Check out my article on motherboards – The Motherboard: Lifeblood of the Computer – as to why I think the way I do about this.

That being said, there are three major manufacturers today that provide high performance motherboards at high quality. You would not be making an error of judgment by choosing boards from any of these manufacturers, though I will still make one ultimate recommendation. The three manufacturers are Gigabyte, ASRock, and Asus. In this article, I will be looking at Z68 motherboard offerings in the $200 range – these will roughly correspond with the P67 motherboard offerings which are now in the $170 range. All of these boards utilize a UEFI over the traditional BIOS (basically a BIOS with a much more user friendly UI).

 

ASRock LGA1155/ Intel Z68/ DDR3/ Quad CrossFireX & Quad SLI/ SATA3&USB3.0/ A&V&GbE/ ATX Motherboard, Z68 EXTREME4 Choosing a Z68 Motherboard for Gaming
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  • Allows SLI/Crossfire at 8x/8x and 8x/8x/4x.
  • 12 phase voltage regulator is excellent for overclocking – and for the non overclocking means less stress from power over the lifetime of the board.
  • 2 year manufacturers warranty.
  • Less USB 2.0 ports than typical, to make space for video output – this is seen in the Gigabyte board as well, with Asus removing a PS/2 port.

Gigabyte Intel Z68 ATX DDR3 2133 LGA 1155 Motherboards GA-Z68X-UD3H-B3 Choosing a Z68 Motherboard for Gaming
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  • Gigabyte makes up for the reduced usb ports by adding more internal ports (so you can add expansion bays connecting to the internal connectors, if you have a lot of USB devices) – 8 usb 2 ports and 4 usb 3 ports internal.
  • Only supports SLI/Crossfire at 8x/x8, there is no third video card slot.
  • Seven phase voltage regulator – the least of the three.
  • Three year manufacturer Warranty.

ASUS LGA 1155 SATA 6Gbps USB 3.0 Supported Intel Z68 ATX DDR3 2400 Motherboards P8Z68-V PRO Choosing a Z68 Motherboard for Gaming
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  • No PS/2 port. If you still use a PS/2 keyboard, then you would have to get a cable to switch to usb (they are cheap) – I actually still use an old keyboard, because it just won’t break.
  • Allows SLI at 8x/8x, and 8x/8x/4x with a catch. With the one slot set at 4x, you have to disable the two 1x pcie slots and the two front panel usb3 ports. At first glance this sounds like a bum wrap, but there are a couple ways to look at this: if you intend on using three video cards, then I would recommend going for a much higher level of motherboard – also the chances of requiring two 1x pci slots, 4 usb 3.0 slots, and an x4 pcie slot is minimal – the only thing requiring an x4 pcie slot is going to be a 3rd video card, any other pci board can utilize 1x with no problems.
  • So why go with this board? Aside from being at the top of the benchmarks, this board comes with a 16 phase voltage regulator, which is quite impressive at this level.
  • Three Year manufacturer warranty.

So with the details aside, it comes down to the benchmarks. As you can see from Tom’s Hardware’s benchmarking reviews – all three of these motherboards are pretty much in line, and also in line with the Asus P8P67 Deluxe which was used for comparison. Gigabyte does well, but not as well as the other two. Toms recommends the ASRock, due to the Asus board requiring special settings for the third video slot. My opinion of that is previously stated, and I see the Asus Z68 motherboard as the best motherboard purchase – their history of quality and customer service brings them over top of the other two options. Again, the motherboard is the lifeblood of the computer, so it isn’t the place to sacrifice any level of quality just to save a few $$.

I’ve also updated my mid-range build page with the P8Z68-V Pro motherboard.  Before you make a decision, be sure to read my Z68 Chipset article, as it will make clear for you whether you should acquire a Z68 Board or a P67 board – you will see both options on the Mid Range page.

 

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