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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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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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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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