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.
ASRock 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.
ASRock 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).
ASUS 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.
ASUS 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.
Gigabyte 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.