Z68 Motherboard Roundupgotdamojo06 -
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The first board that I am going to be taking a look at is the ASRock Z68 Fatal1ty motherboard. If you're familiar with computer hardware and gaming, I am sure you have heard the Fatal1ty name before, but if you have not, he is a highly successful professional gamer that has been able to get his name on a lot of enthusiast components. Looking at the front of the packaging for the ASRock Z68 board, you will see that there is a black and red color scheme to the package with a monotone image of Jonathan 'Fatal1ty' Wendel. The ASRock logo is printed in the top right-hand corner of the package, as well as the Fatal1ty logo printed very large in the center and in the upper left-hand corner. Z68 Motherboard Gen3 is stated toward the bottom, along with a list of features that the motherboard has to offer, such as XFast USB, Virtu, and a free trial of MediaEspresso. When you take a look at the back side of the package, you are going to see an image of the Z68 board itself with 17 features that ASRock wants you to know about. There is also a list of specifications off to the right hand side. The front of the package does open up so that you can see the motherboard through a cutout, and on the inside of the flap you have a nice background story about Jonathan, as well as the six main features of the ASRock Z68 motherboard, such as Digital PWM Design, V12+6 CPU Power Phase, Fatal1ty Mouse Port, 6 USB 3.0 + 6 SATA 3, PCIE 3.0 Slots, and Premium Gold Caps.
There are two boxes inside of the main outer packaging. The top one contains the motherboard. This is very simple to open up, as the plastic cover just lifts out and you are then able to easily grab the motherboard out of there. The second package inside constains all the accessories that come with the ASRock X68 motherboard, as well as the documentation that is included.
You get two user manuals as well as a CD that has all the drivers on it as well as all of the trial software that ASRock has bundled together with the motherboard. When you put the CD in your system, a nice little application will launch that you can use to easily install all the needed software/drivers. The included documentation also contains support information and information about Virtu software, as well as specifics on how to install the motherboard and a troubleshooting guide.
ASRock knows that a lot of chassis out on the market don't have USB 3.0 ports on the front panels yet, so they have included a 3.25" drive bay insert that you can install that will provide two USB 3.0 ports on the front of your chassis. If you would rather have them on the back, there is an empty Expansion slot bracket that is also included that you can install the USB 3.0 ports to once you remove them from the front drive bay box. There is an SLI bridge that is included inside of the accessories package just in case you do not have one laying around your house somewhere or the two cards that you have did not come with any. The rear I/O panel insert does have a nice color code to it and does lay out all the different connections that you have very neatly.
Now the part that everyone is actually looking for, the first glimpse at the motherboard itself outside of the packaging. The first thing that you will notice is that the PCB of the board is a nice black color, which will go along with just about any color scheme that your chassis may be. The packaging's black and red color scheme has also leaked onto the board as all the expansion slots, SATA Ports, and RAM slots are color coded either black or red depending on which ones they may be. The back side of the board is quite plain and simple — the back plate of the CPU Socket is visible here and when you take a close look at it, you will see that it is manufactured by Foxconn. The screws that are holding the motherboard's cooling solution on have tension springs on them that are going to allow for a nice tight fit.
The rear I/O panel of the ASRock Z68 motherboard features a total of three USB 2.0 ports, two HDMI ports, a VESA monitor port, a PS2 port, a CLR CMOS button, dual Gigabit ports, five audio out connections and a S/PDIF port, four USB 3.0 ports, an eSATA Port, and the Fatal1ty Mouse Port. The Fatal1ty Mouse Port is a special USB port that allows you to adjust the mouse polling rate from 125Hz to 1000Hz, which is helpful for professional gamers to experience smoother game play and faster mouse response times. The reason that you have two RJ45 ports on the back of your board is for Dual LAN teaming, which is a function that can be enabled on the motherboard to allow two single connections to act as a single connection for twice the transmission bandwidth, which can be helpful while gaming in a LAN or with file transfers in a network. ASRock has equipped the board with two PCI-E 3.0 expansion slots (the two red ones toward the left), while the one on the far right is still PCI-E 2.0. You also get two PCI-E 2.0 x1 slots.
Along the bottom edge of the motherboard you are going to find the Front Audio header, Floppy drive connector, USB 2.0 headers, a few Fan headers, and the power and reset buttons. Sitting just above the power and reset buttons is a Debug LED screen, which is helpful when you are running into errors with your board when you are first setting it up or after a component fails on you, it should be easier to pinpoint what has failed so you can correct it quickly. Continuing around the edge of the motherboard are your SATA connections — the six that are colored red are your SATAIII connectors, while the black ones are your SATAII connectors.
When you make it toward the RAM Slots, you are going to find a few connectors along the edge of the motherboard; starting on the left is your USB 3.0 header, followed by your Primary IDE connector, and finally your ATX Power Connector. Socket 1155 supports Dual Channel DDR3 memory modules, which is why you are only going to find four memory slots on the board. Channel one are the slots colored red, while channel two are colored black. Unlike older memory slots, there are only clips on one of the sides, while the other side has slits in the plastic where you just slide the memory stick in and clip the adjacent side in place.
Right next to the memory slots is where you are going to find the 64MB SPI Flash BIOS chip, which is removable if it needs to be replaced. Up close toward the top corner of the motherboard near the rear I/O panel, you are going to find the 8-pin ATX 12V Power Connector for additional power for the motherboard and processor. Along the edge of the motherboard you are going to find 3-pin and 4-pin fan headers that will allow you to have PWM fans installed on your CPU cooler or inside your chassis to keep the noise level down during non-peak times.
All the capacitors on the Fatal1ty motherboard are 100% Japan-made solid capacitors that are sleek and have a high gloss premium gold coating that represents long life and stable performance. You are going to find that the ASRock Z68 motherboard is designed with a V12+6 Power Phase featuring sturdy components and completely smoother power delivery to the CPU. ASRock has adopted the Digital Pulse-width modulation (PWM) to help supply CPU vcore voltage more efficiently and smoothly, which is going to give you a heads up in overclocking while providing a more proper and stable vcore to the processor over the analog PWM in the past.
As mentioned previously, all the heatsinks installed on the ASRock Z68 Fatal1ty motherboard are colored with the red and black color scheme that the entire motherboard supports as well, which gives the motherboard a nice clean and professional look to it. On the heatsinks around the CPU socket, you are going to find Jonathan's signature on one of the heatsinks with the Profess1onal Series logo on the other. Fatal1ty Gaming Gear logo is printed on the heatsink that covers the Intel Z68 chip and the Fatal1ty "F" is on the lower heatsink behind the PCI slots.
Also as mentioned previously, the Socket 1155 CPU socket is manufactured by Foxconn, and there are still solid gold capacitors surrounding the CPU Socket. Looking at the mounting holes for the CPU cooler, you are going to see something that is quite interesting — the holes circled in white are labeled for a LGA 1155/1156 cooler, while the other holes are labeled for a LGA 775 cooler. This means that if you are upgrading from your old socket 775 setup and you have a custom water loop, you can keep your old waterblock and install it on your new motherboard.
Now that we have taken a look at the ASRock Z68 Fatal1ty motherboard, it's time to take a closer look at the ASUS boards that it is being compared to. First up, the ASUS P8Z68-V.