Z68 Motherboard Roundup

gotdamojo06 - 2011-06-14 17:08:46 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: gotdamojo06   
Reviewed on: September 25, 2011
Price: ASRock Z68 Fatal1ty - $234.99
Price: ASUS P8Z68-V - $179.99
Price: ASUS P8Z68-V Pro - $199.99
Price: ASUS P8Z68 Deluxe - $249.99

Introduction:

Are you looking to upgrade your current setup? Maybe you have been waiting to see how well the new generation of i7 processors are performing before you made the commitment to grab one of them. Is Intel's new Z68 chipset going to be the chipset for you to finally dive into the new generation of chips? Well you are going to be seeing quite a few new features with the Z68 chipset over the previous P67 chipsets that have been released. I am very interested to see exactly how well these boards are going to compare to each other and see if there is one of these that stands out from the others and is a must have board.

 

Closer Look:

This Z68 roundup is going to have a total of four new motherboards going head to head to see which one of them can out perform the others. The first board in the roundup is the ASRock Z68 Fatal1ty board, which has a whole list of features including next-gen PCI-E 3.0 support, which can maximize the bandwidth for the next-gen PCI Express 3.0 VGA cards and give you the ultimate graphics performance among many other features that we will get into shortly. The ASUS P8Z68-V, P8Z68-V PRO, and P8Z68 Deluxe boards are all also included in this roundup. The ASUS boards have their own list of features, such as GIGI+ VRM, TPU, and EPU, as well as other ASUS-specific features. The Fatal1ty, P8Z68-V and P8Z68-V PRO all have support for Lucidlogix Virtu technology, which we will be testing as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What exactly does Intel's Z68 Express chipset offer? First, it offers support for the 2nd generation Intel Core processor family with Intel's Turbo Boost Technology 2.0. The Intel Z68 Express chipset is the first product to enable performance tuning with access to the built-in visual features of 2nd generation Intel® Core™ processor family. You are also going to get Intel's Rapid Storage Technology 10.5; this is going to allow you to have a RAID 0, 5, and 10 array as well as have support for RAID arrays that are larger than 2.2TB. With Intel's Rapid Storage Technology 10.5 you will also be able to have support for eSATA devices that can reach up to 3Gb/s. Intel's Smart Response Technology is also included in the Z68 chipset, which is going to implement storage I/O caching to provide faster response times for tasks such as system boot and application start up. Intel Rapid Recover Technology is also included, which is Intel's latest data protection technology that provides a recovery point that can be used to quickly recover a system should one of your hard drives fail or there is data corruption. Finally you are going to have SATA 6Gb/s support with the Z68 chipset. What more could you want?

 

Now that we know exactly what boards are going to be compared in this roundup, let's take a nice close look at all four of them to see what each board offers.

Closer Look:

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.

Closer Look:

Looking at the packaging for the ASUS P8Z68-V motherboard, you are going to see the ASUS logo printed in the top right-hand corner with the "Inspiring Innovation Persistent Perfection" tag line printed below it. In the top right-hand corner of the package, you will find the Digital Power Design logo printed to let you know that not only do you have DIGI+ VRM, but the EPU and TPU on the ASUS P8Z68-V as well. Along the bottom of the package, you will find a list of the main features that ASUS wants to point out, such as the DIGI+ VRM, GPU Boost, BT GO!, USB 3.0, UEFI BIOS, Virtu, Intel Smart Response Technology, and Quad GPU support. The ASUS P8Z68-V logo is printed in the center of the package so you know exactly what you are getting inside. When you flip the box over, you are going to find a detailed image of the board itself with the main features listed out, as well as a nice description of what the TPU, EPU, and DIGI+ VRM are. You are also going to be able to find out more about the BT GO! and the UEFI BIOS EZ Mode, all of which we will get into later in the article. Once you open up the package, you are going to find the motherboard covered up in an anti-static bag to keep it safe while it is being packaged and un-packaged, as well as all the accessories under the cardboard holder that the motherboard sits on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ASUS has included a drivers CD as well as a user manual to go along with the ASUS P8Z68-V motherboard, so that you are aware of exactly how to install it and all the features that the motherboard has. You are going to find a nice and simple rear I/O panel protector that is going to allow you to see exactly what it is that you are trying to plug into. You have four SATA cables, two of which are SATAIII and the other two are designed for SATAII. ASUS also included the two EZ connectors for your USB Header, as well as for all of your front panel connectors so they can be plugged into the board in one simple click.

 

 

 

Once you get the ASUS P8Z68-V out of the packaging, you are going to see that the layout of the board is nice and clean. The color scheme has is black with black, blue, and grey accented features all over the board. You are also going to see that the entire board has a very simple and clutter-free layout, which is helpful when you are installing a larger graphics card on the board, as they can be quite long nowadays. Looking at the bottom of the ASUS P8Z68-V, you are able to see the back plate for not only the CPU socket, which is manufactured by LOTES, but you are also able to see that the longer blue heatsink on top of the PWM components has a back plate to help keep the heatsink in place.

 

 

When you look at the rear I/O panel on the ASUS P8Z68-V, you can see that ASUS has placed a total of six USB 2.0 ports, a Bluetooth module, eSATA port, S/PDIF, HDMI, DVI, and VGA output for the IGP. You are also going to get two blue USB 3.0 ports, a Gigabit RJ45 port, and the five audio out ports and an audio in. The Gigabit LAN on the board does comply with 802.3az EEE standard and reduces power consumption during normal operation and enhances faster transfer speed through dual interconnection between the integrated LAN controller and the PHY. When it comes to expansion slots on the ASUS P8Z68-V, ASUS has given it a total of seven slots. The smaller dark blue slots are the PCI-E 2.0 x1, while the longer dark blue slot is the PCI-E 2.0 x16 slot, which will work single at x16 or dual at x8/x8 mode. ASUS also has two light blue slots, which are the PCI expansion slots. The grey slot is the PCI-E 2.0 x16, which functions at x8 mode, while the black slot is the PCI-e 2.0 x16 slot that functions at x4 mode and is compatible with PCI-E x1 and x4 devices. Looking at the edge of the motherboard closest to the black PCI-E slot, you are going to see the digital audio connector and the front panel connector with the system power-on button next to that. Further down on that same edge of the board, ASUS has the three USB 2.0 headers.

 

 

 

ASUS' included Q-connector plugs into the system panel connector, which has the power switch, reset switch, system speaker, and front panel lights; it allows you to easily connect the wires to the Q-connector then quickly connect that to the motherboard. There are a total of four SATA ports on the ASUS P8Z68-V; the four light blue ports are used on the Intel Z68 SATA 6.0 Gb/s, while the two grey ports are the Intel Z68 SATA 6.0 Gb/s connectors. ASUS' ASUS P8Z68-V receives a majority of the power from the 24-pin ATX Power Connector, which is positioned in front of the RAM slots.

 

 

Speaking of the RAM slots, the ASUS P8Z68-V has four of them on the motherboard. They all are DDR3 DIMM slots, with Channel 1 being colored black and Channel 2 being the blue-colored slots. The installation of the 240-pin modules is slightly different than previous boards. On the left-hand side, all the clips are stationary with slits that you slide the module in and then apply pressure on the module toward the right-hand side, where the clips will lock into place. Directly below the left-hand side of the RAM slots, you will find the USB 3.0 header.

 

 

When it comes to the BIOS installed on the ASUS P8Z68-V, you are going to find the 64 MB Flash ROM chip sitting next to the USB 3.0 header close to the RAM slots. This chip is designed as a removable chip in case it needs to be replaced. It is an EFI AMI BIOS that supports Pnp, DMI2.0 WfM 2.0, SM BIOS 23.5, ACPI 2.0a, Multi-languages, ASUS EZ Flash 2, ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3, and F12 PrintScreen Function. Up toward the right-hand side of the RAM slots, you are going to find two switches; the one on the left is the EPU switch and the one on the right is the TPU switch. ASUS' EPU allows you to tap into the world's first real-time PC power saving chip; you should get total system-wide energy optimization by it automatically detecting current PC loadings and moderating power consumption. The EPU is also going to help reduce fan noise and extend component longevity. The TPU is ASUS' TurboV Processor Unit, which will allow you to unleash your performance. The TPU chip offers precise voltage control and advanced monitoring through Auto Tuning, GPU Boost, and TurboV functions. Auto Tuning offers a user-friendly way to automatically optimize the system for fast, yet stable clock speeds, while TubroV enables unlimited freedom to adjust CPU frequencies and ratios for optimized performance is diverse situations. There is an 8-pin ATX power connected located toward the top corner of the board as well as 4-pin PWM fan headers located along the edge of the motherboard. These two fans are designed to be used as your CPU fan, while other Chassis/System fans are located around the board.

 

 

 

When we are looking at the components that give the board power, they are located right around the CPU socket itself. The new generation of Dual Intelligent Processors 2 with DIGI+ VRM provides precise Vcore PWM, integrated graphics voltages, and frequency module adjustments with minimal power loss through BIOS tuning, as well as an exclusive user interface to increase the board's overclocking range. A board's VRM or voltage regulator modules are considered among the most essential motherboard design components. They supply the voltage demanded by the CPU, and a good VRM must intelligently detect actual CPU power draw to provide precise power accordingly. ASUS' DIGI+ VRM is an innovative, industry-leading technology that fully integrates Intel VRD12 specifications on a native level, greatly enhancing power to go far beyond the limits of analog designs. A few features of the ASUS DIGI+ VRM is that you are going to get faster sensing and response, better cooling, and  2x CPU power supply. Looking at the cooling solution on the ASUS P8Z68-V, you can see that there are not only heatsinks installed atop all the power components around the motherboard, but there is also a nice heatsink sitting atop the Intel Z68 chip.

 

 

 

Now that we have taken a look at the ASUS P8Z68-V, it is time to look at the ASUS P8Z68-V PRO.

Closer Look:

Taking a look at the packaging for the ASUS P8Z68-V PRO motherboard, you are going to see the ASUS logo printed in the top right-hand corner with the "Inspiring Innovation Persistent Perfection" tag line printed below it. The top right-hand corner of the packaging is where you will find the Digital Power Design logo, which is not only going to let you know that the board comes with DIGI+ VRM, but ASUS' Energy Processing Unit and TurboV Processing Unit installed as well. Along the bottom of the package, you are going to find a list of the main features that ASUS wants to point out, such as the DIGI+ VRM, GPU Boost, BT GO!, USB 3.0, UEFI BIOS, Virtu, Intel Smart Response Technology, and Quad GPU Support on both the AMD and NVIDIA fronts. The ASUS P8Z68-V PRO logo is printed nice front and center of the package to let you know exactly which board you are going to find inside. When you take a look at the back of the box, you are going to see a nice detailed image of the motherboard with all the features pointed out. A majority of the back is taken up by a nice detailed list of all the special features that the ASUS P8Z68-V PRO has to offer over the competition, such as the TPU, EPU, BT GO! and uEFI BIOS. You are also going to get a nice description of the DIGI+ VRM and what it is, however we will get into that later. When you open up the package, you are going to find the motherboard is wrapped up nice and safe in an anti-static bag to keep it protected while it is being un-boxed. Under the motherboard you will find all the accessories that are packaged with the board.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Among the accessories included with the ASUS P8Z68-V PRO, you are going to get a user manual and drivers CD so you don't have to hunt them down once you get your system set up. There is a nice ASUS Q-Shield that gives all of the rear I/O panel connections a nice protector as well as lists what each connector is if you are unaware just by the shape/color. ASUS has a total of four SATA cables included; the two with white accent on them are the SATA 6.0Gb/s cables and the other two are the SATA 3.0Gb/s cables.

 

 

ASUS has included a USB 3.0 expansion slot card that plugs directly into the motherboard and gives you an extra two USB 3.0 ports on the back of your chassis so that if you have multiple devices that support the speeds of USB 3.0, you are covered without having to go out and purchase a PCI card for this purpose. You are also going to be getting the ASUS Q-Connector kit, which allows you to plug all your front panel cables into it and then plug that directly into the board, which makes it much easier once it is installed in a chassis.

 

 

When you get the ASUS P8Z68-V PRO pulled out of the packaging, you are going to see that it is almost exactly the same layout as the ASUS P8Z68-V that we just looked at, and even the color scheme is exactly the same. You have the black PCB with the black. blue and grey accented components on it that ASUS has been using for a little while now and should go nicely with whatever color scheme you're planning with your setup. When you flip the board over, you are going to see that not only the CPU socket has a backing plate, but the larger blue heatsink around the CPU socket also has one to keep it in place and add extra support. Upon a closer look at the CPU socket, you can see that it is manufactured by LOTES like the previous board.

 

 

When you look at the rear I/O panel, you are going to see tha tit is slightly different from the ASUS P8Z68-V. The board has six USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA port, and your Bluetooth Module. The is also an HDMI port, Optical S/PDIF Out port, DVI and VGA port, two USB 3.0 ports, and a Intel RJ-45 port. The Gigabit LAN on the board does comply with 802.3az EEE standard and reduces power consumption during normal operation and enhances faster transfer speed through dual interconnection between the integrated LAN controller and the PHY. The Audio ports that are included are the 5-channel out and one audio in. When it comes to expansion slots on the ASUS P8Z68-V, ASUS has given it a total of seven slots. The smaller, dark blue slots are the PCI-E 2.0 x1, while the longer dark blue slot is the PCI-E 2.0 x16 slog, which will work single at x16 or dual at x8/x8 mode. ASUS also has two light blue slots, which are the PCI expansion slots; the grey colored slot is the PCI-E 2.0 x16, which functions at x8 mode, and the black slot is the PCI-e 2.0 x16 slot that functions at x4 mode and is compatible with PCI-E x1 and x4 devices. Along the edge of the motherboard, you are going to find the digital audio and front panel audio connectors.

 

 

 

There are two IEEE 1394a connectors located on the ASUS P8Z68-V PRO next to the system panel connector, which is pictured with the ASUS Q-Connector installed on it. When you go around the corner, you will find that there are a total of eight SATA connectors on the motherboard. The four that are colored with the light blue are your Intel Z68 SATA 3.0Gb/s connectors, the grey colored ones are the Intel Z68 SATA 6.0Gb/s connectors, and the dark blue ones are the Marvell SATA 6.0Gb/s connectors. The ASUS P8Z68-V PRO motherboard has a 24-pin ATX power connector to supply the board with a majority of its power.

 

 

Looking at the RAM slots on the motherboard, you are going to see that two are colored blue while the other two are colored black. This is to point out the different channels that are available to the user; the black ones are channel one, while the blue ones are channel two. The installation of the 240-pin modules is slightly different than previous boards. On the left-hand side, all the clips are stationary with slits that you slide the module in and then apply pressure on the module toward the right-hand side, where the clips will lock into place. Directly below the left-hand side of the RAM slots, you will find the USB 3.0 header.

 

 

Right next to the Marvell SATA ports, you will find the removable BIOS chip that is installed on the ASUS P8Z68-V PRO. This chip is an EFI AMI BIOS that supports Pnp, DMI2.0 WfM 2.0, SM BIOS 23.5, ACPI 2.0a, Multi-languages, ASUS EZ Flash 2, ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3, and F12 PrintScreen Function. Below the RAM slots you are going to find the EPU and TPU switches on the motherboard. The EPU switch is the one on the left-hand side, while the TPU is on the right. ASUS' EPU allows you to tap into the world's first real-time PC power saving chip; you should get total system-wide energy optimization by it automatically detecting current PC loadings and moderating power consumption. The EPU is also going to help reduce fan noise and extend component longevity. The TPU is ASUS' TurboV Processor Unit, which will allow you to unleash your performance. The TPU chip offers precise voltage control and advanced monitoring through Auto Tuning, GPU Boost, and TurboV functions. Auto Tuning offers a user friendly way to automatically optimize the system for fast, yet stable clock speeds, while TubroV enables unlimited freedom to adjust CPU frequencies and ratios for optimized performance is diverse situations.There is an 8-pin ATX power connection located toward the top corner of the board, as well as 4-pin PWM fan headers located along the edge of the motherboard. These two fans are designed to be used as your CPU fan, while other Chassis/System fans are located around the board.

 

 

 

When we are looking at the components that give the board power, they are located right around the CPU socket itself. The new generation of Dual Intelligent Processors 2 with DIGI+ VRM provides precise Vcore PWM, integrated graphics voltages and frequency module adjustments with minimal power loss through BIOS tuning and an exclusive user interface to increase the board's overclocking range. A board's VRM or voltage regulator modules are considered amongst the most essential motherboard design components. They supply the voltage demanded by the CPU, and a good VRM must intelligently detect actual CPU power draw to provide precise power accordingly. ASUS' DIGI+ VRM is an innovative, industry-leading technology that fully integrates Intel VRD12 specications on a native level, greatly enhancing power to go far beyond the limits of analog designs. A few features of the ASUS DIGI+ VRM is that you are going to get faster sensing and response, better cooling, and 2x CPU power supply. Looking at the cooling solution on the ASUS P8Z68-V, you can see that there are not only heatsinks installed atop all the power components around the motherboard, but there is also a nice heatsink sitting atop the Intel Z68 chip.

 

 

 

After looking at the ASUS P8Z68-V PRO, it is time to take a look at the final board in the roundup, the ASUS P8Z68 Deluxe.

Closer Look:

When you look at the packaging for the ASUS P8Z68 DELUXE, you are going to see that it has the same layout as the previous two ASUS boards that we have looked at in this roundup. You have the ASUS Digital Power Design logo in the upper right-hand corner that lets you know that you are getting the DIGI+ VRM, Engery Processing Unit, and TruboV Processing Unit for the latest generation of Dual Intelligent processors to help provide you with the best computing experience. You are also going to see the ASUS Logo printed in the top left-hand corner with the tag line "Inspiring Innovation Persistent Perfection" below it. The ASUS P8Z68 DELUXE logo is printed right in the center of the package so that you know exactly what you are going to be getting inside. Along the bottom you will find the features that ASUS wants to point out as the more important features, such as uEFI BIOS, Dual Gigibit LAN, BT GO!, and DIGI+ VRM. When you look at the back of the package, you are going to see an image of the motherboard displayed with the highlighted features described. You are also going to get a nice description of BT GO!, UEFI BIOS, VIRTU, and Intel's Smart Response Technology. When you open up the package, you get more descriptions of a few other features, such as Quad GPU support, DTS, SATA 6.0Gb/s, and USB 3.0 support.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you open up the package and look at what ASUS has inside, you will see that the ASUS P8Z68 DELUXE is wrapped up in an anti-static bag to help keep the motherboard protected from any electrostatic discharge that may harm the board while it is being unboxed. Underneath the board itself is where you are going to find all the accessories that ASUS has packaged with the motherboard. Included in the accessories is the User Manual and Drivers CD.

 

 

Laying out all the accessories, you will find a total of six SATA cables, four of which are designed for SATA 6.0Gb/s devices while the other two are for SATA 3.0Gb/s devices. You are going to get the ASUS Q-Connect device to help make installing the chassis front panel connections much easier. You will also find the ASUS CrossFireX bridge included just in case you are going to be putting in a multi-card setup.

 

 

 

The rear I/O panel shield that ASUS calls the Q-Shield does have a nice foam padding on the back of it to help keep the motherboard's connectors safe while you are plugging in different devices to your setup. The Q-Shield also has all the connections labeled just in case you are unaware of what connection is which. Included with the ASUS P8Z68 DELUXE, you are also going to get the ASUS Front Panel USB 3.0 Box, which is going to fit nicely in an empty 3.25" drive bay and give you two extra USB 3.0 ports to help further the amount of USB 3.0 devices you can connect to your system.

 

 

 

Once you get the ASUS P8Z68 DELUXE motherboard out of the anti-static bag, you are going to see that the layout of the board is very similar to the other two ASUS boards that we have already taken a look at, however the motherboard's cooling components are slightly different, which we will look at later. The back side of the motherboard is where you are going to find the CPU socket's back plate. When you look at the rear I/O panel of the motherboard, you are going to find a total of eight USB 2.0 Ports, a PS/2 keyboard/mouse port, the Bluetooth module, an eSATA port and a Power eSATA port. the IEEE 1394a port, and two USB 3.0 ports. You are also given a Clear CMOS button, six audio jacks, and Optical and Coaxial S/PDIF out ports.The expansion slots on the ASUS P8Z68 DELUXE are going to be two PCI-E 2.0 x16 (x16 or dual x8), a PCI-E 2.0 x16 (x4 mode), which is the black slot, two PCI-E 2.0 x1 slots, and two PCI slots.

 

 

 

Along the edge of the motherboard, you are going to find the Digital Audio out, followed by the 1394a motherboard header. The EPU switch is located on this side of the motherboard, away from the TPU switch; unlike the other two ASUS boards we have looked at. You are going to get the Power and Reset buttons that are located on the motherboard on this side as well. Next to the power and reset buttons you will find the two USB 2.0 motherboard headers. ASUS has also included their Q-Code display on the motherboard to help you debug your system when you are having issues with it. The System Panel connector is also located on this edge of the motherboard.

 

 

 

On the ASUS P8Z68 DELUXE, you are going to get a total of eight SATA ports that are all color coded. The four light blue connectors are SATA 3.0Gb/s powered by the Z68 chipset, while the grey connectors are also powered by the Z68 chipset, but are for SATA 6.0Gb/s devices. The dark blue connectors are powered by the Marvell chip and operate at 6.0Gb/s. The TPU switch on this board is located toward the top right-hand corner, very close to the 24 pin ATX power adapter. There are four RAM slots on the motherboard, they all are DDR3 DIMM slots, with Channel 1 being colored black and Channel 2 being the blue colored slots. The installation of the 240-pin modules is slightly different than previous boards. On the left-hand side, all the clips are stationary with slits that you slide the module in and then apply pressure on the module toward the right-hand side, where the clips will lock into place. Directly below the left-hand side fo the RAM slots, you will find the USB 3.0 header.

 

 

 

Along the top edge of the motherboard close to the CPU socket, you will find the 8-pin power connector to provide more power to the motherboard and the components installed on it. The CPU fan header on the motherboard along with some of the other fan headers use a 4-pin PWM setup, allowing for the fan speeds to be automatically adjusted for you by the motherboard.

 

 

 

When we are looking at the components that give the board power, they are located right around the CPU socket itself. The new generation of Dual Intelligent Processors 2 with DIGI+ VRM provides precise Vcore PWM, integrated graphics voltages and frequency module adjustments with minimal power loss through BIOS tuning and an exclusive user interface to increase the board's overclocking range. A board's VRM or voltage regulator modules are considered amongst the most essential motherboard design components. They supply the voltage demanded by the CPU, and a good VRM must intelligently detect actual CPU power draw to provide precise power accordingly. ASUS' DIGI+ VRM is an innovative, industry-leading technology that fully integrates Intel VRD12 specifications on a native level, greatly enhancing power to go far beyond the limits of analog designs. A few features of the ASUS DIGI+ VRM is that you are going to get faster sensing and response, better cooling, and 2x CPU power supply. Looking at the cooling solution on the ASUS P8Z68 DELUXE, you can see that there are not only heatsinks installed atop all the power components around the motherboard, but there is also a nice heatsink sitting atop the Intel Z68 chip. Directly below the CPU socket, you will find an extra heatsink installed on the motherboard to provide extra cooling power that you will not find on the previous two ASUS boards.

 

 

 

Now that we have taken a look at all the motherboards, let's check out the specifications and features of the ASRock board and the ASUS lineup.

Closer Look:

 

When you get into the BIOS on the ASRock Z68 Fatal1ty motherboard, you are going to see a screen that is not what you are used to — instead of the typical blue BIOS screen, you have a graphical screen with buttons and a background, which is part of the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) BIOS that has started to become the new standard. The main screen when you get into the BIOS is where you are going to find information about what you currently have installed in your system, as well as the UEFI BIOS version. You get to know what processor you have installed and what speed it is currently running at, as well as which RAM slots are used and the size of each stick installed in the slots. In the bottom left-hand corner of the screen you are going to find the date and time, and when you move your mouse over to it and click on it, you are going to bring up the system date/time settings dialog box, which looks very similar to the dialog box that you would see inside of Windows. Along the top of the screen you are going to see click-able buttons that allow you to make your changes in the BIOS for system setup/overclocking. From left to right, you have Main Screen, OC Tweaker, Advanced, H/W Monitor, Boot, Security, and Exit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

&

 

Going into the OC Tweaker screen, you are going to be able to set the settings you would like to for the overclocking of your system. You have the Advanced Turbo 50, which is a setting that is used to help increase your system performance. When you are looking at the screen, you are going to see that you have Intel SpeedStep, Core Current Limit, Host Clock Override (which is your bCLK setting), and Spread Spectrum. Not all the options fit on one screen, so you can scroll down and get to the Voltage Control, which allows you to change the DRAM, PCH, CPU PLL, VTT, and VCCSA voltages. Under the voltage controls you have the ability to set user profiles. Up toward the middle of the screen you have the DRAM Timing Control screen that you can get into, and clicking this takes you to a new screen where you are able to load your XMP settings if you wish or manually set your RAM timings. Here you are also going to be able to set the operating frequency that you wish your RAM to operate at.

 

 

 

When you click into the Advanced screen across the top, you are brought to a new screen that has a list of different sub-screens you can get into; these are CPU Configuration, North Bridge Configuration, South Bridge Configuration, Storage Configuration, Super IO Configuration, ACPI Configuration, USB Configuration, and the UEFI Update Utility. Clicking into the CPU Configuration screen, you are going to be able to see your current processor speed, as well as the Ratio Status and the Ratio Limit. You can change the Intel Hyper Threading Technology, Active Processor Cores, Hardware Prefetcher, and Adjacent Cache Line Prefetch, as well as all the Intel Thermal/Power savings settings here. In the North Bridge Configuration screen you are going to be able to set all the North Bridge Configurations that you may want to adjust. This is also where you are going to be able to enable the onboard graphics and set which graphics adapter is the primary. In the South Bridge Configuration screen, you are going to be able to adjust the Onboard Audio, 1394, and LAN settings, as well as set the Restore on AC/Power Loss settings.

 

 

 

The Storage Configuration screen is where you are going to be able to set up all of your SATA settings. This includes not only your hard drives, but your optical devices as well. You can enable or disable Hard Disk SMART features on this screen as well. Under the Super IO configuration screen you are able to adjust your Floppy controller, Serial Port, and the Infrared Port. Under the ACPI screen, you are able to make adjustments to the USB connectors as well as the PS/2 connector and other settings. The USB Configuration is where you are going to be able to turn on and off the USB 2.0 and 3.0 controllers, as well as enable or disable the Legacy USB and USB 3.0 support.

 

 

 

The H/W Monitor screen is where you are going to be able to view the current status of your system, such as your CPU temperature, Motherboard temperature, Fan speeds, Vcore, and 12.0, 5.0 and 3.3v lines from your PSU. You are also able to enable the Over Temperature Protection here, as well as change your PWM Fan settings. When you go to the Boot screen, you are able to make changes to your Boot Option Priorities, as well as your Setup Prompt Timeout and Boot Failure Guard. This is also the screen you are going to use to enable to Full Screen Logo if you want or you can disable it. Clicking the Hard Drives BBS Priorities link will take you to a sub-menu where you can change the boot options of your hard drives alone, while the CD/DVD ROm Drive BBS Priories link will take you to a sub-menu where you can change your optical drive boot order.

 

 

 

The final two screens left in the ASRock uEFI BIOS are the Security Screen and the Exit screen. When you make your way to the Security screen, you are able to set a Supervisor or User password. On the Exit screen, you are going to be able to save all of your settings you have made and exit, discard your changes and exit, just discard your changes, or Load UEFI Defaults. The Launch EFI Shell from filesystem device option is going to attempt to Launch EFI Shell application (Shell64.efi) from one of the available filesystem devices.

 

Closer Look:

 

When it comes to the ASUS uEFI BIOS, you are going to get quite a different layout than the ASRock's version that we just got done looking at. When you first boot up into the BIOS, you get a very sleek and informative screen (which ASUS calls the EZ Mode) that shows you the date and time in the top left hand corner. Across the top you are going to get information about your current system configuration, such as BIOS version, the motherboard used, build date, CPU speed, CPU type, and total memory used. Under that you are going to get a few progress bars that show you your current temperatures of the CPU and motherboard, as well as the current CPU vCore, 3.3V, 5.0V, and 12V, as well as the fan speeds that you have connected to the motherboard. In the center of the screen you have three different selections that you can make — you can change your system to Power Saving mode, Normal mode, and ASUS Optimal mode. At the bottom you have the Boot Priority, where you can either click into it and get the popup message to select the Boot Priority, or you can drag and drop the icons of the devices to the desired sequence. In the top right-hand corner of the screen you have the Exit/Advanced Mode button. When you click this, you can Discard Changes & Exit, Save Changes & Reset, or go into the Advanced Mode.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you go into the Advanced Mode, you ge a screen that looks very similar to the EZ Screen as far as color scheme goes, however you have a whole lot more options that you can adjust and tweak to get your system set up the way you want it. Across the top you have your navigation bar where you are able to switch between the different screens, such as Main, Ai Tweaker, Advanced, Monitor, Boot, and Tool. There is an Exit button up in the top right-hand corner that you will use to save your settings and exit out, but we will look at that at the end. On the Main screen of Advanced mode is where you are going to find information very similar to the EZ screen, but in a format you are more used to looking at. When you switch over to the AI Tweaker screen, you are given all the options for changing your overclocking settings. When you set the AI Overclock Tuner to Manual, you can change your bCLK to what you want as well as the Multiplier. Here you are able to set the Memory Frequency as well as the EPU Power Saving Mode. Scrolling down gives you the DIGI+ VRM settings, such as the Load-line Calibration, VRM Fixed Frequency Mode, Phase, and Duty Control. The next set of settings are all the voltages that you can change, such as the CPU, DRAM, VCCIO, CPU PLL, PCH, and the DRAM CTRL and DATA REF per channel.

 

 

 

Back on the main AI Tweaker screen there are three options toward the top: OC Tuner, DRAM Timing Control, and CPU Power Management. Clicking the OC Tuner option will automatically overclock the frequency and voltage of the PCPU and DRAM for enhancing the system performance. Going into the DRAM Timing Control gives you the following screens, where you are able to set all the RAM timings that you want to change. This is very useful to manually set them when you are running your RAM at or close to stock settings, as some are very picky on the timings set. In the CPU Power Management screen you are able to set the CPU ratio and enable or disable Enhanced Intel SpeedStep Technology and Turbo Mode. You are also able to adjust the Turbo Mode Parameters here.

 

 

The Advanced screen is where you are going to be able to make configuration changes to the CPU, System Agent, PCH, SATA, USB, and Onboard Devices, as well as set up the APM. When you click into the CPU Configuration screen, you get a nice list of all the features that the currently installed CPU has, as well as the ability to enable or disable some of them. You are also able to change the Turbo mode settings as well as the CPU Ratio on this screen. On the System Agent screen, you are able to setup the IGP and enable the Lucid Virtu features.

 

 

 

Under the PCH Configuration screen, you are able to enable or disable the High Precision Event Timer. When you go into the SATA Configuration screen, you are able to set the SATA mode to IDE, AHCI, or RAID. You are also able to enable or disable the Hot Plug settings for all the SATA ports. ASUS has all the ports' physical color mentioned on this screen as well, which can be helpful when you are determining which device is not being recognized in the BIOS or are looking for a failed hard drive in your RAID array. Under the USB Configuration screen, you are going to be able to see how many devices are detected and which kind of devices they are, as well as enable or disable Legacy USB and USB 3.0 support.

 

 

The Onboard Devices Configuration screen is where you are going to be able to set all the board's features, such as the HD Audio, Bluetooth Controller, VIA 1394 Controller, Marvell Storage Controller, Intel LAN Controller, and the Asmedia USB 3.0 controller. The APM screen is where you are going to adjust the Power On By settings, as well as the Restore AC Power Loss settings.

 

 

The Monitor screen is where you are going to be able to view the current conditions of your system, such as the CPU and motherboard temperatures, and fan speeds, as well as make adjustments to the fan settings if you wish to. You are also going to be able to enable or disable the Anti-Surge function that ASUS has on its motherboards.

 

 

Under the Boot screen, you are going to be able to configure the boot sequence as well as all the boot options like Bootup NumLock State, Full Screen Logo, and Wait for 'F1' If Error. You can also change how the uEFI BIOS is started up; either straight to the EZ Mode or the Advanced Mode. You can change all the Boot Overrides here as well. When you go into the Had Drive BBS Priorities you are going to be able to change the Hard Drive boot order and under the CD/DVD ROM Drive BBS Priories you can change the optical drive boot order.

 

 

 

On the Tools screen, you are able to launch the ASUS EZ Flash 2 Utility, which will load all the filesystems available and allow you to navigate through them to locate a new BIOS version that you wish to flash to. The ASUS O.C. Profile screen is where you are able to save and load Overclocking Profiles with all of your BIOS settings, which can be helpful when you are trying to get the maximum overclock you can. There is also an option to view your SPD Information for the RAM installed in your system, which is helpful if you don't happen to have the information next to you while you are setting up your system.

 

 

 

When you click the Exit button up at the top right-hand corner of the screen, you get the pop-up menu that allows you to Load Optimized Defaults, Save Changes & Reset, Discard Changes & Exit, go back to ASUS EZ Mode, or Launch EFI Shell from the filesystem device.

Specifications:

 
ASRock Z68 Fatal1ty
ASUS P8Z68-V
ASUS P8Z68-V PRO
ASUS P8Z68 DELUXE
CPU Support
Intel® Socket 1155 The 2nd Generation Core™ i7/Core™ i5/Core™ i3 Processors
Supports Intel® 32 nm CPU
Supports Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0
Chipset
Intel® Z68
Memory Support
- Dual Channel DDR3 memory technology
- 4 x DDR3 DIMM slots
- Supports DDR3 2133(OC)/1866(OC)/1600/1333/1066 non-ECC, un-buffered memory
- Max. capacity of system memory: 32GB*
- Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
4 x DIMM, Max. 32GB, DDR3 2200(O.C.)/2133(O.C.)/1866(O.C.)/1600/1333/1066 Hz Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory
Dual Channel Memory Architecture
Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
* Hyper DIMM support is subject to the physical characteristics of individual CPUs.
* Due to CPU behavior, DDR3 2200/2000/1800 MHz memory module will run at DDR3 2133/1866/1600 MHz frequency as default.
Expansion Slots
- 2 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots (PCIE2/PCIE4: single at x16 (PCIE2) / x8 (PCIE4) or dual at x8/x8 mode)
- 1 x PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (PCIE5: x4 mode)
- 2 x PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots
- 2 x PCI slots
2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (x16 or dual x8)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (x4 mode, black) *1
2 x PCIe x1
2 x PCI
Multi-GPU Support
Supports NVIDIA® Quad-GPU SLI™ Technology
Supports AMD Quad-GPU CrossFireX™ Technology
Supports LucidLogix® Virtu™ Technology
Onboard Graphics
- Supports Intel® HD Graphics Built-in Visuals : Intel® Quick Sync Video, Intel® InTru™ 3D, Intel® Clear Video HD Technology, Intel® HD Graphics 2000/3000, Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions (AVX)
- Pixel Shader 4.1, DirectX 10.1
- Max. shared memory 1759MB
- Multi VGA Output options: one D-Sub port, two HDMI ports and one DVI-D port by the bundled HDMI to DVI adapter
- Supports HDMI 1.4a Technology with max. resolution up to 1920x1200 @ 60Hz
- Supports DVI with max. resolution up to 1920x1200 @ 60Hz
- Supports D-Sub with max. resolution up to 2048x1536 @ 75Hz
- Supports Auto Lip Sync, Deep Color (12bpc), xvYCC and HBR (High Bit Rate Audio) with HDMI (Compliant HDMI monitor is required)
- Supports HDCP function with DVI and HDMI ports
- Supports Full HD 1080p Blu-ray (BD) / HD-DVD playback with DVI and HDMI ports
Integrated Graphics Processor
Multi-VGA output support : HDMI/DVI/RGB ports
- Supports HDMI with max. resolution 1920 x 1200 @ 60 Hz
- Supports DVI with max. resolution 1920 x 1200 @ 60 Hz
- Supports RGB with max. resolution 2048 x 1536 @ 75 Hz
Maximum shared memory of 1748 MB
None
Storage
- 2 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s connectors by Intel® Z68, support RAID (RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 10, RAID 5, Intel® Rapid Storage and Intel® Smart Response Technology), NCQ, AHCI and "Hot Plug" functions
- 4 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s connectors by ASMedia ASM1061, support NCQ, AHCI and "Hot Plug" functions (SATA3_A4 connector is shared with eSATA3 port)
Intel® Z68 chipset :
2 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), gray
4 x SATA 3Gb/s port(s), blue
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
Support Intel® Smart Response Technology on 2nd generation Intel® Core™ processor family
JMicron® JMB362 controller : *2
1 x eSATA 3Gb/s port(s), red
Intel® Z68 chipset :
2 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), gray
4 x SATA 3Gb/s port(s), blue
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
Support Intel® Smart Response Technology
Marvell® PCIe SATA 6Gb/s controller : *2
2 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), navy blue
JMicron® JMB362 controller : *2
1 x eSATA 3G port(s), red
Intel® Z68 chipset :
2 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), gray
4 x SATA 3Gb/s port(s), blue
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
Support Intel® Smart Response Technology on 2nd generation Intel® Core™ processor family
Marvell® PCIe 9128 controller :
2 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), navy blue
JMicron® JMB362 controller : *2
1 x eSATA 3Gb/s port(s), red
1 x Power eSATA 3Gb/s port(s), green
LAN
- PCIE x1 Gigabit LAN 10/100/1000 Mb/s
- Realtek RTL8111E
- Supports Wake-On-LAN
- Supports LAN Cable Detection
- Supports Energy Efficient Ethernet 802.3az
- Supports Dual LAN with Teaming function
- Supports PXE
Intel® 82579, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s)
Intel® LAN- Dual interconnect between the Integrated LAN controller and Physical Layer (PHY)
Intel® 82579, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller
Intel® 82579, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s)
Realtek® 8111E , 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s)
Dual Gigabit LAN controllers- 802.3az Energy Efficient Ethernet (EEE) appliance
Intel® LAN- Dual interconnect between the Integrated LAN controller and Physical Layer (PHY)
Bluetooth
None
Bluetooth V3.0+EDR
ASUS BT GO! Utility
Audio
- 7.1 CH HD Audio with Content Protection (Realtek ALC892 Audio Codec)
- Premium Blu-ray audio support
- Supports THX TruStudio™
Realtek® ALC 892 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
- Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
Audio Feature :
- Blu-ray audio layer Content Protection
- Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel
Realtek® ALC 889 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
- Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
Audio Feature :
- Absolute Pitch 192kHz/ 24-bit True BD Lossless Sound
- Blu-ray audio layer Content Protection
- DTS Surround Sensation UltraPC
- Coaxial and Optical S/PDIF out ports at back panel
Overclocking Features
- Hybrid Booster:
- CPU Frequency Stepless Control
- ASRock U-COP
- Boot Failure Guard (B.F.G.)
- Combo Cooler Option (C.C.O.)
Overclocking Protection :
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
Rear I/O Ports
- 1 x PS/2 Keyboard Port
- 1 x VGA/D-Sub Port
- 2 x HDMI Ports
- 1 x Optical SPDIF Out Port
- 3 x Ready-to-Use USB 2.0 Ports
- 1 x Fatal1ty Mouse Port (USB 2.0)
- 1 x eSATA3 Connector
- 4 x Ready-to-Use USB 3.0 Ports
- 2 x RJ-45 LAN Ports with LED (ACT/LINK LED and SPEED LED)
- 1 x IEEE 1394 Port
- 1 x Clear CMOS Switch with LED
- HD Audio Jack: Rear Speaker / Central / Bass / Line in / Front Speaker / Microphone
1 x Bluetooth module(s)
1 x DVI
1 x D-Sub
1 x HDMI
1 x eSATA 3Gb/s
1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
2 x USB 3.0
6 x USB 2.0
1 x Optical S/PDIF out
6 x Audio Jack(s)
1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port(s)
1 x Bluetooth module(s)
1 x eSATA 3Gb/s
1 x Power eSATA 3Gb/s
1 x IEEE 1394a
2 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
2 x USB 3.0
8 x USB 2.0
1 x Coaxial S/PDIF out
1 x Optical S/PDIF out
6 x Audio jack(s)
1 x Clear CMOS button(s)
Internal I/O Ports
- 4 x SATA2 3.0 Gb/s connectors, support RAID (RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 10, RAID 5, Intel® Rapid Storage and Intel® Smart Response Technology), NCQ, AHCI and Hot Plug functions
- 6 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s connectors
- 1 x ATA133 IDE connector (supports 2 x IDE devices)
- 1 x Floppy connector
- 1 x IR header
- 1 x COM port header
- 1 x HDMI_SPDIF header
- 1 x IEEE 1394 header
- 1 x Power LED header
- CPU/Chassis/Power FAN connector
- 24 pin ATX power connector
- 8 pin 12V power connector
- CD in header
- Front panel audio connector
- 2 x USB 2.0 headers (support 4 USB 2.0 ports)
- 1 x USB 3.0 header (supports 2 USB 3.0 ports)
- 1 x Dr. Debug with LED
1 x USB 3.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 2 USB 3.0 port(s) (19-pin, moss green)
3 x USB 2.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 6 USB 2.0 port(s)
2 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)
4 x SATA 3Gb/s connector(s)
2 x CPU Fan connector(s) (4 -pin)
2 x Chassis Fan connector(s) (1 x 4 -pin, 1 x 3 -pin)
2 x Power Fan connector(s) (3 -pin)
1 x S/PDIF out header(s)
1 x 24-pin EATX Power connector(s)
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector(s)
1 x Front panel audio connector(s) (AAFP)
1 x System panel(s) (Q-Connector)
1 x MemOK! button(s)
1 x TPU switch(es)
1 x EPU switch(es)
1 x USB 3.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 2 USB 3.0 port(s) (19-pin, moss green)
3 x USB 2.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 6 USB 2.0 port(s)
4 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)
4 x SATA 3Gb/s connector(s)
2 x IEEE 1394a connector(s)
2 x CPU Fan connector(s) (4 -pin)
2 x Chassis Fan connector(s) (1 x 4 -pin, 1 x 3 -pin)
2 x Power Fan connector(s) (3 -pin)
1 x S/PDIF out Header(s)
1 x 24-pin EATX Power connector(s)
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector(s)
1 x Front panel audio connector(s) (AAFP)
1 x System panel(s) (Q-Connector)
1 x MemOK! button(s)
1 x TPU switch(es)
1 x EPU switch(es)
1 x USB 3.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 2 USB 3.0 port(s) (19-pin, blue)
2 x USB 2.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 4 USB 2.0 port(s)
4 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)
4 x SATA 3Gb/s connector(s)
1 x IEEE 1394a connector(s)
1 x CPU Fan connector(s) (4 -pin)
2 x Chassis Fan connector(s) (1 x 4 -pin, 1 x 3 -pin)
2 x Power Fan connector(s) (2 x 3 -pin)
1 x S/PDIF out header(s)
1 x 24-pin EATX Power connector(s)
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector(s)
1 x Front panel audio connector(s) (AAFP)
1 x System panel(s) (Q-Connector)
1 x MemOK! button(s)
1 x TPU switch(es)
1 x EPU switch(es)
1 x Power-on button(s)
1 x Reset button(s)
BIOS
- 64Mb AMI UEFI Legal BIOS with GUI support
- Supports "Plug and Play"
- ACPI 1.1 Compliance Wake Up Events
- Supports jumperfree
- SMBIOS 2.3.1 Support
- CPU Core, IGPU, DRAM, PCH, CPU PLL, VTT, VCCSA Voltage Multi-adjustment
64 Mb Flash ROM, EFI AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.5, ACPI 2.0a, Multi-language BIOS,
ASUS EZ Flash 2, ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3, F12 PrintScreen Function
Form Factor
ATX Form Factor
Accessories
- 1 x ASRock SLI_Bridge_2S Card
- Quick Installation Guide, Support CD, I/O Shield
- Floppy/ATA 133 Cables
- 6 x SATA Data Cables (optional)
- 2 x SATA 1 to 1 Power Cables (optional)
- 1 x 3.5mm Audio Cable (optional)
- 1 x Front USB 3.0 Panel
- 4 x HDD Screws
- 6 x Chassis Screws
- 1 x Rear USB 3.0 Bracket
- 1 x HDMI to DVI Adapter
User's manual
ASUS Q-Shield
2 x SATA 3Gb/s cable(s)
2 x SATA 6Gb/s cable(s)
1 x SLI bridge(s)
1 x Q-connector(s) (2 in 1)      
User's manual
ASUS Q-Shield
2 x Serial ATA 3.0Gb/s cable(s)
2 x Serial ATA 6.0Gb/s cable(s)
1 x SLI bridge(s)
1 x Q-connector(s) (2 in 1)
1 x ASUS USB 3.0 Bracket(s)
User's manual
ASUS Q-Shield
2 x SATA 3Gb/s cable(s)
4 x SATA 6Gb/s cable(s)
1 x SLI bridge(s)
1 x Q-connector(s) (2 in 1)
1 x ASUS Front Panel USB 3.0 Box(es)

Features:

ASRock Z68 Fatal1ty

 

ASUS

ASUS Dual Intelligent Processors 2 with DIGI+ VRM :
ASUS TPU :

ASUS EPU :

ASUS Digital Power Design :

ASUS BT GO! :

ASUS BT Turbo Remote :

ASUS Exclusive Features :

ASUS Quiet Thermal Solution :

ASUS EZ DIY :

ASUS Q-Design :

All information on this page courtesy of ASRock @ http://www.asrock.com/mb/overview.asp?Model=Fatal1ty%20Z68%20Professional%20Gen3 & ASUS @ http://www.asus.com/Motherboards/Intel_Socket_1155/Intel_Z68

Testing:

Testing this group of Z68-based motherboards will include running them through the OCC test suite of benchmarks that include both synthetic benchmarks and real world applications to see how each of these boards perform. The gaming tests will also include a couple of synthetic benchmarks and actual gameplay to see if similarly prepared setups offer any performance advantages. Each board received a fully updated fresh install of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit edition and used the latest drivers for each board and the latest AMD Catayst drivers for the HD 5870.

Testing Setup: Intel Core i5/i7 Socket 1155


 

Comparison Boards:

Overclocking:

 

Overclocked Settings:

Overclocking on the ASRock board was quite simple. As soon as I was able to ensure that the Turbo Boost was disabled so that I could keep a stable multiplier, I was able to slowly increase the multiplier up by 1x every step and test for stability. On the ASRock board, it seemed like it was much easier to get a stable overclock with the bClK set under 100, so I ended up with settings of 98.7 x 48, which gave me a clock speed of 4738MHz.

 

The ASUS P8Z68-V board was a little bit easier to overclock than the ASRock board was once I got the settings in the BIOS set for "higher" clock speeds. In the BIOS, I ended up setting the VRM Frequency to 350 instead of the stock 300 and Phase/Duty Controls to Extreme, which allowed for lower voltages and allowed me to get the bCLK up to 101.7 with a 47 multiplier, giving me a final clock speed of 4753MHz. Fine tuning the overclock was able to be done through the ASUS TurboV utility, which makes things a lot easier when you are trying to fine tune an overclock, as you don't need to jump out of Windows and get right back into the BIOS to change a few settings, such as your vCore, bCLK, or Multiplier.

 

Overclocking on the ASUS P8Z68-V PRO motherboard was very similar to the ASUS P8Z68-V board, as it should be. There was not many differences between the two boards, however I was able to get a little bit higher overclock than I was with the previous board. I was able to set the board at 101.3 x 47, which gave me a final clock speed of 4760MHz. Once again, I was able to fine tune through the ASUS TurboV utility.

 

 

Overclocking the Deluxe was again more of the same when it comes to overclocking on the Sandybridge platform. The limited bclock tuning means that an unlocked K-SKU processor is needed to really see a nice boost in performance. Finding the bclock limit for the chip and board combo means bumping up and applying the bclock increase, then rebooting to see if it POSTs, much like any other system. However, you get to the failure point much sooner, as most 2600SKU chips are going to scale between 103 to 106MHz, and 103 is where I ran into POST failure issues. Finding the bclock limit was easy and you use almost the same process to find the multiplier limit. The end result of the bclock and multiplier tuning was 4842MHz, or 103 x 47. The uEFI bios makes navigating to the correct settings an easy point-and-select process. Tweaking the BIOS is not the only way to overclock with these ASUS boards. Asus TurboV software can be used both manually and in "automatic mode". The one caveat is that with a CPU that needs to have the internal PLL overide voltage applied, the limit will be whatever multiplier and clock speed the chip can run without the internal PLL voltage applied, which in this case was 4400MHz. Even so, the flexibility is there to overclock via the BIOS for the traditionalist or from within the operating system environment. The choice is yours.

 

 

 

Benchmarks:

  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. Geekbench
  4. Bibble 5
  5. Office 2007
  6. POV Ray 3.7
  7. Sandra XII
  8. ScienceMark 2.02
  9. Cinebench 10
  10. Cinebench 11.5
  11. HDTune 4.60
  12. MediaEspresso
  13. PCMark 7
  1. Aliens vs. Predator
  2. Battlefield: Bad Company 2
  3. Civilization V
  4. 3DMark 11
  5. Lucid Virtu

Testing:

The first part of our testing will be the system-specific benchmarks.

 

Let's get started with Apophysis. This program is used primarily to render and generate fractal flame images. We will run this benchmark with the following settings:

 

 

The measurement used is time to render, in minutes, to complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lower is Better

 

WinRAR is a tool to archive and compress large files to a manageable size. We will use 100MB and 500MB files to test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds. Additionally, I will use the built-in benchmark as a comparison.

 

ZIP:

 

Lower is Better

 

 

Lower is Better

 

 

RAR:

 

Lower is Better

 

 

Lower is Better

 

Geekbench 2.1 provides a comprehensive set of benchmarks engineered to quickly and accurately measure processor and memory performance. Designed to make benchmarks easy to run and easy to understand, Geekbench takes the guesswork out of producing robust and reliable benchmark results.

 

 

Higher is Better

 

Bibble 5:

Bibble 5 will be used to convert 100 RAW 8.2MP images to JPEG. Total conversion time was recorded in seconds.

Lower is Better

 

Looking at all the scores in these benchmarks, you are going to see that the board does not really make that much of a difference yet.

Testing:

Office 2007 Excel Big Number Crunch: This test takes a 6.2MB Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and performs about 28,000 sets of calculations that represent many of the most commonly used calculations in Excel. The measure of this test is how long it takes to refresh the sheet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lower Is Better

 

POV Ray 3.7: This program features a built-in benchmark that renders an image using Ray Tracing. The latest versions offer support for SMP (Symmetric Multiprocessing) enabling the workload to be spread across the cores for a quicker completion.

 

Higher Is Better

 

Once again, regardless of which board you are looking at; all four of them are giving very similar results.

Testing:

SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key functions of the CPUs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Processor Arithmetic

 

Higher is Better

 

 

Higher is Better

 

Multi-Core Efficiency

 

Higher is Better

 

 

Lower is Better

 

Memory Bandwidth

 

Higher is Better

 

 

Higher is Better

 

Memory Latency

 

Lower is Better

 

 

Cache and Memory

 

Higher is Better

 

Power Management Efficiency

 

Higher is Better

 

The exact same trend has carried out through all the benchmarks in the Sandra Suite as well, with the exception of the Power Management Efficiency testing where there is quite a gap between the different boards depending on if the processor was overclocked or not, with the ASUS P8Z68-V getting the highest overclocked result.

Testing:

ScienceMark tests real world performance instead of using synthetic benchmarks. For this test, we ran the benchmark suite and will use the overall score for comparison.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher is Better

 

CineBench 10 is useful for testing your system, CPU and OpenGL capabilities using the software program CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.

 

Higher is Better

 

 

Higher is Better

 

CineBench 11.5 is the latest iteration of this popular benchmark that features a new look to the interface. This test now has a simple GPU and CPU test built in.

 

Higher is Better

 

HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.

 

Higher is Better

 

 

Higher is Better

 

 

Lower is Better

 

 

Lower is Better

 

All four of the boards were able to perform quite similar in all the testing, with the exception of the HDTune Access Time test. Overall it is still a close battle between all four boards.

Testing:

MediaEspresso is a media universal converter that can transcode your videos, photos and music files.

 

 

The measurement used is time to render, in seconds, to complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lower is Better

 

Once again all four boards were very close to each other, however the ASUS P8Z68 Deluxe was able to pull ahead and take the lead in this benchmark.

Testing:

PCMark 7 testing provides overall system performance scores from its various benchmarks. The tests conducted are the six primary benchmarks at default settings, while comparisons are made between multiple systems.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

We can see here in the PCMark7 testing that all four boards once again were able to perform just about exactly the same. However, during the stock overall test, the ASUS P8Z68 Deluxe was able to creep ahead.

Aliens vs. Predator, developed by Rebellion Developments, is a science fiction first-person shooter and is a remake of its 1999 game. The game is based off the two popular sci fi franchises. In this game, you have the option of playing through the single player campaigns as one of three species, the Alien, the Predator, and the Human Colonial Marine. The Game uses Rebellion's Asura game engine that supports Dynamic Lighting, Shader Model 3.0, Soft Particle systems, and Physics. To test this game I will be using the Aliens vs. Predator benchmark tool with the settings listed below. All DirectX 11 features are enabled.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

During all the different resolutions tested on all four different boards, there was a maximum of a 3 FPS difference between them, and that was at 1280x1024 at stock speeds between the ASRock Z68 board and the ASUS P8Z68 Deluxe.

Testing:

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is a first-person shooter developed by EA Digital Illusions CE (DICE) and published by Electronic Arts for Windows, PS3 and XBox. This game is part of the Battlefield franchise and uses the Frostbite 1.5 Engine, allowing for destructible environments. You can play the single player campaign or multiplayer with five different game modes. Released in March 2010, it has so far sold in excess of six million copies.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

There was a slight difference in the FPS that were delivered during the Battlefield: Bad Company 2 testing, however it was not that large of a difference. The ASUS P8Z68 Deluxe yielded the lowest FPS.

Testing:

Civilization V is a turn-based strategy game. The premise is to play as one of 18 civilizations and lead the civilization from the "dawn of man" up to the space age. This latest iteration of the Civilization series uses a new game engine and massive changes to the way the AI is used throughout the game. Civilization V is developed by Firaxis Games and is published by 2K games and was released for Windows in September of 2010. Testing will be done using actual game play with FPS measured by Fraps through a series of five turns,150 turns into the game.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

Once again, during the lower resolution testing, there was a slightly larger difference between the ASUS P8Z68 Deluxe board and the other three tested. However, once the resolution was raised, the gap tightened.

Testing:

3DMark 11 is the next installment for Futuremark in the 3DMark series with Vantage as its predecessor. The name implies that this benchmark is for Microsoft DirectX 11 and with an unintended coincidence, the name matches the upcoming date in number (which was the naming scheme to some prior versions of 3DMark nonetheless). 3DMark 11 is designed solely for DirectX 11 so Windows Vista or 7 are required along with a DirectX 11 graphics card in order to run this test. The Basic Edition has unlimited free tests on performance mode whereas Vantage only allowed for a single test run. The advanced edition costs $19.95 and unlocks nearly all of the features of the benchmark and the professional edition runs $995.00 and is mainly suited for corporate use. The new benchmark contains six tests, four of which are aimed only at graphical testing, one to test for physics handling and one to combine graphics and physics testing together. The open source Bullet Physics library is used for physics simulations and although not as mainstream as Havok or PhysX, it still seems to be a popular choice.

With the new benchmark comes two new demos that can be watched, both based on the tests but unlike the tests, these contain basic audio. The first demo is titled "Deep Sea" and have a few vessels exploring what looks to be a sunken U-Boat. The second demo is titled "High Temple" and is similar to South American tribal ruins with statues and the occasional vehicle around. The demos are simple in that they have no story, they are really just a demonstration of what the testing will be like. The vehicles have the logos of the sponsors MSI and Antec on their sides with the sponsorships helping to make the basic edition free. The four graphics tests are slight variants of the demos. I will use the three benchmark test preset levels to test the performance of each card. The presets are used as they are comparable to what can be run with the free version so that results can be compared across more than just a custom set of test parameters.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

The common theme continues thorughout all the testing; all four boards are giving just about the exact same scores in the 3DMark11 benchmark at all three of the resolutions tested.

Testing:

The z68 chipset does support an Integrated Graphics Processor on the boards and three out of the four boards in this roundup had IGPs on them that will allow to run a display without a discrete graphics card installed in the system. The benchmark that we chose to run to see how well the IGP was able to perform is Sid Meier's Civilization V. Each motherboard is going to have its own chart to show the difference between what the IGP was able to give, as well as what the discrete graphics card was able to give with Virtu Enabled.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

Higher = Better

 

Here you can see that once Virtu is enabled on each of the boards, there is a massive increase in the FPS in Civilization V. While yes the overall settings are low, this was to simulate how the game would most likely need to be played while using an IGP instead of a discrete graphics card.

Conclusion: ASRock Z68 Fatal1ty

What is there to say about the ASRock Z68 Fatal1ty motherboard? Well first of all, I want to say that the board's layout is very nice and easy to work with. The color scheme that ASRock decided to use with the motherboard does make it stand out and does give it the ability to be used by users who are looking for a certain look inside of their chassis. Some people are looking for a nice looking motherboard to put inside of their chassis that is going to be able to go along with the other components, while others are looking for a certain set of features. You are going to be able to find both with the ASRock board if black and red are your colors. When it comes down to the overclocking on the ASRock board, it was a little difficult to get it started at first, however once I became more familiar with the settings inside of the BIOS, it was quite easy to overclock.

The fact that the ASRock board has the Integrated Graphics on it, does give it an edge against some of the competition, as the ability to have a rock solid system that is not intended to be used for gaming has its benefits, and with the Integrated Graphics on the board, you don't need to have a graphics card to have video. ASRock did load this board up with USB 3.0 connectors, with four on the back and two extra ones that are powered by the headers on the motherboard.

ASRock has also gotten its board ready for Ivybridge; the Fatal1ty motherboard does have support for the next generation of PCI-E 3.0 graphics cards while most of the other motherboards out there have yet to get ready for it. With technology changing so quickly, it is nice to see future support for next-gen technology put out in anticipation. Another nice feature of the ASRock board is that the CPU cooler mounting holes have spots sized for the LGA775 socket coolers, which means if you have your favorite cooler that you wanted to move over to your next build, the ASRock board does support it.

While the price of the ASRock board is $234.99, when seeing that two of the other boards in the roundup are below the $200 marker, it makes you wonder. While the ASRock's price is competitive with the ASUS boards, you are still looking at spending an extra $35 for a few extra features and PCI-E 3.0 support.

 

Pros:

 

Cons:

 

 

Conclusion: ASUS

The Z68 lineup from ASUS is something that you should think twice about getting your feet into, as all three of the boards that were tested in this roundup were able to perform quite well. When you are looking at the overclocking alone on the three boards, the ASUS P8Z68 DELUXE was able to get a little higher of an overclock, however all three of the boards were able to keep the i7 2600K above 4700MHz. A lot of this has to do with the DIGI +VRM that ASUS has implemented on its boards, which helped increase stability of the chips with a steady and consistent vCore. The ASUS P8Z68 DELUXE was able to get a higher bCLK out of the chip, but this was only by about 2MHz.

When you are looking at the features of the ASUS boards that were tested, the ASUS P8Z68-V & P8Z68-V PRO were both able to give us an Integrated Graphics output, which was able to allow the 2D graphics to be powered by the on-board graphics while leaving the heavy duty graphics computing to the discrete graphics card once the board knew it wouldn't be able to handle the load. This feature is not only nice for when you are looking to have a system without a graphics card installed, but from a power consumption standpoint as well.

All three of the motherboards did have a whole bunch of features that will wow anyone looking at getting into the Z68 arena, especially the AI Suite II isoftware for overclocking and monitoring of current system conditions. I did find it very helpful to have the AI Tuner open once I got a stable overclock and to be able to tweak my clock a little further by being able to add more vCore to the processor and having the ability to change the multiplier and bCLK settings from within Windows.

When it comes down to the price on the three ASUS boards, you are looking at a range from $179.99 - $249.99, with the ASUS P8Z68-V & P8Z68-V PRO being under the $200 price point. What you are going to have to ask yourself when you are deciding which one of the three to get, is if the $50 more for the ASUS P8Z68 DELUXE is worth the few extra features and the loss of on-board video.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: