Z68 boards released

Posted: May 16, 2011 in PC
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Well, it’s been a LONG time since I posted. College got my full attention these last days and I’ve barely done something on MMOs. Here’s a little of what happened during these last days:

  • FW went into OBT (CBT was amazing). Now I’m lv 48 and part of the 1st place (level and members, soon zeal) guild: Paradise.
  • Maplestory is celebrating their 6th anniversary and my Mechanic reached lv 105
  • New LGA1155 stuff was released
  • Got a new CPU cooler, a Cooler Master Hyper N520 (couldn’t get the 212+ because of height issues)

Right now, let’s point at “New LGA1155 stuff”. Intel has released their newest chipset on the Sandy Bridge platform: The Z68

The Z68 Express chipset is like a “Jack of all trades, master of everything plus more”, LGA1155 motherboard (though Intel has their “reference” board located at the Media line), since it’s a mix between the P67 AND H67 chipsets. Plain english? You had to rely on a GPU for video output on P67 and you can’t overclock at all (no matter the CPU) on H67. Intel added OC capabilities (and not just CPU multiplier adjustments, but IGPU (the graphic unit inside the CPU) overclock as well!), direct video output from the IGPU, and more interesting technologies on this new chipset.

The Z68 boards works with LucidLogix’ Lucid VIRTU, a tool that helps you optimize your video processing between the IGPU and a discrete GPU. It works with a LOT of apps you can optimize (for example, using a $300 GPU for Blu-ray/HD playback? Just use the IGPU instead and save some watts on performance, then use your discrete GPU for REAL gaming). This technology is seemed to be found on certain H67 boards, but it kinda lacks the real boost it can get on Z68 boards.

The video output aspect is not a big deal for the average gamer PC user, since you’ll be relying on a mid-high tier card and high quality DVI/HDMI/DisplayPort. But it’s good to know that Z68 uses the IGPU for video output (in case of office/family/HT/business PC), and it comes with the full package: VGA, DVI and HDMI (some boards have DisplayPort as well). I really don’t have issues with VGA output (currently using a 7 year old 4:3 VGA monitor running at 1024×768@85hz), but seems like Intel don’t want it anymore on this platform, so they removed VGA and replaced it for DisplayPort. Also, with the addition of IGPU overclocking, you could even use a mATX Z68 board plus an unlocked CPU for a HTPC (in this writer’s honest opinion, I’d say a discrete GPU won’t be needed at this point for this type of projects).

One of my favorite things on this chipset is the Intel Smart Response Technology. This is exclusive to the Z68 (perhaps it’ll make an appearance on LGA2011?) right now, and it allows the user to combine an SSD performance with HDD high capacities. Results? 4 times faster than a regular HDD working alone.

Basically, the SSD works as a HUGE cache dump drive, allowing faster readings when using programs or even gaming. Benefits from this technology is that you don’t need a high capacity SSD for this, which means you can go cheap and efficient on your boot SSD and rely on a 2nd SSD for HDD boost (you can’t use the same, since you’ll be using the whole SSD for cache, and knowing that SSD is still a little bit expensive in terms of GB per $$$, it’s a nice thing you just need a small capacity SSD). In fact, Intel released their new SSD line, codename Larson Creek, for this technology. At the moment, it’s just a 20gb SATA 3gb/s SSD, but it’ll do fine for SRT.

In terms of expansion slots, it’ll be similar to the P67 chipset, allowing 16 lanes on the PCI-E slots, either working at 16x for a single card or 8x/8x for SLI/CF. The NF200 has been spotted on some high end Z68 boards, allowing the use of 32 lanes (16x/16x for 2-way or 8x/8x/16x for 3-way). Then again, performance difference between 8x and 16x is minimal, so in case you don’t want a 3-way multi GPU system, just avoid the NF200 chipset and save some cash.

I’d say it’s too early to find “ENTHUSIAST” cards, like the ASUS Maximus IV or MSI Big Bang, but let’s recall that this new chipset was released few days ago. Time will tell if we need serious high-tier motherboards with Z68, or if we should rely on P67 for the hard work. Right now, I’m thinking if I should grab a Z68 or go safe with P67. I could wait for local retailers to get stock on Z68 and then give it a try, but I could just grab a P67 board and avoid SRT and VIRTU. Maybe I’ll have to add that point to the idea board.

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