Intel’s Z68 chipset is set to launch real soon now, and with it a raft of new motherboards from various manufacturers. In the leadup to launch there has actually been a lot of behind the scenes confusion, largely stemming from the early arrival on Taiwanese shelves of the Gigabyte Z68X-UD7-B3 motherboard.
This board is effectively an update of the P67-UD7-B3, with the new chipset and most of the associated featureset. What caused confusion is that it lacks integrated graphics outputs, which are necessary to run Lucid’s Virtu software package. Virtu is designed to owners use the integrated graphics chip in the Sandy Bridge CPU for normal operations while also having a discreet GPU for gaming and other video intensive tasks.
Virtu is going to be pushed quite heavily by motherboard manufacturers when the Z68 launches. It is seen as a ‘green’ solution, minimizing power consumption by using processor graphics wherever feasible. However it is a solution based upon downloadable profiles, which can cause compatibility delays with brand new software, and is likely to not be a great solution for the bleeding edge gamer.
But Z68 also brings other features that are superior to those found on the P67, and these have nothing to do with Virtu. With the leaked Z68X-UD7-B3 motherboard as the basis for information, it seems that other manufacturers assumed that Gigabyte wasn’t including integrated graphics support on its chipset range.
This assumption is wrong, as the Z68X-UD3H-B3 motherboard currently in the Atomic labs demonstrates. Basically any Gigabyte Z68 board with H in the name will have integrated graphics ports, yet the vast majority of Gigabyte’s range won’t.
The reason for this has become a lot clearer with news from Digitimes of the number of motherboards shipping out of Taiwan. Of the 350,000 – 400,000 Z68 motherboards expected to ship this month 30,000 of those will come from ASUS and a combined 15,000 will come from ASROCK and MSI. The vast majority of them will be from Gigabyte.
We checked with Gigabyte about this, and it turns out that Gigabyte is aggressively migrating beyond the P67 chipset, with 20 odd models being launched with Z68 (and more importantly a lot of these are already sitting in distributors warehouses). While we initially thought this would happen by the end of the year, it is currently aiming for 80% of its stock to use the Z68 chipset from launch.
It is going to be fascinating to see how this strategy will work, and whether ASUS, ASROCK and MSI follow suit. What is apparent now is that despite initial assumptions Gigabyte does indeed have Z68 motherboard which support integrated graphics, and as you can see from our photo gallery it actually covers all bases by including DVI, D-Sub, HDMI and Displayport outputs on the ‘H’ branded boards.
As for the Z68 features and performance, well, you’ll have to wait a little longer for those details.