GIGABYTE's new GA-Z68XP-UD3 a good budget choice

GIGABYTE's new GA-Z68XP-UD3 a good budget choice
Rating
Overall:

A nice bit of kit for a budget machine.

Price
Price: $155
> Pricing info
Specs
Socket 1155; Z68 chipset; ATX form factor; 2 x PCI-e x16 (1 x 16x, 1 x 8x electrically); 2 x PCI-e 1x; 2 x PCI; 4 x SATA2, 4 x SATA3; DDR3-2133

Review: Ready for a boost? GIGABYTE's new Z68 board is a great option for those looking for tighter SSD integration.

 

Solid state is a big selling point in the current computing market. Motherboard manufacturers are known to flaunt the inclusion of solid state capacitors (to the applause of bloated and blown cap victims, no doubt), while solid state drives are making a sizable splash when it comes to storage. So what happens when you combine the two into the one product? You get something like this - an mSATA equipped motherboard where an SSD can be directly connected, flush with the board surface. It's a crazy mutation which requires the type of SSD you'll typically obtain from purchasing a fancy Ultrabook. So why have an SSD connected directly to the motherboard itself? Why, Smart Response, of course!

The Z68 chipset allows for the combined operation of SSDs and HDDs via Smart Response Technology (SRT). This leverages the fast access, write, and read speeds of SSDs whilst maintaining the cheap storage of traditional HDDs. The way this works is by caching frequently accessed data to the SSD for quick retrieval. Intel's Rapid Storage driver does all the heavy lifting, slowly learning what to cache to achieve optimal performance for a given users behaviours. Intel isn't the first to implement this, most users will probably recall the Windows ReadyBoost feature in Vista, which made use of spare thumb drives. Seagate and SilverStone (to name a couple) have their own solutions, too.

Although SRT isn't technically implemented in hardware, only the Z68 chip can make use of it. GIGABYTE went further to add an mSATA slot, but this is a convenience feature rather than a necessity (a standard SATA SSD drive will do just as nicely). In fact, using the mSATA slot disables one of the standard SATA ports, so it's just a different form factor option.

Visually, this motherboard resembles the blue style of GIGABYTEs older products, with grey low profile heatsinks. We noticed a fair amount of looseness to the MOSFET heatsink which was a tad worrying, but this didn't appear to affect our overclocking attempt. In fact, we were pleasantly surprised at how far we got!

Several months of playing with Sandy Bridge based motherboards means there's no mucking around when it comes to trying an overclock - we go straight to 5GHz and work up. Disabling power saving, increasing the over current protection, and enabling PLL overvoltage tend to do the trick without much tweaking. 5.0GHz on the CPU at 1.45v and level 7 LLC was what was required to maintain stability when running Prime95. We pushed on and achieved 5.1GHz with a small bump to core voltage (1.47v), and then finally hit our maximum clock rate at 5.125GHz. Memory wise, we managed 1867MHz @ 9-8-9-21-T1.

The Realtek ALC889 audio codec powers the 7.1 channel output on the I/O panel, alongside an optical S/PDIF out connector, a combined PS/2 KB/M port, 8 x USB2.0 and 2 x USB 3.0 ports, a HDMI port (for when using integrated graphics), FireWire and a 1Gb/s LAN port.

There's not much bundled with this board, apart from the usual manuals/drivers and SLI bridge. If you want an SSD as part of the package, the similarly named GA-Z68XP-UD3-iSSD provides just that - a fast 20GB Intel SLC SSD.

Using this motherboard for a benchmarking rig isn't ideal. There's no tweaking functionality, debugging displays, or even power buttons. Shorting pins is the way to go. That being said, this motherboard is clearly aimed at the budget market, even if it does do well in benchmarks.

We're impressed with the overclock budget boards can achieve, particularly with this unique approach GIGABYTE have taken. CPU speed is often sufficient for most people with or without overclocking, so it's nice to see GIGABYTE attempting to assist with alleviating the worst bottleneck in modern computing  - the HDD. At the very least, if you have a spare mSATA drive lying around from a retired device, you can give it a second lease at life.


Intel 2600K

51 x 100.2; DDR3-1867; 9-8-9-21-T1

40 x 100; DDR3-1867; 9-8-9-21-T1

50 x 100; DDR3-1867; 9-9-9-24-T1

PiFast

14.51s

18.36s

14.81s

wPrime 32M - single thread

27.41s

34.927s

28s

wPrime 32M – multi-thread

6.928s (3.96x efficiency)

8.831s (3.96x efficiency)

7.098s (3.94x efficiency)

CineBench R10 64bit - single thread

8518

6728

8268

CineBench R10 64bit - multi-thread

30109  (3.53x efficiency)

23918 (3.55x efficiency)

29564 (3.58x efficiency)

Everest Read

22870MB/s

21630MB/s

22689MB/s

Everest Write

25270MB/s

20616MB/s

24774MB/s

Everest Latency

39ns

41.1ns

39.4ns

 

See more about:  gigabyte  |  gaz68xpud3  |  motherboard  |  overclocking  |  pc  |  hardware  |  review
 
 

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