The GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 - The New Flagship

GIGABYTE Z68-UD7-B3 Motherboard Layout

GIGABYTE has been building computer components for going on twenty five years now. Consistently improving, redesigning and bringing new features to the market, GIGABYTE is on the leading edge of the market. Over the past couple of years, I have used several GIGABYTE motherboards in some of my personal systems, and reviewed even more GIGABYTE products. Throughout my personal experience with GIGABYTE products, I have always been happy with the GIGABYTE products. Hopefully when all is said and done, today will be no different!

Today we have the top of the line Intel Z68 express chipset motherboard from GIGABYTE, the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3! Being the flagship socket 1155 motherboard from GIGABYTE, the Z68X-UD7-B3 isn't priced for faint of heart. It  is priced for those of us that will pay for the quality and want all the features that the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 had to offer! Right now you can pick up the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 for as little as $337.91 Plus shipping.

There are two main features that were essentially added to the Intel P67 Chipset to make up the new Z68 chipset. The first is Intel Smart Response Technology, a quote about Intel Smart Response Technology from Joe's article:

Using the latest version of Rapid Storage Technology drivers (10.5) and adjusting some easy settings in the Intel Control Center you essentially create a RAID configuration which treats the SSD as a cache for the most frequently used data. Access then comes via the faster SSD rather than the slower HDD, increasing performance markedly. Right now, some are thinking, wait, this isn't new...we've seen a version of this before! The voices in your head are correct. A while back we had a look at the Seagate Momentus XT Hybrid drive which essentially employs the same concept, albeit all bundled on a single drive.

Intel HD Graphics

The second feature that was employed was the ability to use the Intel HD Graphics on the second generation Intel Core iX series processors. While the graphic aren't that spectacular for gaming purposes, they do have a number of capabilities that can be quite handy. One of which is Intel Quick Sync Video, also commonly referred to as Intel QSV. Intel QSV completes the video processing on the hardware instead of on the software.

For some reason, GIGABYTE chose not to implement the second half of the Intel Z68 chipset features on the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3. Gigabyte hinted that enthusiasts wouldn't be wanting that feature on a high-end board like the Z68X-UD7, but since consumers are paying an extra $55 for this board over the P67A-UD7 we think that choice should be up to them.

GIGABYTE P67A-UD7-B3 24 Phase Power Design

The GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 has 24 Phases of power being delivered to the CPU help to build a much more reliable power delivery system. The entire GIGABYTE 6 series of motherboards uses DUAL CPU Power Technology. This technology allows the CPU VRM power phases to split into a pair of power engines that work together. In the case of the Z68X-UD7-B3 12 phases will be inactive while the other 12 are supplying power.

GIGABYTE Dual CPU Power Technology

If you are using your shiny new GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 for some light work like web browsing or any other task that isn't very CPU intensive, the Dual CPU Power Technology will drop the number of phases that are active. Fire up an application like Folding at Home that will really use the CPU power that you have and the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 will increase the number of active phases up to the maximum 24 for the ultimate power delivery system.

Intersil PWM controller VRD12

Speaking of power phases, all of the GIGABYTE 6 series motherboards use an Intersil PWM controller. The Intersil PWM controller has been approved by Intel and is VRD 12 compliant. The Intel approved PWM controller offers SerialVID (SVID); this transfers power management information from the processor to the voltage regulator controller. This allows a more efficient signaling control between the CPU and PWM controller. What does this mean for the end user? Ideally, a more energy efficient system.

GIGABYTE P67A-UD7-B3 Driver Mosfets

Traditional power delivery consists of a pair pf discrete PowerMOS and a driver IC. GIGABYTE has incorporated these components into a single chip. Doing this gives us several advantages. One of these advantages is size. The area required to mount the Driver MOSFET's is reduced by 50%. This will leave real estate available on the PCB for other integrated devices. Driver MOSFET's can achieve increased efficiency and higher power transfer at higher switching frequencies. This will help satisfy the growing power needs of the current processors.

One aspect of the Intel Z68 chipset that is an issue for some is the limited number of PCI express lanes. Being limited to a total of 16 lanes some companies have thrown in a third party chip to add some lanes. ASUS used the PLX PEX8608 chip to add a few extra lanes on the ASUS P8P67 Deluxe to bring the total number of PCIe lanes to 24. 20 of which are usable by the PCIe graphics. GIGABYTE went a different route, they added the NVIDIA NF200 chip to give a total of 32 PCIe lanes to the P67A-UD7-B3. This allows the Z68X-UD7-B3 to operate a pair of cards at x16 each or four cards at x8 each.

GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 Z68 Chipset Motherboard Specifications

CPU  - Support for:
  • Intel Core i7 processors
  • Intel Core i5 processors
  • Intel Core i3 processors
  • Intel Pentium processors
  • Intel Celeron processors in the LGA1155 package
Chipset  - Intel Z68 Express Chipset
Memory
  • 4 x 1.5V DDR3 DIMM sockets supporting up to 32 GB of system memory
  • Dual channel memory architecture
  • Support for DDR3 2133/1866/1600/1333/1066 MHz memory modules
  • Support for non-ECC memory modules
  • Support for Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) memory modules
Audio
  • Realtek ALC889 codec
  • High Definition Audio
  • 2/4/5.1/7.1-channel
  • Support for Dolby Home Theater
  • Support for S/PDIF Out
LAN
  • 2 x Realtek RTL8111E chips (10/100/1000 Mbit)
  • Support for Teaming
  • Support for Smart Dual LAN
Expansion Slots
  • 2 x PCI Express x16 slots, running at x16 (PCIEX16_1, PCIEX16_2)
  • 2 x PCI Express x16 slots, running at x8 (PCIEX8_1, PCIEX8_2)1
  • 1 x PCI Express x1 slot (All PCI Express slots conform to PCI Express 2.0 standard.)
  • 2 x PCI slots
Multi-Graphics Technology  - Support for 2-Way/3-Way ATI CrossFireX/NVIDIA SLI technology
Storage Interface  - Chipset:
  • 2 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors (SATA3_0, SATA3_1) supporting up to 2 SATA 6Gb/s devices
  • 4 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (SATA2_2~SATA2_5) supporting up to 4 SATA 3Gb/s devices 
  • Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10
 - 2 x Marvell 88SE9128 chips:
  • 2 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors (GSATA3_6, GSATA3_7) supporting up to 2 SATA 6Gb/s devices 
  • 2 x eSATA 6Gb/s connectors (eSATA/USB Combo) on the back panel supporting up to 2 SATA 6Gb/s devices
  • Support for SATA RAID 0 and RAID 1
USB  - Chipset:
  • Up to 8 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (4 on the back panel, including 2 eSATA/USB Combo, 4 via the USB brackets connected to the internal USB headers)
 - 2 x Renesas D720200 chips and 2 x VLI VL810 hubs:
  • Up to 10 USB 3.0/2.0 ports (6 on the back panel, 4 via the USB brackets connected to the internal USB headers)
IEEE 1394  - T.I. TSB43AB23 chip:
  • Up to 3 IEEE 1394a ports (2 on the back panel, 1 via the IEEE 1394a bracket connected to the internal IEEE 1394a header)
Internal I/O Connectors
  • 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
  • 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
  • 4 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
  • 4 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
  • 1 x CPU fan header
  • 3 x system fan headers
  • 1 x power fan header
  • 1 x Chipset fan header
  • 1 x front panel header
  • 1 x front panel audio header
  • 1 x S/PDIF Out header
  • 2 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
  • 2 x USB 3.0/2.0 headers
  • 1 x IEEE 1394a header
  • 1 x clearing CMOS button
  • 1 x power button
  • 1 x reset button
Back Panel Connectors
  • 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse port
  • 1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
  • 1 x coaxial S/PDIF Out connector
  • 2 x IEEE 1394a ports
  • 2 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
  • 6 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports
  • 2 x eSATA/USB Combo connectors
  • 2 x RJ-45 ports
  • 6 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out/Rear Speaker Out/Side Speaker Out/Line In/Line Out/Microphone)
I/O Controller  - iTE IT8728 chip
H/W Monitoring
  • System voltage detection
  • CPU/System temperature detection
  • CPU/System/Power fan speed detection
  • CPU overheating warning
  • CPU/System/Power fan fail warning
  • CPU/System fan speed control
BIOS
  • 2 x 32 Mbit flash
  • Use of licensed AWARD BIOS
  • Support for DualBIOS
  • PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.0, SM BIOS 2.4, ACPI 1.0b
Unique Features
  • Support for @BIOS
  • Support for Q-Flash
  • Support for Xpress BIOS Rescue
  • Support for Download Center
  • Support for Xpress Install
  • Support for Xpress Recovery2
  • Support for EasyTune
  • Support for Dynamic Energy Saver 2
  • Support for Smart 6
  • Support for Auto Green
  • Support for eXtreme Hard Drive (X.H.D)
  • Support for ON/OFF Charge
  • Support for Cloud OC
  • Support for Q-Share
Form Factor ATX Form Factor; 30.5cm x 24.4cm

GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 compared to the P67A-UD7-B3

The GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 is identical to the GIGABYTE P67A-UD7-B3 that we took a look at a little over a month ago. In the above photo you can see that the boards are virtually identical. The only visual differences I was able to find was the color of the SATA III 6Gbps ports. If you are interested in the bundle, layout, or system BIOS of the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 please reference the appropriate pages of our GIGABYTE P67A-UD7-B3 review as they are identical. For now let's jump to the test system page and take a look at what we will be using for our system today!

The Legit Reviews Test System

All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit with all the latest updates installed. All benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. The Corsair Vengeance memory modules were run in Dual-channel mode at 1600MHz with 9-9-9-24-2t timings. The XFX Radeon HD 6950 graphics cards were run with 11.5 CATALYST suite drivers. The Intel Core i5 2500K processor was running at the default clock of 3.3GHz with turbo enabled. The GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 was running the latest F6 BIOS.

Intel X58 Test Rig

 Processor  Intel Core i7 950
 Live Pricing
 Motherboard  Intel DX58S02
 
 Memory  6gb Corsair Dominator CMP6GX3M3A1600C8  Live Pricing
 Hard Drive  Kingston SSDNow 96GB SSD  Live Pricing
 Video Card  XFX Radeon HD 6950  Live Pricing
 CPU cooler  Corsair A70  Live Pricing
 Chassis  None - Open Bench  
 Power Supply  Corsair TX750   Live Pricing

Intel Z68 Test Rig

 Processor  Intel Core i5 2500K  Live Pricing
 Motherboard  See Above  
 Memory  8gb Corsair Vengeance CMZ8GX3M2A1600C9  Live Pricing
 Hard Drive  Kingston SSDNow 96GB SSD  Live Pricing
 Video Card  XFX Radeon HD 6950  Live Pricing
 CPU cooler  Corsair A70  Live Pricing
 Chassis  None - Open Bench  
 Power Supply  Corsair TX750   Live Pricing

GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 Motherboard Test Bench

GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 Motherboard System Settings

SiSoft Sandra 2011 sp2 Memory Bandwidth

SiSoftware Sandra 2011c Memory Bandwidth

A year ago, SiSoftware released Sandra 2010 with full support for Windows 7; in the 18 months since the launch of Windows 7, more than ever before we have seen the line blur between PC and entertainment hubs. Two months ago we released a Blu-Ray benchmark, now we have added a brand-new Media Transcoding benchmark using the new Media Foundation of Windows 7. We have also added yet another benchmark (GPGPU Cryptography) which allows direct comparison of CPU performance (using crypto instruction sets) and GPGPU performance.

ASUS P8P67 Deluxe SiSoftware Sandra 2011c Memory Bandwidth Results

Benchmark Results: The memory bandwidth performance in SiSoftware Sandra sp2 doesn't vary much between the boards. The GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 came out on top of the Float Buff'd test with 20.903 GB/s and an Int Buff'd score of 20.905GB/s.

NVIDIA SLI Scaling Performance

MSI N560GTX-Ti HAWX

In order to update our NVIDIA SLI testing we contacted our friends over at MSI and they were kind enough to send over a pair of their NVIDIA GeForce N560GTX-Ti HAWX edition graphics cards.

GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3Motherboard NVIDIA SLI Scaling in Aliens Vs. Predator

There is very little SLI performance difference in Aliens Vs. Predator between our Intel Z68 platforms. The ASUS P8Z68-V Pro does hold a slight edge over the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 in both single card and SLI configurations. At 1280x1024 the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 was .2 frames per second down while in SLI there was a 1.1 frames per second difference between the GIGABYTE and ASUS boards. At 1920x1080 it is much the same story. The GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 was .2 fps behind while in SLI we saw a .5 fps difference.

GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3Motherboard NVIDIA SLI Scaling in Total War: Shogun 2

In Total War: Shogun 2 we see very little difference in performance once again. At 1280x1024 the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 had a single card performance of 37.57 frames per second and 66.5 frames per second in SLI. Both numbers are just behind those of the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro, 2% in single card configuration and 2.3% in SLI. Cranking up the resolution to 1920x1080 the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 was able to edge out the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro. In SLI the Z68X-UD7-B3  was 1% faster, while single card performance was 3.3% ahead.

GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3Motherboard NVIDIA SLI Scaling in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat i s the first benchmark to show much of a difference in SLI Scaling. At 1280x1024 the two boards showed very little difference with a single MSI N560GTX-Ti Hawx graphics card. In fact both resolutions showed only ~.5% difference with the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro taking the lead. Once we added the second MSI N560GTX-Ti Hawx card into the mix the differences grew. At 1280x1024 the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 jumped to 173.6 frames per second for a gain of 41.7% while the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro jumped to 184.8 frames per second which is a gain of 50%. Once we cranked up the resolution to 1920x1080 the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 jumped from 83.8 frames per second up to 136.9 for a gain of 63.4%. The ASUS P8Z68-V Pro jumped from 84.17 frames per second to 144.13 frames per second for a gain of 71.2%.

AMD CrossFireX Performance Scaling

XFX Radeon HD 6950 2GB Graphics Card

As with the previous page where we tested the NVIDIA SLI scaling between the chipsets, we want to do the same for the AMD CrossfireX. When we decided to run this series of tests, we were able to get in touch with our friends over at XFX and they kindly sent over a pair of XFX Radeon HD 6950's.

GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3Motherboard AMD CrossFireX Scaling in Aliens Vs. Predator

The ASUS P8Z68-V Pro was able to edge out the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 in Aliens Vs. Predator. At 1280x1024 the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 had a single card performance of 55.4 frames per second while the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro was 1.3% faster with 56.1 frames per second. Tossing in the second XFX Radeon HD 6950 the performance on the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 jumped to 109.5 frames per second which is a jump of 97.7%. Increasing the resolution to 1920x1080 the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 had a single card performance of 40.9 frames per second and increased to 81.1 frames per second for a gain of 98.3% compared to the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro's 99%.

GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3Motherboard AMD CrossFireX Scaling Metro 2033

In Metro 2033 the ASUS P8Z68-V-Pro was once again able to edge out theZ68X-UD7-B3 at all resolutions. At 1280x1024 we saw a 4.2% difference in single card but only a .6% difference in Crossfire! At 1920x1080 we saw a difference in the single card configuration of 4% while Crossfire showed a difference of 1.6% in the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro's favor.

GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3Motherboard AMD CrossFireX Scaling in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat

In S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro continued to reign supreme over the Z68X-UD7-B3. At 1280x1024 the GIGABYTE Z68-UD7-B3 averaged 105.2 frames per second with a single XFX Radeon HD 6950 and jumped to 155.5 frames per second in Crossfire. That is a jump in performance of 47.8% compared to the 52.2% of the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro. Increasing the Resolution to 1920x1080 the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 was able to out perform the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro in the single card configuration, though Crossfire the ASUS had a better showing. The Z68X-UD7-B3 started the day at 74.7 frames per second and jumped to 116.1 frames per second for a boost of 55.4%, while the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro saw a gain of 60.9%.

Futuremark 3DMark 11 Synthetic Benchmark

3DMark 11 Screenshot

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world’s most popular benchmark for measuring the 3D graphics performance of gaming PCs. 3DMark 11 uses a native DirectX 11 engine designed to make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11, including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.

3DMark 11 Settings

Since Futuremark is releasing 3DMark11 today we decided to run the benchmark at both performance and extreme presets to see how our hardware will run.

GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3Motherboard 3DMark 11 Benchamrk Results

Benchmark results: The GIGABYTE Z68-UD7-B3 pulled out a solid score of 4903 3DMarks in the performance preset of 3DMark 11 which is only 100 points (2%) down from the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro. Firing up the Extreme Preset of 3DMark 11 the GIGABYTE Z68-UD7-B3 managed to score 1601 3DMarks which is only .5% behind the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro motherboard.

Rightmark Audio Analyzer

RightMark Audio Analyzer

The RightMark Audio Analyzer suite is designed for testing quality of analog and digital paths of any audio devices, be it a sound card, an MP3 player, a consumer CD/DVD player or an acoustic set. The results are obtained by playing and recording test signals passed through the tested audio path by means of frequency analysis algorithms. The latest version of RightMark Audio Analyzer can be found here.

RightMark Audio Analyzer Results

Rightmark Audio Analyzer Comparison Chart

Intel DX58S02 Audio Performance

Considering that the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 and the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro both are using the Realtek ALC892 Hi-Def audio it's no surprise that there is no real performance differences between them The Noise Level, and Dynamic Range were both better on the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 while the Stereo Crosstalk was better on the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro.

Network Throughput Testing

NTttcp Tool

The Gigabit PCIe Ethernet controllers vary on each board, so it will be interesting to see what the performance is on all the boards. Each of the boards uses a different Gigabit Controller. Let's take a look at what controller is on each of the boards.

To test the Gigabit PCIe Ethernet controllers we used the NTttcp tool to test Ethernet Throughput and the CPU utilization of the various Ethernet controllers used on the AMD Motherboards. To do this properly we set up one machine as the server: in this test an Intel Core i7 970 system with an MSI Big Bang XPower motherboard acted as our Gigabit LAN server.

On the server side, we used the following Command Line for Gigabit PCIe Ethernet Testing:

Ntttcpr -m 4,0,<Client IP> -a 4 -l 256000 -n 30000

On the client side (the motherboard being tested), we used the following Command Line:

Ntttcps -m 4,0,<Server IP> -a 4 -l 256000 -n 30000

At the conclusion of each test we recorded the throughput and CPU utilization figures from the client screen as that is the system being tested.

Intel DX58S02 Network Throughput

Benchmark Results: The ASUS P8Z68-V Pro uses an Intel 82579 Gigabit LAN controller which tends to have slightly lower throughput and lower CPU usage. Once again, that is the case. The ASUS P8Z68-V Pro had a throughput of 938.058MB/s and a CPU usage of 1.49% while the Realtek 8111E onboard the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 had a throughput of 945.711MB/s and a CPU usage more than double that of the P8Z68-V Pro!

SATA III 6Gbps Performance Testing

HD Tach is a low level hardware benchmark for random access read/write storage devices such as hard drives, removable drives (ZIP/JAZZ), flash devices, and RAID arrays. HD Tach uses custom device drivers and other low level Windows interfaces to bypass as many layers of software as possible and get as close to the physical performance of the device possible.

HD Tach

The SATA6 Testing was done using Crucial RealSSD C300 256Gb SATA6 SSD drive.

GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 HD Tach SATA3 Performance Results

Benchmark Results: The GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 was able to average 331.4MB/s average read and 239.9MB/s on the average write. With this performance the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 was able to edge out the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro.

HD Tune Pro 4.01 is an extended version of HD Tune which includes many new features such as write benchmark, secure erasing, AAM setting, folder usage view, disk monitor, command line parameters and file benchmark.

HD Tune

HD Tune

GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 HD Tune SATA3 Performance Results

Benchmark Results: Once again the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 was able to pull out a victory in our SATA III 6Gbps in HD Tune. The Z68X-UD7-B3 was able to edge out the ASUS P8Z68-UD7-B3 with a decent margin. The Average read of the Z68X-UD7-B3 was sitting pretty at 322.3MB/s and the Average Write was 226.7MB/s.

SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Performance Testing

HD Tach is a low level hardware benchmark for random access read/write storage devices such as hard drives, removable drives (ZIP/JAZZ), flash devices, and RAID arrays. HD Tach uses custom device drivers and other low level Windows interfaces to bypass as many layers of software as possible and get as close to the physical performance of the device possible.

HD Tach

Testing of the USB3 was done using the SUNBEAMTECH Airbox USB3.0 External Hard Drive Enclosure. The drive used was a Crucial Technology RealSSD C300 SSD.

GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 USB3 HD Tach Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: The ASUS P8Z68-V Pro had just enough in it to edge out the GIGABYTE P67A-UD7 in our USB 3.0 performance testing. The average read was 118.73MB/s compared to 118.53MB/s while the average write speed of the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro was sitting pretty at 118MB/s compared to the UD7's 115.37MB/s.

HD Tune Pro 4.01 is an extended version of HD Tune which includes many new features such as write benchmark, secure erasing, AAM setting, folder usage view, disk monitor, command line parameters and file benchmark.

HD Tune

HD Tune

Our testing of the USB 3.0 performance was done using the SUNBEAMTECH Airbox USB3.0 External Hard Drive Enclosure. The drive used was a Crucial Technology RealSSD C300 SSD.

GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 USB3 HD Tune Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: Once again, the difference in the average read speeds of our boards today was negligible. Average writes however, showed a significant difference. The ASUS P8Z68 had an average write of 110.83MB/s while the GIGABYTE P67A-UD7 only averaged 97.87MB/s. That's a difference of 13.2%.

GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 Intel RST Performance

The default setting of the Intel RST 10.5 software is enhanced mode, which only mirrors data to the hard drive. If the SSD ever fails you won't lose any data as it is running like a RAID 1 array (mirroring) with only the most accessed data being copied into the cache. The other method is maximized mode, which is where performance is highly improved, but cached data may be lost in the event of hardware removal or hardware failure much like a RAID 0 array (striped) where one drive goes bad. For our testing today we used a Western Digital Green 500Gb hard drive and a Kingston SSDNow 100 96Gb SSD.

GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 Intel Rapid Storage Technology with CrystalDiskMark

To see what kind of speeds boosts that we would see with SSD Caching enabled we first fired up CrystalDiskMark. The Western Digital Green hard drive actually took a hit in performance in the sequential read score dropping to 82.74MB/s in enhanced mode and 81.80MB/s in Maximized mode from 89.37MB/s when it was the HDD alone. The rest of the scores went up considerably. The 512K read scores jumped from 33.34MB/s up to 87.45MB/s and the write speeds increased from 40.06MB/s to 50.39MB/s. The 4K read speeds went up almost to the point of the SSD alone. The Kingston SSD had a 4K read of 17.6MB/s and the WD Green hard drive and SSD combo had a speed of 15.57!

GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 Intel Rapid Storage Technology with ATTO Disk Benchmark

When we fired up ATTO Disk Benchmark we saw very little performance gains in Enhanced mode, the only area that saw any improvement was the smaller file sizes. Once we got into larger file sizes, the write rates were comparable with the performance of the Western Digital Green hard drive alone, while our read rates took a significant hit in performance. Maximized mode saw a significant boost in write speed, but the read speeds were once again mostly below that of the hard drive alone.

GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 System Power Consumption

CPU Power Consumption

Since power consumption is a big deal these days, we ran some simple power consumption tests on our test beds. The systems ran with the power supplies, case fans, video cards and hard drives. To measure idle usage, we ran the system at idle for one hour on the desktop with no screen saver and took the measurement. For load measurements, Prime95's in-place large FFT's were run on all cores to make sure each and every processor was at 100% load for maximum power consumption and heat. Curious about real world scenarios, we decided to drop Furmark and ran 3DMark 11 on the performance preset and took the maximum power consumption during the first GPU test.

System Power Consumption

Benchmark Results: The ASUS P8Z68-V Pro pulled slightly more power from the wall than the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 did, with the exception of sitting idle. At Idle the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 pulled 4 Watts more than the ASUS P8Z68-UD7-B3. Loading up the Intel Core i5 2500K with Large FFT's in Prime 95 the GIGABYTE Z68-UD7-B3 was running 14 Watts lower than the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro. Firing up 3DMark 11 the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7 still managed to pull 10 Watts less than the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro.

GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 Overclocking

Overclocking greatly varies due to what hardware is being used and who is doing the overclocking. Always remember that no two pieces of hardware will perform the same, so our results will differ from what you might be able to get.

Overclocking with the new Sandy Bridge processors has been simplified, at least in part. Adjustments to the Bclck have been almost done away with and overclocking is almost completely done through increasing the multiplier. When overclocking we used to run out of room on the Bclck or cooling. Now we are going to be limited by the Multi-wall. The Sandy Bridge processor just isn't capable of going any faster; it's all dependent on the piece of silicone that you get when you purchase your processor.

GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 CPUz Overclocking

The Intel Core i5 2500K utilizes a bus speed of 100MHz, though the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 is picking it up at 100.3MHz. Under full load the Intel Core i5 2500K uses a multiplier of x33 to achieve the final clock speed of 3.3GHz. Since we are using a K series processor which has an unlocked multiplier we will be able to increase the default x33 multiplier to achieve our overclock today.

GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 Easy Tune 6

GIGABYTE has a sharp little utility called Easy Tune 6. It has a number of features including a hardware monitor, various tabs for checking CPU settings, memory settings, graphics and SMART. The area we are going to play with right now though is the Tuner, and more specifically the quick boost. The Quick Boost has three different levels. The first level is a mild overclock of 3.6GHz, the second level is 3.8GHz, while the third and final level breaks past the 4GHz barrier and brings the system to 4.1GHz. While they may be conservative overclocks, they are simple to use, and they worked!

GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 CPUz

We were able to manually overclock the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 and our Intel Core i5 2500K well beyond the 'automatic' overclocking available with the Gigabyte overclocking utility.  We were able to increase the multiplier to x51 and the Bclk to 100.8MHz (101 in the BIOS) on the Intel Core i5 2500K. This is just as far as we were previously able to on the GIGABYTE P67A-UD7. Since both motherboards are virtually identical this makes sense. We had to tweak a few settings in the Z68X-UD7-B3 BIOS and you can find our settings here and here.


Final Thoughts and Conclusion

GIGABYTE Z68-UD7-B3 Motherboard Layout

If we were to look at strictly the performance of the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3, I would have no complaints. Unfortunately, I can't look past what I feel are short comings of the Z68X-UD7-B3. It seems to me, that GIGABYTE took the P67A-UD7-B3 motherboard, slapped the Intel Z68 chipset on it and called it good. The problem with doing that is that it pretty much leaves out the features that separate Intel Z68 chipset from the P67 chipset. You would expect that the boards would be priced close to the same, but that is not the situation that we have here today. We found that the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 is currently retailing for $349.99 plus shipping and the GIGABYTE P67A-UD7-B3 is retailing for $314.99 plus shipping though at the time of this writing there is a $20 rebate available making the price only $294.99 plus shipping. That means that there is a $55 price difference between two identical motherboards. What do you get for $55?  The only difference between the boards is that the Intel Z68 Express chipset officially supports Intel Smart Response Technology (SRT) for SSD caching.  Intel SRT technology works, but why run SSD caching when running the OS on a SSD is faster? By the time you pay $55 more for the Z68 board and then buy an SSD you would have been better off to buy the P67 board and run a cost effective 64GB SSD as the OS boot drive drive.

When the Intel Z68 chipset was first launched, it seemed to meld the H67 chipset with the P67 chipset. The Intel H67 chipset was able to take advantage of the Intel HD Graphics that are available on the second generation of Core iX series processors. In the case of the Intel Core i5 2500K that is used for the Legit Reviews test bench we have the Intel HD Graphics 3000. While the actual graphics capabilities of the Intel HD Graphics are mediocre at best for gaming, they bring with them several technologies that are rather impressive. Among these is the Intel Quick Sync Video which takes video encoding to the hardware level instead of being done through software. We have seen this greatly improve video rendering times with applications that support it. Since the Gigabyte Z68X-UD7-B3 motherboard doesn't have any video outputs it is unable to use this technology.

Intel Z68 Chipset Features

Another feature that the Intel Z68 chipset brought to the game was Intel Smart Response Technology. We have looked at this technology a couple of times, first in Joe's Intel Z68 Chipset & Smart Response Technology as well as Nate's Intel 311 Larson Creek 20GB SLC SSD Review. Intel's Smart Response Technology isn't a bad little feature to add a performance boost down the road if your hard drive is holding your system back. Though you would see an even bigger performance boost from switching to an SSD for your operating system (boot drive). In our own testing today, we saw that it Intel SRT most certainly does give a boost to performance. Though not surprisingly it wouldn't be as great of a boost as installing a SSD alone.

One of the redeeming factors of the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 is it's overclocking abilities. Perhaps redeeming isn't the right word. Because the GIGABYTE Z68-UD7-B3 isn't a bad board, in fact it's actually a solid board. It just happens to be missing some of the key features that make an Intel Z68 board what it is. During our time overclocking the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 we played around with the GIGABYTE Easy Tune 6 software and it was incredibly easy to use. What I liked about the Easy Tune 6 software was the different presets. The level 1 preset is mild boost up to 3.6GHz, level 2 jumps another 200MHz up to 3.8GHz, and level 3 jumps past the 4GHz mark up to 4.1GHz. As we have seen in the past though, all three of these "Auto" overclock settings are quite conservative. To be fair though, I'm sure none of the motherboard manufacturers want to push processors to hard and start blowing up the motherboards or processors. When all was said and done, we were able to hit a solid overclock of 5135MHz! That is just about as high as we have gone on any of the dozen or so Socket 1155 boards that we have looked at!

The GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 is currently retailing for $349.99 plus shipping, and the GIGABYTE P67A-UD7-B3 is retailing for $314.99 plus shipping though at the time of this writing there is a $20.00 rebate available making the price only $294.99. The only known difference between the two GIGABYTE boards is the Intel Smart Response Technology.  By the time you spend an extra $55 on this motherboard and purchase an SSD in order to run SSD caching you would have been better off buying an SSD and using it to install the OS on in the first place. I would recommend the GIGABYTE P67A-UD7-B3 over the Z68X-UD7-B3 strictly due to the cost difference. Though, either way you go, you will be backed by GIGABYTE's three year limited warranty.

Legit Bottom Line: While the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 is a great board in its own respect. You would be better saving a few bucks and getting the GIGABYTE P67A-UD7-B3 and investing it on a larger SSD for your operating system.