With Sandy Bridge hitting a small reef with the first batch of P67 motherboards, things seem to be back on track for Intel. Till now, if you wanted to overclock your shiny new Sandy Bridge CPU, there was just one option, the P67 chipset. But by doing so, you had to sacrifice the on-board GPU, which is actually not to shabby for video encoding.
On the other hand, if you went with the H67-based motherboards, you wouldn't get any overclocking functions at all. There was no way to get the best of both worlds, until now. At Computex 2011, Intel showcased the Z68 motherboard, a brand new chipset designed to fulfill the cry of PC users everywhere. Board partners also showcased their versions of the chipset and today we’ll be taking a closer look at one of the first Z68 boards to hit our labs - the Asus P8Z68-V Pro.
Let’s first go through some of the highlights of the Asus P8Z68-V Pro. The UEFI BIOS gives you an easy-to-use graphical user interface along with mouse support. Unlike the traditional blue screen, the new look is less intimidating for a novice user and easy to navigate. The EZ mode hides all the messy tweaking options and presents the user with a simple interface. Power users should not feel left out as ‘Advanced Mode’ puts you right back into the driver's seat.
The P8Z68-V Pro supports GPU switching natively thanks to the chipset and Asus have gone with LucidLogic's Virtu GPU virtulization software for this. What this means is you can enjoy 3D gaming using your graphics card while the onboard GPU can handle other tasks like video encoding. The new chipset also boasts of Intel’s new Smart response technology which copies the frequently used files from your HDD onto an SSD thereby giving you much faster performance. Other features are taken straight from their existing P67 line-up like DIGI+ VRM, EPU for energy saving, Bluetooth, USB 3.0, SATA III, Turbo V,etc.
Design and Layout
Now I know motherboards aren’t something you flaunt, but you have to admit it's a good looking board. The black PCB coupled with the blue heatsinks and slots makes it stand out from the competition. The bundle includes a driver disk, user manual, SLI bridge, Q-connectors, 2x SATA II cables, 2x SATA III cables, 1x rear USB 3.0 bracket.
Plenty of USB ports
The P8Z68-V Pro has a total of twelve USB 2.0 ports (six at the back panel and three headers). You also get a total of four USB 3.0 ports, VGA, DVI, HDMI and a 8-channel audio support. The 16-phase power regulators around the CPU area are cooled by a well designed heatsink with plenty of fins for cooling.
PCI slots for backwards compatibility
The motherboard supports CrossFireX and SLI configurations. The two PCI-E 2.0 slots run in x8 mode when using two graphics cards while the third runs by default in x1 mode. The motherboard also has on-board ‘Power’ and ‘Reset’ buttons for the enthusiast in mind. There are plenty of SATA connections, as well. Six of them are native to the Z68 chipset (4 SATA II, 2 SATA III), while the Marvell controller adds two more SATA III ports giving you a total of eight.
Physical toggle switches for TPU and EPU
Up in the corner, Asus have added manual switches for the EPU and TPU for quickly toggling between these features. This is again something for the enthusiast crowd as once installed in the system you can control it through the software in Windows. Overall we didn’t have any major issues with the layout of the motherboard. The full-ATX form factor allows you to comfortaby install even larger CPU coolers and installing a long graphics card won't block any of the SATA ports since they all face outwards.