Today, we have rather special Z68 motherboard from Gigabyte. While most of the feature list remains the same, Gigabyte has added some enhancements of their own, which sets this apart from all the other Z68 boards in the market. Designed for enthusiasts in mind, let’s see if this is worth your time.
Design and Layout
Gigabyte has stuck with their traditional blue PCB design for this motherboard. The CPU area is quite roomy and the stock Sandy Bridge cooler fitted easily with room to spare. There’s a heatsink covering the VRM area, as well. The four memory slots are colour coded making it easy to install memory modules in dual-channel mode. There’s support for up to 32GB of DDR3 memory. The 20GB Intel SSD is placed smack in the middle of the board, so it doesn’t get in the way of other components. Although the SSD appears to be using a mini PCIE connector, it’s actually wired to use the fifth SATA port.
All layout is good with everything spaced out well
There rear I/O ports include a PS2 combo port and 10 USB ports, out of which two are USB 3.0. Furthermore, we also have two USB 3.0 headers, a special header for Gigabyte’s front panel USB 3.0 drive bay and finally a USB 2.0 header with support for On/Off charge. There’s even a Firewire, HDMI and a Gigabit LAN jack. Audio is taken care of by SPIDF optical audio out and a 7.1 channel analog audio powered by Realtek ALC889 chipset. There are a total of 8 SATA ports, four of which are SATA III. Oddly, there’s no DVI or VGA for the onboard graphics and there isn’t any adapter that comes bundled.
Supports both CrossFire and SLI
We have a good selection of expansion slots, as well. There are two PCIE slots for graphics cards, the first one runs at x16 mode, while the other runs at x8 mode. There are three PCIE x1 slots, but if you use a dual-slot graphics card, you’ll end up losing one of them. Lastly, we also have two PCI slots for backwards compatibility. Overall, the layout of the connectors are good and we didn’t have any problems setting up the rig. There’s ample space between the graphics card and the RAM slots making it easy to add or remove them. The SATA ports are placed facing outwards, so even a long card like the HD 6970 is no problem. The bundle includes four SATA cables, I/O shield plate, case badge, manual, driver disk and a SLI bridge.
You may have got a hint about one of the unique features of this board from the name itself. This particular Z68 motherboard comes with a 20GB Intel SSD attached to the motherboard, itself. The solid state drive is from Intel’s 311 series and is connected to the motherboard via mSATA. The idea behind this is to take advantage of Intel’s Smart Response Technology, which is built into the Z68 chipset. This allows the system to use the SSD to store frequently accessed files, so Windows can launch and execute programs faster even when installed on a standard hard drive. You basically get SSD-like speed and responsiveness, but with the ample storage of a regular hard drive.
CPU area is uncluttered allowing you to install larger heatsinks
Gigabyte also includes Hybrid EFI Touch BIOS, but it’s not exactly as it sounds. Hitting the ‘Del’ key upon startup still takes you to an Award BIOS screen, unlike Asus boards that allow you to use the mouse. The Hybrid BIOS feature is actually an application you install, which then lets you access some of BIOS features through the OS itself. LucidLogix VIrtu GPU virtulization is also present, which lets you use the onboard GPU, as well as the discrete graphics card, simultaneously. Other features include VRD12 compliant CPU power design, dual BIOS, support for hard drives greater than 3TB out-of-the-box, UD3 features like 2oz copper and ferrite core chokes, SATA III and USB 3.0 and turbo XHD.