impending release of AMD's 'Bulldozer' processor a lot of people will be
holding back on their PC upgrades until that 8-core chip officially drops. The 'carrot on the stick' approach is the cornerstone of the computer industry, though savvy PC users will realize you
often miss out on pretty fantastic technology that's available today in the pursuit of what's not
the newest chipset for Intel processors is the Z68 Express and motherboards
like the Gigabyte
GA-Z68X-UD3H-B3 which are built around it offer up a mainstream suite of
capabilities and a kitchen sink full o'features. The board
supports 2nd Generation Intel Core i3/i5/i7 2xxx-series socket LGA1155
processors - these CPUs are based on the Intel 'SandyBridge'
architecture which includes an integrated graphics core on the CPU
GA-Z68X-UD3H-B3 motherboard has four 1.5v DDR-3 memory slots which will
accommodate up to 32GB of dual channel DDR3-1066/1333/1600/1866/2133 memory, 4GB for 32-bit operating
systems. Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) compliant enthusiast memory is
all important videocard front there are two
options - integrated graphics via the board's HDMI/Display Port/DVI-D/Analog
video outputs, or PCI Express based discrete graphics cards. In terms of
videocards, the GA-Z68X-UD3H-B3 motherboard will handle one PCI Express 2.0
x16 videocard in x16 mode or a pair of nVidia Geforce / ATI Radeon videocards in
SLI or Crossfire, in x8/x8 mode. Intel's Sandy Bridge
CPU supplies x16 lanes of PCI Express 2.0 bandwidth for the graphics cards, the
Intel Z68 chipset a further eight PCIe lanes for system
Care of the
Intel Z68 Express chipset, the Gigabyte GA-Z68X-UD3H-B3 serves up the full compliment of
integrated graphics options; HDMI (1920x1200), DisplayPort (2560x1600), DVI-D
(1920x1200) and Analog VGA. Intel IGP graphics are okay for everyday work and
this board can handle dual digital displays which is especially nice.
IGP graphics are key if you plan to leverage
Intel's QuickSync for media transcoding, so it's good that Lucid's VIRTU
driver ships with this motherboard. With VIRTU there's no penalty if you go the
discrete graphics card route, and with support for Crossfire/SLI you really
ought to, as VIRTU enables seamless switching between the two. Further peripheral expansion comes via three PCI Express x1 slots and two legacy PCI slots. Gigabyte's GA-Z68X-UD3H-B3 motherboard retails for around
$165 at Canada Computers , NCIX and Newegg.
INCLUDES: User's Manual,
Driver DVD, (4) SATA cables, 2-way SLI bridge, I/O
Chipsets: Intel Z68
CPU Support: Intel Socket
Memory Type: Dual Channel
Videocard Support: (2) PCI Express
x16 2.0 (x16 or x8/x8)
Integrated Graphics Video
Port: HDMI, Display Port, VGA, DVI
Average Price at time of review:
On the storage front you get three
3Gb/s SATA II and two 6Gb/s SATA III devices via the Intel Z68 chipset (RAID
0/1/5/10), with one eSATA II port at the rear I/O. This is
hardly enough SATA III ports though, so Gigabyte tacks on a Marvell controller
for two more 6Gb/s SATA III ports (RAID 0/1).
addition to the main features PCSTATS has already run through, the Gigabyte GA-Z68X-UD3H-B3 aslo gives you four USB3.0 ports,
3x USB power boost, +3TB hard drive support, Precision OverVolting control, Dual BIOS's Hybrid-EFI
TouchBIOS, On/Off Charge for recharging devices like the iPhone and
access to Intel Smart Response Technology
Motherboard Rear I/O Ports
At the back of the Gigabyte GA-Z68X-UD3H-B3 motherboard
you'll find four IGP video outputs (HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI-D, Analog
VGA), a gigabit Ethernet jack, (2) SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports, (4) USB 2.0
ports, an IEEE1394 Firewire port, an optical S/PDIF out, one eSATA II port
and full assortment of Intel high definition 7.1-channel headphone jacks.
The audio system is based off a Realtek ACL889 codec
and is Dolby Home Theatre compliant. PS/2 still clings to life in a hybrid
keyboard/mouse kind of way.
Box contents are pretty slim, just a couple pairs of SATA
cables, the I/O shield and a SLI bridge connector.
A USB 3.0 bracket would have been a nice addition to make use of the
USB 3.0 header, but one isn't included.
Let's take a quick look at Intel Z68 Express chipset before moving on to
the 360-degree motherboard photos.