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Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3-iSSD Intel Z68 Motherboard & Intel 20GB SSD Review

Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3-iSSD Intel Z68 Motherboard & Intel 20GB SSD Review - PCSTATS
Abstract: There are four key features that make the Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3-iSSD a real killer among Intel Z68 motherboards - a bundled 20GB Intel mSATA SSD, Virtu, SLI/Crossfire and onboard HDMI video output.
 95% Rating:   
Filed under: Motherboards Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: Gigabyte Dec 25 2011   Max Page  
Home > Reviews > Motherboards > Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3-iSSD

Bundled-in 20GB SSD - Intel Smart Response Technology

Everyone knows the main selling point of Solid State Drives isn't storage capacity, it's speed. Mechanical hard drives on the other hand are comparatively slow, yet vastly superior when it comes down to cost per Terabyte. Intel Smart Response Technology seeks to bridge these two qualities - SSD speed and HDD capacity - by intelligently storing frequently accessed hard drive I/O data blocks to the SSD while everything else goes to the primary HDD. With this selective approach, an affordable 20GB or 40GB SSD is sufficient to cache frequent data.

Intel SRT is a specific feature of the Intel Z68 chipset and for the best results it does require a fresh installation of Windows 7 or Vista. Once enabled though, the HDD and SSD are tied together in a sort of 'RAID 0' arrangement where by Windows retrieves its frequent data from the SSD rather than waiting for the HDD. There's no denying the "like-SSD responsiveness" in data access limited situations and applications is a welcome boost, generally to about 4/5ths the level of a pure SSD environment.


Intel SSDMAESC020G2 SSD (mSATA format) bundled in with the motherboard.

The system is compatible with mSATA and standard SATA SSD devices, on the GA-Z68XP-UD3-iSSD motherboard Gigabyte has added a mSATA slot and a 20GB Intel 311 'Larson Creek' Solid State Drive. mSATA modules take up less space and cost less than 2.5" SSDs which is why Gigabyte went this path when opting to bundle a SSD in with this board.

The Intel SSDMAESC020G2 SSD uses a mini-PCIe interface to connect directly to the board over the SATA 3GB/s data bus, in case you wondered.


20GB of 34nm SLC Compute NAND flash memory

There are a few caveats to implementing Intel SRT, but otherwise it's really easy to use and provides tangible benefits as you'll see in the benchmarks momentarily. For an in-depth look at Intel SRT, check out this PCSTATS Guide.

Intel Z68 Express Chipset

>Intel's Z68 Platform Controller Hub has a nearly identical feature set to the Intel P67 and H67 chipsets that came before it, so if you're familiar with these chipsets you'll know what to expect here. Looking at the block diagram below we can see that the Intel Z68 PCH communicates with socket LGA1155 processors over a DMI link at 20Gb/s and hosts eight PCI Express 2.0 lanes running at 5Gb/s. The remaining 16 PCI Express 2.0 lanes are allocated by the processor itself for 16GB/s total bandwidth.

As with the Intel H67 chipset that preceded it, the Intel Z68 chipset connects to the integrated graphics core built into every Socket 1155 'SandyBridge' microprocess via Intel's Flexible Display Interface (FDI). This is also the main difference between the preceding Intel P67 chipset and the Z68; Sandybridge's integrated graphics core is now accessible for everyday work and for specialized video transcoding acceleration via Intel Quick Sync, in addition to the overclocking capabilities that were inherent to the Intel P67 chipset.

With the integrated graphics core we can, for example, transcode a 450MB 1080i high definition MPEG2 video via Cyberlink MediaShow Espresso 6 to a 640x360 MP4 video in about 14 seconds! Without Intel's HD 3000 IGP, the same task takes nearly 50 seconds. Keep in mind that not all Intel Z68 boards come with video outputs (ie. the Gigabyte GA-Z68X-UD5-B3), but many boards that do also support LucidLogix Virtu which enables users to virtualize the Intel HD 3000/2000 graphics through a discreet videocard and have the best of both discrete and integrated graphics worlds.

Intel Chipset Feature Comparison
Intel Z68 Express Intel P67 Express Intel H67 Express Intel X58 Express
CPU LGA 1155
Core i5/i7 2nd Gen.
LGA 1155
Core i5/i7 2nd Gen.
LGA 1155
Core i5/i7 2nd Gen.
LGA 1366
Core i7
Chipset Code Name Couger Point (65nm) Couger Point (65nm) Couger Point (65nm) Tylersburg (65nm)
Bus Interface / Speed DMI 20Gb/s DMI 20Gb/s DMI 20Gb/s QPI 25.6Gb/s
Memory Support DDR3-1333, dual channel DDR3-1333, dual channel DDR3-1333, dual channel DDR3 1066, triple channel
Maximum Memory Capacity 32GB (64-bit) 32GB (64-bit) 32GB (64-bit) 24GB (64-bit)
Integrated Graphics Yes. via CPU - Yes. via CPU -
Integrated Graphics Ports HDMI, DVI, DP, VGA - HDMI, DVI, DP, VGA -
PCI Express 2.0 Lanes 8 8 8 36
PCI Express x1 Lanes 0 0 0 6
Intel Rapid Storage Technology Yes Yes Yes Yes
Intel Smart Response Technology Yes - - -
SATA 6Gb/s | SATA 3Gb/s | IDE Ports 2/4/0 2/4/0 2/4/0 0/6/0
RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 0, 1, 5, 10 0, 1, 5, 10 0, 1, 5, 10 (via ICH10R)
Intelgrated LAN 10/100/1000 MAC 10/100/1000 MAC 10/100/1000 MAC -
USB 3.0 Ports 0 0 0 0
USB 2.0 Ports 14 14 14 12
PCI Masters 0 0 0 6
Intel High Definition Audio Yes Yes Yes Yes

Lucid Logix Virtu

LucidLogix Virtu is a software driver Intel validated for the Intel Z68 platform that enables on-the-fly switching between discreet graphics cards and Sandy Bridge's integrated Intel HD3000/2000 graphics core by virtualizing one or the other. If the monitor is connected to the GA-Z68XP-UD3-iSSD's onboard HDMI video output, Virtu virtualizes the discreet videocard (i-Mode) when 3D games are launched. Conversely, if the monitor is connected to a discrete videocard Virtu virtualizes the IGP when required (d-Mode).


GA-Z68XP-UD3-iSSD motherboard is validated for Lucid's VIRTU driver.

The key to Virtu is that it allows the HD 3000/2000 IGP to accelerate video transcoding tasks via Intel QuickSync and seamlessly switch to purpose bred discreet videocards when 3D gaming.

Moving along, it's time for a 360-degree look at the Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3-iSSD motherboard.

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Contents of Article: Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3-iSSD
 Pg 1.  Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3-iSSD Intel Z68 Motherboard & Intel 20GB SSD Review
 Pg 2.  — Bundled-in 20GB SSD - Intel Smart Response Technology
 Pg 3.  360-Degree Motherboard Gallery: Board Layout
 Pg 4.  360-Degree Motherboard Gallery: Continued
 Pg 5.  BIOS and Hybrid-EFI Touch BIOS
 Pg 6.  Overclocking Test Report and Test System Details
 Pg 7.  Configuring Intel Smart Response Technology
 Pg 8.  Testing Intel SRT: PCMark Vantage
 Pg 9.  Sysmark 2007 Motherboard Benchmarks
 Pg 10.  SiSoft Sandra: CPU Motherboard Benchmarks:
 Pg 11.  Sandra: Memory Motherboard Benchmarks:
 Pg 12.  PCMark Vantage Motherboard Benchmarks
 Pg 13.  3DMark 11 Motherboard Benchmarks
 Pg 14.  3DMark Vantage Motherboard Benchmarks
 Pg 15.  3DMark 06 Motherboard Benchmarks
 Pg 16.  FEAR Motherboard Benchmarks
 Pg 17.  IGP Motherboard Benchmarks: 3DMark Vantage, 3DMark06, FEAR
 Pg 18.  IGP Motherboard Benchmarks: Call of Juarez, Crysis, Video Transcoding
 Pg 19.  System Power Draw and Final Conclusions

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