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Old 05-26-2011
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Default Gigabyte Z68X-UD3H-B3 Review


Gigabyte Z68X-UD3H-B3

Here I have is the Gigabyte newly release Z68X-UD3H-B3



One thing you will notice right away is this model does have onboard Graphics outputs. Not only does it have the outputs but it has a lot of them, It has one for basically every type of display.


  • DVI
  • VGA
  • HDMI
  • Displayport

Normally I do not review iGPU motherboard as I really do prefer pushing everything to its limit. But there are some cool features on this board that I just had to play with.

Here are some of the things I like when looking at this board.
  • Large Chipset heatsink will allow for good chipset cooling even if graphics cards are installed over it.
  • VREG Cooler allows fitment of large tower cooler without any fitment issues.
  • Extra slot spacing between PCI-E x16 slots. This allows much better airflow for the cards when put together is Crossfire or SLI.
  • 8 SATA ports 6 onboard controlled by the Z68 chipset 2x SATA III/6G 4x SATA II/3G (1x esata) one pair controlled by a add in Marvell controller operates at up to SATA III/6G spec
  • 12 total USB 2.0 ports, 4 via rear panel and 8 via onboard header. 4 total USB 3.0 two on rear panel via the Etron add on chip and 2 via the onboard header also fed from the Etron chipset.
  • Rear panel ps2 dual use keyboard or mouse port.

This board has many great features, but there are some things I would like to see.
  • Onboard power/reset/Clear CMOS buttons (at this point these should be standard on any board and this should really be implemented on all boards)
  • Onboard post display/speaker (both will help with posting issues and diagnosis)

Very Similar to The 1156 CPU’s the 1155 CPU’s offer 16 PCI-E lanes as well. This means you can run a single card at x16 PCI-E bandwidth or two cards at x8. The Z68/P67 Chipset looks very much like the P55 in design with the addition of Native SATA III/6G on up to 2 ports and lets not forget supporting the all new 2nd Generation Intel Core processors.

Test configuration
Motherboard: Gigabyte Z68X-UD3H-B3
CPU: Core I7 2600K & I5 2400
Memory: Kingston DDR3 1600 Mhz Cas7 2x2gb
Hdd: WD Velociraptor 300GB & 120GB SATA III/6G SSD
Graphics card: Gigabyte GTX 560 Ti SOC
CPU cooling: Thermaltake Frio OCK
PSU: Thermaltake Toughpower Grand 1200W


Features

Intel Quicksync Technology

Intel Quicksync Technology is new and exclusive to the Z68 and H67 chipsets. The Quicksync does require a chipset that can utilize the iGPU which is why unfortunately P67 was out in the cold on this one. Quicksync enables you to use the Intel integrated GPU included on your 2nd gen Intel core series processor to transcode video with an amazing amount of speed and quality that is tough to beat. For transcoding test I used a 5.4GB 1080P MKV converting to a MP4 1080P 8192 Kbps. First testing was done to see how fast Quicksync really is compared to the following.
  • Standard X86 Transcoding
  • Intel Quicksync Acceleration
  • Nvidia CUDA Acceleration (Gigabyte GTX 560 Ti SOC)



As you can see the 560 Ti is much faster than the non-accelerated X86 CPU processing. But bringing in the Quicksync and you almost cannot compare as the CPU utilization was very low during the Quicksync, it is faster, and the quality is better than the CUDA transcoded file. We will however cover the quality difference in a moment.

Quality difference after transcoding
After the transcoding was complete I opened each sample for viewing on a 42” LCD display at 1080P. at first look most were similar, but in darker scenes you start to notice the differences. The CUDA rendered scenes tend to have some compression blocks in and out of the scenes, but its not something that renders it unbearable more of just a nuisance.

The Quicksync video is very clean very good looking no matter dark or light but in some cases you can see a softening of color and also a slight blurring effect compared to the original copy. Otherwise no compression or artifacts were viewed and I would say the small issues I have seen were not issues really at all just me being picky.

Finally to the X86 CPU rendered scenes. These I would say were closest to the original with no visual issues whatsoever and I guess if your very anal about how your video looks then you will have to wait a bit longer for your video.

Lucid Virtu
This technology is one of the things I was really looking forward to testing as this takes the normally impossible idea of GPU switching on a desktop. We have seen GPU switching on some notebook models with some success, and I am very interested to see what can be accomplished with this new technology. What is interesting is that you plug directly into the onboard video port from the rear of the motherboard which allows usage of the iGPU when Heavy 3D usage is not needed.

Why its cool: Do I really need to be using a high power discreet GPU just to surf the web, write an article or read email? Power usage, excess heat, excess load all for no reason the integrated GPU is very efficient in nature but not very powerful. Therefore the Lucid Virtu technology is very interesting as it allows GPU switching so that you can use your integrated GPU for everyday usage and for video transcoding, but when it comes time to game it seamlessly switches over to the Discreet GPU which allows for much higher performance to handle all of the games you will play.

Here are some of the power consumption results that were observed when testing.


As you can see power consumption is much higher when comparing transcoding testing of the Quicksync vs X86 transcoding. CUDA transcoding power usage was similar to the listed gameplay power usage therefore was omitted from the graph. The virtu did work seamlessly when switching from regular use to some games, however there were some issues observed.
  • Nvidia control panel cannot be accessed if using the IGPU for power savings.
  • Igpu virtu software crashes on occasion
  • 3d apps do not detect automatically, if it is not on the virtu control panel listing it will not switch on the IGPU
To Eliminate tha Nvidia control panel not being usable I could just plug the Display cable into the Discreet GPU and I would still have Quicksync available but then I would be missing out on the power and heat saving offered by running through the Integrated port. I hope in the future the Virtu system will be improved and allow better compatibility along with the performance and power savings you want.

Intel Smart Response Technology
Intel Smart Response technology is another cool one as it gives you ssd-like performance from a hard drive equipped system by using a small SSD for caching purposes. Intel released a 20GB SSD made just for the caching purpose unfortunately at the time of writing I did not have one available. I substituted in my 120GB for the caching part of testing.
Here is some results we experienced pre and post implementation of the Smart Response acceleration.


As you can see by the provided graph the boot time is much faster, but also quite impressive is something the graphs cannot show. The system feels much faster, much more snappy overall. It feels very similar to the system when it was testing with an SSD alone, now actual throughput of large amounts of data when tested is not 100% on par with an ssd it is quite close. Overall if your not ready to jump into the ssd game yet for your main storage do yourself a favor, pick up a small SSD and a Z68 and enable the acceleration. You will not be disappointed.

Gigabyte touch BIOS
Gigabyte has taken note that not all users are enthusiasts and do not feel comfortable changing settings in the system BIOS. Therefore just to ensure everyone has access to the same adjustability/Tweaks/Settings that the enthusiasts regularly use they have created the Touch BIOS.
Touch BIOS is a windows based BIOS interface which is similar in feel to my Ipod touch or Android phone as the icons can be rearranged or removed from the menu completely if you do not feel the need to display them. Each Icon has descriptions below it and ever Icon once clicked takes you into a clickable menu where you can control bios options without entering the BIOS itself.

See the menu screens below for an example:

Here you see the main Touch BIOS screen. This is where everything starts. Each icon corresponds to an area that normally would be seen in the main bios. All icons can be removed or re arranged to however best suits your needs.


This is your main MIT overview page. This shows a small overview of most of the clocks at the present settings.


Here you see your voltage controls for the motherboard and all of these can be set the same as you would normally in the BIOS.


Here is a preview of all of your advanced frequency and CPU settings.




Here are all of your normal boot up options.


Here you see the PC status page which lists important voltages and temperatures.


Here you see what would normally be in the integrated peripherals menu. Here you can Enable/Disable many of the features and functions of the board.


And last but not least you have all of your power management/Power saving settings.

Installation

Installation was tested by trying to install the board while the case was standing upright. I figure if you can do this then your screw locations are not crowded and your layout allows plenty of room to work as it is very difficult to line up mounting holes with the board standing upright against the standoffs. This board installed into the Thermaltake Level 10 GT without a hitch. All screw holes are easily located and easily accessible no matter the enclosure you’re installing into.
Also component location definitely was not a second thought as every connection mostly is located at the board edge to help with cable routing and ensure easy connection even with cards installed. The Cable management holes on the Level 10 didn’t hurt either as they helped tuck the wires away behind the motherboard tray with little effort.



Bundled Accessories

with the board comes all of the accessories you would need to get it installed and running as you see here.
  • SLI connector (a single flexible 2 way sli bridge)
  • Sata cables (a total of 4 Black cables 2 with right angle plugs on one end)
  • Full Motherboard manual including motherboard driver/software cd
  • Multi language manual
  • IO shield

Bios Layout

The bios you will see is very similar to other gigabyte boards

It has a option for enabling the onboard Display options and USB/SATA options. Mostly everything that we love from gigabyte. A simple BIOS laid out in a way that most all of the options are easy enough to find and including a massive amount of overclocking and tuning options.

One important thing to note is while many have switched to a GUI Bios with clickable options. Gigabyte has chozen to stick with a traditional bios layout which I like due to the fact that I use my bios often and I know how it works it is easy to use and easy to adjust. Something about being required to click on everything and navigate a GUI screen just seems to be too troublesome when trying to tweak and overclock a system.

For those looking for a GUI BIOS you will see gigabyte is setup to serve both crowds as they also offer a GUI BIOS interface called “Touch BIOS” which you can access within the windows environment to allow the adjustability you want without affecting its Regular BIOS interface we have all used over the years.





Here is the main bios when you first enter MIT






Getting started overclocking

One thing that pretty much is common knowledge now is that BCLK overclocking is not like it used to be when it comes to the Sandy Bridge architecture. So if you want to overclock you’ve got a few speed bins (multiplier ratio) you can move up. Otherwise depending upon the board/CPU combo will determine how high you can go on BCLK. If you demand the absolute best performance then you can get a “K series” CPU which has an unlocked multiplier which allows much better adjustability and much higher overclocking.

For overclocking this time around I have both the I5 2400 and the I7 2600K. the I5 2400 has a locked multi and a Intel HD 2000 iGPU whereas the I7 2600K has a Unlocked multiplier and includes an Intel HD 3000 iGPU.


Benchmark testing

These tests will show how the system handles the common benchmarks setup to show how the system performance and efficiency is at stock settings.


Wprime is a Multi threaded test I run which uses all cores to crunch out numbers. The amount of time it takes is your score. The faster you can do it the faster your system is.

Stock:





and here is the overclocked run of the exact same test




As you can see the performance improvement was amazing not only for the unlocked chip but on the 2400 as well. These chips hold some serious power.

Now for 3dmark vantage, This will tell us how efficient the system is and if CPU scaling will allow for more performance from the card.

Here is a stock Discrete GPU run


And here is the overclocked run with the 560



Just for fun I went ahead and tested the iGPU to see how it performed and when overclocked as well.



Gaming overclock testing


The games used are Crysis and Metro 2033. I used these games on Previous reviews and tend to stress the system and graphics bus pretty well. Metro 2033 is a very heavy load for the GPU and PCI-E Bus as set on max settings renders the game with much lower frame rates so if it is a CPU bottleneck we will see it.

First up is Crysis:




Next test is Metro 2033, like stated this will show any scaling issues caused by a CPU bottleneck

Here is the difference between overclocked and Stock CPU speed runs:




As you see this architecture is very efficient and even at stock there really is no bottleneck for the card.

Just like before I am also testing the iGPU just to show how performance can be improved with just a little tweaking.


Pushing the limit
So far this board for being a mainstream value I must say I am rather surprised as to how far I have gotten it. I wanted to see how far I could go and to my surprise I actually was able to push well north of 4.8GHZ completely stable and as long as you have proper cooling it will run just fine for you.

At 4.8GHZ the Thermaltake Frio OCK cooler did not eclipse 66C on the hottest core and that’s really not bad for an air cooler being 24/7 stable.

BUNDLED SOFTWARE

These were somewhat covered under the features due to the feature the software supports.

First up is the Touch BIOS: This is a windowed Graphic BIOS interface which is clickable and controllable all within the windows environment so that anyone who is not comfortable with the standard BIOS layout now has a much easier way to interact with the BIOS
Next up is the Smart 6 components which have been common on gigabyte boards for awhile now.
  • Smart Quickboot: An advanced sleep method that allows almost instantaneous boot
  • Smart Quick boost: simple one click overclocking
  • Smart recovery: Allows you to easily roll back settings to a previous time so you can quickly recover from a system issue
  • Smart Dual bios: A backup so no matter how bad the bios can be damaged the backup will reflash and recover for you.
  • Smart Recorder: Advanced and easy Pc monitoring
  • Smart Timelock: Time Controller for PC
The board also includes the Lucid Virtu Software which supports the GPU switching technology, then you have the Intel Rapid Storage Technology which is where you can setup the Intel Smart response technology or control the raid function.


Conclusion and final thoughts
This board has excellent connector placement. Supports the newest Intel Processors and allows a huge amount of adjustability. Paired with Lucid Virtu and Intel Smart Response Technology means you can have a super fast system and save power when you’re not going all out on your favorite game.

Also with the inclusion of the new Touch Bios you have an easy interface so even if you’ve never used the bios before Gigabyte does everything possible to make it a pleasurable and most of all a easy to use experience not just for the enthusiast but for the first timer.

If you’re looking for something to break world records this is not your board. This board is made for the mainstream user or enthusiast who wants to build an powerful everyday computer that won’t break your bank while giving you the options and adjustability to do everything you want including pushing the CPU over 1.5GHz over its stock speed.


Pros:
  • Native SATA III/6G ports (2 via Z68 chipset, 2 via Marvell chipset)
  • Excellent bios, very familiar and easy to work with
  • Large chipset heatsink to help everything stay cool even with cards installed above it
  • Plenty of display options directly from the board
  • Virtu technology means you can get full discreet GPU performance from the onboard port when needed, and power savings/Transcoding ability of the internal GPU without any interaction form the user.

Cons:
  • No onboard Post speaker or LED display
  • No onboard Power/reset/Clear CMOS controls
  • Virtu software needs some work to get it perfect. (Occasional crashes)
  • Display control (Nvidia control panel) cannot be accessed when using the iGPU with Virtu technology to save power
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Old 05-26-2011
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Very nice review, I feel sad at not having picked up a Z68 just a few days ago and bought another P67-UD7.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thebanik View Post
Very nice review, I feel sad at not having picked up a Z68 just a few days ago and bought another P67-UD7.
Its a good board but for what we do its not a benching board....

this thing is pretty awesome for a gamer though and the 3 slot spacing between slots means cards will run cooler
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Quote:
Originally Posted by punx223 View Post
Its a good board but for what we do its not a benching board....

this thing is pretty awesome for a gamer though and the 3 slot spacing between slots means cards will run cooler
Would have bought a Z68- UD7 only, but then wud had to wait for a day and was around 30$ costly, so decided these features are just gimmick and went ahead with the P67 since already knew thats an awesome board.
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Old 05-27-2011
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Nice write up Shannon

What software did you use to test out the encoding?

Last time I tried GPU encoding it was not much faster and much lower quality than Handbrake.
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Nice job ....

looks like a nice setup for a 24/7 grinder
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any limiting of the CPU overclocking with the iGPU running or excess heat?
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Oh... another question. Any IGP overclock testing? (Supposedly iGP has turbo feature if CPU is not overclocked).
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Even when overclocked you can overclok the IGPU independently.

it nets you some decent gains but being that most people who use this board likely willl not go that far I didnt go into taht detail.

Igpu enabled or disabled made no difference for cpu overclock.
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Awesome to hear, what software did you use for encodes?
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