GIGABYTE GA-Z68X-UD7 Performance Review -Steven B. Here is a link to the video review for those of you who want a quick review. It was shot in my testing lab. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUtflL2ScJc After a long vacation I am back today to bring you guys the second part of my Z68X-UD7 review. In this review I will go over the Z68X-UD7’s performance vs my P67A-UD7-B3’s. What is certain is that both boards are like identical twins, with one going to Harvard and the other to M.I.T., one is the more refined IV league grad while the other is still in the top 10 list. They are physically the same board, with the exception of the chipset, and virtually they are more different with the Z68X variant having GIGABYTE’s new Touch BIOS, SSD Caching (Intel SRT), and some adjusted BIOS features. In the end I believe that GIGABYTE wants the Z68X-UD7 to replace the P67A-UD7, the problem is that Intel should have released the Z68 chipset and not have released P67. Never the less with the P67A-UD7 we saw one heck of a solid built board, just swamped in high-end features, and great overclocking capabilities. The Z68X-UD7 is all in the same in respect to each of those highlights. While it took some time for the BIOSes to mature for the Sandy Bridge platform, Intel and its partners still have a ways to go ironing out the minor problems that persist and new ones introduced by new technology. An example is that with this board I had to update my BIOS to be able to get SSD Caching to work properly, a step that was taken right before release, but the end consumer will not have to worry about this. While the Sandy Bridge platform has been released for half a year, these early developed boards are still rocking at overclocking, and are limited by only the CPU in the socket and the overclockers behind the keyboard. If you want an in depth look at the board, its features, and an analysis, please read the first part of the review here: Z68X-UD7 Physical Review Table of Contents: Pics of board's setup and Clearance Benchmarks Voltage Read Points LLC and Power consumption, measured at the wall and at the 8-pin. Max Overclock + Guide SSD Caching Conclusion So without delay let’s begin with some shots of my setup: Large DIMM Heatsinks Here is the slot spacing. Heatsink clearance. SATA Cable Clearance GPU/Heatsink Clearance And then the final setup: Now let’s being with Benchmarks, is Z68 faster than P67? Or the other way around? For all Benchmarks, the SAME GPU/RAM/SSD were used. An un-tweaked version of windows 7 is installed, updated, and all drivers are installed. CPU (2600K) is at 4.5ghz on both the Z68X-UD7 and P67A-UD7, and when it says Z68X-OC the Z68 board is at 5ghz. RAM (Kingston HyperX) is at 1600mhz 9,9,9,24 in all tests. GPU is a 570 @ stock. I think we can agree they are even for 3DMark 11, please omit to the score for teh Z68 OC, its incorrect, soothing went wrong in the testing. Vantage is oddly different… Maybe a more tweaked BIOS on Z68. Dead even. I’d say even again. Pretty even once again. Almost the same again. Another large difference, most likely more tuned BIOS as in Vantage. In conclusion, is P67 slower than Z68, no! BUT, the Z68 board’s BIOS seems to be more tweaked. I hadn’t updated my P67A-UD7 since BIOS F3H, and the Z68’s BIOS is more recent. I would say the board are interchangeable really, of course for some extra features that we will look at now. Voltage Read Points for the Z68X-UD7 Here are the voltage read points I found on the topside of the board. For the most accurate Vcore you can solder wires to the MLCC cap under the socket. But I provided two more read points you can hit with your probe on the top of the board. Be very VERy VERY careful with the first one, as shaky hands= dead board. MAKE SURE TO GROUND AT THE RIGHT GROUND POINT. For instance if you are going to measure at a capacitor's leg you should find a ground right there. If you are going to measure at the choke for the CPU vcore make sure to use the 8-pin connector at least. Do not use any old molex connector. If you don't believe me use a molex with the choke, and then switch and use one of the ground wires for the 8 pin connector. LLC and Power consumption, measured at the wall and at the 8-pin. Last time I showed you guys some of the cool points of the TouchBIOS, so I won’t double post and show them again, but I will pick on one feature that stands out, and that is Multi-level LLC. Multi-Level LLC is GIGABYTE’s extended version of their normal 3 levels of LLC with a whopping 10 levels. I have measured with my trusty DMM each level at idle and load with 1.55v set at 5ghz, I also measured with software (EasyTune6), and then I used my Wattage meter that measured 12v wattage at the 8 pin CPU power connector. Below are the results: It seems that Level 7 is the best. All I can say is that in the past even with P67 we saw a lot of change in LLC. I have seen a beta unreleased BIOS that can do 33 combined levels, so I did ask for improved LLC for this board, so don’t worry. With level 7 you will get what you set under load, but idle will be a bit higher. Here is physical measurement of all the other voltages you might want to change. Here is the wattage pull from the wall. Max Overclock+ Guide If you want a great SandyBridge OC guide for the Z68X-UD7 here you go. Overclocking was very straight forward. I was able to reach my max OC of 5.2ghz, the same exact OC as on my P67A-UD7. SSD Caching I would like to cover one more thing before I end this performance review. What would a Z68 review be without exploration of SSD Caching (Intel SRT)? Here is what my take on it is and became. #1 instead of a 16mb or 32mb cache on a hard drive we will get a 16gb-64gb cache, so that all programs/apps used will be stored in the SSD for quick access and execution. #2 Using an SSD alone gives you better speeds, but less space, which is the problem. #3 Once cache is filled speeds will slow, and it takes a while to fill the cache so no worries. #4 GIGABYTE provides Easy Smart Response Technology, a one click setup method, I preferred doing it manually. #5 You need to use the most up to date BIOS, as the Intel RAID ROM needs to be updated. You can destroy the SSD Cache from the RAID BIOS, but you cannot set it up. #6 there are two modes of operation, enhanced mode where data is written on both HDD and SSD(like RAID 1 of the cached data), or maximized performance mode where DATA is stripped like in RAID 0. I compare Maximized, Enhanced, and then no Caching below through AS-SSD Tests. I used a 250GB WD OEM HDD, and a 64GB Microcenter 50K IOPS Sand Force Drive. As you can see the speeds cached in this benchmark are outstanding, even though this benchmark uses uncompressible data which Sandforce controllers hate. Notice that is most cases with SSD Caching we just get numbers that our SSD would give us alone, and this is great, until you fill the cache. The bottom line is that it’s a good technology, that will heavily benefit those who are budget-wise, but those who want all out the best should get a very large SSD. Oh and if you like to show off benchmarks, it will seem like you have a 250GB/500GB/1000GB SSD, hah its ok to laugh. Conclusion: I hope you guys enjoyed this performance review. I am looking to be more objectibve, as some have complained that I put too much of my own opinion in my reviews. I understand that no motherboard is perfect, so below I will put down pros and cons, just realize most of the cons are BIOS related, and fixed up in the past on the P67 varient of the board. I think this board is a great board, while it might be even better with QuickSync technology, I am thinking GIGABYTE thought that for the Z68X-UD7 there was no need becuase of the NF200 chipset and the fact that if you are getting this board you are going to use SLI tech. GIGABYTE did release Z68XP versions of the UD4 and the UD5 and they had QuickSync, but oddly I haven't seen the Z68XP, and I don't know if we will. The BIOS issue of the random boot loop is very odd indeed, but it was fixed by a BIOS update for this board for me. LLC could be tighter, but it doesn't impact the OC, if you set level 7 under load your voltage is what you had set. If you look at the LLC comparison table i put the wattage numbers there, so you can see that at idle there is much less increase in watts when voltage is raised compared to load situations. Think about it for a second. Anyways this board works very well just like the first two UD7s, it has everything and anything anyone could want in a strong top-end mainstream platform product. While it does come at a hefty price, compared to its competition it will well priced. I really did like the SSD Caching feature, I think its pretty cool. in terms of performance in benchmarks compared to the P67 variant, there is very little difference and that is a very good thing. Think about the fact that the BIOS I used for the testing is like the 2nd BIOS released publicly for this board and the one on the P67 board is like a 20th release BIOS. Tweaking occurs all the time, and as the board's mature so do the BIOSes. This is a solid board, and if you liked the first UD7, this one won't let you down. Pros: Great overclocking Easy to setup and use (Touch BIOS) SSD Caching works well Backup BIOS not used as on P67, No more BIOS corruption USB 3.0 Bracket NF200 for 2way/3way SLI USB 3.0 ports galore + USB 3.0 Turbo Great Looking heatsinks and True Black PCB I like the old fashioned BIOS PCI Legacy Ports, Dual LAN 10 Levels of LLC Auto SSD Caching Software Cons: No QuickSync for faster video transcoding. Touch BIOS a bit buggy, BIOS loops with earlier BIOS (New BIOS has been released addressing Touch BIOS bugs) No dedicated voltage read points (I provided voltage read points above though) LLC is a bit loose for my taste; I actually preferred the older 3 levels. First PCI-E 1x slot is blocked by the NF200 heatsink, either use a small profile card or get a riser card. I would like to thank GIGABYTE for making this review possible!!