Intel Z68 Chipset
In the middle of May Intel launched its new "mainstream-enthusiast" product line, based on the Z68 Express chipset. With the P67 and H67 chipsets launched just a few months before, the Z68 takes the best features of both, and combines them together to offer extreme flexibility and several key features. The first, and most obvious of these features is the ability to use not only discrete graphics cards, but also allows use of the SandyBridge integrated GPU, while overclocking the CPU at the same time. The H67 chipset, that offered use of the integrated SandyBridge graphics, only allowed use of limited CPU multipliers for overclocking, while the P67 chipset did not allow use of the integrated GPU at all. However, the Z68 chipset has none of these limitations. In fact, through the use of third-party software, you can even use just one monitor, and both the Intel HD2000 integrated GPU and a discrete graphics card can work together, combining the features of both solutions into one big all-in-one solution with optimized power management.
The second feature not seen in P67 or H67 is Intel's "Smart Response Technology", which allows the combination of both a mechanical disk drive and an ultra-fast SSD into one, offering the superfast speed of the SSD, and the larger storage space of a mechanical drive, as a single storage solution. Combining technologies seems what Z68 is all about, and "Smart Response Technlogy" is no different. Once set up, it requires no user intervention, and will automatically keep commonly used files on the SSD, for quick and easy access, and faster load times than if using a mechanical drive on its own.
Intel has offered alot with the Z68 package, such that it's questionable why the P67 and H67 chipsets are even around still, and some OEMs agree; such as Gigabyte, who has dropped all P67-based products in favor of Z68 chipsets. And with that in mind, it's also important to mention that OEMs are not required to enable all features available on the Z68 platform, and certain things, like PCIe lane configuration, and if the display outputs can be changed, all up to the OEM to implement.
Of course, that leads to today's product, the Biostar TZ68A+. Priced at just over $100, this entry-level product offers all the features of the Z68 chipset, but at a level of affordability that ensures the technology is available to the masses. We take a look at the TZ68A+, and see what the Biostar motherboard offers.