So far, ASRock has released three motherboards based on the new Intel Z68 chipset, two for the mainstream market (Z68 Pro3 and Z68 Pro3-M, which is a microATX version of the Z68 Pro3), and one for the high-end market (Z68 Extreme4). While the Z68 Extreme4 offers three PCI Express x16 slots, the Z68 Pro3 has only one. Let’s take a look at this model from ASRock.
The Intel Z68 chipset is basically a P67 chipset with two new features added. First is the Intel Smart Response Technology (SRT), which allows you to speed up disk performance by using an SSD unit as a cache unit for your conventional (i.e., mechanical) hard disk drive. This technology works by storing in the SSD the programs and data you access the most.
The second technology that was added is a video connection between the CPU and the chipset, called FDI (Flexible Display Interface). This connection was previously available on the H67 and similar chipsets but not on the P67 chipset. Socket LGA1155 processors have an integrated video processor, but the P67 chipset won’t allow you to use it since it is targeted to users who will use a physical video card. With the Z68, the use of an integrated video processor is possible if the motherboard manufacturer added video connectors on the motherboard. This way, Intel won’t be releasing an “H68” chipset.
The big reason for this change was that Intel licensed a software from Lucidlogix called Virtu, which allows the computer to dynamically switch video cards depending on what you are doing with your computer. In a typical scenario, this software will make the system use the CPU’s integrated video engine when you are not playing games, turning your add-on video card completely off, and then turning on your add-on video card and turning off the CPU integrated video when you run games. By keeping your video card completely turned off when you are not playing games, you can save a lot of energy. For this feature to be available on a given Z68 motherboard, the motherboard manufacturer must have licensed the Virtu software.
All three models currently offered by ASRock support Virtu, which is great.
The ASRock Z68 Pro3 is a full-ATX model, and ASRock offers a microATX version of this product, called Z68 Pro3-M.