We are going to take a look at the highest-end socket LGA1155 motherboard from ASUS, the Maximus IV Extreme-Z, which offers four PCI Express x16 slots supporting high speeds and a myriad of advanced options for the extreme enthusiast. We already wrote about its predecessor Maximus IV Extreme, which has pretty much the same features, but uses the Intel P67 chipset. The Maximus IV Extreme has a simpler voltage regulator circuit, also.

The Intel Z68 chipset is basically a P67 chipset with two new features added. First, the Intel Smart Response Technology (SRT), 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. Click here to learn more about this technology.

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 at consumers who will have 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 instead of using your add-on video card. This allows you to save energy, since the CPU integrated video consumes less power than add-on video cards. For this feature to be available on a given Z68 motherboard, the motherboard manufacturer must have licensed the Virtu software, and the motherboard must have video connectors soldered directly on the board. All motherboards in the current line-up from ASRock support this technology.

In Figure 1, you can see the ASUS Maximus IV Extreme-Z motherboard.

ASUS Maximus IV Extreme-ZFigure 1: ASUS Maximus IV Extreme-Z motherboard