ASUS P8Z68-V PRO Motherboard
By Gabriel Torres on June 24, 2011
So far, ASUS has released five motherboard models based on the Intel Z68 chipset. With prices ranging from USD 180 to USD 360, there is a model for any kind of user. Today we are taking a look at one of the mid-range models, the P8Z68-V PRO.
The ASUS motherboards based on the Z68 chipset are available within two series, the high-end Maximus IV and the mid-range P8Z68. The P8Z68 series is currently comprised of three models, P8Z68-V, P8Z68-V PRO, and P8Z68 DELUXE. These three motherboards are very similar, with three PCI Express x16 slots, Bluetooth receiver, four USB 3.0 ports, and support for the Virtu technology. The PRO model comes with two FireWire (IEEE1394) ports and two additional SATA-600 ports, features not available on the plain P8Z68 model. The DELUXE model, on the other hand, comes with all features of the PRO version plus two additional Gigabit Ethernet ports (other models have only one), a better audio codec (Realtek ALC889), a power eSATA port, and an adapter with two USB 3.0 ports for you to install on the front panel of your case.
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 to consumers that 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.
The ASUS P8Z68-V PRO comes with three PCI Express x16 slots, two PCI Express x1 slots, and two standard PCI slots.
The first two PCI Express x16 slots are connected directly to the CPU integrated PCI Express controller. When only one video card is installed, the first slot works at x16 speed, but when you install two video cards, each slot works at x8 speed. These slots support both SLI and CrossFireX technologies. The third PCI Express x16 slot may work at x4 or x1 speed. In order for it to work with x4 speed, you need to disable the two x1 PCI Express slots, the two USB 3.0 ports labeled as USB3_34 (which are the ones available as a motherboard header), and the eSATA-300 port in the motherboard setup. Otherwise, this slot will work at x1 speed.
If you install a dual-slot video card in the first PCI Express x16 slot, you will “kill” one of the PCI Express x1 slots. If you install a dual-slot video card in the second PCI Express x16 slot, you will “kill” one of the standard PCI slots; and to install a dual-slot video card in the third PCI Express x16 slot, you will need a case with at least eight expansion slots (cases usually have seven expansion slots), and you may block the buttons and headers located at the motherboard edge.
It is important to understand that Intel chipsets no longer support standard PCI slots, and the PCI slots are provided by an ASMedia ASM1083 bridge chip.
Intel socket LGA1155 CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor, not the chipset, that defines what memory technologies and the maximum amount of memory you can have. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.
The integrated memory controller from socket LGA1155 processors supports only DDR3 memories up to 1,333 MHz under dual-channel architecture, but ASUS says the P8Z68-V PRO supports memory up to 2,200 MHz through overclocking.
The ASUS P8Z68-V PRO has four memory sockets, and since DDR3 memory modules can now be found in capacities up to 8 GB, you can have up to 32 GB with this motherboard if you use four 8 GB modules.
The first and third sockets are blue, while the second and fourth are black. In order to achieve the maximum performance, you should install two or four memory modules in order to enable dual-channel architecture. When only two modules are used, install them in the blue sockets. Otherwise, your computer won’t turn on.
As it occurs with other motherboards from ASUS, the P8Z68-V PRO comes with the “MemOK!” button, which allows you to test the compatibility of the memory modules that are installed.
The Intel Z68 chipset is a single-chip solution and is also known as PCH (Platform Controller Hub). This chip supports two SATA-600 ports and four SATA-300 ports, supporting RAID (0, 1, 5 and 10). The manufacturer added two additional SATA-600 ports, controlled by a Marvell 88SE9172 chip, supporting RAID 0 and 1. The SATA ports are located on the motherboard edge rotated 90°, so video cards won’t block them.
Additionally, there is an eSATA-300 port on the motherboard rear panel, controlled by a JMicron JMB362 chip. There is no support for a floppy disk drive controller or an ATA-133 port.
This motherboard has 12 USB 2.0 ports, six soldered on the rear panel and six available through three headers located on the motherboard. It also has four USB 3.0 ports, two available on the motherboard rear panel and two available through a front panel connector, controlled by two ASMedia ASM1042 chips. The motherboard comes with an I/O bracket for you to install these two ports on an available expansion slot from your case.
This motherboard has two FireWire ports, available through two headers on the motherboard. So, if you plan to use them, you will need to either buy an adapter or a case with two FireWire ports. These ports are controlled by a VIA VT6308P chip.
This motherboard supports 7.1+2 audio format, i.e., eight channels plus two independent channels for audio streaming. On this motherboard, the audio is generated by the chipset using a Realtek ALC892 codec. Finally, Realtek is disclosing the specifications of this chip, which include 97 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog outputs, 90 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog inputs, and up to 192 kHz sampling rate for both inputs and outputs. These specs are good for the mainstream user, but if you are looking into working professionally with audio editing, you should look for a motherboard that provides an SNR of at least 97 dB for the analog input.
The portrayed motherboard comes with independent analog audio outputs, meaning that you won’t need to use the line in or mic in jacks when connecting an eight-channel analog speaker set, and an optical SPDIF output. You also can add a coaxial SPDIF output or route digital audio to your video card to have digital audio in its HDMI connector using the available “SPDIF_OUT” header.
This motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by the chipset, using an Intel WG82579V chip to make the interface with the physical layer.
In Figure 5, you can see the motherboard rear panel, with six USB 2.0 ports, Bluetooth receiver, eSATA-300 port, optical SPDIF output, HDMI connector, VGA connector, DVI-D connector, one Gigabit Ethernet port, two USB 3.0 ports, and independent analog 7.1 audio outputs.
As you can see, there is no mouse or keyboard PS/2 connector, so you must use USB or Bluetooth devices with this motherboard.
The motherboard has on-board power and reset buttons, and two switches, labeled TPU and EPU, which were already shown in Figure 4. The EPU switch enables or disables the power-savings features available, while the TPU switch enables or disables automatic overclocking.
If your computer doesn’t turn on, the product has four LEDs that tell you which device (CPU, memory, first video card or boot device) failed to initialize. Unfortunately, these LEDs are spread on the motherboard, instead of being placed together at the same location.
In Figure 7, you can see all the accessories that come with this motherboard.
The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the ASUS P8Z68-V PRO has 12 phases for the CPU main voltage (Vcc a.k.a. Vcore), two for the CPU VTT voltage (integrated memory controller and L3 memory cache), and four for the CPU VAXG voltage (integrated video controller). Therefore, it uses a “12+2+4” configuration.
This motherboard uses solid ferrite-core coils, which present less energy loss than iron-core coils (i.e., they improve efficiency), solid capacitors, and low RDS(on) transistors (i.e., higher efficiency).If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.
The ASUS P8Z68-V PRO offers some overclocking options, listed below (10.5.0.1026 BIOS):
For a better understanding of what these options do, please read our Understanding All Voltage Configurations from the Motherboard tutorial.
The main specifications for the ASUS P8Z68-V PRO motherboard include:
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this First Look article.
The ASUS P8Z68-V PRO is an interesting mid-range motherboard based on the new Intel Z68 chipset for your socket LGA1155 processor. The highlights of this product include the presence of three PCI Express x16 slots, four USB 3.0 ports, four SATA-600 ports, a Bluetooth receiver, two FireWire ports, and support for Lucidlogix Virtu technology. It is clearly targeted to the average user who wants “something extra” from a mid-range product.
Compared to the Gigabyte Z68X-UD5-B3, the ASUS P8Z68-V PRO is better priced and supports Virtu, but this model from Gigabyte uses a better audio codec. The MSI Z68A-GD80 (B3) is also a little bit more expensive than the portrayed motherboard, and both come with similar features. The Gigabyte Z68X-UD3H-B3, on the other hand, is cheaper and has a better audio codec, but comes with only two PCI Express x16 slots.
The main drawbacks of this motherboard are the fact that you will need to buy an adapter or a case with FireWire ports in order to be able to use the on-board FireWire ports, and that you need to disable two of the USB 3.0 ports, the two PCI Express x1 slots, and the eSATA-300 port in order to make the third PCI Express x16 slot work at x4 speed; otherwise it will work at x1 speed. The number of overclocking options is certainly limited when compared to high-end products, but they will satisfy the average user.