The middle of the pack -- but that doesn't mean you shouldn't pay attention to this bang-for-buck mobo.
It’s hard to believe that GIGABYTE doesn’t have just one Z68 offering... it has 16 motherboards based on Intel’s latest chipset. We’re not quite sure why it’s so enthusiastic about this chipset, but at least we’ve got plenty to choose from. Today is the Z68X-UD3H-B3, which sits squarely in the middle of GIGABYTE’s comprehensive offering.
GIGABYTE has forsaken the over the top cooling found on the high-end boards, making do with a simple flat slab over the Z68 PCH and a smaller set of fins over the CPU’s power capacitors. This leaves plenty of room for heatsinks. Despite the low price, dual full-length PCI-E lanes are included, enabling SLI or CrossFire support.
An additional Marvell SATA controller has been added, offering another two SATA 6Gb/s ports on top of the Z68’s usual four SATA 3Gb/s and dual SATA 6Gb/s ports. The four USB 2.0 ports and two USB 3.0 ports on the I/O panel will probably be plenty for most users, but GIGABYTE has really gone to town with an additional four USB headers on the motherboard, ready for external USB panels. There’s also an eSATA header, along with the eSATA port on the I/O panel. A fantastic touch is the inclusion of On/Off Charge Technology, another way of saying these USB ports deliver additional voltage. This allows charging of iPads and other demanding USB devices direct from the motherboard. The Realtek ALC889 chipset delivers HD audio courtesy of optical out and six 3.5mm mini-jacks.
Compared to the 12-phase power that is commonplace on other Z68 boards, the 7-phase system on this board will be of concern to overclockers. We didn’t get a chance to test the overclocking on this board, but are happy to report that it ran our i7 CPU at default speeds without any problems. Offsetting the lower power is the inclusion of Ultra Durable 3, a term used to describe the use of twice the normal amount of copper in the power and ground layers of the PCB. This should reduce electrical resistance, which in turn leads to lower operating temperatures. Having said that, considering GPUs are now running in the region of 100°C, it’s unlikely that the motherboard temperature will be of much concern to most PC builders.
We can’t report on what GIGABYTE includes with the motherboard, as our review sample arrived in an empty box, but it’s doubtful there’d be much more than a couple of cables due to the cheaper price tag.
Heading into the BIOS turned out to be a nasty surprise. Rather than the glorious GUI offered by the UEFI software, GIGABYTE has relied upon Ye Olde AWARD BIOS. This text-heavy interface must be navigated by the keyboard, and is downright clunky compared to UEFI.
Thankfully all of the usual overclocking options are present and accounted for, including voltage tweaking for the CPU’s GPU, but it’s a real disappointment to see such an outdated mode of controlling the board’s features. Tweakers will also miss onboard power controls or BIOS readouts, while CMOS clearing requires the use of a jumper. How quaint.
Most of the overclocking options can be accessed within Windows thanks to the EasyTune6 software. The ability to change the CPU’s multiplier without rebooting is a nice touch, and it also takes care of video card overclocking, regardless of brand. The interface is rather rudimentary though, and doesn’t show temperatures from the main overclocking page.
GIGABYTE really needs to ditch the AWARD BIOS for something easier to use, but the additional USB slots and SATA 6Gb/s ports make this a better board for your buck than the ASRock Z68 Pro3.Available from GIGABYTE, retailing for $190
.APC rating: 8/10 (Highly Recommended)