Since the launch of the P67 platform and the K series CPUs from Intel, we've seen the "x16 / x16 @ 4ish GHz vs x8 / x8 @ 5ish GHz" argument come up over and over again. I've personally always been on the side of the higher CPU speed with the x8 / x8 setup. It was more an educated guess on my experience with testing x8 vs x16 in the past, but for the most part, there was very little evidence of what the better setup is.
Today, though, you can see even with the extra strong performing setup that is the GTX 580 in SLI, the Z68 platform is ultimately the faster option with it coming ahead of the X58 more often than it comes in behind it. A lot of this is due to the fact that we're able to overclock the 2600k so much higher than our 980X.
Going back to something that was stated in the introduction, though, the price of the systems is so important as well and the 2600k / Z68 setup is just a more realistic platform for so many people. The 2600k comes in at $314.99 US, while the 990X, the replacement to the 980X, comes in at $999.99 US. That's more than 3x the cost of our 2600k, which really is a huge price difference.
On the motherboard front, the Maximus IV Extreme-Z from ASUS comes in at $359.99 US. Our ASRock board comes in at only $215.99 US. If you want to compare the X58 platform with an equivalent ASUS offering, the Rampage III Extreme comes in at $379.99 US, and what you ultimately find is that with just those two items, the Z68 machine is again so much cheaper.
We could move to the argument that when we do three card testing, the X58 platform would be better, but that moves to a x16 / x8 / x8 setup. The Maximus IV Extreme-Z on the other hand moves to x8 / x16 / x16, and while it's via the NF200 chip, the massive MHz on offer again from our 2600k is just going to help out so much more in such an intensive setup.
When we combine the information we've gathered today with the fact that the majority of our video card reviews are single card anyway, we'll be moving our VGA testbed over to the Maximus IV Extreme-Z. I think it was important today, though, to really sit down and look at the performance of our two testbeds. Instead of saying, "we're using the Z68 platform now because we think it's the better one", we can say we're using it because it's the better one and [here's a link] to proof.
Again, I think the biggest pro to the setup, though, outside the fact that it's just faster thanks to the extra MHz on offer, is the simple fact that it's just so much more affordable. Over the coming months we'll continue to look at more and more Z68 boards as well which makes it easier to know how that platform will perform with certain video card setups as you will be able to look at our VGA reviews.