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Z68 vs. X58 - Which Is The Better Gaming Platform?

Two platforms enter, one platform leaves with the trophy. We throw two GTX 580s at our two setups here today and see which one is the better option.

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Fri, Aug 12 2011 2:03 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:01 PM CST

Introduction

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This is an article I've wanted to do for a while now and as this month started, I told myself it was time to get it done as my testbeds here are making some changes. I've been tossing up if I should make the move to Z68 for our VGA reviews, or stick with the tried and trusted X58 platform.

Most people will feel that it's a no brainer with the X58 being the better option due to the fact it natively supports x16 / x16 in dual card setups. For us, that's indeed the biggest draw for the platform; the Z68 one on the other hand has a lot of standout features that make it a better option as well.

The big thing is that the Z68 platform can just overclock so much better. Our X58 / 980X setup is good for 4.2GHz, while our Z68 / 2600k setup is good for 5.2GHz - 5.4GHz. With high end setups, it's so important that we're not CPU limited and even though the 2600k doesn't carry as many cores as the 980x, its +1GHz should yield us more headroom.

The other stand out for the Z68 platform, though, is price. A Z68 machine with a 2600k is just so much more reachable; verses an X58 and an expensive Extreme Edition processor. That means when it comes down to it all, the performance of our video cards on that platform mean more to you, our readers, verses the performance of them on a X58 / 980X setup.

In the end, it's all fairly simple. We're going to use a powerful dual card setup, in this case, GTX 580s in SLI. We're then going to benchmark both systems overclocked and see which one comes out ahead in our new benchmark line up.

Test System Setup

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASUS, MSI, Western Digital and Corsair.

One testbed you should well and truly be accustomed to these days. Our ASRock X58 / 980X testbed has served us extremely well since we started using it, but we feel that with a maximum overclock a whole GHz shy of what our Z68 platform can offer, it might be time for a change.

The other testbed consists of the ASUS Maximus IV Extreme-Z and i7 2600k. There are of course more components, but really, we don't need to get into all of that for the time being. You can also see a rundown of all the major components above in our Test System Setup image.

With our X58 / 980X setup clocked at 4.2GHz and our Z68 / 2600k setup clocked at 5.2GHz, it's time to see, with two GTX 580s in SLI, what is the better setup, and if we should be making the transition over to latest Intel chipset while we wait for the next generation LGA 2011 setup to hit our labs later this year or early next.

Along with throwing the two machines at each other, we'll be using our new benchmark line up today which includes some of the most intensive games on the market over the last year. New additions include the likes of Metro 2033 and Just Cause 2 to name a couple. Heaven has also made the jump to version 2.5 while a couple of other games have been removed, including the retirement of 3DMark Vantage finally.

Let's get started!

The FPS Numbers Explained

When we benchmark our video cards and look at the graphs, we aim to get to a certain level of FPS which we consider playable. While many may argue that the human eye can't see over 24 FPS or 30 FPS, any true gamer will tell you that as we climb higher in Frames Per Seconds (FPS), the overall gameplay feels smoother. There are three numbers we're looking out for when it comes to our benchmarks.

30 FPS - It's the minimum number we aim for when it comes to games. If you're not dropping below 30 FPS during games, you're going to have a nice and smooth gaming experience. The ideal situation is that even in a heavy fire fight, the minimum stays above 30 FPS making sure that you can continue to aim easily or turn the corner with no dramas.

60 FPS - It's the average we look for when we don't have a minimum coming at us. If we're getting an average of 60 FPS, we should have a minimum of 30 FPS or better and as mentioned above, it means we've got some smooth game play happening.

120 FPS - The new number that we've been hunting down over recent months. If you're the owner of a 120 Hz monitor, to get the most out of it you want to get around the 120 FPS mark. Moving from 60 FPS / 60 Hz to 120 FPS / 120 Hz brings with it a certain fluidity that can't really be explained, but instead has to be experienced. Of course, if you're buying a 120 Hz monitor to take advantage of 3D, an average of 120 FPS in our benchmark means that in 3D you will have an average of 60 FPS, which again means you should expect some smooth gameplay.

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/

Buy It Here

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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Starting off with 3DMark 11, we can see that our highly clocked Z68 platform manages to outperform the X58 rig that comes clocked in at a whole 1GHz less.

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.5

Developer Homepage: http://www.unigine.com

Product Homepage: http://unigine.com/press-releases/091022-heaven_benchmark//

New benchmark grants the power to unleash the DirectX 11 potential in the gift wrapping of impressively towering graphics capabilities. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is ensured within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.

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Under Heaven we can see performance between both is extremely close. The X58 setup manages to score an extra 30 odd points. When we're talking about a base score of 2000 to 3000 points, though, that extra 30 points equates to only a single percent.

Benchmarks - Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo

Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test

Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/UK/default.aspx

Product Homepage: http://www.hawxgame.com/

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 is an arcade-style flight action game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft. The game is the sequel to Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., released in 2009.

The game begins with Colonel David Crenshaw participating in a routine patrol mission in the Middle East. After halting an insurgent attack, a volley of missiles is fired at the Air Force base that Crenshaw was stationed at, with one of the missiles disabling Crenshaw's aircraft, resulting Crenshaw being in enemy captivity. A joint strike force composed of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and a Ghost Recon squad executes an operation to rescue Crenshaw. In Scotland, Royal Navy Pilot Colin Munro encounters an unidentified passenger aircraft that explodes from an on-board bomb when undergoing training exercise. In Russia, an air force squadron led by Colonel Denisov and Captain Dmitri Sokov engages separatist aircraft but is ordered to retreat from the region after numerous Russian military installations have been attacked.

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Firing up H.A.W.X. 2. we can see across the board our Z68 platform manages to perform stronger by a nice little margin. It's clear that the extra 1GHz on offer from our Z68 platform gives our VGA setup a bit more breathing room.

Benchmarks - Mafia II

Mafia II

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.2kczech.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.mafia2game.com/

Buy It Here

Mafia II is a third-person action-adventure video game, the sequel to Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven. It is developed by 2K Czech, previously known as Illusion Softworks, and is published by 2K Games. The game is set from 1943 to 1951 in Empire Bay (the name is a reference to New York's state nickname "The Empire State"), a fictional city based on San Francisco and New York City, with influences from Chicago and Detroit. The game features a completely open-ended game map of 10 square miles. No restrictions are included from the start of the game. There are around 50 vehicles in the game, as well as licensed music from the era.

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While at 2560 x 1600 we can see both platforms perform almost identical to each other, at 1920 x 1200 and 1680 x 1050 our Z68 platform performs a good chunk stronger thanks to that extra CPU speed on offer. Sure, the FPS are quite high and at a level they don't need to be, but the most important thing for our VGA testbed is that we're not limited by CPU speed.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2

Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark - Test A Scene 1

Developer Homepage: http://www.capcom.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.lostplanet2game.com/

Lost Planet 2 is a third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the sequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition which is also made by Capcom, taking place ten years after the events of the first game, on the same fictional planet. The story takes place back on E.D.N. III 10 years after the events of the first game. The snow has melted to reveal jungles and more tropical areas that have taken the place of more frozen regions. The plot begins with Mercenaries fighting against Jungle Pirates. After destroying a mine, the Mercenaries continue on to evacuate the area, in which a Category-G Akrid appears and attacks them. After being rescued, they find out their evacuation point (Where the Category-G appeared) was a set-up and no pick up team awaited them. The last words imply possible DLC additions to the game, "There's nothing to be gained by wiping out snow pirates... unless you had some kind of grudge."

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Across the board we can see under Lost Planet 2 that both systems perform similar to each other, but the Z68 platform is able to squeeze a couple of extra FPS out at every resolution.

Benchmarks - Aliens vs. Predator

Aliens vs. Predator

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.rebellion.co.uk/

Product Homepage: http://www.sega.com/games/aliens-vs-predator/

Aliens vs. Predator is a science fiction first-person shooter video game, developed by Rebellion Developments, the team behind the 1999 original PC game, and published by Sega for Microsoft Windows, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. The game is based on the Alien vs. Predator franchise, a combination of the characters and creatures of the Alien franchise and the Predator franchise. There are three campaigns in the game, one for each race/faction (the Predators, the Aliens and the Colonial Marines), that, while separate in terms of individual plot and gameplay, form one overarching storyline.

Following the storyline of the campaign modes comes the multiplayer aspect of the game. In this Multiplayer section of the game, players face off in various different gametypes in various different ways.

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Aliens vs. Predator also sees very close performance across the board, but at every resolution our Z68 platform is able to get an extra FPS. Really, it's nothing more than a bit of fluctuation, but the main thing is that we're not slower than the X58 one.

Benchmarks - Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.2

Timedemo or Level Used: Dark Tower

Developer Homepage: http://www.eidos.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.justcause.com/

Just Cause 2 employs the Avalanche Engine 2.0, an updated version of the engine used in Just Cause. The game is set on the other side of the world from the original Just Cause, on the fictional island of Panau in Southeast Asia. Panau has varied terrain, from desert to alpine to rainforest. Rico Rodriguez returns as the protagonist, aiming to overthrow the evil dictator Pandak "Baby" Panay and confront his former mentor, Tom Sheldon.

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Looking at one of our new additions, performance across the board is strong for the Z68 platform again. At the highest resolution we see that it's quite close, but at the lower ones the performance is clearly a good couple of FPS stronger.

Benchmarks - Metro 2033

Metro 2033

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.4a-games.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.thqnordic.com/

Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in Ukraine and released in March 2010 for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360.[3] In March 2006, 4A Games announced a partnership with Glukhovsky to collaborate on the game.[4] The game was announced at the 2009 Games Convention in Leipzig;[5] a first trailer came along with the announcement.[6] A sequel was announced, currently titled Metro: Last Light.

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While for the first time we see the X58 platform come out a little ahead at the lowest resolution, at 1920 x 1200 the Z68 platform manages to squeeze out a couple of extra FPS and 2560 x 1600 sees both systems perform identical.

Benchmarks - Dirt 3

Dirt 3

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.codemasters.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.dirt3game.com/

DiRT 3 boasts more cars, more locations, more routes and more events than any other game in the series, including over 50 rally cars representing the very best from five decades of the sport. With more than double the track content of 2009's hit, DiRT 3 will see players start at the top as a professional driver, with a top-flight career in competitive off-road racing complimented by the opportunity to express themselves in Gymkhana-style showpiece driving events.

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We again see both platforms perform very close to each other with scores identical at 2560 x 1600. At 1920 x 1200 and 1680 x 1050 we see the X58 setup comes out ahead, but at both resolutions it's by only 2 FPS.

Benchmarks - Total War: Shogun 2

Total War: Shogun 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.creative-assembly.co.uk

Product Homepage: http://www.totalwar.com/shogun2

Shogun 2 is set in 16th-century feudal Japan, in the aftermath of the Onin War. The country is fractured into rival clans led by local warlords, each fighting for control. The player takes on the role of one of these warlords, with the goal of dominating other factions and claiming his rule over Japan. The standard edition of the game will feature a total of eight factions (plus a ninth faction for the tutorial), each with a unique starting position and different political and military strengths.

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Checking out Shogun 2, we can see that performance continues to be extremely close across the board. We can see that the X58 setup is slightly ahead at the higher resolutions, though it's only by a single FPS and at the lowest the Z68 setup manages to squeeze out a couple of extra FPS.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01

Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long

Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com/

Buy It Here

The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.

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At 1920 x 1200 and 1680 x 1050 we can see that the Z68 platform is a good chunk faster than our X58 one. At the higher resolution we see that the systems perform a lot closer with the X58 one able to squeeze out an extra 11 FPS in the average. In the minimum, though, we see it's only got a single FPS on the Z68 platform.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF

Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.

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Cranking up the detail, we can see under Mafia II and Aliens vs. Predator performs almost identical to each other. Under Far Cry 2, though, we continue to see the Z68 platform come out ahead; no doubt due to the extra MHz on offer.

Final Thoughts

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.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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