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GIGABYTE Z68XP-UD3-iSSD (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review

GIGABYTE brings us a board that makes use of Intel's Smart Response Technology with an SSD onboard. Let's check it out.

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Fri, Sep 16 2011 11:26 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:01 PM CST
Rating: 93%Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Introduction and Package

Introduction

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A few months ago we saw Intel release the Z68 chipsets; it didn't bring too much extra to the table over its predecessor which got a bit of bad publicity when an issue was discovered that could potentially disrupt hard drive data over a period of time.

The new Z68 chipset meant that was no longer going to be an issue; one of the main features it did bring to us alongside Lucid Virtu technology was Intel Smart Response Technology. The idea behind it was that people could begin to enjoy the benefits of SSDs without the cost associated with them.

The idea was that you could use a smaller SSD drive, say 20GB, and combine that with a larger traditional mechanical drive and the SSD drive would be used as cache which would in turn be faster than just having everything run off the mechanical drive. Overall, it was never going to be as fast as a true SSD-only drive for everything, but it's never going to be as expensive.

Recently Chris took the time using the board we have here today, the Z68XP-UD3-iSSD to see just how Intel Smart Response Technology goes. Today we'll be taking a look at the rest of the board and summing everything up.

What makes this board stand out so much over the normal way you'd go down the ISRT route is that it offers an onboard 20GB SLC SSD drive via mSATA. We'll get into all that in just a moment. The first thing we need to do is see what's going on with the package of the board here.

The Package

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The overall box design isn't anything out of the ordinary and we can of course see a large highlight on the front of the box is the fact that we have a 20GB SLC SSD drive via mSATA included in the package. The back of the box gives us a run down on some of the other major features that are on offer.

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Inside the package we've got the normal array of paperwork along with a driver CD, I/O back plate, SLI cable and four SATA II cables. Nothing too out of the ordinary as we do have to remember the board is still only a part of the "UD3" range which isn't as high end as the UD5 and UD7 we've seen.

The Motherboard

Moving onto the board, we can see being part of the UD3 lines means we don't get the same sexiness that's present in the US5 and UD7 line. We do get a good overall glimpse of what's going on, though.

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Getting into the expansion slot side of things, you can see exactly what we've got going on. We've got a total of two Legacy PCI slots, three PCIe x1 slots and two PCIe x16 slots that run at x16 / x8 or x8 / x8 if both are in use.

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Running across the bottom of the board, we can see we've got a front panel audio header, 1394 Firewire, COM, three USB 2.0 headers, USB 3.0 header, TPM and Front panel connector. Lacking on the board are the power / reset buttons that we usually see, but again being based on the UD3 model, it's no surprise it's not present.

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Turning the corner, we can see we've got a total of eight SATA ports. Starting from the left, we've got four blue runs which are all SATA II and run off the Intel Z68 chipset. Next to that we have two SATA III ports in white which also run off the Intel chipset. Finally, we have another two SATA III ports that come in grey which run off the Marvell 9172 SATA III controller.

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If you're going to be making use of the mSATA port present on the board, one of the SATA II connectors present on the board won't be able to be used. It shouldn't be an issue, but it's nice to see that GIGABYTE has clearly highlighted this.

The Motherboard Continued

Moving around the motherboard, we can see up our top corner we've got the usual suspects present. Across the bottom you can see our main 24-Pin ATX power connector.

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Above our power connector you can see our four RAM slots which support up to 32GB of memory with speeds ranging from 1066MHz DDR to 2133MHz DDR.

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Getting around to the CPU area, we can see it's pretty clean with just a single heatsink being used here on the board. The main stand out is of course the little mSATA SSD that sits to the left. We haven't covered this yet, but we'll move onto it in just a second after we look at the I/O side of things.

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Moving over to the I/O side of things, we start off on the left and you can see our combo PS/2 port. Above that we've got two of the total eight USB 2.0 ports present here. Next up we've got an optical out port running off the Realtek ALC889 codec.

Next up, we've got a HDMI port, two USB 3.0 ports running off the Etron EJ168 controller, gigabit networking port running off the Realtek RTL8111E chip and six auxiliary ports running off the same Realtek ALC889 controller where the Optical out is.

The Motherboard - Onboard SSD

What makes the board stand out so much compared to any other Z68 board we've looked at is the true integration of Intel Smart Response Technology or ISRT. Chris recently did an article on ISRT on this motherboard, but today we'll just take a closer look at the how the SSD is integrated in the board.

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We can see it sits between the CPU socket and the first PCIe x16 slot. It's really flat and shouldn't affect any kind of heatsink. To remove it, the design is similar to that of SODIMM memory in notebooks; you use two clips and it pops up. Once in that position you can just pull it out.

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With it gone, you can see the spot where it sits. While the interface is a typical mini PCIe one, it doesn't run off the PCIe lanes. Instead it runs off the SATA ones, hence the fact that one SATA port is disabled when the mSATA SSD is installed.

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The SSD is an Intel 311 series 20GB MLC SATA II drive. While not big enough to be used as a standalone SSD, it's plenty big enough to be used in conjunction with a traditional mechanical hard drive via ISRT.

While we won't be testing ISRT today, if you want to find out more about it, it's worth taking the time to read our ISRT article which uses the exact same motherboard.

BIOS

Looking at the BIOS, there's nothing out of the ordinary when it compares to seeing it against other GIGABYTE boards BIOSs. GIGABYTE haven't opted to go the full on UEFI style inside the traditional BIOS and have instead opted for TouchBIOS, a version that runs through Windows and offers us all the same options.

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If you're going to do any overclocking, the chances are you will spend most of the time in the M.I.T. area. You will probably more than likely not have any use in the other areas, but if you've used an Award BIOS from GIGABYTE over the last few years, then you shouldn't have any trouble working your way around.

Test System Setup and Overclocking

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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.

On the testbed side of things nothing changes today compared to what we've been seeing over the past few weeks. Since there's not much that has to be said, let's get into the overclocking side of things to see what we're able to get out of the board.

While we could boot as high as 5GHz, we could only get into Windows around the 4.7GHz - 4.8GHz mark. While we could get some programs up and running, others didn't have as much love. So we headed down just a little lower to see what we could get everything running 100% stable at.

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What we ended up at was 4489MHz or 4.49GHz as listed in our graphs here today. This isn't the highest overclock we've achieved by any means and falls well below that of other GIGABYTE boards we've looked at like the G1.Sniper2.

The main thing to remember, though, about the board we're looking at here today is it isn't as performance orientated as other boards we've looked at. Instead it's a more mainstream option which uses ISRT, a technology designed for main stream users who want to take advantage of next generation technology without the next gen tech price tag.

Let's get started!

CPU Benchmarks

HyperPi 0.99

Version and / or Patch Used: 0.99

Developer Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br

Product Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br

Download It Here

HyperPi is a front end for SuperPi that allows for multiple concurrent instances of SuperPi to be run on each core recognized by the system. It is very dependent on CPU to memory to HDD speed. The faster these components, the faster it is able to figure out the number Pi to the selected length.

For our testing we use the 32M run. This means that each of the four physical and four logical cores for the i7 and the four physical cores of the i5 is trying to calculate the number Pi out to 32 million decimal places. Each "run" is a comparative to ensure accuracy and any stability or performance issues in the loop mentioned above will cause errors in calculation.

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AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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While a more mid-range orientated board, we can see that out of the box performance is very similar to that of our more expensive "higher-end" options. We can see under AIDA64 that performance at stock is a little down, but only by a small margin. We can see that while we don't have the largest overclock, though, the move to almost 4.5GHz does bring with it some good performance.

System Benchmarks

PCMark 7

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.04

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

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

Buy It Here

PCMark 7 includes a range of tests that give different views of your system's performance. In the Advanced Edition you can choose which tests to run. The common use and hardware component tests are unavailable in the Basic Edition.

Overall system performance is measured by the PCMark test. This is the only test that returns an official PCMark score. The Lightweight test measures the system capabilities of entry-level systems and mobility platforms unable to run the PCMark test, but it does not generate a PCMark score. Common use performance is measured by the scenario tests - Entertainment, Creativity and Production - each of which results in a scenario score. Hardware component performance is measured by the hardware tests - Computation and Storage - each of which results in a hardware score.

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MediaEspresso

Version and / or Patch Used: 6.5

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

Product Homepage: http://www.cyberlink.com/products/mediaespresso/overview_en_AU.html?fileName=overview&r=1

Buy It Here

MediaEspresso is a blazingly fast media universal converter that can transcode your videos, photos and music files and out put them to a huge range of portable devices including mobile phones, portable media players and even game consoles. With technologies like Smart Detect, Direct Sync and CyberLink's TrueTheater video enhancements, you can not only forget about complicated format, resolution and output settings, but your converted file will come out the other side looking better than when it went in!

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With our SATA III drive used here, we can see that our PCMark 7 performance falls in line with the other motherboards that have used the new SATA III drive. MediaEspresso performance lines up just as you'd expect and we see a nice boost in performance on both boards when it comes to overclocking.

USB 2.0 and 3.0 Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.70.1400

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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USB 2.0 performance is fairly standard being a bit better than some boards, while slightly behind some others. As for USB 3.0 performance, we can see it pretty much lines up with all the other boards we've got here.

SSD Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.70.1400

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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We can see that on our Corsair SATA III drive we've got great performance. Looking at the onboard 20GB SSD as well, we can see even though it's only SATA II, the performance is really strong with some great random performance. It seemed a little high, but testing over and over and over again netted results with in just a few MB/s.

HD Tune Pro

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.61

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

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

Buy It Here

HD Tune Pro gives us accurate read, write and access time results and for the last couple of years has been gaining popularity amongst reviewers. It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.

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Looking at HD Tune Pro, we can also see the very strong performance that is seen under AIDA64. We can also see that compared to our older SATA II drive, the onboard SLC drive performs exceptionally well again.

Memory Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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RAM performance lines up as we'd expect; it's a little lower than some of the other boards we've looked at, but nothing major at all. We also see a nice little boost when we overclock, especially in the write area where the biggest gains are normally seen.

Gaming Benchmarks

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0

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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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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Getting into some gaming benchmarks, we can see that at stock performance lines up with our other boards just as we'd hope. Getting into some overclocking performance, we can see a nice boost in our Performance preset and under Metro 2033 we can see a nice little boost across the board.

Temperature and Power

Power Draw Tests

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Looking at the power draw of the board, there's nothing too unusual. Idle is nice and low, while load is also the lowest out of the bunch. As for overclocked, we can see that while power draw does indeed go up, it still sits quite low compared to some other boards which are running at stock.

Core Temperature

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CPU temperature is good, idle is nice and low while load its sits just a little higher. Of course, when we overclock and throw more voltage throughout the board, we do get quite a boost in load temp.

Final Thoughts

The general consensus over ISRT is that it's a good technology that will become more mainstream over time, especially when we see more and more Intel chipsets make use of the technology. The first thing I think we need to really cover, though, is the price of the board.

To be honest, I thought the price would be kind of ridiculous. At $239.99 US, though, it's not. The Z68XP-UD3 will set you back $149.99 US; it's essentially the same board as we have here today, minus the included SSD. A 20GB SLC Intel 311 SSD is going to set you back $113.99 US. To buy the two items separately it's going to set you back $263.98 US.

While we of course would expect it to be cheaper, to be honest I thought it would be slightly more as you're paying for that convenience. Instead, it comes in nearly 10% cheaper.

Remove the iSSD from the board and you've got a really good, well priced $149.99 US motherboard that performs well for people who want something that's going to perform strong out of the box and offer some nice overclocking headroom.

Say you want to make the jump to SSD, but you can't afford to go down the path of separate $300 US drives, then this is a fantastic option and it's really nice to see that GIGABYTE was thinking outside the box with this board. For $239.99 US, you're getting a good performing board that offers something different to everyone else.

If you're not interested in going down the path of ISRT, the non -iSSD version of the board we're looking at today is a great option. On the other hand, if you're looking to jump on the SSD bandwagon and want to see what all the fuss is about, then this a great option. It's probably the best board on the market when it comes to making use of ISRT because of the way GIGABYTE have chosen to offer it as an "All in One" like solution.

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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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