Z68 Express Roundup: Three Motherboards Do Battle Around $200

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Crashman

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[citation][nom]ramon zarat[/nom]About the PLX PCIe bridge on the Asrock solution: I don't usually trust that kind of gimmick. You just can't magically make for the lack of appropriate number of PICIe lanes just by adding a multiplexer to ''compensate''. So we have *only* 4 lanes competing for 2 X USB3 controller pushing 5Gb/s, a 2 port SATA3 6Gb/s controller, a Gigabit Ethernet controller AND a PCIe 4X slot? Hummm... I want to know the downside of this setup. Please, test the worse case scenario for us: 2 X Vertex 3 SSD drive in strip connected to those 2 6Gb/s port copying files over to a 4X RAID controller card into that 4X slot with 2 SSD drives also in strip. At the same time copy some file to an external USB3 SSD drive and transfer files at gigabit speed over the LAN. Something has to give. I just want to know what to expect if I use the product to the max and when/how I'll hit the wall with degraded performances. By testing all those scenarios separately and then combining them in different ways to finally make them going on all at the same time, we will know the limit of this PLX thing.[/citation]No. I don't do mass file transfers while playing a game, and neither do you. You're setting a false dichotomy.

The PLX bridge allows you to switch between slots and controllers, or share at reduced performance, depending on activity. Kind of like a network switch. In fact, they call it a PCIe switch. Without it, you CAN'T switch between controllers, but must instead physically remove one item to activate the other.
 

jimmyriddler

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One thing that isn't mentioned about the ASRock is that it has holes for a 775 socket heatsink, so no need to buy another one when upgrading! Neat
 

jbr613

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This is the first and, as far as I can tell, only shootout between the top end Z68 mobo's. Now it seems as if the z68 Extreme4 is sold out everywhere. Anyone know where they're available? PM me ;-}
 

ywchang84

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[citation][nom]ramon zarat[/nom]About the PLX PCIe bridge on the Asrock solution: I don't usually trust that kind of gimmick. You just can't magically make for the lack of appropriate number of PICIe lanes just by adding a multiplexer to ''compensate''. So we have *only* 4 lanes competing for 2 X USB3 controller pushing 5Gb/s, a 2 port SATA3 6Gb/s controller, a Gigabit Ethernet controller AND a PCIe 4X slot? [/citation]

You read the text wrong.

"Five onboard interface controllers and two PCIe x1 slots share four of the Z68’s eight PCIe 2.0 lanes, while the other four are directed to a single x16-length slot at the bottom."

As I understand from this paragraph. Z68 has 8 PCIe 2.0 lanes.
The 4 lanes to the bottom x16 slot are dedicated.
Then there are 4 lanes that are routed to the PLX bridge and shared among 5 devices PCIe x1 devices and 2 PCIe x1 slots.

So, your raid card in the x4 slot gets its own dedicated lanes.
 

Crashman

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[citation][nom]ywchang84[/nom]You read the text wrong."Five onboard interface controllers and two PCIe x1 slots share four of the Z68’s eight PCIe 2.0 lanes, while the other four are directed to a single x16-length slot at the bottom."As I understand from this paragraph. Z68 has 8 PCIe 2.0 lanes.The 4 lanes to the bottom x16 slot are dedicated. Then there are 4 lanes that are routed to the PLX bridge and shared among 5 devices PCIe x1 devices and 2 PCIe x1 slots. So, your raid card in the x4 slot gets its own dedicated lanes.[/citation]Nope, he's right. When you have five controllers (listed in the specs sheet) plus a PCIe to PCI bridge and two x1 slots on the same board, you're up to 8. Add the x4 slot and you're up to 12. The x4 slot shares bandwidth by the PLX bridge/switch with four other interfaces.

The question here is whether you want those other interfaces to be enabled. With the Asus board, you install a card and lose front panel USB 3.0 etc. With the ASRock board you install a card and share bandwidth between those devices.

The PLX bridge/switch works best if you use these devices at different times, so that no bandwidth is lost. Otherwise, the switching function makes devices share it. Again, with Asus you don't get either of those options because the other device is completely disabled.
 

ywchang84

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I just finished setting up my Z68 extreme4. According to the device manager, the 4X slot gets a x4 lane. The two eltron and one marvell each get its own x1 lane. In other words the 4X slot, two USB3 chips and the SATA6 will not be hindered by the plx switch.

Under the plx switch, I saw the VIA, Broadcom, and the asmedia. If you add up the max theoretical throughput of all three chips, you are still under what x1 PCIe 2.0 can provide. You'd only have to worry about bandwidth problem if the two x1 slots are populated and using a lot of bandwidth.
 

Crashman

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[citation][nom]ywchang84[/nom]I just finished setting up my Z68 extreme4. According to the device manager, the 4X slot gets a x4 lane. The two eltron and one marvell each get its own x1 lane. In other words the 4X slot, two USB3 chips and the SATA6 will not be hindered by the plx switch.Under the plx switch, I saw the VIA, Broadcom, and the asmedia. If you add up the max theoretical throughput of all three chips, you are still under what x1 PCIe 2.0 can provide. You'd only have to worry about bandwidth problem if the two x1 slots are populated and using a lot of bandwidth.[/citation]

I have an easier solution that I didn't mention before:

1.) Get rid of the x1 slot beneath the top x16 slot. Nobody uses it because it's either blocked-out by a double-slot graphics card, or putting a card there makes a single-slot graphics card run too hot. Just ditch the slot that nobody can use anyway.
2.) Use the Intel network PHY, which ties to a separate interface on the chipset. It doesn't use a PCIe lane.

There you go, if motherboard companies did that they'd get their two lanes back. But they could actually get THREE back if they also ditched the PCIe to PCI bridge. Do we still NEED PCI slots?
 

davewolfgang

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Actually there are people who do transfers and convert from Media Center recordings to DVD's while they are playing games (on multiple monitors too). I'm one of them. And have email, skype and YIM open also, not to mention quite a few tabs in FF open too.

I work weekends where I can bring my laptop and watch DVD's, so I routinely RIP a bunch to hard disk, and then copy those over to my laptop (so I don't have to actually carry a bunch of DVD's with me). I do this during the week on my off days while I'm playing WoW with all those other programs open, not to mention usually a VM of Ubuntu and another of XP. You see my rig specs in my sig.

Now it may not be something a lot of people do, but it's not something nobody "ever" does.
 

Crashman

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OK! You'll want X58, at least until its replacement comes around. We even made an exception for you in the article that proved Sandy Bridge a better gaming processor for everyone but you.
 

dinkster9

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[citation][nom]jtt283[/nom]I'm itching for June to get here so I can finally decide, BD or SB, but in either case, the mobo will likely be ASRock.[/citation]

So this information is nearly impossible to discern from looking at the 10 or so boards with Z68. Is the ASRock the only one who has compatibility with 775 coolers??? I was really wanting the gigabyte or even the asus pro from this article, but it would be nice not to have to replace my 775 waterblock. (For Intel BTX platform, P4 775, AMD K8 and K7: from the Thermaltake Kandalf VD4000SWA case). Should I just get a different waterblock (that's all I would need right?) or just get the ASrock board?
 

Crashman

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[citation][nom]dinkster9[/nom]So this information is nearly impossible to discern from looking at the 10 or so boards with Z68. Is the ASRock the only one who has compatibility with 775 coolers??? I was really wanting the gigabyte or even the asus pro from this article, but it would be nice not to have to replace my 775 waterblock. (For Intel BTX platform, P4 775, AMD K8 and K7: from the Thermaltake Kandalf VD4000SWA case). Should I just get a different waterblock (that's all I would need right?) or just get the ASrock board?[/citation]I don't mention the 775 holes often because so many coolers have "fixed height" spacers. The new socket/CPU package is thinner, so your 775 cooler needs spring mounting without spacers just to get proper contact with 1155/1156 processors.
 

dinkster9

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[citation][nom]Crashman[/nom]I don't mention the 775 holes often because so many coolers have "fixed height" spacers. The new socket/CPU package is thinner, so your 775 cooler needs spring mounting without spacers just to get proper contact with 1155/1156 processors.[/citation]

Thanks for the reply! My comment was more towards the MB manufactures info pages, definitely not this site or any article writer. Mine is not fixed height, but I'm actually thinking I might wait out and get an actual 1155 block and the asus z68 deluxe board, which puts together a few more of the features I'm looking for. Can't find it selling anywhere in the US yet, but soon I assume.
 

Crashman

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[citation][nom]dinkster9[/nom]Thanks for the reply! My comment was more towards the MB manufactures info pages, definitely not this site or any article writer. Mine is not fixed height, but I'm actually thinking I might wait out and get an actual 1155 block and the asus z68 deluxe board, which puts together a few more of the features I'm looking for. Can't find it selling anywhere in the US yet, but soon I assume.[/citation]The Asus board is great if you don't need the third graphics card slot, or if you're willing to give up a few features to use that slot. I'd go for option 1, unless I was just using it for benchmarks (where I can afford to give up a few features).
 

HC1Gunner

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Tom's should have used the GIGABYTE GA-Z68X-UD4-B3, it has a few more features than the UD3, and I just bought this board for $190. This board is awesome, 10 USB 2.0 ports on the back IO (2 are USB 3.0), 2 ports out the front, with headers on the board to add more 2.0 and 3.0 ports.

Note of Caution:
Gigabyte's "Easy Tuner 6" cause my game to crash with BF: BC2, you get nothing but blue screen errors. As soon as I uninstalled it, my system games smooth as silk and error free.
 

cherry11

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Knowing that Asus and Gigabyte boards don't have PCI-E bridge can somebody answer this question:

If all 5 PCI-E slots on Asus or Gigabyte boards will be occupied with TV tuners (only require PCIe x1 mode) will all of them be able to work simultaneously?

I understand that Asrock will work with this setup but wanted to know if Asus and Gigabyte will.
 

Crashman

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If you fill all the slots up with cards, one of the slots will not function.
 

cherry11

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Here is a quote from P8Z68-V PRO review on another site:

"The three full length PCIe slots run in x16/x0/x4 or x8/x8/x4 mode for GPU setups. However, the bottom PCIe slot shares bandwidth with PCIe x1 slots, a two USB ports in the IO panel and the eSATA IO port—all of these are inactive if the bottom PCIe is in x4 mode. By default, the PCIe is in x1 mode, and requires a BIOS setting change for x4."

If I understud correctly, then according to the above quote it is possible to overcome sharing limitation by keeping the bottom slot in x1 mode in BIOS.

What do you think?
 

Crashman

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Now you're asking me to do research...but if I recall correctly the Asus board also shares one lane between the first and second x1 slots. That's why I said they should have simply left the second x1 slot off the board.

You CAN download the manual for full details, that's what I did the last time I actually researched the issue.
 

cherry11

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I have read the manual. Here is a quote from it:

"The PCIe x16_3 slot shares bandwidth with PCIe x1_1 slot, PCIe x1_2 slot, USB3_34 and eSATA. The PCIe x16_3 default setting is x1 mode".

So, when they say "The PCIe x16_3 slot shares bandwidth with PCIe x1_1 slot" does it mean they exclude each other or simply share?
Or, maybe they exclude each other if PCIe x16_3 slot is set at x4 in BIOS, and share when at x1.

Your opinion is greatly appreciated as this last slot is a decision maker for me and I really prefer Asus or Gigabyte.
 

Crashman

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Thanks, I didn't feel like looking that up.

It's a four-lane slot, it gets four lanes from two x1's and two controllers. If you set it to x1, you enable both controllers and one x1 slot.

So yes, it does mean they exclude each other.
 
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Just my .02, but people whining about bandwidth and throughput limits need to wait for a higher-end product. As Crashman said, x58's eventual replacement would be more suitable for these extreme setups. For the majority of users running a single card or mid-level SLI/Crossfire setup, a sound card, and a couple of hard drives, z68 is a great solution. The Gigabyte board is a great value. I don't need a pretty UEFI BIOS, and the extra 150MHz overclocking potential I lose is negligible. An i5-2500k at 4.5GHz is more than enough.
 

diagrafeas

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About Gigabyte Z68X-UD3H-B3.
This is from the manual.
"Please note the HDMI audio output only supports AC3, DTS and 2-channel-LPCM formats."

Is this correct?
What about 8-channel LPCM, Dolby TrueHD bitstream, DTS-HD Master Audio bitstream?
 
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