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Intel Z68 Motherboard Round-Up

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the compare-and-contrast dept.

Intel 74

AmyVernon writes "Until Intel's next-gen, high-end Sandy Bridge-E processor is released sometime this quarter, Intel's second generation Core family of processors and the Z68 Express chipset are Intel's current premiere desktop platform for the mainstream. This look at several different motherboard offerings from manufacturers that cover a range of form factors, feature sets, and price points. Asus, MSI, ASRock, Gigabyte, eVGA and Zotac are all represented here. In addition to support for the entire line of 2nd-gen Intel Core chips with Turbo Boost 2.0, the Z68 chipset supports Intel High Definition Audio, 8 PCI-Express 2.0 lanes (16 more in the CPU), 6 SATA ports (2 x 6Gbps, 4 x 3Gbps), integrated Gigabit Ethernet, 14 USB ports, and a smattering of A/v ports including HDMI and DisplayPort."

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74 comments

how did this make the front page? (2)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765086)

Seriously. There are dozens of hardware reviews like this one daily. In what way was this one special enough to make the front page? I'm not seeing it.

Re:how did this make the front page? (5, Funny)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765102)

I just can't wait until Intel gets to Z80.

Re:how did this make the front page? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37765430)

I'm holding out for some 8080 with updated TTL logic.

Re:how did this make the front page? (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765900)

You mean Z67, right? The difference is that it has one less pin but you need all new HW. *ducks*

Re:how did this make the front page? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37765160)

Well its better than the politico crap that seems to dominate these days...

Re:how did this make the front page? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37765208)

Seriously. There are dozens of hardware reviews like this one daily. In what way was this one special enough to make the front page? I'm not seeing it.

Well, let's see. This round-up has just about every major manufacturer's offerings in one detailed review, so folks can compare available solutions in one significantly more digestible location. It's perfect Slashdot geek news actually.

Re:how did this make the front page? (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765870)

But my point, again, is that there is a roundup article just like this 3 or 4 times a week at various sites. What makes this one special?

Re:how did this make the front page? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37768442)

Then submit those? The front page of /. is not some hallowed place where only a few select sites can be listed.

And, Toms has been sold several times since its inception, but at one point it was arguably the best hardware site out there. Anand and Ars did better on some things, but Toms always had consistently high quality.

Re:how did this make the front page? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37782782)

This is a technology news aggregating website. This is exactly what I want to see her. News doesn't have to be "special" to be news.

Re:how did this make the front page? (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#37783560)

That's fine with me. I wonder why we don't see dozens of these articles in that case, though.

Re:how did this make the front page? (1)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 2 years ago | (#37768610)

Quote from the article: "Until Intel's next-gen, high-end Sandy Bridge-E processor is released sometime this quarter, Intel's second generation Core family of processors and the Z68 Express chipset are Intel's current premiere desktop platform for the mainstream."

I like the article, but who would buy old hardware? Supposedly Intel will release the next generation of chipsets next month. For example, the new chipsets will have all fast SATA and USB ports, instead of only 2 or 4.

Re:how did this make the front page? (1)

thue (121682) | more than 2 years ago | (#37766470)

Perhaps the point is just to highlight the new motherboards, and any review could do, so they took the first one? Which is reasonable enough, IMO.

If you disagree, then you can earn some karma by posting a comment with a list of other reviews.

No Thunderbolt? (1)

Manip (656104) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765122)

Am I the only one disappointed that this revision doesn't support the Thunderbolt port? Even if few motherboards would ship with it at least the chipset should have the support.

Re:No Thunderbolt? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37765328)

Am I the only one disappointed that this revision doesn't support the Thunderbolt port?

Yes.

Re:No Thunderbolt? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37765370)

Dang, you stole my thunder!

maybe it's the lack of on board video? (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765852)

As that maybe a hold up to having Thunderbolt with pci-e video cards and why there are no Thunderbolt data only pci-e cards. Also may be why there is no new mac pro yet as well.

PCI Express 3.0 waiting on Ivy Bridge... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37765124)

I've been looking at buying a new Z68 board in the last week and I must say, I'm really skeptical of the current Z68 boards for Sandy Bridge advertising support for Ivy Bridge and PCI Express 3.0 in the future. Allegedly, Ivy Bridge is going to support faster RAM as well, but am I really going to throw brand new components into an old motherboard to unlock those features, or am I going to just buy a new motherboard which will likely be a better match at the time? Seems like a marketing ploy to me.

Re:PCI Express 3.0 waiting on Ivy Bridge... (1)

Captain.Abrecan (1926372) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765454)

I wouldn't do it. I fell for that trick when pentium D came out, then my coveted P5n32-sli did not support the core 2 generation of processors. Wait for the new wave to hit. Even if the motherboard supports the new chips, if the implementation is buggy they will have no incentive to support it, since sales for the new motherboard generation will be going strong.

Re:PCI Express 3.0 waiting on Ivy Bridge... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37765668)

Support is part of it. How many motherboards have you seen where years later there are still advances in the BIOS. These companies are making advances in their BIOS, just for new mobo's, not old ones. I think you're right. I'm leaning towards buying for the now, not the future. Same way I've stopped buying parts based on the "prospect" of getting a mail in rebate back.

6 gbs ports (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37765150)

Lets hope they are actually USABLE at 6gbs.

I've got the Intel DX58SO2 here and the included drivers for the 6gbs ports cause blue screens in Windows 7, that, and they did not support TRIM on SSD's.
6gbs was a major reason I bought the DX58SO2 to begin with.

Intel offered no updates, so one had to d/l latest drivers from the chipset and experiment.

Re:6 gbs ports (1)

fnj (64210) | more than 2 years ago | (#37770456)

Sounds like a driver issue. I would be more interested in how it works with linux.

I want more RAM Slots (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765156)

The only thing hold back desktop boards right now is more RAM slots. I would really like to see motherboards with 8 or event 16 RAM slots become standard. Most of these motherboards support 16 GB maximum memory, which is nice, but once you start running VMs or databases on your machine, 16 GB can get eaten up pretty quickly. I would think that having a machine with a possible 64 GB of RAM would entice a lot of people. Right now the only way to get serious amounts of RAM is to go with XEON or Opteron. And those chips are pretty expensive without offering a whole lot of extra, or event less computing power (assuming single socket).

Re:I want more RAM Slots (3, Informative)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765194)

You're in luck. X79 (coming later this year) will typically sport 8 ram slots. It's the new enthusiast platform replacing x58.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_X79 [wikipedia.org]

Re:I want more RAM Slots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37765474)

The X79 platform seems like a bit of a sidegrade from The X58. Pretty much the north bridge has been pulled in to the CPU itself, with the PCI-E and DMI coming out the cpu pins, rather than QPI. (As it's been since the last 2 generations of intel CPUs) People were hoping it would have native usb30, more and faster sata ports. PCI express 3.0 might be in the final shipping product, but no one is sure at this point. There are 40 pci express lanes coming right of the cpu, which is an improvement, but just shy of the magical 48 you'd need for 3x fully populated pci express x16 slots.

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/core-i7-3960x-x79-performance,3026-3.html

I was looking forward to sandybridge E, but I might skip it and wait for the next gen.

pci-e lanes but out that 40-48 you need some for (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765742)

Cpu to SB link, USB 3.0, SATA 6.0, Thunderbolt controller. Also 32 is 2 X16 slots and 8 at pci-e 3.0 seems good for chip set link + maybe a x4 slot.

But x4 at 2.0 limits the chipset link even more so if usb 3.0 and sata 6.0 are part of the chipset.

Re:I want more RAM Slots (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765800)

Nothing needs 3x PCIe2.0 slots let alone PCIe3! No graphics card is hampered by having 8x lanes, nor is there any external I/O card capable of saturating 8x lanes. Heck even the $15k PCIe flash cards I've used in my datacenter aren't hampered by 8x PCIe 2.0.

but a x4 pci-e 2.0 link does slow down sata 6 usb3 (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#37766064)

when they are on the same bus.

The non high end intel boards have a hard time fitting in 1 video card + sata 6 + usb 3.0 as they need a switch on the x16 2.0 link or they need to cut down video to x8.

The DIM bus (pci-e 2.0 x4) can't really fit in gig-e, usb 3, sata 6, other x1 slots as well.

Now let's take x16 pci-e 3.0 and switch that to 2 x16 2.0 slots and then you have the lanes you need but the switches add cost and board space.

So in your case take 1 video card on x16 and to be safe say all on board stuff needs 4-8 lanes. So then you have 20-24 left over now thunderbolt may need 4-8 pci-e lanes so now at 12-16 left. Ok other pci-e cards that you may want cable card tuner x4 raid card / SSD pci-e cards x4-x8/ sound x1 / firewire x1.

Re:but a x4 pci-e 2.0 link does slow down sata 6 u (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 2 years ago | (#37766240)

I'm not saying more lanes isn't nice, or useful. I was specifically responding to but just shy of the magical 48 you'd need for 3x fully populated pci express x16 slots. Giving each of the physical x16 slots an electrical x8 connection is not going to hamper any existing peripheral that I am aware of. With the doubling of per lane bandwidth from PCIe 1 to PCIe 2 the need for an electrical x16 slot was basically eliminated. (if it was ever needed in the first place, was there ever a device that needed more than 2GB/s that was fitted with a PCIe 1.x chipset?)

Re:I want more RAM Slots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37766198)

To be frank video cards aren't block storage. They're specialized parallel vector CPUs that have their own specialized high speed memory systems built right in. Having lots of bandwidth its always a good idea. Sure they won't use it all.. Right now. You always want some room to grow for future expansion.

I guess people are disappointed because they were looking for something really next gen and what Intel is offering is more or less a warmed over X58. With the advent of USB 3.0, 6gbs SSDs, etc ,etc bandwith demands for your average "power user" is really going up.

What surprise me with Sandy Bridge E was the continued use of DMI for the link to the southbridge. DMI is really a last gen/low-midgrade/consumer solution. Maybe implementing QPI is too expensive for anything but server products. Maybe they don't want to cannibalize high-end xeon products. Maybe the integrated north bridge approach would be too much work to work around.

In the end, though, (current, non "E") sandy bridge CPUs on Z68 platforms are an amazing value. Intel probably knows what they're doing. :)

Re:I want more RAM Slots (1)

KingMotley (944240) | more than 2 years ago | (#37771204)

I won't buy a motherboard without USB 3.0 and 6Gbs SATA on it, but I don't really need more than 2 6Gbs links, and a few 3Gbs links which is what the X79 will have on it. I can always toss in a USB card if i need more USB 3.0 ports (just like I have right now in my X58 box), it works just fine. X79 adds what I can't add in with additional cards, like quad channel memory (vs X58's tri-channel memory that wasn't all that efficient -- better than dual channel, but not 50% better). Hopefully with the quad channel being a power of two again, it's efficiency will be much better.

Re:I want more RAM Slots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37765206)

Even with those slots, the thing holding back desktops is Microsoft's RAM limits in the liscense of home versions of their OS (yes, RAM limits are in the liscense terms, and probably the non-ultimate buisness line too), as long as this is the case, I can't see manufacturers having a reason to make boards with more capacity.

Re:I want more RAM Slots (1)

Captain.Abrecan (1926372) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765342)

Not really. The ram limit on Windows 7 Pro is 192 GB. Even with 16 slots, you would need 12gb dimms, which don't exist (IDT). Even with 16x 4gb dimms you would only be using 64/192 of your licensed RAM limit. So no, 'the thing holding back desktops' is not Microsoft's license agreement for operating systems. Source: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/desktop/aa366778(v=vs.85).aspx#physical_memory_limits_windows_7 [microsoft.com]

Re:I want more RAM Slots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37765214)

And those chips are pretty expensive without offering a whole lot of extra, or event less computing power (assuming single socket).

I think you just answered your own question.

Re:I want more RAM Slots (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765236)

Right now the only way to get serious amounts of RAM is to go with XEON or Opteron. And those chips are pretty expensive without offering a whole lot of extra, or event less computing power (assuming single socket).

Yep, that would be the point. You don't think Intel would make server-level RAM capability available for less than server-level costs, do you?

Re:I want more RAM Slots (3, Interesting)

Tom Womack (8005) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765248)

The Sandy-Bridge-E (X79) motherboards have eight RAM slots each of which can hold an 8G module, which gets your 64GB. Of course, Sandy-Bridge-E is a Xeon in the same way that Socket-1366 Nehalem was a Xeon.

There are real electronic-engineering problems with getting lots of RAM slots attached to a single memory controller - you have to run the memory more slowly than you would if there were less of it. Cisco have a chip which pretends to be a very large slow DDR3 module by connecting together four large fast DDR3 modules, but it's sold only in expensive Cisco servers.

Re:I want more RAM Slots (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765428)

Yeah, after reading more closely, these boards mostly support the 8GB modules as well, giving you the ability to use 32 GB of RAM. However, the prices on the 8 GB modules is still way too expensive. At least $200 each, compared to about $25 a piece fro the 4GB modules. if the price of the 8GB comes down enough, and you get 8 slots on a board, giving you 64 GB, that gives you some serious power. Or if you have 8 slots, and you can get 32 GB of RAM for $200, it is also really interesting.

Re:I want more RAM Slots (1)

jpedlow (1154099) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765690)

I've got an evga Z68 board. I'm quite happy with the 16 gigs of ram I use for it. But I guess that's because my VM's and Databases run on my SERVER, not my performance gaming machine.

Re:I want more RAM Slots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37766654)

Some of us don't have the money or space to run two machines -- especially when a single machine with gobs of RAM and VMs will do the job just fine.

Re:I want more RAM Slots (1)

nabsltd (1313397) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765776)

I would really like to see motherboards with 8 or event 16 RAM slots become standard. Most of these motherboards support 16 GB maximum memory, which is nice, but once you start running VMs or databases on your machine, 16 GB can get eaten up pretty quickly. I would think that having a machine with a possible 64 GB of RAM would entice a lot of people.

Once you get above about 8GB of RAM, you really shouldn't trust it for anything serious without ECC.

Even the best listed bit-error rates (which are all pretty much a guess) show that 32GB of RAM will have an error every 3 years, while the worst listed rates would give you an error every 2 minutes. Based on ECC logs in my servers, I'd say the reality is about 8 errors per year for 32GB. So, if you want 64GB, and can live with a once-a-month error that could be anything from a BSOD to a subtle corruption of data, then go ahead and use a desktop chipset.

I think AMD is really missing a chance by not bragging about how their desktop processors support ECC and Intel's do not.

Re:I want more RAM Slots (1)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 2 years ago | (#37766338)

Very few people care, and even fewer would buy ECC memory. It would be an insanely lame thing to brag about. I'm not going to spend 3X the amount on memory so my game doesn't crash. In all my years of running way too many computers in my house, I've never thought "damn, I wish I'd spent 3X the money so I could have ECC!".

If you care, buy a real server platform.

Re:I want more RAM Slots (1)

Cajun Hell (725246) | more than 2 years ago | (#37768002)

Very few people care, and even fewer would buy ECC memory. It would be an insanely lame thing to brag about. I'm not going to spend 3X the amount on memory so my game doesn't crash.

Context, my dear fellow.

If you're thinking "so my game doesn't crash" then you probably also don't have a problem with the already-absurdly-high amount of RAM that you can put on these motherboards. You are not asking for more RAM slots.

If you had needs where 64GB isn't enough RAM, then it's a lot more likely you'd be interested in ECC too.

Re:I want more RAM Slots (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 2 years ago | (#37767924)

My Asus has 4 memory slots, which allows for up to 16 GB of currently cheap memory. Like my most people, I rarely use more than 3 GB. Of course, I don't run VMs on it or databases, but that is because it is a desktop board and not a server board. Motherboards that support more than 4 slots are likely going to be found in boards intended for servers as the niche market of home users that want that amount of memory is small.

blah blah blah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37765204)

But do they come with the ability to turn off the "secure" boot BIOS process Microsoft are determinded to lockin^Hmonop^H^H^ implement for Windows8 ?

Re:blah blah blah (1)

Captain.Abrecan (1926372) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765292)

The secure boot bios process is something that has been able to be used for a long time by motherboard manufacturers. The change Microsoft made is that their Operating System now supports that feature. Calm down, the usage and implementation is up to the hardware manufacturers.

Re:blah blah blah (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765478)

Not quite. There are two changes Microsoft made. One is that Windows 8 supports the feature, which on-one really cares about. The other is that they require OEMs to now support that feature, and to have it enabled by default. That is what people are concerned about. Yes, it's up to the OEM if they want to lock their hardware to make it impossible to run any non-Microsoft OS or if they would like to include a setup option to disable secure boot... there is nothing preventing them including that option, but there is nothing requiring they support it either. It's one more way in which OEMs could screw their users, even if only by simply not careing enough about non-Windows users to get someone to spend ten minutes writing the code.

Re:blah blah blah (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765710)

Which is non-issue for those who build their own. And in this case since this is a motherboard comparison, those who would be buying these motherboards would be building their own so non-issue.

It just means the re-sell value of a computer with that feature enforced will be pretty much just what you can get for the individual components.
www.discountelectronics.com has probably the most to loose from secure boot.

will X79 have Thunderbolt? (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765216)

As it does not have on board video and there are no plans for data only cards.

So does intel have a plan for linking Thunderbolt to a add in ATI / AMD and nvidia cards?

Re:will X79 have Thunderbolt? (1)

baka_toroi (1194359) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765344)

Extremely unlikely. Why would you want that, by the way? Just plug those cards into PCIe slots. Thunderbolt support will come with discrete controllers for the time being.

Old hardware hacker (5, Funny)

Nethead (1563) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765228)

I'm an old hardware hacker and it JUST SEEMS WRONG that Intel is using the number 68. That is for Motorola, 65 is for MOS and Rockwell. 80 is for Intel.

It's WRONG I say, WRONG!

Re:Old hardware hacker (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765244)

It's just intel showing off that they've killed and buried motorola.

Re:Old hardware hacker (1)

Nethead (1563) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765312)

With a sidestep to piss on Zilog's grave.

Re: Sidestep (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37766126)

Having worked in Zilog's chip fab (back when they had one), I would like to join Intel in this endeavour.

I LOVE the smell of Arsenic in the morning...it smell like...ZiLOG

Re:Old hardware hacker (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765486)

An interesting little bit of trivia: Intel used their influence on the PCI management board well. Their vendor ID is 0x8086.

Re:Old hardware hacker (1)

Ecuador (740021) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765604)

Right, 80 is for Intel, so it would have been better to call it Z80 ... oh, wait...

The more serious answer is that the Z68 is a chipset and not a CPU, so they can call it whatever they want and old hackers won't complain (Z80 would turn some heads though). And if you want to know, "80" was originally Intel's prefix just for 8-bit microprocessors, just like "40" was for 4-bit ones. But they did not keep the scheme when they went to 16-bits possibly because they were not drawing hard lines for the new architecture by basically extending the 8080 architecture and also having 16bit CPUs running on 8b buses (8088).

Thunderbolt?! (1)

tmontes (80312) | more than 2 years ago | (#37765810)

I confess to not having read TFA but I guess the summary would have mentioned it given the world-class editing team around here... *cough!*
Anyway, being Thunderbolt an intel technology, is there any such controller/port available in these boards?

Sandy Bridge E (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37766070)

There is no technical reason why the Z68 does not work on Sandy Bridge E, since all the logic is on the CPU. The chipset is pretty much just a fancy PCI-E SATA and USB controller these days.

It is pretty amazing intel can charge so much for such a simple chip, let alone prevent competitors from making compatible chips.

Re:Sandy Bridge E (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37767018)

Especially since Z68 costs MORE than X58, but has less than half the functionality, and 1/6th the Bus speed.

Intel ECC chipsets? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37768866)

Do recent Intel chipsets only support ECC with Xeon cpus? If so, which chipsets would be rough equivalents of P/Q/*-67 and Z-68?

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