ASRock Z68 Extreme4
The Z68 chipset has many similar characteristics and features to P67 and H67, in what appears to be a successful marriage of the two. For any users expecting earth-shattering changes or mythical performance enhancements, there is no such thing here. Z68 is more of a minor evolution and refinement of P67, not a paradigm shift. It’s still the same socket, serving the same processors, and largely offering the same features. Of course, the major difference here is that Z68 brings onboard graphics to the performance market for the 2nd Gen Intel Core chips.
We’ve seen in the past that motherboards with onboard graphics were largely budget selections that offered sub-par performance in comparison to the enthusiast boards with discrete graphics. That no longer appears to be the case with Z68, as its performance was very much on par with P67. While H67 truly occupies the budget-oriented range, and the P67 occupied the performance sector, the Z68 is a successful hybrid of sorts, combining the best of H67 and P67 into one.
The new Digi VRM power design works wonderfully with the fast-changing clocks of the Sandy Bridge processors, as power is available as soon as the load is applied. And the UEFI BIOS is very good here, as ASRock had done a fine job at keeping things streamlined in a simple and clean GUI setup. There are a few minor issues with the board layout, things that will be inaccessible in a multi-card setup in particular, the choice of keeping a floppy port instead of a PATA, and there aren’t any advanced tweaking options to truly satisfy the enthusiasts in the crowd, but ASRock has a solid board here at a great price of $190.
If you already own a P67 board, there’s not much incentive to upgrade to Z68 unless you absolutely need onboard graphics capabilities or SSD caching to your drive. That being said, if you’re looking to jump onto the Sandy Bridge wagon, then Z68 is the way to go, as it brings the best of both worlds without sacrificing performance or costing more.
The Pure Point: At $190 USD, the ASRock X68 Extreme4 is a solid implementation of the Z68 chipset, bringing some great value and features in a well-priced package.