Intel Z68: ASUS P8Z68-V PRO
As we’ve seen, the Z68 chipset has many similar characteristics and features to P67 and H67, in what appears to be a successful marriage of the two. Intel normally doesn’t bring successive chipsets without retiring the current crop, but P67 may survive; it’s hard to tell at this point. 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 OS hard 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, and coming at what looks to be the same price range as the P67 counterparts.
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, Z68 is an interesting hybrid of sorts, taking the best of H67 and P67 and mashing them into one new chipset.
What’s interesting here on the P8Z68-V PRO is that ASUS has taken features that were previously only found on their high-end boards and make them standard now, bringing a very solid package to market in the $210 range. That’s essentially the same price as the similar P67 boards, so the value here is good; you get the onboard graphics option for very little difference in price.
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. The EPU feature is particularly good for those who really need to maximize their power consumption. And the UEFI BIOS is outstanding, as ASUS has outclassed every other manufacturer from what we’ve seen with their nuanced and extensive options in a simple and clean GUI setup.
The other thing that is perhaps the most impressive feature of all on this P8Z68-V PRO is the Auto Tuning / OC Tuner / TPU bundle. Regardless of which method you choose to push your system, the simple fact remains that this auto overclocking ability is outstanding. The reason why it’s so critical here is because the Sandy Bridge chips have essentially changed the rules in the overclocking game. Sandy Bridge is sort of reminiscent of cruise control on a car. Just set it and forget it. You needn’t worry about speeding up or down, it’s already taken care of for you. And with Intel’s Turbo now far more mature, and working in conjunction with C1E, EIST, and Speedstep, the power is at your fingertips but you don’t even need to touch it; i’s just there.
We’ve come away from Z68 thinking that it’s a solid improvement to P67, but more specificially it’s an impressive marriage between P67 and H67, with some new goodies thrown into the mix. It’s not revolutionary, but rather evolutionary in bringing the Sandy Bridge platform forward.
The Pure Point: At $209 USD, the ASUS P8Z68-V PRO is a solid implementation of the Z68 chipset, bringing some new innovations to market in an attractive and well-priced package.