Asus P8Z68-V LX £77
20th Mar 2012 | 16:55
A bargain motherboard with a serious chipset
A budget board with a premium chipset. Is that the most effective combination for achieving maximum bang-for-buck? If so, the Asus P8Z68-V LX is positioned perfectly.
It sells for as little as £75 but it packs Intel's Z68 chipset.
OK, that means at best you're stuck with mainstream LGA1155 processors and a quad-core cap, rather than the six (like the Intel Core i7 3960X) and eight-core (the latter in the form of Xeon CPUs) beasts available for the monstrous LGA2011 bucket of pins.
But as LGA1155 chipsets go, the Z68 is easily the pick of the bunch.
You get full access to overclocking features, the ability to run a discrete graphics card and still use Intel's QuickSync video transcode engine and some nice little extras including Intel's SmartResponse SSD caching tech.
Asus has also thrown in some of its own particular treats, including a TPU processor for automatic overclocking, a pukka UEFI BIOS and a couple of USB 3.0 ports.
If you're expecting big performance differential between motherboards with shared chipsets at stock clock, you're setting yourself up for disappointment.
Of course, that's just dandy for the Asus P8Z68-V LX. It's main selling point is cheapness.
So all it need do is match the the performance pricier boards to be a winner. Which it most definitely does.
Also intriguing is the comparison with an X79 board and six cores. In real-world applications with mixed work loads, such as Photoshop, the difference isn't dramatic.
CPU rendering performance
Video encoding performance
Real-world productivity performance
The prospect of a Z68 board for just £75 is a question begging for an answer. What has been chopped from the Asus P8Z68-V LX to bring it in on budget?
The first thing you'll notice is a whole bunch of bare MOSFETs and VRMs.
That would tend to suggest this board isn't the best overclocker out there. The same goes for the 4+2 power phase design.
No doubt, if you're aiming to break records, you probably need to spend more.
Back in the real world, we had no problem hitting 4.5GHz with a 2700K, so it's a moot point.
That's all we're after.
Possibly more painful is the PCI Express arrangement. You get a pair of 16-lane ports, but the second slot is only four-lane electrical, which far from ideal.
What's more NVIDIA's SLI isn't supported, period. This is an AMD CrossfireX-only board.
Other omissions include on-board power, reset or Clear-CMOS switches and eSATA ports. Asus hasn't added to the Z68's compliment of six SATA ports, only two of which are 6Gbps capable.
It's not all bad news, however.
All the standard Z68 goodness is present. That means support for Intel's Smart Response SSD caching, LucidLogix Virtu and Intel XMP profiles along with both HDMI and DVI connectivity if you plan on using integrated graphics.
Asus has also included its TPU chip for easy auto overclocking via a motherboard dip switch and a USB chip with two ports.
You also get Asus's lovely UEFI BIOS and all the menus, options and ease of use that comes with the territory.
The Z68 is clearly the chipset of choice for the LGA1155 socket, so it's great to see one at an affordable price point, especially from Asus. It's also good to find Asus hasn't purged all of our favourite features, with items like the UEFI BIOS and TPU chip surviving the cut.
The biggest downside to the cost cutting is limited multi-GPU support. Asus also hasn't exactly gone to town with the chipset cooling or power supply engineering. The limited availability of 6Gbps SATA ports will become more limiting with time, too.
A very solid Z68 board from Asus at a price you can afford, but with limited multi-GPU support.