Gigabyte Z68X-UD3H-B3 £149
16th Jun 2011 | 14:37
Z68 motherboards don't come much more attractive
Gigabyte Z68X-UD3H-B3: Overview
Astoundingly, while some other manufacturers have yet to get one out the door, there are 12 different variations on the Z68 theme from Gigabyte already, including this, the Z68X-UD3H-B3.
That's a lot of numbers and letters which basically tell us that this is a good looking board – dressed as it is, all in black – which has some high-end features that you won't find on a cheaper example such as ASRock's Z68 Pro 3.
For example, there are two PCI-Express slots for graphics cards, premium grade components for stability and overclocking and a back-up BIOS for restoring things if it all goes wrong.
Add in the standards, including two USB 3.0 ports and support for SATA 3 drives, and it's tempting not to bother waiting to see what rivals can produce.
Gigabyte Z68X-UD3H-B3: Benchmarks
Compared to the older P67 chipset there's not a lot to distinguish Gigabyte's Z68X-UD3H-B3 in terms of raw performance. It's the extra features such as Lucid's Virtu and Intel's Smart Response Technology that make it the more futureproof platform.
Cyberlink MediaEspresso (1080p clip with QuickSync) - Time: quicker is better
Gigabyte Z68X-UD3H-B3: 18secs
ASUS P8P67Pro: 90secs
X264 V3 (no QuickSync) - Frames per second: higher is better
Gigabyte Z68X-UD3H-B3: 32.5fps
ASUS P8P67Pro: 36.0fps
Overall platform performance
PCMark Vantage - Index score: higher is better
Gigabyte Z68X-UD3H-B3: 10967
ASUS P8P67Pro: 11362
1080p gaming performance
Just Cause 2 (high) - Frames per second: higher is better
Gigabyte Z68X-UD3H-B3: 54.87FPS
ASUS P8P67Pro: 54.92FPS
Gigabyte Z68X-UD3H-B3: Verdict
Bundled along with the usual suites of overclocking tools there's an app which we particularly liked for the Gigabyte Z68X-UD3H-B3, although we're not entirely sure when we'd make use of it.
Cloud OC enables you to take control of BIOS settings remotely via Bluetooth (if you have a separate adaptor) or the web. It's a neat trick, similar to that pioneered by Asus on its ultra-high end Republic of Gamers' boards.
But the real star of the show here, as it will be for all Z68 motherboards, is Lucid's Virtu technology. Once again this deceptively simple piece of software, which enables you to use the integrated graphics core without removing your gaming GPU, proves itself to be a reliable and invaluable tool.
At least, it is if you do any video editing, where it can accelerate certain encoding applications by stupid amounts. In our tests, it was almost five times faster than encoding by CPU alone.
But even if you don't do video editing it will still power-down your discrete card when its 3D chops aren't needed, making for a much greener gaming machine anyway.
Elsewhere, Gigabyte's Z68X-UD3H-B3 puts in an equally solid performance. We could wish for more USB ports and SATA slots, but we'd probably have to pay a lot more for them. We also quite like the familiar feeling old school BIOS option, though the lack of UEFI is still rather strange.
There is one issue, however. The PCIe slots scale back to just 8x, rather than 16x lanes if both are used at the same time. SLI or Crossfire should be fine for most purposes, but you might start to see that bandwidth bottleneck kicking in if you're planning to set up dual graphics for multi-monitor resolutions with lots of image quality settings turned on.
But if you're only planning to use one card, you might want to look at the ASRock Z68 Pro 3. The Gigabyte Z68X-UD3H-B3 is the better-built board, but ASRock's is almost £40 cheaper.
At less than £150 this seems like a good value board, considering it has Gigabyte's Ultra Durable three components and lots of flexibility for overclocking. Lucid's Virtu application for switching between integrated and discrete graphics again proves itself admirably, and extras such as Cloud OC are fun to have.
It's probably going to be worth waiting to see how prices calm down around the Z68 chipset. There are other, cheaper examples available already, and the eight lane PCI-Express limitation here might be a cost cutting measure too far if you're planning for dual GPUs in the future.
Two USB 3.0 ports, support for SATA 3 drives, PCI-Express slots, premium grade components and a back-up BIOS combine with slick extras in the shape of Lucid's Virtu and Intel's Smart Response Technology to make the Gigabyte Z68X-UD3H-B3 a very tempting offering indeed.