We regularly see motherboards based on integrated chipsets which have no video output connectors. This is usually done when the integrated modification of a chipset is cheaper than the discrete one, and there's no cheap albeit modern board in a company's lineup. So, from this point of view, Gigabyte GA-Z68X-UD4-B3 quite surprised us for having no integrated graphic capabilities while being based on nothing less than the Intel Z68 Express chipset.
If you haven't yet read our review of Intel Z68 Express, just keep in mind that it just combines the features of the older P67 and H67 chipsets (and is obviously more expensive than either of those). So if we drop the support of graphics built into Sandy Bridge processors... we are reverted back to P67. So why would Gigabyte do just that? Yes, there is the Intel Smart Response Technology (also described in the chipset review), but it's nothing phenomenal, and we can hardly imagine that someone would prefer a Z68-based motherboard — more expensive than a P67-based counterpart — only to get the Intel Smart Response Technology. Especially while there are no cheap but speedy solid-state drives in the market.
In all other respects, GA-Z68X-UD4-B3 is a higher mid-end solution, supporting all Gigabyte's proprietary technologies, the new Touch BIOS included, so it's well worth considering.
We believe that Gigabyte GA-Z68X-UD4-B3 looks quite stylish. The company has recently adopted black matte PCB coating, and it alone looks nice. When the rest of the motherboard complies to the style, the result is nothing short of great.
As for the layout, it's not fantastic but also not bad and mostly convenient. The chipset heatsink and horizontal SATA ports allow you to install expansion cards of any length; power connectors are in their usual place as well. Memory sockets are situated a bit too close to the CPU socket, which may cause trouble if you have a large CPU cooler and memory modules with large heatsinks.
GA-Z68X-UD4-B3 doesn't have IDE or FDD interfaces (although there's a COM header onboard), but in no way this is a drawback for a modern motherboard. The configuration of expansion slots seems optimal, with two PCIe x16 (working as x16 or x8+x8), 2 PCIe x1 and 2 PCI slots. If the primary graphics card is large, you will have to sacrifice a PCIe x1 slot. If the second graphics card is large as well, you'll also lose a PCI slot. But there's hardly a universal solution to this problem, so just see if this specific layout suits you and your rig.
As we have already mentioned in previous reviews, Gigabyte utilizes the excellent DrMOS technology, although they don't call it that to avoid issues with MSI that has long been using that name (as well as the technology), not forgetting to mention it everywhere. The long and the short of it is that DrMOS chips are much more efficient than traditional MOSFETs and drivers. And, with Gigabyte being Gigabyte, space around the CPU socket is literally peppered with those (Vishay SiC769 in this case). The impressive 16 phases are however managed by a single 4-phase PWM controller from Intersil that has its outputs doubled and doubled again. This solution has obviously been designed with marketing, not engineering in mind — just for the sake of that nice, high number.
Still, the CPU VRM isn't something to complain about during overclocking. Aside from the aforementioned phases, it has two more for the System Agent, and features only high-quality Japanese polymer capacitors (like the rest of the motherboard, in fact) and ferrite chokes. Finally, GA-Z68X-UD4-B3 supports the Dual Power Switching technology that enables one set of 8 phases and disables the other 8 on every PC startup to prolong the life cycle of phases. Theoretically, you can disable this feature any time by means of the DES2 utility. But when we tried that, the system hanged. The software needs to be improved it seems.
Moving on to the cooling system. Nothing serious is required in this case, because the 6-watt chipset and DrMOS chips really do not need much. The chipset heatsink heats up to some extent, but the two CPU VRM heatsinks are barely warm. As for the heatpipe connecting them, it's situated so high above the PCB that it must heat up solely because there's warm air around it.
It's interesting that despite the overall higher mid-end positioning GA-Z68X-UD4-B3 has no typical extras we're used to seeing in mid-end and even low-end solutions from other motherboard makers. You get no onboard Power/Reset buttons (Poking at contacts with a screwdriver? What's that, Stone Age? Just joking.), no contact pads to monitor voltages with a multimeter, not even a POST indicator. Frankly speaking, only the latter could've come in handy in case something went wrong.
So what do you get then? An indicator showing how many CPU VRM phases are active. Guess why it only has four LEDs.
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