Final Words

Looking back on the ASUS P8Z68-V PRO, I can come up with a variety of conclusions. It's a great little board in terms of performance, features and add-ons, even for the $210 asking price. Though at this price, we'd perhaps ask for a little more to be in the boxed product—a few more SATA cables perhaps, or a full USB 3.0 3.5" bay. As much as this was a review about the ASUS board, it's also a first impression of the Z68 chipset through the ASUS P8Z68-V PRO.

The ultimate combination of P67 and H67 was inevitable—if Intel were going to market a series of processors with integrated graphics, it would seem odd not to include connectors on every chipset for those graphics. That's what happened with P67, when Intel decided that enough people wanted discrete GPU performance that the integrated GPU wouldn't get a look-in. Though with the virtues of Quick Sync, there had to be a way of providing one chipset that tried to do everything—overclocking the CPU, overclocking the integrated GPU, multiple discrete GPU setups, the works.

There was a sigh of relief when Lucid developed a software solution to allow them all to work together—the integrated GPU for low throughput graphics, a discrete GPU for gaming, and any situation to be able to use the integrated GPU for highly specialized applications. Virtu is a nice bit of kit, but in terms of power saving, if you're not using Quick Sync, there isn't much to be saved as graphics card manufacturers are pretty good on low power states.

The ultimate question is—should I upgrade to Z68? You may have realized I haven't talked about SSD caching yet—I've left that up to Anand to discuss and report on, but it's a feature worth considering. From my perspective, if you want an all-round computer that plays games and uses Quick Sync and the other specialties that the iGPU can provide, then Z68 is a logical upgrade. However, if you already have a discrete GPU and P67, unless you're really big on video transcoding there's no point in replacing your current board.

I know that prices for Z68 boards will be as low as $120 from some manufacturers, and as high as $350. The price difference in all these boards is similar to that of the P67—stability at high overclocks, features such as more and more SATA ports, increased support for better cooling, etc. Does that mean that the ASUS P8Z68-V PRO is a good buy? At $210, our only comparison so far in the P67 space that we've reviewed is the ASRock P67 Extreme6, which has 10 SATA ports, but minimal RAID, a lot more IO panel USB connectors, more in the box to come with the motherboard, arguably a worse BIOS, better USB performance, and a shorter warranty. It's a tough decision—people will like the ASUS board, of that I have no doubt. It's just a case of if it's got the right features for you as a consumer.

We can't come to any final conclusion with only one Z68 board, of course. I expect to have more Z68 boards to review in the near future, so watch this space. Right now, the ASUS board is a good Z68 offering, but if you're in no rush, wait a few weeks to see if another board can rise to the top—and let's be honest, if you've been waiting for Z68 you can probably wait a bit longer.

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  • L. - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    What you are searching for is not undervolting and underclocking, its called advanced, manually-defined "speedstep".

    Haven't heard of it available commercially but some guy did that for his old AMD XP and it was pretty interesting - although that chip slowed down to almost a standstill on the lowest setting.
    Reply
  • Sunsmasher - Wednesday, May 11, 2011 - link

    A board that performs well under the higher stresses of overclocking/overvolting will of course perform well in an undervolting situation. It's then up to the user (you) to find undervolting settings that work well with your particular processor.
    Also, it would be silly to buy a motherboard in this class (3 gpu capable, etc.), if your intention were to save as much power in your system as possible. An H67 board would probably make more sense for an undervolted "green' system. Most Anandtech readers who read reviews of boards in this class are, I sure, interested in the maximum performance available in their systems as opposed to saving energy. (Saving energy is an admirable goal, of course, just not the main priority of people who want maximum possible performance.) That's why undervolting testing is not done here, I'm sure.
    Reply
  • gevorg - Wednesday, May 11, 2011 - link

    Good point! Even when you seek high performance, low power and energy saving are still very important because your might leave your computer idle or use it for simple tasks, and its important for it to dynamically change to your needs without being an energy hog when it doesn't need to be. Reply
  • tomoyo - Wednesday, May 11, 2011 - link

    I'd just be happy with the following data on each motherboard to make sure you have something low power and silent:
    1) What voltage selections you have for both under and overvolting
    2) What fan speed choices you can choose.
    3) What the power consumption with said motherboard is compared to similar ones at idle and load.
    (It seems intel generally wins in this category at idle)
    This will make it clear if you have something that is a champ for low power.
    Reply
  • Rajinder Gill - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    Looking at the core voltage scale in the spec table in the article - it starts at 0.8V and also that you've got multiplier control. That means underclocking is possible.

    One thing that many of you are probably aware of (but some aren't) is that if you have C1E and SpeedStep active, light loading power savings due to reduced VID are so small that it's hard to measure them - certainly not with a standard plug-in AC level meter. The measurements need to be done at DC and may show that some of the potential savings may be nullified by the VRM efficiency curve if some form of load dependant phase control isn't supported by the system.

    As for full loading scenarios, you can set the idle threshold percentage in Windows 7 to a higher level, thus ensuring the processor only goes into full load state under the most arduous loads. This way you get to keep the performance advantage of a higher clock freqeuncy (if and where needed), while still having the ultra low consumption courtesy of power gating through all major sections of the processor including cache (in C6 state).

    In truth, to educate the masses, this properly this probably needs a separate article and followed up by a two line blurb when reviewing a motherboard to state whether the BIOS allows underclocking. That's about all there is to it in my opinion, I don't think too much time needs to be spent on the subject in subsequent reviews with the groundwork out of the way.

    Regards
    Reply
  • NeBlackCat - Friday, May 13, 2011 - link

    Great post, thanks for that information. Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Friday, May 13, 2011 - link

    Frankly, I want a high end mainboard to have no expense allocated for audio at all; I'll buy a decent solution for my sound thank you very much, please save me a few bucks to put toward that end! Or, put the money into figuring out how I can add a sound card AND have triple SLI/Crossfire. Build in a Killer NIC so I don't have to use an addon card there.

    Mid and low-end cards should have mid or low-end sound solutions.

    ;)
    Reply
  • xinaes - Wednesday, May 11, 2011 - link

    "graphics card manufacturers are pretty good on low power states"... unless you connect more than one display, in which case they apparently push cards into 3d clock speeds constantly:
    http://www.silentpcreview.com/forums/viewtopic.php...

    I'd like to know if boards such as this will let me run two displays off the IGP with Virtu in i-mode, how much power that would consume, also what the hit would be on performance under different circumstances. I'm hopeful that the IGP might be able to drive both displays without using substantial amounts of power for basic tasks, and that the performance cost in more demanding situations while appreciable would not be crippling.
    Reply
  • Krenn - Wednesday, May 11, 2011 - link

    That's an excellent question - I'd love to see the same thing. I usually use two monitors for basic tasks and only one for gaming, but would like to save power without having to unplug & switch the monitor cables. Also, I had no idea running two monitors from the same video card was using more power than it should; that could definitely make a difference.

    I assume you can't mix and match and connect one monitor to the integrated and the other to the discrete and use both monitors at the same time.
    Reply
  • xinaes - Wednesday, May 11, 2011 - link

    I'm not sure exactly what mixing and matching is possible. Something that was posited as a workaround in the thread I linked (in the context of systems where IGP is not available) is using a second low power GPU to drive the secondary display. It may well be that the IGP could fill a similar role with a Z68 board, but it's hard to be sure.

    For me it would be irritating as I don't only use the graphics for gaming on a single screen; I'd want at times to run 3d apps with resources shared by windows on both screens etc. Still, I'd like to at least have the option of such a workaround if it meant saving power, even if it was irritating in certain circumstances.
    Reply

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