The Zotac "Crown Edition-ZT-Z68 U1DU3" is a Z68 motherboard in the Extended ATX (E-ATX, 330x305 mm) format.  At that size, you know from the start that it will only fit a select number of cases.  But in an attempt to woo gamers, enthusiasts and overclockers, Zotac have piled it all on the details:

 - a 26-phase design (24 for the CPU), with driver-MOSFETs, solid chokes, high-C and super ML capacitors,
 - 802.11n onboard Wifi mini-PCIe Card (as well as gigabit Ethernet),
 - an NF200 chip to support 32 PCIe lanes for a 16x/0x/16x/0x or 8x/8x/8x/8x GPU configuration,
 - two onboard USB 3.0 headers offering four ports (as well as two on the back),
 - three BIOS chips for backup BIOSes (not sure how this fits in with Gigabyte's DualBIOS patent),
 - a legacy IDE port, and a mSATA port for an SSD,
 - quad-SLI support,
 - voltage read points

Over recent months, Zotac has been that niche company for the mini-ITX form factor.  If you wanted mini-ITX, chances are Zotac would have a board.  Along the same lines, Zotac are also known for trying to shove everything onto a board, regardless of power consumption or price.  So when I got wind that Zotac were going extreme-full size,  I had to take a look to report on what they would be offering.

 

Important points to note are - how are the 24 CPU power phases managed?  There's only one 8-pin 12V connector, yet usually on these type of boards (c.f. Gigabyte X58A-UD9) we see two.  Is there a switch to disable the NF200 due to the 2-3% performance loss expected if only one or two GPUs are used?  Sure, the board will support quad-SLI, but the fact that the 2nd PCIe only has a 1-slot width will hamper overclockers?  How much is all this going to cost?  Is it any good?  Do I spot active cooling underneath the connected chipset heatsink?

In my experience, Zotac hardware usually works within specifications, as you would expect.  What can be dissapointing though is BIOS support, and software utilities.  If this board wants some stellar results, Zotac has to nail down those areas solid, otherwise it could fall on its face very fast - assuming that there is actually a market for such a product.

As always, no mention of pricing or availability yet.  As soon as I get more information from Zotac about this board, I will let you know.

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  • Kinetic Anomaly - Saturday, July 16, 2011 - link

    This has so much potential, can't wait to hear more. Reply
  • wwwcd - Saturday, July 16, 2011 - link

    Wait for next gen Zotac board with 50 phase design and SE-ATX[Super Extend-ATX] 335x380mm dimensions. For processor slot and phases 78% area and 22% for everything else... Reply
  • dac7nco - Saturday, July 16, 2011 - link

    In my experience Zotac boards have long suffered from a lack of refinement. These "kitchen sink" ideas generally end up like Homer Simpson's car design.

    Daimon
    Reply
  • knedle - Saturday, July 16, 2011 - link

    I agree.
    This board may be nice if someone wants to run linux home entertainment box with a lot of drives, and wifi router, but there is no way the, you will fit it into small pc case taht are made for those home pcs.
    Too much usefull things put together render this thing useless.
    Reply
  • JessusChristDoOTcom - Saturday, July 16, 2011 - link

    Too little.. Too late

    ASUS rulez
    Reply
  • stm1185 - Saturday, July 16, 2011 - link

    Maybe it is just the way it was photographed but it looks cheap and dirty. The coloring on the board, the way it shines, it all just looks cruddy. Which might not make it perform any worse but it gives me a prejudiced opinion about it.

    Zotac should work towards making their boards look more high quality and visually appealing.
    Reply
  • GeorgeH - Saturday, July 16, 2011 - link

    My experience with Zotac motherboards is exactly the same. They have fantastic features, build quality, and design - but I've seen cheap Dell and HP PCs with better BIOS and software support. This motherboard looks pretty, but it'll take a lot more than a collection of expensive components for me to take it seriously. Reply
  • AdamK47 - Saturday, July 16, 2011 - link

    So apparently the board uses the NF200 chip for 32 PCI-E lanes. How in the world is someone suppose to run triple and quad SLI/Crossfire with the PCI-E slots arranged like they are? Reply
  • QB - Saturday, July 16, 2011 - link

    So this looks cheap (as mentioned earlier)... and it has the ability for quad x8 lanes.... yet how could you really do that with the slot config? (again mentioned earlier.... all-in-all a big let down. If you want quad x8's the UD7 from Gigabyte is still a stellar option.

    QB
    Reply
  • hotjase - Saturday, July 16, 2011 - link

    X79 is what all gamers are waiting for, quad channel PCI-E 3.0 boards !!! Reply

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