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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  • hotjase - Saturday, July 16, 2011 - link

    octal core Sandy Bridge-E ! Reply
  • Tchamber - Saturday, July 16, 2011 - link

    Just wanted to point out that your use of plural verbs changes, you used both "Zotac are" and "Zotac has". This actually came up in another review here recently :) Reply
  • Fuchikoma - Saturday, July 16, 2011 - link

    Software utilities dissapointing? I wonder what the author meant by this. Can the author expand? Dissapointing in the sense of lacking utilities, or are they crap? If it's the former, I say that is a good thing. If it is the latter, I say better to have none at all. Reply
  • HW_mee - Saturday, July 16, 2011 - link

    The number of MOSFET drivers determine the number of phases, and I doubt Zotac has mounted 24 drivers. My guess is that this is at best a 12 phase design.

    By the way, why even make a design with so many phases? A proper 8 phase design should have a low enough voltage ripple to satisfy any OC attempt and even a 3 phase design can handle around 100 watt.
    Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Saturday, July 16, 2011 - link

    Because some people are stupid and automatically assume more is better? Reply
  • jabber - Saturday, July 16, 2011 - link

    I'd really like to see a motherboard that takes on hi-fi principles of less is more.

    I want a board with no -

    PS/2 ports
    Audio ports
    Optical ports
    Serial ports
    Parallel ports
    Firewire ports
    Esata ports
    IDE ports
    Wi-fi
    HDMI/DVI
    PCI slots
    Audio chipset

    Essentially get rid of any legacy hardware and anything that doesnt entail USB2/3, a decent gigabit NIC, hooking in a couple of HDDS and a DVD/BD drive.

    Remove as much clutter as possible so that traces can be beefed up and optimised for signal path etc.

    Then I'll hook in my GPU and soundcard of choice.
    Reply
  • TrackSmart - Monday, July 18, 2011 - link

    I agree that an extra-high-quality and performance board with just-the-necessary features would be great. Unfortunately, that may not be the easiest product to market. Also, I'd want some of the features you mentioned, so where do you draw the line? Reply
  • i7 - Saturday, July 16, 2011 - link

    Does it come with a mail order bride? Reply
  • mrd0 - Sunday, July 17, 2011 - link

    You would thing after the discussion last week about the lack of quality editing of Brendan van Varik's article that this wouldn't happen again so soon, but one the first page of this article we have the following:

    "Zotac have piled . . ."
    "Zotac has been . . ."
    "Zotac are also . . ."
    "Zotac were going . . ."
    "Zotac has to . . ."

    Ignoring the plural v. singular debate...please just pick one and maintain some consistency!
    Reply
  • crisan_tiberiu - Sunday, July 17, 2011 - link

    just one thing: usualy quad SLI its for customers that have a big budget and usualy thee dont use single slot cards for quad SLI....My question is: how can u install a 2 or 3 slot graphics card between PCI-e slot 2 and 3? Reply

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