Performance Summary and Conclusion
Performance Summary: There are two aspects to the Z68 Express chipset’s performance to consider; its performance versus the P67 Express using similar configurations and the effect Intel Smart Response SSD caching technology has on performance. With regard to the former, the Z68 Express and P67 Express—when configured similarly—performs at essentially the same level. Our benchmarks showed the Asus, MSI, and Gigabyte Z68 Express-based motherboards we tested slightly outperforming the P67, but the differences were minor and can likely be attributed to the updated drivers and BIOS revisions used on the newer Z68 Express-based boards.
The effect Intel’s Smart Response SSD caching technology has on performance is much more exciting, however. Smart Response technology had a huge impact on performance, resulting in significantly increased data transfer speeds and ultimately better system-level performance. Simply plugging in a small SSD and enabling Smart Response acceleration (provided the storage controller is already configured properly for RAID mode) resulted in significant performance gains and will allow users on a somewhat limited budget to enjoy many of the benefits of a solid state drive, without having to spring for a higher-capacity model that can accommodate and entire OS installation and commonly used apps and data.
The Intel Z68 Express Chipset with Smart Response Technology
We really like the Z68 Express chipset and the new technologies it brings to Sandy Bridge. It really is a no compromise solution when compared to the first 6-series chipsets. With Z68 Express, Sandy Bridge owners no longer have to choose whether or not to use Intel HD graphics and QuickSync or a discrete GPU, and they don’t have to settle for CPU overclocking or support for Intel’s built-in visual technologies—Z68 Express can do them all. The effect on performance of Intel’s Smart Response technology is also a huge plus. It pulls from the concept of hybrid SSD / hard drives and takes things to another level in terms of flexibility and performance.
As much as we like what the Z68 Express has to offer, however, we can’t help but feel this is the chipset the P67 should have been. But, what’s done is done. The Z68 Express is here now and it is the chipset to own if you’re an enthusiast considering a Sandy Bridge purchase. The three enthusiast-class motherboards we tested all exhibited strong performance with rock-solid stability and would make for fine foundations of a new Sandy Bridge setup.