Z68 Motherboard Roundup: ASUS, EVGA, ASRock, GB, MSI, ZOTAC

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EVGA motherboards are always fun to test; they’re usually big, with lots of extras, and the Z68 FTW certainly meets that criteria. Indeed, it’s an EATX board, it has its fair share of on-board buttons and switches, and the box was packed full of accessories (which we’ll discuss later).


Specifications & Features

CPU: Supports Intel Socket 1155 Processors Core i5/i7
Chipset: Intel Z68
Memory: 4 x 240-pin DIMM sockets
Dual Channel DDR3
Maximum of 16GB of DDR3 2133MHz+
Slots: 3 x PCIe x16/x8, 2 x PCIe x8, 2 x PCIe x1
Storage I/O: 0 x UltraDMA133
8 x Serial ATA 300MB/sec (6x Internal + 2x E-SATA) with support for RAID 0/1/0+1/5/10/JBOD
2 x Serial ATA 600MB/sec (2 Internal) with support for RAID 0 and RAID1
LAN: 2 x 10/100/1000 LAN Marvel 88E8057
Audio: 8 Channel High Definition Realtek ALC889
Multi-I/O: 10 x USB2.0 ports (6 external + 4 internal headers)
 4 x USB3.0 ports (2 external + 2 internal headers)
Audio connector (Line-in, Line-out, MIC)
FireWire 1394A (1 external)
Form Factor: EATX Form Factor, Length: 12in - 304.8mm, Width: 10.375in - 263.5mm

This board supports Intel Core i7 and i5 socket 1155 chips; don’t bother with a Core i3 here. Surprisingly, the Z68 FTW only supports a maximum of 16GB of DDR3-2133 memory as opposed to 32GB with other boards, and its graphics support is also limited to only 3-way SLI or CrossFireX.

One strength of the board is that even if all five of its PCI-E x16 slots are in use, they’ll run at x8. There are also two PCI-E x1 slots. The Z68 FTW sports 6 SATA ports (four 3Gbps, two 6Gbps), and two additional eSATA ports courtesy of the Marvell 88SE6121 chip as well as ten USB 2.0 ports and four VLI VL800-Q8-powered USB 3.0 ports. The back panel also has a FireWire port and dial Gigabit LAN ports.

Another positive for this motherboard is that it has no fewer than seven fan headers for ample air cooling possibilities; you might actually have to get creative to use them all up. On-board, the Z68 FTW has power, reset, and clear JCMOS buttons (and another clear CMOS button on the back panel), as well as a switch to toggle between BIOS configurations (the board supports up to three different profiles) and a CPU temperature monitor.

Overall, the layout is great, but one thing we didn’t like is that the 24-pin power connector is at a right angle instead of facing up. With such a large motherboard, your case has to be that much bigger to accommodate the connector sticking out to the side, which effectively prevents you from using some cases that would otherwise be adequately sized.

Unpacking the box was like pulling presents out of Santa’s bag--it was almost as if they were multiplying in there, and we couldn’t believe EVGA fit that much stuff into such a small box. Accessories include the installation disc, manual, installation guide, back I/O panel, SATA cables and power adapters, and SLI bridge cables. The board also comes with a very cool front panel ECP, an even cooler (but ultimately probably superfluous) EVGauge, two-port USB 3.0 bracket, two-port USB 2.0 plus one FireWire bracket, and a tiny I/O shield fan for good measure.

The EVGauge and ECP panel are arguably the coolest extras in the box. The former is a physical analog gauge--it actually uses a needle, like an RPM gauge on your car--that you can connect to the motherboard and see your CPU frequency in real time. It's ultimately not very useful, as it doesn't measure the frequency incrementally, but it's pretty sweet to have on your case nonetheless.

The ECP panel is far more useful and just as cool. It's a front-mounted panel that displays post codes and the CPU temperature and allows you to enable or disable PCI-E slots, clear the CMOS, and control voltages.


The Z68 FTW includes the EVGA E-LEET Tuning Utility for some desktop-based overclocking, but you’re still probably better off using the BIOS for fine tuning. The utility looks exactly like CPU-Z, which is kind of funny, but you have the option of adjusting some of the settings, such as Turbo Mode controls.

Other overclocking features include EVGA Vdroop Control, which ensures that the voltages you set in the BIOS are the ones that are actually used under load, and EVGA Dummy OC, which is a one-click overclock in the BIOS.

The Z68 FTW costs $264.99, although there’s a $10 manufacturer’s mail-in rebate.

Tags:  Asus, MSI, Gigabyte, Zotac, evga, Z68, ARock

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