|MSI Z68A-GD80 Intel Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by David Ramsey|
|Thursday, 02 June 2011|
Page 14 of 15
Z68 Motherboard Final Thoughts
The Intel Z68 chipset really brings Sandy Bridge processors into their full-featured birthright. The initial Cougar Point chipsets all hobbled the new CPUs in one way or the other: you couldn't use the integrated GPU, or you couldn't overclock. The Z68 removes these arbitrary restrictions, and along with Lucid's Virtu, enables new options in system configuration.
Lucid (formerly LucidLogix) originally came onto the enthusiast scene with their "Hydra" chip that promised vendor-independent multi-GPU scaling, i.e. the ability to use multiple ATI and NVIDIA cards in the same system, combining their performance. Hydra never worked as well as Lucid had hoped, although in some situations the performance gains could be significant. Lucid's "Virtu" GPU virtualization software still has some rough edges— you must manually designate programs you want it to apply to, and not all programs can be so designated— but within these relatively minor constraints it works very well, imposing roughly a 5% performance penalty as compared with a "native" Radeon 6850 in my testing, and saving a significant amount of power when the performance of the discrete video card isn't needed. Remember, though, that multi-GPU setups cannot benefit from Virtu's i-Mode and its power-saving features. Perhaps NVIDIA's forthcoming Synergy will enable power savings for NVIDIA SLI setups.
This is the second Z68 motherboard I've reviewed, and with the exception of oddly lower scores in some benchmarks that use the iGPU, its performance was pretty much the same as the previous one...which is to be expected. Since the processor and chipset are the same, motherboard manufacturers must distinguish their products by their proprietary features. For MSI, it's their military-grade components, OC Genie, THX TruStudio Pro audio, SuperCharger USB ports, dual BIOSes, extra PCI-E power connector near the first x16 slot, and applications like the MSI Control Center, which I found more intuitive to use than ASUS' Turbo V Evo. MSI's OC Genie beats ASUS' Turbo V Evo by overclocking memory as well as the CPU and GPU (although I suspect this might only work with memory that has an XMP profile).
The Z68A chipset, combined with the amazing performance and lower power requirements of the "K" series Sandy Bridge chips, seem poised to put the final nail in the coffin of the aging X58 chipset. The only reasons I can see to go for an X58 system these days are if you absolutely must run a triple-card SLI system and really, really need 6 DIMM slots.