Page 2 - Bundle, Chipset, BIOS
Much like the Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD5 motherboard reviewed almost a year ago by my colleague Jonathan, the Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3P comes with a bundle consisting of more or less the same accessories. This is quite a bit smaller than their generous bundles of some motherboards we have seen from them in the past, but this isn't too much of a problem for me, since everything I need is already provided. Below is a list of the components you will receive straight out:
- 1x Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3P motherboard
- 4x SATA cables
- 1x SLI bridge
- 1x I/O backplate
- 1x User's manual
- 1x Driver disc
Two chipsets were designed for Sandy Bridge processors during initial release earlier this year. The first chipset, H67, is targeted at mainstream consumers that are not concerned with overclocking, and instead want the added benefit of having integrated graphics. The second chipset is Intel's P67 chip, and was marketed at enthusiasts who wanted both faster clock speeds, and the ability to utilize multi-graphics configurations. The Intel Z68 chipset, however, was not released until later this year, and effectively combined the best of both worlds. Now, users with the latest Z68 chipset can expect to have full use of the overclocking benefits seen from the P67 chip, while adding other great features including Intel's HD Graphics otherwise not available to those who like to overclock. Exclusive to Z68 is Intel's Smart Response Technology (Basically, the ability to use an SSD for caching), which was not available to either of the original Cougar Point chips. We will also cover Gigabyte's new patent pending Touch BIOS in just a moment, but more on this later.
What is seen on all Gigabyte motherboards based on Intel chipsets for Sandy Bridge processors is what they call the Hybrid UEFI BIOS. Simply put, what Gigabyte has done is stuck another UEFI layer on the pre-existing legacy BIOS in order to support 3TB+ HDDs. As well, users have more flexibility in network booting, but will not see any difference in setup screens compared to traditional motherboards. This is unlike ASUS' excellent GUI UEFI BIOS. There is talk about this technology bridging into the older platforms as well such as the X58 chipset, P55 chipset, H55 chipset, and possibly AMD series chipsets as well. Also, like H67 and P67 chipsets, Z68 will continue to provide the standard connection interfaces like USB 2.0 (14 of them), SATA ports (4 SATA 3Gb/s, 2 SATA 6Gb/s), and eight additional PCI Express 2.0 lanes for everything else. For USB 3.0, however, the chipset will not provide native support, so the interface will still go through a third party controller.
What is standard to all Gigabyte motherboards is the ever familiar Award BIOS. While the Award BIOS could very well be described as old fashioned, it has always been a well received BIOS that is capable of making BIOS changes without too much of an effort. Unlike other BIOSes that use a series of tabs (American Megatrends), or a GUI interface to make changes, the Award BIOS sticks to the very basics. The main format includes two columns. The left column consists of standard menus and pages, while the more miscellaneous utilities are placed on the right column. Going through the entire BIOS map would simply be a waste of time, and so in this review, I will be focusing mainly on the first menu on the BIOS home screen -- the Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker pages.
Once the user first enters the Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker screen, he or she is presented with the option of five additional sections. As well, the bottom of the left column gives us basic information as to CPU frequency, memory frequency, CPU temperature, Vcore voltage, and DRAM Voltage -- all important when attempting to increase the performance of your system. The five sections that branch out from this main page includes the following: M.I.T Current Status, Advanced Frequency Settings, Advanced Memory Settings, Advanced Voltage Settings, and Miscellaneous Settings, as shown in our photo above.
The M.I.T Current Status page, in short, is a very handy screen. Here, you will be provided with detailed information such as the BLCK, CPU frequency, CPU voltage, and RAM voltage. Information as to the motherboard, CPU, bus frequency, Uncore frequency, and the frequency and temperature of each core is also here. Lastly, a more detailed list of each memory size in each DIMM and current latency settings for each channel of memory is present on this page. If you want a detailed viewing of everything going on with your CPU and RAM, this is the place to be. What I find particularly nice about this page is Gigabyte managed to fit all this information onto a single scroll-less screen, making usage more efficient.
On the image above, you can see that the Advanced Frequency Settings is the first screen you would begin to make changes on. Here, CPU clock ratios and BCLK frequencies can be adjusted. If BCLK Clock Control is enabled, the user will be able to adjust the base clock value of your processor in 0.1MHz increments. The System Memory Multiplier will allow the user to adjust the value to the nearest multiplier. If we go back up just a bit, we can enter the Advanced CPU Core Features page, where additional options can be changed. If you want to enable or disable Turbo Mode, this would be the page to go to. Also, if one were to attempt to use the Touch BIOS in Windows, then the user would need to go through this page to enable the Touch BIOS to make changes to the system.
In the Advanced Memory Settings screen, the user can make changes on their memory settings -- no kidding, haha. System Memory Multiplier can be changed here, which was previously seen in the Advanced Frequency Settings page. Also on this page, you will find the memory voltage and memory frequency. The timing settings for Channel A and B can be modified by going to each corresponding page.
The final page I want to talk about today is the Advanced Voltage Settings screen. This screen focuses primarily on changing the voltages. On this page, the table allows the user to adjust several types of voltages using a series of drop down menus. The entire process can take quite a while, and using the arrow keys to scroll up and down a large list of voltages can be quite tiresome. Fortunately, the user is also able to type in a value directly, with the nearest available increment selected for you.
The Q-Flash function on the BIOS is an integrated feature for the user to flash their BIOS safely and easily. My Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3P came with the F4 BIOS from the factory. In terms of updating my BIOS, I did not use the Q-Flash option, and instead flashed in Windows using Gigabyte's @BIOS utility. As a side note, you will need to also update the backup BIOS after updating the main BIOS. The reason is if you make changes in the BIOS to overclock, but the system fails to boot, then the backup BIOS will naturally take over and overwrite the main BIOS to keep the "before" settings.
Before we move on, some of you may have heard about Gigabyte's Touch BIOS. To be honest, I have quite a few issues with it. The Windows utility does write changes to the BIOS, but does not provide any real time changes. In order for one to save changes, you must click the "Save CMOS" button, which will take you through a whole restart of the system. This simply wastes time, and makes BIOS changes less efficient. In fact, if you went through my analysis of the Award BIOS on the motherboard above and you understand most of it, then you're better off using the "real" BIOS rather than the "fake" Windows program. If Gigabyte were to somehow provide some sort of benefit when using the Touch BIOS, then maybe it may be worth it. At the current moment however, the utility gives little to no additional performance benefits. It is more of a marketing gimmick than a useful feature in my personal opinion. What Gigabyte really needs is a true UEFI GUI BIOS, not a fancy Windows program.
1. Introduction, Features, and Specifications
2. Bundle, Chipset, BIOS
3. A Closer Look, Board Layout, Test System
4. Benchmark: AIDA64 CPU
5. Benchmark: AIDA64 FPU
6. Benchmark: AIDA64 Memory
7. Benchmark: PCMark Vantage
8. Benchmark: 3DMark 11
9. Benchmark: PassMark PerformanceTest 7.0
10. Benchmark: SuperPI 1M, Cinebench R11.5
11. Onboard Sound (RMAA 6.2.3) Analyzation
12. Overclocking and Conclusion