The Bottom Line
- Good Value
- Solid Performance
- Support For LGA 1155 and LGA 775 Coolers
- Limited Number Of Peripheral Ports
- Could Really Use Some More Accessories
- Intel LGA 1155 Socket
- Intel Z68 Chipset
- Supports 1066/1333/1600/1866(OC)/2133(OC) MHz Memory Speeds
- Four 240-pin DDR3 DIMM Slots
- One PCI-Express 2.0 x16, Three PCI-Express 2.0 x1, Two PCI Slots
- Two SATA III 6.0 GBps and Four SATA II 3.0Gbps Ports With RAID 0/1/5/10 Support and Smart Response Technology
- Two USB 2.0, Eight USB 2.0 (Four External, Four Internal), VGA, HDMI, DVI-D, Gigabit Ethernet
- Realtek ALC892 7.1 HDA Audio With Optical S/PDIF
- Two SATA III Cables, I/O Shield, Software CD
- AMI UEFI BIOS
Guide Review - ASRock Z68 Pro3 Intel Socket 1155 Desktop ATX Motherboard Review
Jun 10 2011 - Most of the first Intel Z68 motherboards to come to market have been relatively expensive and feature rich. For those looking to put together a modestly priced but solid performing desktop PC, ASRock's Z68 Pro3 offers the primary features of the new chipset without the bells and whistles added by most manufacturers. Because the board retails for $125, it is going to lack some features typical to other boards but for most it will do just fine.
One of the key features of the Z68 chipset over the P67 is the ability to have hybrid graphics. With the included Lucidlogix Virtu software, it is now possible to have the PC use both the integrated Intel HD graphics processor on the latest LGA 1155 processors and a dedicated graphics card. There are two ways to set this up with advantages and disadvantages to both. The first is to hooked the monitor to the on-board connectors. This has the advantage of consuming less power by launching the dedicated graphics only when required and routing the video through the motherboard. The downside here is the on-board graphics are limited to a 1920x1200 resolution. The other method connects the monitor to the dedicated graphics and will launch the Intel HD Graphics when it can be used to help speed up media encoding. The downside here is the graphics card is constantly running so it uses more power. Of the two, the dedicated graphics card version is the one that most people will want to use.
The other big feature of the Z68 chipset is the Intel's Smart Response Technology that allows drive caching that combines the storage capacity of a traditional hard drive and the speed of a solid state disk. This is incredibly easy to setup once you have installed the proper BIOS and drivers. Simply setup the hard drive as the master boot device. Add in a solid state drive and turn on acceleration via the driver. After this is done, up to 64GB of space on a solid state drive caches frequently used programs and files to speed up the system. This definitely benefits boot times and loading levels withing games. Just don't expect full speeds as if using the solid state drive alone. It is a great method to boost drive performance with a small capacity low cost solid state drive.
In terms of the performance of the board, the ASRock Z68 Pro3 offered solid performance when paired up with a Intel Core i5-2500k processor and 4GB of DDR3 1600MHz memory for testing. It is easily on par with the P67 based motherboards. Overclocking is a bit more restricted on this low cost board though. This is primarily caused from the fewer number of power phase components on the motherboard compared to the more expensive Extreme4 version. The UEFI BIOS also does not supply as many adjustments. Still, overclocking with the proper cooling should be able to achieve 1GHz boosts over the standard clock rates. Those unsure of overclocking can always use the Auto OC setting that will boost the CPU a modest 400MHz over stock speeds.
When it comes to cooling options, the ASRock Z68 Pro3 does open up a greater number of options. In addition to the standard LGA 1155/1156 cooling options, the motherboard also has mounting holes that allow it to use older LGA 775 coolers. This is great news for those that might be upgrading from and older Core 2 based system that have a high end cooler that would like to use with the new Core i series processors.
Probably the most disappointing aspect of the ASRock Z68 is the limited number of peripheral ports. While it does come with USB 3.0 ports, there are just two of them with no internal headers. Similarly, there are only four USB 2.0 ports on the I/O panel due to the space required for the integrated graphic connectors. There are headers for an additional four but no header brackets are included. Those hoping for eSATA or FireWire ports are also out of luck. Similarly, there is only a single PCI-Express graphics slot meaning that it cannot be used with CrossFire or SLI setups. All other PCI-Express slots are restricted to x1 slots. There are two PCI slots for anyone who happens to still need a slot for an older audio card. Of course, this is what one has to give up in order to get a board this inexpensive.