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The Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3 ($149.99 list) is a motherboard intended for use with Intel's second-generation Core (aka "Sandy Bridge") processors using the LGA1155 socket. It is equipped with the Z68 Express chipset, the most advanced and feature-rich of any in Intel's Sandy Bridge line. Features of Z68 Express include support for Intel's Smart Response Technology (SRT), which allows automatic caching of frequently used data on a solid-state drive (SSD) to improve access times. An mSATA port located on the motherboard lets you add a small SSD to the motherboard to make use of this feature, without requiring you to install a larger one elsewhere in your system. (Note: The GA-Z68XP-UD3 does not come with an SSD you can use to take advantage of SRT. The Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3 is an otherwise identical board that also comes with an mSATA SSD loaded with 20GB of SLC flash memory specifically for this purpose.) Design and FeaturesThough Gigabyte has departed from its traditional blue-and-white color scheme in many of its recent motherboard models, the GA-Z68XP-UD3 uses it. It also conforms to the ATX form factor, and measures 9 by 12 inches (HW). In addition to a 24-pin connection to your power supply, it also requires an eight-pin 12V connection.
The computer industry is a fierce business, and manufacturers are always hard-pressed to stand out. In the 1990s and early 2000s, motherboard manufacturers could choose from chipsets made by VIA, NVIDIA, AMD, and Intel. Having the option to support a variety of chipsets let motherboard manufacturers be creative and boost their overclocking potential and features. However, the industry is changing and we now have just two camps—Intel and AMD. There is no third chipset manufacturer to choose from. However, innovation remains the key to survival in this fierce industry. To survive, motherboard manufacturers need to be innovative. GIGABYTE has been one of the companies that has been quite actively experimenting with different designs. Their latest Sniper series, designed for gamers, features X-Fi audio and a Bigfoot Killer network processor for superior audio quality and better online gaming performance. GIGABYTE's latest venture is putting an mSATA port on desktop motherboard. The mSATA port allows users to install an SSD without the need of an SATA cable, or pair up a mechanical disk with an SSD to boost performance with Intel Smart Response.
Gigabyte has wasted no time in producing boards using the new Z68 chipset, in fact you could say they have gone slightly overboard with the excitement of it all, as they have no less that 20 motherboards currently in their line-up. That said it has almost entirely pulled out of the P67 platform, seeing the Z68 as its demise. The plan is to only produce one P67 mobo going forward. Sitting amongst the awkwardly named Z68 line-up though are five boards (GA-Z68XP-UD3, GA-Z68XP-D3, GA-Z68AP-D3, GA-Z68P-DS3 GAZ68XP-UD3-iSSD) which all have one thing in common; they are the first desktop boards to be fitted with mSATA connections on the PCB. This allows the mounting of a small form factor SSD to work alongside Intel's Smart Response Technology (SRT) and of the five, only the GA-Z68XP-UD3-iSSD comes with a drive already in place. The drive bundled with the board comes in the shape of one of Intel's new 20GB MLC 311 series SSDs. Smarten up Intel's Smart Response Technology (SRT) enables you to use a small SSD together with a mechanical drive in a dynamic RAID array to, purportedly, improve system performance. The SSD caches the most commonly accessed files giving these files a faster fetch time.
To the dismay of some early adopters, Intel updated its Cougar Point chipset lineup only four months after Sandy Bridge's January launch. Debuting at CES, the company's second-generation Core series LGA1155 processors were initially accompanied by consumer two chipsets, the H67 and P67. Each platform presents a unique value perspective: the cheaper H67 has access to Sandy Bridge's built-in graphics, while the pricier P67 supports Intel's unlocked "K" series enthusiast processors with advanced overclocking options. Unfortunately, neither chipset offers both features and that forced many consumers into a tight spot. Some users simply don't require a dedicated graphics card, but they might still want to milk a little extra performance out of their processor and memory. That's precisely where the Z68 steps in. Released in May, the Z68 serves as Intel's enthusiast-level LGA1155 platform. In addition to combining the functionality of its H67 and P67 chipsets, the Z68 offers some impressive new features, including Intel's Smart Response Technology. Smart Response Technology (SRT) is a hybrid storage solution that effectively marries the zero access time of a speedy flash drive with the massive storage capacity of an inexpensive hard drive.
|Gigabyte Z68XP-UD3-iSSD LGA 1155 Intel Z68 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Motherboard with 20GB Intel Solid State Drive on Board GA-Z68XP-UD3-iSSD||$254.5||See it|