S-M-R-T, I am so smart. Intel's new Z68 with SRT is faster than a Homer

Subject: Motherboards | May 11, 2011 - 12:17 PM |
Tagged: z68, ssd, srt, msi, Intel

The wait is finally over and we can talk about the high end Sandy Bridge chipset which goes by the moniker Z68.  Finally you can use the GPU present in your Intel CPU and a discreet GPU at the same time and be able to overclock as well, which puts the H67 and P67 firmly back into the mid-range where they were intended to be.  That is not the only thing that has had enthusiasts waiting, Intel's Smart Response Technology, aka SRT but mostly known as SSD caching which implements cached I/O in a new way.  Check out [H]ard|OCP's full review to see what the impact of this technology has on your computing experience while you are waiting for the X79 to arrive.

You can see our coverage here.

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"Cache I/O isn't a new advancement in storage technology but does play a large role in the future of storage on many Intel systems. Today we look at Intel's new Smart Response Technology and give our thoughts while keeping an eye on the future of consumer storage advances."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP
Author:
Manufacturer: ASUS

Z68 is what we wanted all along

In reality, this is what we wanted all along.  When the Intel P67 chipset launched in conjunction with the Intel Sandy Bridge desktop processors, the combination of the new architecture of the x86 processing cores and the newly revamped overclocking capability (courtesy of the enhanced Intel Turbo Boost technology) made for a lethal configuration.  Without a doubt it was the highest performing platform for enthusiasts and gamers and put even more pressure on the AMD CPU division to step up its game.  Intel asserted itself again as the dominant CPU vendor.

The other key feature addition to Sandy Bridge was the inclusion of some fairly high performing integrated processor graphics on the CPU die itself, NOT on the chipset.  The Intel HD Graphics 3000 / 2000 far exceeds the horsepower of the integrated graphics on the Clarkdale processors but that really wasn't hard to achieve.  Along with that added graphical performance was the inclusion of a very interesting feature called Intel Quick Sync that allowed specific applications to take advantage of fixed function hardware on the CPU for incredibly fast video transcoding times.

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The problem was that even mainstream users that decided to use a discrete graphics card in their computer rather than depend SOLELY on the integrated graphics of the Sandy Bridge architecture, lost out on the Quick Sync feature all together.  Why?  The P67 chipset that supported overclocking and other "high-end" features didn't include video output support.  The H67 chipset that DOES support video output does not offer overclocking functionality.  And since the Quick Sync technology was only available when the integrated graphics were initialized, most of our readers that really wanted to game and use a discrete GPU from NVIDIA or AMD were out of luck.  

Today's reveal of the Intel Z68 chipset finally presents a solution that combines the features of the H67 chipset with those of the P67 chipset to create the best option for Sandy Bridge system builders. 

Fancy a peek at the Z68 even without any benchmarks?

Subject: Motherboards | May 10, 2011 - 11:47 AM |
Tagged: z68, sandy bridge, preview, lga1155, Intel

We here at PC Perspective are not big fans of the preview, as seeing a board without any accompanying benchmarks does not really provide us with the level information we crave.  However the wait for this high end Sandy Bridge chipset has been long and painful, as we want to see what the i7 2600K can do when it has a board that can really utilize its abilities.  To that end we take you to VR-Zone who have some pictures of Gigabyte's upcoming GA-Z68X-UD3H-B3.  Now to hope for someone to accidentally release some SSD cache benchmarks!

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Click for a bigger view.

"There has been some "concern" from Gigabyte's competitors that the company wasn't going to offer any Z68 motherboards with display connectivity, in fact, some of its competitors have been so "concerned" that they've sent out material stating this to media in certain parts of the world. Well, it turns out that it couldn't be further from the truth and yesterday you saw the GA-Z68MX-UD2H-B3 and today we have a few hands on pictures of the GA-Z68X-UD3H-B3 for your ogling pleasure."

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Source: VR-Zone

Gigabyte Z68MX-UD2H-B3 Motherboard Pictured

Subject: Motherboards, Chipsets | May 9, 2011 - 06:11 AM |
Tagged: gigabyte, z68

The slueths over at VR-Zone have come across some photos of the upcoming Gigabyte Z68 motherboard option, the Z68MX-UD2H-B3.  The VRM setup is a 6+1 design which is pretty basic though the inclusion of three full-size PCI Express slots should allow for at least dual-card configurations of SLI and CrossFire and possibly even three cards.  

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VR-Zone has more info on the configuration options as well:

Moving on we have a header for two front USB 3.0 ports via an Etron host controller, no less than five headers for 10 USB 2.0 ports, seven SATA ports of which three are SATA 3Gbps and four are SATA 6Gbps and for some reason a serial port header.

Around the back we have four USB 2.0 ports, another two USB 3.0 ports using another Etron controller, an eSATA port, a Gigabit Ethernet port, a PS/2 port, 7.1-channel audio with optical S/PDIF out and a set of four display ports consisting of a D-Sub, DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort.

For those of you that love the mATX form factor seeing reasonable designs like this one are good indicators that the Z68 market is going to have just many options as the P67 one did.

Source: VR-Zone

Gigabyte Partners With Lucidlogix To Bring Switchable Graphics To Desktop Enthusiasts

Subject: Motherboards | May 6, 2011 - 07:18 AM |
Tagged: z68, switchable desktop graphics, Lucidlogix, gigabyte

Gigabyte, maker of quality motherboards that are recommended by many enthusiasts for DIY builds, has today announced a long term partnership with Lucidlogix to bring switchable graphics to its Z68 desktop chip set based motherboards.

While notebook users have enjoyed switchable graphics technology like Nvidia's Optimus and AMD's Switchable Graphics for some time, desktop users have not had a widely available solution. DIY (do it yourself) builds have been even further from a workable solution. Today; however, Gigabyte has stepped up to the plate to offer OEMs and enthusiast builders the opportunity to use switchable graphics by using the Lucidlogix Virtu technology.

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So far, Gigabyte has announced three motherboard models that will ship with Lucidlogix’s Virtu technology; the Z68X-UD3H-B3, Z68A-D3H-B3, Z68MX-UD2H-B3, and Z68MA-D2H-B3 specifically. These motherboards support both Virtu and Intel’s LGA 1155 “Sandy Bridge” processors, which include an integrated GPU that Intel dubs “processor graphics.”

While these Intel processor graphics’ gaming capabilities are extremely limited, they do very well running Windows 7’s Aero desktop while sipping power. Dedicated graphics cards on the other hand, tend to draw relatively large amounts of power even at idle. Until now, enthusiasts have had to choose between low power machines that are unable to run the latest games or gaming machines that remain power hungry in everyday non-gaming usage.

What Ludiclogix’s Virtu technology promises for Gigabyte customers is the best of both worlds. By allowing enthusiasts to use both a powerful dedicated graphics card for gaming and a low power card for everyday use, better control, efficiency, and choices become available.

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The way in which this switchable graphics technology works is that Lucidlogix presents a sort of virtualized graphics card to the operating system. There is then a bit of logic that determines which graphics card will process the various Direct X API calls. When only using the Aero desktop and IntelMedia processor graphics instructions, the dedicated card can be in a low power state while the integrated GPU handles the workload. When running games or when activated by a user (or their profile settings), the virtualized card passed the dedicated card instructions to process that are then routed out the Sandy Bridge video output connection. This allows enthusiasts the best of both power draw and performance worlds that mobile users have enjoyed for some time.

Another important benefit of the Virtu technology is that it will allow enthusiasts to use programs that benefit from Intel's Quick Sync technology.  Programs optimized with Intel Quick Sync in mind use fixed function transistors in the processor graphics of Sandy Bridge CPUs to hardware accelerate such task as video transcoding.  GPU accelerated software such as this is able to generate higher quality encodes at a faster frame rate (using Intel's Quick Sync) than both current Nvidia and AMD graphics cards.  According to Anandtech, when converting The Dark Night from a 12mbps 1080p x264 source video to a 1.5mbps 480p video optimized for the Ipod Touch, the Sandy Bridge's GPU was able to achieve 264.8 frames per second, which results in Quick Sync being "almost 4x faster than the Radeon HD 6970 and twice as fast as everything else."  PC Perspective also found marked improvements in transcoding time using Quick Sync to convert a 450mb Cannon 7D's video file to an ipad optimized format.  In PC Perspective's testing, they saw a 5.2x faster transcode time using Quick Sync versus without (no gpu acceleration). Until now enthusiasts with high end graphics were unable to use the graphics processor in Sandy Bridge CPUs as it automatically disables itself when it detects that a discrete graphics card is present in the system. 

The only drawback for high end gamers lies in issues with setting up multi-monitor rigs as the Virtu technology outputs over the motherboard’s single video output instead of, say, a dedicated card’s traditional multiple video outputs. For single screen gamers; however, Gigabyte motherboards with Virtu technology will be a boon.

Source: Gigabyte

More on the Z68's love affair with SSDs

Subject: Motherboards, Storage | April 28, 2011 - 03:49 PM |
Tagged: z68, ssd, ssd caching, Intel

Since it would be cruel to leave you only with the leaked SSD family from Intel and a few hints from ASRock about the performance increase from even a 20GB SSD, here is some more information from VR-Zone.  Bear in mind we are still in the territory of leaked info and informed guessing but the topic is one worth keeping up with.

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"Intel plans to officially launch Z68 Express chipset on May 18th but you will be able to see reviews online from 12th onwards. Of course, those who can't wait for the official launch can already purchase the Gigabyte Z68X-UD7-B3 board from the retail market, first available in Taiwan and then the rest of the world in the coming weeks. Other brands like ASUS and ASRock are set to hit the retail next. Those enthusiasts hoping they can overclock their Sandy Bridge better on Z68 than the P67 will probably be disappointed but there is one important feature of Z68 that matters, and that is the SSD caching."

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Source: VR-Zone

Intel's Z68 SSD caching revealed

Subject: General Tech | April 28, 2011 - 09:52 AM |
Tagged: leak, ssd, Intel, 720, 710, 520, z68, larson creek

ASRock made a bit of a mistake which enthusiasts everywhere are grateful for. We have been given a sneak peek at the upcoming SSD families, the 720, 710 and 520 series.  As if that wasn't good enough for those keeping an eye on the development of SSDs, we also get a peek at what even a small SSD can do for a system built on a Z68 board and using a traditional platter based HDD.  Check out The Inquirer for more information on this very interesting leak.

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"Chipzilla recently updated its popular range of SSDs with the 320 Series of drives based on 25nm NAND flash memory modules, but it looks like the chipmaker will release another, smaller capacity drive to interface with the Z68 chipset for its Sandy Bridge line of processors. At the launch of the 320 Series, Intel announced capacities ranging from 40GB to 600GB, however a new 20GB drive codenamed Larsen Creek was spotted when Asrock sent out some marketing material about Intel's upcoming Z68 chipset."

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Source: The Inquirer