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Gigabyte GA-Z68AP-D3 Z68 review – bargain mobo of the year

The Gigabyte GA-Z68AP-D3 Z68 Motherboard arrives in a colourful box with the name of the product on the front, as well as a list of key selling points, ideal for a retail store display.

Considering the price, the bundle is acceptable. There are several SATA 6Gbps capable cables, a backplate, user manual and software/driver disc.

The board is rather plain looking, but uses an Intel approved Intersil PWM controller that is VRD 12 (Voltage Regulator Down) compliant – it is ATX Form Factor – measuring 30.5cm x 21.5cm. The board has a dual bios configuration, in case the main bios gets corrupted it can be automatically restored from the secondary. It also allows booting from 3TB drives and is ErP Lot 6 compliant.

The GA-Z68AP-D3 Z68 supports ‘On/Off Charge’ which enables devices to draw more current from the motherboard USB ports than standard USB ports, so that charging from your PC can be as fast as with a charger to the mains. We have tested this system in previous reviews and it works well. LucidLogix Virtua is supported, but we have tested it in the past and avoid it when possible.

Internal connectors are as follows:

  1. 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
  2. 1 x 4-pin ATX 12V power connector
  3. 2 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
  4. 4 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
  5. 1 x mSATA connector
  6. 1 x CPU fan header
  7. 2 x system fan headers
  8. 1 x power fan header
  9. 1 x front panel header
  10. 1 x front panel audio header
  11. 1 x S/PDIF Out header
  12. 3 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
  13. 1 x clearing CMOS jumper
  14. 1 x Trusted Platform Module (TPM) header

The GA-Z68AP-D3 Z68 has four memory slots for a total of 32GB DDR3. It supports memory speeds at 2133/1866/1600/1333/1066 MHz. There is full support for Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) memory modules.

There are 6 SATA ports, the four in blue are SATA 3Gbps, and the two at the right (in white) are SATA 6Gbps rated. The board offers RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10 configurations.

The board is equipped with modest heatsinks to aid with cooling. There is a 4 pin CPU power connector close to the I/O panel. We noticed there were only a few 3 pin fan headers on the board, which may cause some issues for top mounted chassis fans. The board uses the Realtek ALC889 codec for 2/4/5.1/7.1-channel output.

Connection from the I/O is as follows:

  1. 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse port
  2. 1 x parallel port
  3. 1 x serial port
  4. 1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
  5. 1 x HDMI port
  6. 4 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
  7. 2 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports
  8. 1 x RJ-45 port
  9. 3 x audio jacks (Line In/Line Out/Microphone)

Gigabyte has cut some costs by only offering a single PCIE slot with full x16 bandwidth. In Crossfire the second blue slot will run at x4 so it will be interesting to see the results later. The PCIEX4 slot shares bandwidth with the PCIEX1_2 and PCIEX1_3 slots. When the PCIEX1_2 slot or the PCIEX1_3 slot is populated, the PCIEX4 slot will operate at up to x1 mode. Best just using a single or dual graphics card configuration with no other devices installed.

Above, the sub £600 system, built. Scan have updated their stock of XFX HD6870 Black Edition cards with the dual fan version, which has the same specifications, but with better (and quieter cooling efficiency). These are right at the top of the <£150 performance chart.

Overclocked CrossfireX running on the Gigabyte GA-Z68AP-D3 Z68 Motherboard. Two cards at 940mhz core and 1150mhz GDDR5 (4600mhz effective) connected via a 256 bit memory interface. The HD6870 is a BARTS core with 1120 unified shaders, 32 ROPs and 1GB of memory.

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