Although overall we didn’t have any serious issues with the new Intel Z68 chipset, our first encounter with it left us a little confused. It is totally unclear why this core logic set, which like its predecessors belongs to the Cougar Point family, appeared only now. There was nothing in it that could justify launching it almost 6 months after the release of the Sandy Bridge processors. In fact, Z68 doesn’t bring anything new to the table: it is merely a combination of P67 and H67 created as a universal “one size fits all” product, which should suite any type of user. We got the feeling that this late Intel Z68 launch is mostly a marketing move, which doesn’t actually do Intel a lot of good. It looks as if the manufacturer purposefully delayed the launch of a fully-functional chipset trying to make a profit out of its limited modifications.
However, in any case the users have finally received a Sandy bridge chipset that we can, hands down, recommend for any high-performance LGA1155 systems. This chipset has it all: you can use the processor integrated graphics core or not; you can overclock processor, memory and graphics; you can even use Intel Quick Sync without losing the discrete graphics accelerator.
At the same time Intel didn’t just unlock everything that was in Cougar Point chipsets right from the start. They have also introduced a few very interesting technologies. In our opinion, the most useful one is Intel Smart Response technology that can now be found in the Intel RST driver that allows to speed up the disk sub-system by adding an SSD cache. Our practical tests showed that by adding a small fast-caching SSD to the system, we could significantly increase its performance and improve the characteristics of the slow HDDs to the level only attainable by fast solid-state drives. In fact, for a modest price of around $100 Intel gives you the opportunity to significantly improve the quality of your disk sub-system, which is a great option for those who have limited budget but need high performance and large storage capacity.
Another useful advantage is Virtu technology developed by Lucid Company. This technology allows users of Sandy Bridge systems with discrete graphics cards to get access to one of the most interesting CPU features – Intel Quick Sync technology. This technology integrated into the graphics core inside the CPU delivers unprecedented HD video transcoding speed and now it automatically becomes an advantage of any Intel Z68 based system supporting Virtu without the need to compromise.
The only drawback we found about the new Intel Z68 chipset is higher power consumption of the systems with it. Our tests showed that the platforms built around an older P67 chipset, which doesn’t give you access to the integrated graphics core, consume considerably less power. However, keeping in mind much richer functionality of the new Intel Z68, it is hardly a serious problem.