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Testbed Configuration

The new Intel Z68 chipset is a very interesting review subject in comparison to the predecessors as well as individually. For our today’s test session we bundled our Asus P8Z68-V PRO mainboard with a Core i5-2500K CPU, 4 GB of memory and an AMD Radeon HD 6970 graphics card. For comparison purposes we also used an Intel P67 based mainboard – Asus P8P67 PRO.

As a result, our testbeds included the following hardware and software components:

  • Processor: Intel Core i5-2500K (Sandy Bridge, 4 cores, 3.3 GHz, 6 MB L3);
  • CPU cooler: Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme with Enermax Everest fan;
  • Mainboards:
    • ASUS P8P67 PRO (LGA1155, Intel P67 Express);
    • ASUS P8Z68-V PRO (LGA1155, Intel Z68 Express);
  • Memory: 2 x 2 GB DDR3-1600 SDRAM 9-9-9-27-1T (Kingston KHX1600C8D3K2/4GX);
  • Graphics card: ATI Radeon HD 6970.
  • Hard drives:
    • Intel SSD 311 (SSDSA2VP020G2);
    • OCZ Vertex2  (OCZSSD2-2VTXE120G);
    • Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 (ST3320413AS).
  • Power supply unit: Tagan TG880-U33II (880 W).
  • Operating system: Microsoft Windows 7 SP1 Ultimate x64.
  • Drivers:
    • Intel Chipset Driver 9.2.0.1030;
    • Intel HD Graphics Driver 15.22.1.2361;
    • Intel Management Engine Driver 7.1.10.1065;
    • Intel Rapid Storage Technology 10.5.0.1027;
    • AMD Catalyst 11.5 Display Driver;
    • Lucid Virtu 1.1.101.

Overclocking

We decided to start our test session with overclocking, because the new Intel Z68 chipset is particularly desired on the enthusiast community, who may be pinning too many hopes upon it.

I would like to remind you that LGA1155 platform architecture implies that we use the same clock frequency generator to form all system frequencies, starting with the CPU and memory clock and finishing with SATA and USB controller frequencies. It means that LGA1155 systems allow changing the base clock generator frequency (BCLK) in a very minor range, so that the peripheral bus controllers could handle it without issues. Therefore, the only way you can more or less substantially overclock processor and memory in Sandy Bridge systems is by adjusting the frequency multipliers for the CPU, memory and graphics core.

Here I have to point out right away that the release of Intel Z68 chipset doesn’t change anything in this respect. There is only one clock generator and the maximum BCLK speed when the system remains stable is only 5-7% higher than the nominal 100 MHz. For example, our Asus P8Z68-V PRO mainboard could work stably at 106.5 MHz BCLK frequency, but as soon as we hit 107 MHz, the board wouldn’t even boot.

It means that Intel Z68 doesn’t offer anything principally new to overclockers. And the only improvement of its overclocking functionality is the fact that this chipset provides simultaneous access to all available multipliers: for the CPU clock, memory clock and for the Intel HD Graphics 2000/3000 core integrated into the processor.

As for the way it works, everything is exactly the same as it used to be. Overclocker K-series processors can be overclocked without limitations, non-K series Core i7 and Core i5 CPUs allow increasing their multiplier only by 4 points above the nominal with Turbo mode intact, Core i3 and junior Sandy Bridge modifications cannot be overclocked at all. At the same time, the memory frequency may be increased to 1600/1866/2133/2400 MHz for all processors, and the graphics core may be overclocked indefinitely in 50 MHz increments.

In reality, we didn’t find any significant changes during CPU overclocking compared with our experience using Intel P67 based boards. We overclocked our Core i5-2500K processor with the voltage increased by 0.125 V to the same 4.7 GHz as before.

In other words, you shouldn’t expect the new Intel Z68 to work any overclocking wonders. In terms of overclocking, mainboards based on this chipset aren’t any different from the older models on Intel P67, and the actual advantages of the new core logic set will shine in a completely different field.

 
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