Articles: Mainboards

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Design and Features

The Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3-iSSD would look like any other entry-level Gigabyte mainboard if it were not for the mSATA connector located below the CPU socket. There is an mSATA Intel 311 series SSD with 20 GB storage capacity already installed in it.

Otherwise, everything is quite familiar. The CPU voltage regulator, like in other recent Gigabyte mainboards, employs the so-called driver MOSFETs (two MOSFETs and a driver packed into a single chip). The additional heatsink on the voltage regulator components doesn’t do much cooling. It is fastened with spring-loaded plastic locks which cannot ensure proper contact, but the main reason for its poor performance is that the heatsink covers only some of the components while the rest of them have no cooling and get rather hot at work. The chipset heatsink is fastened more securely with screws. The four DDR3 slots can take in up to 32 gigabytes of memory; XMP (Extreme Memory Profile) is supported. The mainboard has three PCI Express 2.0 x1 and two PCI slots. Its two PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots allow combining a pair of AMD or Nvidia based cards into a single subsystem. A single graphics card will use the graphics slot in x16 mode. If you install two graphics cards, the slots will work in x8 mode each.

Thanks to the Intel Z68 Express chipset, the mainboard is equipped with two SATA 6 Gb/s ports (white) and four SATA 3 Gb/s ports (blue). If the mSATA connector is used, one of the SATA 3 Gb/s ports becomes unavailable as is indicated by a special sticker. To make up for that loss, there is an onboard Marvell 88SE9172 controller that adds two more SATA 6 Gb/s ports (the gray connectors). It is important to keep in mind that mSATA slot laid out on this Gigabyte mainboard is none other but a connector for SSDs, and unfortunately, it is incompatible with any PCIe x1 cards.

HDMI is the only video output available at the mainboard's back panel. We guess it's a good compromise. It allows using a CPU-integrated graphics core without detriment to the other interfaces available there. Here is a full list of the connectors available on the mainboard back panel:

  • A PS/2 connector for keyboard or mouse;
  • Eight USB 2.0 ports, six more are laid out as three onboard pin-connectors;
  • Two USB 3.0 ports (blue connectors) implemented via EtronTech EJ168A controller, a second such controller supports one more onboard pin-connector for two more USB 3.0 ports;
  • Optical S/PDIF and six analogue audio-jacks supported by eight-channel Realtek ALC889 codec;
  • IEEE1394 (FireWire) port implemented with VIA VT6308P controller, a second port like that exists as an onboard pin-connector;
  • HDMI video-out;
  • A local network port (network adapter is built around Gigabit Realtek RTL8111E network controller).

The component layout chart from the user manual can help us see how handy the mainboard’s PCB design is:

The following table lists the key specs of the product:

The mainboard has a number of special features typical of Gigabyte products. Particularly, the Phase LEDs indicate the number of active phases in the CPU voltage regulator. The USB connector labeled On/Off Charge serves for recharging mobile devices. The mainboard also features two BIOS chips and copper interconnects of an increased thickness. Out of the four fan connectors the two 4-pin ones are controllable. These two can even be used to control the speed of 3-pin fans. Based on the Intel Z68 Express, the mainboard supports LucidLogix Virtu and Intel Smart Response. It allows using a CPU-integrated graphics core via an HDMI connector. Overall, the Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3-iSSD has everything a modern mainboard is supposed to have, except for eSATA.

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