As you know from the podcast, I do not really believe that the Z68 chipset offers me personally any real advantage in my particular use case. That being said, I did decide to buy one for a recent board replacement. The main reason I got this board was to change out the P67 Sabertooth in my main system. Don't get me wrong, the Sabertooth is a great board but in my particular setup, I was running into some difficulties which combined together got the better of me.
The main areas that pushed over the edge in replacing a very good board were some sporadic USB issues, lockups, and most recently wake on lan issues. Lets start with the USB issues. I ran into several devices that just would not be recognized or work correctly. Of late, none of the apple devices would sync correctly, I tried my iPhone, iPad, and iPad 2. Second, there were the lockups. As I reported in an earlier podcast, lockups started after the installation of the Vertex 3 and were for the most part where minimized by the removal of the Intel rapid storage drivers. That being said, the system did still periodically lock up and upon doing research, it seemed to be more of a Vertex 3 issue but I needed to rule out the possibility of it being the Asus board as I was having other issues. Lastly, and most frustrating, was my inability to use wake on lan. Despite having an Intel based lan controller which are one of the most compatible and fastest out there, I could not get the system to work with wake on lan. I even tried a plug in network controller to no avail. The BIOS would simply block it. I went through every setting in the BIOS at least a dozen times and tried every combo I could think of and still could not get it to work. My other 7 systems all worked without fail and without the need to make any adjustments at all. There were other small things like certain cards not fitting due the armor cover but in the end I decided it was time to go a different direction and part ways with the Sabertooth. I am very picky when it comes to things working correctly and stability/compatibility are number one followed closely by speed.
Since I use two computers on a daily basis, both of these had been upgraded to sandy bridge at the same time, one using an Asus Sabertooth and the other using a Gigabyte GA-P67A-USB3. Since that upgrade, the gigabyte has run absolutely solid so I decided to replace the Asus with a Gigabyte board to see if I could resolve some of these issues . I chose the GA-Z68X-UD4-B3 for the job. I thought since this board was actually on sale, it would make sense to use the most current chipset, the Z68.
I opted for the UD4 because on this system I have no interest in HDMI output, this board has more sata ports and the board has more USB ports (USB 2 and USB 3).. All USB 2.0 ports on this board are 3X power so I can charge my iPad, and the rest are USB 3 ports.
To cut right to the chase, this board did not disappoint. It made realize why I have been a Gigabyte fanboy for years now. The build quality was outstanding but that is expected nowadays, and the system went together smoothly. When you boot and go into the BIOS, you are quickly reminded that you are not running an Asus board. Gigabyte uses a hybrid BIOS which runs the same conventional BIOS look and feel of the last 10 years versus the new GUI based EFI BIOS that Asus uses. Honestly, my initial impression of the Asus BIOS were pretty good however the navigation and novelty quickly wears off to the point that it does not matter which you are running. Once your BIOS is set, you typically do not go too much into it so having a pretty interface did not matter much. Don’t get me wrong, it is very cool, but in the end there are other things that are far more important.
The first thing I noticed is that despite having the hybrid BIOS, the Gigabyte board actually booted faster than the Asus did by a few seconds. The other thing that happened that I did not expect is that the sound quality (especially from headphones) was much better and much cleaner than what I had with the Sabertooth. This was a surprise as I was almost getting used to the scratchiness of the Asus board. The differences is noticeable in both speakers and headphones but is more pronounced when playing on my Bose headphones. It goes without saying that the wake on lan worked flawlessly without the need for any adjustments. USB issues seem to be behind me as well and everything seems to work as it should except of course the periodic lock caused by the Vertex 3.
When I saw that I was still having the same lock up issue after the board change, I did more research and contacted OCZ. It appears there are issues with all Sanforce 2281 6/Gig SSD’s. OCZ is down playing it however they confirmed they have reproduced the problem and are awaiting a fix from Sanforce so I guess there is hope and I will have to wait it out. This news did not thrill me as I happen to love the performance of the Vertex 3 however I love stability even more. Long story short, I put my Vertex 2 back in and the lock up issues went away.
The install of the Vertex 2 along with my new motherboard has returned me to a happy place. I have regained the stability that we all strive for in our systems and so far it has been a great experience. As for the Z68 upgrade, I have not changed my mind as if offers very little, and in my case absolutely nothing. The SSD caching sounds cool but I am running 3 SSD drives in the system so the entire system is operating on SSD’s except for a backup drive I use for Acronis backups, so the SSD caching will not help me. In a nut shell I am very happy I bought this board and in the future will most likely stay with Gigabyte. As pretty as the Sabertooth was, the outside armor proved to be more trouble than it was worth and the small quirks it exhibited just did not meet my expectations. The performance, stability, and hopefully reliability of the new UD4 will keep me happy for quite some time (or least till my next upgrade). As for my decision to get Z68 over the P67, I feel I made the right choice but only because the pricing was right and who knows if might be useful in the future.. In closing I want to reiterate that I am not Asus bashing and that there are 1000’s of people running there product without any issues, so just because I had some annoyances does not mean you should not consider them in your final choice. Let’s face it, we all have brand loyalty but for me, the minor issues I had with the Asus board will cause me to think twice before my next purchase. As for the Vertex 3, I will keep you posted as I am waiting for the official OCZ ruling/RMA pending the release of the new firmware to address these issues.