Gigabyte Z68X UD5 B3 Review
So how does the Z68X UD5 fair? It's unquestionably a 'game of two halves'.
At first glance the entire thing seems to be a bit of a head-scratcher. As we saw at the bottom of page two, this is so alike the P67A UD5 that they might as well be identical twins.
The first real surprise is the much heralded EFI BIOS is relegated to a mere application. This is a completely bizarre decision. We know that the P67 UD7 had a "normal" BIOS included when every other manufacturer was pushing out the GUI-based EFI BIOS, but given its large place on the box (the biggest technological icon on display) and the extra development time between the P67 and Z68 releases, we've no idea why Gigabyte are sticking to using the old blue cursor-key style BIOS. It instantly gives the wrong impression that this isn't a cutting edge product, merely a incremental revision.
Given that the EFI BIOS has proven perfectly rounded on many other boards and indeed the "Hybrid EFI BIOS", a fancy word for utility, that Gigabyte provide is so useful, it's a bad move to not have gone the whole hog with it. You can call it a hybrid all you want but when you give it so much coverage in the official literature, we can't be the only people who expected an icon-based BIOS to greet us.
Getting all the bad out the way in one go, the performance at stock settings is average at best. The UD5 is not the cheapest LGA1155 motherboard around and with the market so incredibly tight, getting the performance out-of-the-box right is crucial.
However, there aren't going to be many people plumping for the UD5 who haven't got a bit of interest in pushing their CPU a bit further. It takes something special to really stand out in this category and the Z68X, whilst doing a very respectable 4.8 GHz, isn't quite hitting the 5GHz heights we've had before from this exact processor.
Thankfully overclocking is, as with all LGA1155 processors, a breeze. Either via the actual BIOS or the Windows based Hybrid Touch BIOS and EasyTune6 options, the Gigabyte Z68X UD5 B3 really is a cinch to get running at a high clockspeed. Even better it responds so well once you have done so. The average stock performance becomes a thing of distant memory as benchmarks are eaten up easier than soggy cornflakes.
Unquestionably the star of the show and the main difference between this Z68 and its P67 brethren, is the Intel Rapid Storage Technology. This isn't a totally new technology as SilverStone have had a similar thing on the market for over a year. However its first outing as part of a Motherboard has been a total success.
The real benefit of the IRST is with smaller loads, as that's where your system can appear to be "pausing for breath". No longer so with the inclusion of the Intel Rapid Storage Technology as those stutters are smoothed out to give a much faster response no matter what you're doing. If you've been one of the last few people clinging on to the belief that SSDs are under-sized, over-hyped and over-priced, then it's time to shut up. We're doubling our HDD speed for the price of a seventy quid SSD and therefore have a 1TB, 150MB/s storage device for about £110 all in. Now if that doesn't put a tilt in your kilt you need to check your pulse.
Finally the price. Currently retailing at just under the £230, it's at the higher-end of the LGA1155 market. In fact, it's the same price as buying a Gigabyte P67 UD5 motherboard and the aforementioned SilverStone Hybrid adaptor. This is where a final decision becomes difficult.
On the one hand this is a good motherboard from a well established manufacturer that has all the bells and whistles you can expect from the latest products. The IRST is worth the price of admission alone. At stock it's not amazing, but it overclocks well and performs handily with something suitably beefy in the CPU socket.
However it's difficult not to come to the conclusion that there are better performing, cheaper, P67 boards already on the market. Quite a lot of which come with the EFI BIOS as default, rather than as a utility to be installed. If you already own, or are planning to own, a SSD then the IRST wont bring many benefits. And if the benefit of that outstanding technology are something you are interested in, £30 will get you a SilverStone add-on that does the same thing.
That's the crux of the matter. We're just not convinced that there is enough extra performance from this particular Z68X to make us abandon the more rounded P67s available. We know Gigabyte can do better, and the UD5 branding raises expectations to a level that the Z68X UD5 B3 just doesn't live up to. It's not a bad motherboard by any means, but you come away more impressed by the Intel Rapid Storage Technology and disappointed by the Gigabyte use of a normal BIOS, than anything else. Which speaks volumes at this end of the market.