All the Answers to Intel’s Brand New Z68 Chipset – Part 1 (Feature)

At the a first glance there aren’t a whole lot of changes opposed to its predecessor P67, but there are some significant improvements that make the Z68 platform worth considering. Let’s jump straight in, and they include:

  • Being able to overclock the graphics core in the CPU (Sandy Bridge)
  • A new IPT (Identity Protection Technology) feature that integrates a hardware token in to the PC
  • Support for switchable graphics between external graphics and the integrated solution in Sandy Bridge
  • SSD caching that uses a smaller capacity SSD and traditional hard drive to increase responsiveness

We have to agree with many critics out there that the first two won’t be the main selling points for a typical consumer, but being able to switch between might be more of an interest. The early adopters of the P67 chipset couldn’t utilize the on-die graphics simply because the board didn’t have any outputs as those were only on the H and Q-series chipsets. For the Z68 now, Intel bundles the Flexible Display Interface which allows processor graphics to the chipset and a good example which includes bother DVI and HDMI ports would be ASUS’s P8Z68-V Pro.

Here’s the part that will intrigue most people, since motherboard makers will be bundling LucidLogix’s Virtu tech as we previously mentioned. Two modes available are i-mode and d-mode, we’ll elaborate further.

When in i-mode, you are mainly utilizing integrated graphics and only tapping in to your discrete card for gaming and there is some prep that needs to be done. This includes initializing the integrated graphics port in UEFI, connecting your monitor to the motherboard’s graphics port, and installing graphics for both the on-board Intel graphics portion then your choice of the discrete card. It’s not all that labor intensive with just a couple of straight forward steps, but the problem arises when you need Lucid to make profiles for any game you decide to run in the Virtu mode and we know that several gamers are eager to dive in to the newly released title. Asides from that, power savings are insignificant, and in contrast to a mobile version of switchable graphics the external video card doesn’t shut off completely. Despite all the power management features in high-end graphics solutions today, they still consume quite a bit of power even when it’s idling. The i-mode is also not compatible at the moment with dual-GPU cards and SLI.

As for d-mode? We think that this will be the more useful one of the two. You are start by setting UEFI to initialize the PCI-E graphics adapter first then hooking up your monitor to the graphics card. In this particular mode, the external graphics solution is the main one and games can run without the use of any profiles coming from Lucid. Then you may be wondering now about the usefulness of this mode, well it’s being able to take advantage of the Quick Sync technology built right into Sandy Bridge. It may not shine when it comes to gaming, but it means serious business for encoding and transcoding since Intel dedicated transistors just for those jobs. How good is this implementation you would ask?

In d-mode, Cyberlink MediaEspresso 6.5 took 142 seconds on a GeForce GTX 580 to transcode a single VOB file to a generic WMV file. While the QuickSync mode on the Core i7-2600K took only 109 seconds, and that’s about a 30% difference. If something were to take hours, which option would you rather have?

Another rad feature is Intel’s SRT (Smart Response Technology) which lets the Z68 chipset to use an SSD to cache commonly used data from a hard drive. This supposedly yields up to a 4x improvement in performance over a traditional drive alone. Unfortunately our coverage got longer than we expected, and we’ll discuss SRT in the next segment as our two-part series. Stay tuned.

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One Response to All the Answers to Intel’s Brand New Z68 Chipset – Part 1 (Feature)

  1. Pingback: All the Answers to Intel’s Brand New Z68 Chipset – Part 2 (Feature) « Custom Desktop PCs & News | VSPC

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