The Sandy Bridge platform is fully unleashed.
Intel’s Sandy Bridge platform launched with much gusto and fanfare earlier this year with significant advancements in performance. And while the updated Core-i3/i5/i7 processors showed both computing and onboard graphical prowess, to complete unleash all of its powers meant the consumer base had to be split. Not any more.
Basically, if you want to overclock a Sandy Bridge processor, first of all it has to be a “K” series CPU, meaning that all the cores are unlocked. Hence a Core i7-2600, for instance, cannot be overclocked, while the Core i7-2600K can indeed be overclocked from it’s stock 3.4GHz up to 5GHz and beyond. For overclocking the “K” series CPU and memory, one was limited to the P67 motherboards, while overclocking on the H67 motherboards was limited to the onboard integrated GPU. I have to say that Intel did design the H series motherboards for HTPCs and the like in mind, but to restrict the movements of the hardcore overclocking community with the P series was quite disappointing. What the Z68 platform brings is a combination of both the H series and the P series motherboards into one glorious package.
Apart form the fact that one is now able to overclock the CPU, memory and onboard GPU on the Z68 motherboards, we can now fully exploit Intel QuickSync feature on Sandy bridge processors thanks to Intel integration of the Lucid Virtu chipset. We’ve heard of Lucid previously as their previous Hydra technology allowed both Nvidia and AMD GPUs to work together on one motherboard. While that technology was severely limited to driver support and not adopted by many motherboard manufacturers, the Lucid Virtu is fully supported by Intel and we should be seeing it in pretty much all the Z68 motherboards.
The last great feature of the Z68 I want to touch on is the SSD caching in the form of Intel’s Smart Response Technology. Basically ISRT allows you to add an SSD and use it as a cache for your existing HDD. ISRT only works in RAID though, not AHCI or IDE, so you’ll have to reinstall Windows 7 on your HDD and set it up with RAID, unless you want to be greeted by BSOD galore. I have to say that I was a bit skeptical at first as to how fast this would really be, but after the tests the results look very promising indeed. More on that later however, let’s have a look at today’s contestants first.