The embargo on the Sandy Bridge Z68 Express chipset has been lifted today and Intel has announced it will be making systems and motherboards based on the chipsets available immediately.
Launched back in January, the initial excitement surrounding Intel’s Sandy Bridge platform was somewhat tempered by early adopters having to make a compromise with the H67 Express or P67 Express chipsets that were initially available (not to mention the Cougar Point recall). The Z68 chipset on the other hand offers the best of both worlds giving users a lot more flexibility. The new chipset supports switchable graphics by using LucidLogix Virtu GPU virtualisation which lets the user decide whether to use the integrated Intel HD Graphics or a dedicated graphics card they may have installed. This means users can decide on-the-fly which to use and the use of dynamic virtualisation eliminates the need for restarting the system or switching cables. This all leads to less power being used and a quieter experience while using the integrated graphics will make use of Quick Sync for quicker video transcoding.
While this switchable graphics option was available on the H67 chipset, there was no overclocking option while on the P67 there was overclocking but no switchable graphics. Thankfully on the Z68 chipset both are available with power, memory and graphics on all chips unlocked. Also present is Intel’s Smart Response Technology which uses SSDs to cache frequently accessed applications to improve system performance – by up to 60 percent according to Intel. This system works with all SSDs though firmware is required. Like other Sandy Bridge chipsets, Z68 Express can power one PCIe x16 expansion slot or two PCIe x8 slots, up to 14 USB 2.0 ports, six SATA-based hard drives or SSDs (two of which can use 6-Gbps SATA), four DIMMs (using dual-channel memory technology), and eight PCI Express 2.0 lanes running at 5 GTps.
Gigabyte has announced it will launch a huge amount of motherboards featuring the Z68 chipset in the coming couple of months with over 20 models available by next month. They are obviously betting the bank on the success and popularity of the Z68 motherboards and we’re sure there will have been a lot of people out there holding off on a Sandy Bridge upgrade until they could get their hands on one of these beauties.