ASRock Z68 Pro3-M Socket 1155 Motherboard

Posted by on Sunday, June 26, 2011 - 4:11am

Asrock Z68 Pro3-MThe Z68 Pro3 M is an abridged version of the Pro3. Bother motherboards offers four DIMM slots, a single PCIe x16 slot, RAID support and amongst of common features. But the Pro3 M shaved off some weight and size. The Pro3 M is a mATX board that also offers what the Z68 is known for and that is Lucid’s Virtu video support and Intel’s Smart Response technology. The Z68 chipset in a microATX form could be the beginning of an ultimate HTPC system.

Introduction to the ASRock Z68 Pro3-M Socket 1155 Motherboard

The introduction of the Z68 means one thing. We here at Pro-Clockers get a chance to review a whole new batch of motherboards. Our first motherboard featuring the new chipset we got a chance to play with was from ASRock and was entitled the Z68-Extreme4. A great motherboard that followed the ASRock pledge to a tee……giving the consumer more for their money. A few Z68 motherboard later we are reviewing our second ASRock offering.

The Z68 Pro3 M is an abridged version of the Pro3. Bother motherboards offers four DIMM slots, a single PCIe x16 slot, RAID support and amongst of common features. But the Pro3 M shaved off some weight and size. The Pro3 M is a mATX board that also offers what the Z68 is known for and that is Lucid’s Virtu video support and Intel’s Smart Response technology. The Z68 chipset in a microATX form could be the beginning of an ultimate HTPC system.


Specifications

CPU

- Supports 2nd Generation Intel® Core™ i7 / i5 / i3 in LGA1155 Package
- 4 + 1 Power Phase Design
- Supports Intel® Turbo Boost 2.0 Technology
- Supports Intel® K-Series unlocked CPU
- Supports Hyper-Threading Technology

Chipset

- Intel® Z68

Memory

- Dual Channel DDR3 memory technology
- 4 x DDR3 DIMM slots
- Supports DDR3 2133(OC)/1866(OC)/1600/1333/1066 non-ECC, un-buffered memory
- Max. capacity of system memory: 32GB*
- Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
*Due to the operating system limitation, the actual memory size may be less than 4GB for the reservation for system usage under Windows® 32-bit OS. For Windows® 64-bit OS with 64-bit CPU, there is no such limitation.

BIOS

- 64Mb AMI UEFI Legal BIOS with GUI support
- Supports "Plug and Play"
- ACPI 1.1 Compliance Wake Up Events
- Supports jumperfree
- SMBIOS 2.3.1 Support
- CPU Core, IGPU, DRAM, PCH, CPU PLL, VTT, VCCSA Voltage Multi-adjustment

Audio, Video and Networking

Graphics

- Supports Intel® HD Graphics Built-in Visuals : Intel® Quick Sync Video, Intel® InTru™ 3D, Intel® Clear Video HD Technology, Intel® HD Graphics 2000/3000, Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions (AVX)
- Pixel Shader 4.1, DirectX 10.1
- Max. shared memory 1759MB
- Multi VGA Output options: D-Sub, DVI-D, HDMI and DisplayPort
- Supports HDMI 1.4a Technology with max. resolution up to 1920x1200 @ 60Hz
- Supports DVI with max. resolution up to 1920x1200 @ 60Hz
- Supports D-Sub with max. resolution up to 2048x1536 @ 75Hz
- Supports DisplayPort with max. resolution up to 2560x1600 @ 60Hz
- Supports Auto Lip Sync, Deep Color (12bpc), xvYCC and HBR (High Bit Rate Audio) with HDMI (Compliant HDMI monitor is required)
- Supports HDCP function with DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort ports
- Supports Full HD 1080p Blu-ray (BD) / HD-DVD playback with DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort ports
*Due to chipset limitation, the Blu-ray playback of Intel® HD Graphics is only supported under Windows® Vista™ and Windows® 7.

**Intel® InTru™ 3D is only supported under Windows® 7 and Windows® 7 x64.

Audio

- 7.1 CH HD Audio with Content Protection (Realtek ALC892 Audio Codec)
- Premium Blu-ray audio support

LAN

- PCIE x1 Gigabit LAN 10/100/1000 Mb/s
- Realtek RTL8111E
- Supports Wake-On-LAN
- Supports LAN Cable Detection
- Supports Energy Efficient Ethernet 802.3az
- Supports PXE

Expansion / Connectivity

Slots

- 1 x PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (blue @ x16 mode)
- 2 x PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots
- 1 x PCI slot

SATA3

- 2 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s connectors, support RAID (RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 10, RAID 5, Intel® Rapid Storage and Intel® Smart Response Technology), NCQ, AHCI and "Hot Plug" functions

USB 3.0

- 2 x USB 3.0 ports by Etron EJ168A, support USB 1.0/2.0/3.0 up to 5Gb/s

Connector

- 3 x SATA2 3.0 Gb/s connectors, support RAID (RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 10, RAID 5, Intel® Rapid Storage and Intel® Smart Response Technology), NCQ, AHCI and Hot Plug functions
- 2 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s connectors
- 1 x Floppy connector
- 1 x IR header
- 1 x CIR header
- 1 x Print Port header
- 1 x COM port header
- 1 x HDMI_SPDIF header
- 1 x Power LED header
- CPU/Chassis/Power FAN connector
- 24 pin ATX power connector
- 8 pin 12V power connector
- Front panel audio connector
- 3 x USB 2.0 headers (support 6 USB 2.0 ports)

Rear Panel I/O

I/O Panel
- 1 x PS/2 Keyboard Port
- 1 x VGA/D-Sub Port
- 1 x VGA/DVI-D Port
- 1 x HDMI Port
- 1 x DisplayPort
- 1 x Optical SPDIF Out Port
- 4 x Ready-to-Use USB 2.0 Ports
- 1 x eSATA2 Connector
- 2 x Ready-to-Use USB 3.0 Ports
- 1 x RJ-45 LAN Port with LED (ACT/LINK LED and SPEED LED)
- HD Audio Jack: Rear Speaker / Central / Bass / Line in / Front Speaker / Microphone

Other Features / Miscellaneous

Unique Feature

- ASRock Extreme Tuning Utility (AXTU)
- ASRock Instant Boot
- ASRock Instant Flash
- ASRock APP Charger
- ASRock SmartView
- ASRock XFast USB
- Lucid Virtu
- Hybrid Booster:
- CPU Frequency Stepless Control
- ASRock U-COP
- Boot Failure Guard (B.F.G.)
- Combo Cooler Option (C.C.O.)
- Good Night LED

Support CD

- Drivers, Utilities, AntiVirus Software (Trial Version),
ASRock Software Suite (CyberLink DVD Suite - OEM and Trial; Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi MB - Trial)

Accessories

- Quick Installation Guide, Support CD, I/O Shield
- 2 x SATA Data Cables (optional)

Hardware Monitor

- CPU Temperature Sensing
- Chassis Temperature Sensing
- CPU/Chassis/Power Fan Tachometer
- CPU/Chassis Quiet Fan (Allow Chassis Fan Speed Auto-Adjust by CPU Temperature)
- CPU Fan Multi-Speed Control
- Voltage Monitoring: +12V, +5V, +3.3V, CPU Vcore

Form Factor

- Micro ATX Form Factor: 9.6-in x 9.6-in, 24.4 cm x 24.4 cm
- All Solid Capacitor design

OS

- Microsoft® Windows® 7 / 7 64-bit / Vista™ / Vista™ 64-bit / XP / XP 64-bit compliant

Certifications

- FCC, CE, WHQL
- ErP/EuP Ready (ErP/EuP ready power supply is required)

Features

  • 100% All Solid Capacitor Design
  • Supports Intel® Smart Response Technology
  • Supports Intel® K-Series unlocked CPU
  • Supports Dual Channel DDR3 2133(OC)
  • Supports Intel® HD Graphics with Built-in Visuals
  • Multi VGA Output options: D-Sub, DVI-D, and DisplayPort
  • 2 x USB 3.0 ports, 3 x SATA2 connectors
  • Supports ASRock XFast USB Technology, Graphical UEFI, Lucid Virtu
  • Combo Cooler Option (C.C.O.)
  • 7.1 CH HD Audio with Content Protection (Realtek ALC892 Audio Codec)
  • Supports ASRock Extreme Tuning Utility (AXTU), Instant Boot, Instant Flash, Good Night LED, APP Charger, SmartView
  • Free Software: Cyberlink MediaEspresso 6.5 Trial

Closer look

Just like the Extreme4 from ASRock the Pro3-M also relies on the Z68 chipset for most of its features and functionality. They share the same color theme and overall looks, same amount of ram as well as the same CPU support which means you can overclock the K-series processors. But that about it when it comes down to the similarities of the two motherboards.

The Pro3-M is the smaller brother of the Z68 Pro3 except for the Pro3-M is a mATX motherboard. Being a mATX motherboard this model is sure to be a big hit with the home theatre buffs out there due to its small size and still have some overclocking capabilities on the CPU and iGPU enhancing the video playback even more.

The Pro3-M uses a 4+2 power phase arrangement to regulate power and stability to the CPU’s vCore and DIMM slots. Unlike the bigger brother the Pro3-M does not use the Digi Power PWM which means we may hit the same overclock levels we did on the Extreme4 and with the same stability at the higher clocks. But it is nice to know we can overclock with this chipset unlike the H67 chipset.

The Pro3-M uses a total of three heat sinks to cool the power regulators as well as the PCH. These sinks are not linked by a heat pipe as the other models under ASRock’s Z68 class.

The integrated memory controller of the socket 1155 processors supports up to DDR3 133MHz with dual channel support. According to ASRock the motherboard maxes out at 32GB of DDR3 up to 2133MHz but getting 8GB modules is near impossible and can be very expensive.

The mATX motherboard is targeted at individuals that tend to use the IGPU onboard the motherboard. But if you are not one of those you can elect to install a discrete GPU in the lone PCIe x16 slot onboard the motherboard. There are two more x1 PCIe slots as well as a standard PCI standard slot which gets its usage from an ITE IT8892 bridge controller.

Onboard the motherboard in the lower right hand corner is a total of five SATA ports. The three blue ones are SATA II while the two white ones are SATA III. The reason there are only three SATA II ports when the Intel PCH supports four is because the forth one is located on the rear of the motherboard in the I/O section. All five ports support RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10.

Next, we take a look at the I/O portion of the motherboard:

  • PS/2
  • VGA, DVI, display port and HDMI
  • 6 USB ports (4 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0(Etron EJ168A)
  • 1 eSATA
  • LAN port (Realtek RTL8111E)
  • 1 optical S/PDIF out
  • 7.1 channel audio (Realtek ALC892)

And just like the Extreme4 and any other motherboard based on the Z68 chipset, Lucid Virtu is supported. Meaning that if a discrete GPU is installed the Virtu software will assign the graphic task to the best suited GPU device.


 

Test Hardware:
Motherboard: ASRock Z68 Pro3-M
Processor: Intel Core i5 2500K
Ram: Crucial Tracer 4GB (XMP Profile 1)
Video Card: ASUS Radeon HD 5870
HDD: Hitachi 1TB
Power: Thermaltake Tough Power XT 850 (Sponsored by Thermaltake)
Case: NA
Cooling: Scythe Yasya
OS: Microsoft Windows 7 64-bit
Thermal compound: Arctic Silver 5

BIOS


Results

Futuremark PCMark Vantage
3DMark Vantage is a PC benchmark suite designed to test the DirectX10 performance of your graphics card. We’ve been making 3DMark for over 10 years, with each new edition using the latest 3D technology to determine real-world performance.

SiSoftware Sandra 2011
We are pleased to announce the launch of SiSoftware Sandra 2011, the latest version of our award-winning utility, which includes remote analysis, benchmarking and diagnostic features for PCs, servers, mobile devices and networks.
At SiSoftware we strive to ensure that we give our users the best software experience. We observe the industry, try to predict where trends are going, but more than that: we also come up with new ideas on how to measure performance. SiSoftware works with all major hardware vendors to ensure we can accurately measure, report and present performance in the most accurate and informative way.
A year ago, SiSoftware released Sandra 2010 with full support for Windows 7; in the 18 months since the launch of Windows 7, more than ever before we have seen the line blur between PC and entertainment hubs. Two months ago we released a Blu-Ray benchmark, now we have added a brand-new Media Transcoding benchmark using the new Media Foundation of Windows 7. We have also added yet another benchmark (GP Cryptography) which allows direct comparison of CPU performance (using crypto instruction sets) and GPGPU/GPCPU/GPAPU performance.

Aida64
AIDA64 Extreme Edition is a streamlined Windows diagnostic and benchmarking software for home users. AIDA64 Extreme Edition provides a wide range of features to assist in overclocking, hardware error diagnosis, stress testing, and sensor monitoring. It has unique capabilities to assess the performance of the processor, system memory, and disk drives. AIDA64 is compatible with all current 32-bit and 64-bit Microsoft Windows operating systems, including Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.

Super PI Mod 1.5 XS
In August 1995, the calculation of pi up to 4,294,960,000 decimal digits was succeeded by using a supercomputer at the University of Tokyo. The program was written by D.Takahashi in collaboration with Dr. Y.Kanada at the computer center. This record should be the current world record. (Details are shown in the windows help.) This record-breaking program was ported to personal computer environment such as Windows NT and Windows 95. In order to calculate 33.55 million digits, it takes within 3 days with a Pentium 90 MHz, 40 MB main memory and 340 MB available storage.

HD Tune Pro
HD Tune is a hard disk utility with many functions. It can be used to measure the drive's performance, scan for errors, check the health status (S.M.A.R.T.), securely erase all data and much more.

Geekbench2.1.13
Geekbench provides a comprehensive set of benchmarks engineered to quickly and accurately measure processor and memory performance. Designed to make benchmarks easy to run and easy to understand, Geekbench takes the guesswork out of producing robust and reliable benchmark results.

Unigine Heaven 2.5
New benchmark grants the power to unleash the DirectX 11 potential in the gift wrapping of impressively towering graphics capabilities. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is ensured within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.


 

Conclusion

The Z68 Pro3-M from ASRock is a nice alternative to the standard size mottherboard. Unlike the H67 chipset its offers all the power and features of the Pro3 which is its bigger brother. Many of us are not always in need of having a mid size or larger case when a small form factor would work as well. But we still require the power that a standard ATX offer. The Pro3-M gives you that. A full length PCIe slot, four DIMM slots and all the new features that comes with the Z68 chipset like Intel's Smart Response and Lucid's Virtu.

Another reason we prefer the Z68 chipset offer the H67 is because of the fact overclocking is not eliminated from the system. With the Z68 chipset you do not have to rely on Intel Speedstep to get an CPU boost of performance. You can go into the BIOS or use the AXTU application to achieve it yourself.

The ASRock Z68 Pro3-M goes for about $115 at most respectable retailers.

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