BIOS

Gigabyte has once again decided to stick with a traditional BIOS – but even if it isn't fancy, its very well polished.

IMG 7637 Z68 Showdown: Gigabyte GA Z68X UD7 B3 Versus MSI Z68A GD80

All the overclocking-related settings reside in the M.I.T. section, which is further organised neatly into sub-sections. This makes settings very easy to find, though seasoned users might find it slightly annoying to have to keep changing between sub-sections.

IMG 7638 Z68 Showdown: Gigabyte GA Z68X UD7 B3 Versus MSI Z68A GD80

IMG 7639 Z68 Showdown: Gigabyte GA Z68X UD7 B3 Versus MSI Z68A GD80

IMG 7641 Z68 Showdown: Gigabyte GA Z68X UD7 B3 Versus MSI Z68A GD80

IMG 7642 Z68 Showdown: Gigabyte GA Z68X UD7 B3 Versus MSI Z68A GD80

IMG 7652 Z68 Showdown: Gigabyte GA Z68X UD7 B3 Versus MSI Z68A GD80

Up to eight BIOS profiles can be saved. (Profile saving/loading can be accessed via the F11/F12 keys.)

Software

Gigabyte has built up a fairly impressive array of software utilities. For overclockers, the ones of interest are Touch BIOS and EasyTune 6. Touch BIOS is basically a Windows interface to the BIOS. The structure of the BIOS has been closely replicated, and nearly all BIOS settings can be modified and saved, making it even better than a UEFI BIOS since you don't have to reboot to get to the settings. However, we couldn't find the profile saving/loading function, and for some reason the window can't be resized so you're stuck with a few lines of text in a tiny window.

 Z68 Showdown: Gigabyte GA Z68X UD7 B3 Versus MSI Z68A GD80

 Z68 Showdown: Gigabyte GA Z68X UD7 B3 Versus MSI Z68A GD80

EasyTune is far more user friendly than Touch BIOS. The Graphics section even worked with our non-Gigabyte graphics card! However some of the settings don't seem to stick after reboot.

 Z68 Showdown: Gigabyte GA Z68X UD7 B3 Versus MSI Z68A GD80

 Z68 Showdown: Gigabyte GA Z68X UD7 B3 Versus MSI Z68A GD80

 Z68 Showdown: Gigabyte GA Z68X UD7 B3 Versus MSI Z68A GD80

If you want to save power instead, Gigabyte has provided Dynamic Energy Saver 2. The large button toggles DES on/off, and 3 different levels of power savings can be selected. The Dual Power button further cuts the number of power phases used by half.

 Z68 Showdown: Gigabyte GA Z68X UD7 B3 Versus MSI Z68A GD80

Overclocking – CPU

For our overclocking tests, a Noctua NH-D14 heatsink with two fans was used.

3 levels of automatic overclocking can be selected using EasyTune, the highest of which goes all the way to 4.10GHz. From here we managed to go all the way to 4.6GHz without touching anything else – Gigabyte scales CPU core voltage automatically up to 1.30V.

We bumped core voltage to 1.35V, but were unable to go higher until we increased "Multi Steps Load Line" (Gigabyte's name for vDroop calibration). Gigabyte offers Vdroop calibration in 10 increments. Increasing this value to 4 allowed us to hit 4.7GHz, and 6 got us 4.8GHz However, it is important to note that the "Multi Steps Load Line" setting is quite aggressive at higher levels, and according to EasyTune readings it actually increased Vcore above the user setting when the CPU was under load. We would therefore recommend increasing this gradually.

At 1.45V (our safe limit for air cooling), we managed to hit 5.0GHz. Despite increasing I/O voltage, SA voltage and CPU PLL voltage we could not go any further than this – cooling is clearly the limitation here. On rare occasions the motherboard decided to reset all BIOS settings after a failed overclock. If you remember to use the profile saving feature it should be nothing more than a minor annoyance though.

Voltages Max. Overclock
CPU Core CPU I/O CPU SA "Multi Steps
Load Line"
CPU Multi. CPU Clock
Auto (1.30V)* Auto (1.05V) Auto (0.925V) Disabled x46 4.6GHz
1.35V Auto (1.05V) Auto (0.925V) 4 x47 4.7GHz
1.35V Auto (1.05V) Auto (0.925V) 6 x48 4.8GHz
1.40V Auto (1.05V) Auto (0.925V) 6 x49 4.9GHz
1.45V Auto (1.05V) Auto (0.925V) 6 x50 5.0GHz

*The 'Auto' setting scales voltages automatically up to a certain value.

Overclocking – Integrated GPU

The Z68 has no display outputs, so overclocking the Sandy Bridge GPU is not possible on this motherboard.