updated 08:00 am EDT, Wed May 11, 2011
Intel confirms Z68 and SSD 311 series
Intel on Wednesday morning expanded the availability of its Z68 chipset beyond the new iMac. The Z68 Express in its general form is aimed at performance users with overclocking support for the processor, memory, and graphics. Boards using Z68 also now support Smart Response, a RAID-like technique that uses both an SSD and a rotating hard drive to boot and load data as much as 60 percent faster than the spinning drive alone.
Graphics are an extra focus. The Z68 can work on dual 8X PCI Express video cards for methods like AMD's CrossFire or NVIDIA's SLI. It also supports dynamic graphics switching and makes accommodations to help integrated graphics when necessary.
In tandem with the new chipset, Intel has put out the SSD 311 series. The model only includes 20GB of space but is intended as a cache rather than a boot or primary drive. Its read and write speeds peak at 200MB per second and 100MB per second respectively, but it can be available both in a conventional drive enclosure or a small mSATA card.
Boards based on the Z68 Express are shipping today from ASUS, MSI, and others.
It's still unclear why Apple got early access to the Z68. The new iMac uses dedicated, single-chip graphics on all models and isn't known to use Smart Response when the 256GB SSD is picked as an option.