Is this the first Z68 board in the wild?

Not CES 2011: Mitac shows off an odd Sandy Bridge motherboard

SPOTTING ODD HARDWARE is not unusual at product launches and trade shows, but for what it’s worth, we spotted a motherboard at Intel’s Sandy Bridge launch event in Taiwan that we can’t quite figure out what it is. At first it looks like a mATX P67 board, but once you start to look closer at it, you notice that it has an HDMI port around the back.

Although the board was labelled as being from Mitac and also carrying a Mitac sticker, said sticker appears to be covering an Intel logo on the board. Much of the labelling on the board and the components usage are also tell-tale signs of this being an Intel board as even the serial number fits Intel’s serial number system. Yet we can’t seem to find anything similar on Intel’s website and there’s no Intel model name on the board that we managed to spot. The components and feature set of the board is also suggesting that this isn’t your typical OEM/ODM board either, as the board sports features we’re used to see on Intel’s high-end boards.

For starters the PWM components are of a higher quality than you get on Intel’s H67 boards, more akin to the high end DP67BG, although not quite the same. Another oddity is the use of 10 power phases on a mATX board, highly unusual. Add to that the heatsinks on the MOSFETs and this isn’t one of Intel’s regular run-of-the-mill boards. Furthermore it has a POST80 debug LED and power and rest buttons, as well as two additional SATA 6Gbps ports, yet again, features reserved for Intel’s higher-end products. The board also sports dual Gigabit Ethernet ports, twin 6Gbps eSATA ports, a pair of USB 3.0 ports, a FireWire port and a button on the rear that looks eerily similar to the one found on the DP67BG.

However, these features are all co-incidental but what really makes us wonder if this is a Z68 board or not are two features. First of all, if you look between the two x16 PCI Express slots you’ll notice that this board has digital switches which allows for dual x8 operation, the H67 chipset doesn’t support this feature to our knowledge, at least it’s not supposed to according to all the documentation we’ve had from Intel. The second feature that further made us think that this is a Z68 board is the inclusion of a vertically mounted HDMI port around the back and unless this connector is used for some other kind of purpose – which we’ve seen on some Foxconn motherboards in the past – then we don’t know what it would be used for on a P67 board.

Maybe we’re drawing some hasty conclusions here from what appears to be a revision A1 board, but there’s something that doesn’t quite make sense here. The board name is meant to be PH10CU, but that could well be a Mitac reference as it doesn’t follow any Intel naming schemes. We’re very intrigued by this board, as there are far too many things about that don’t add up. Maybe we’ll see Intel’s Z68 chipset sooner than we expected and it’s possible that we just got a sneak peek on one of the first boards without Intel actually saying so out loud.S|A

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