We had the opportunity of getting a sneak peek at Asus’s X79 line-up, back in October 2011, first hand and we came back quite impressed at what they had achieved. Along with the features of Intel’s X79 chipset, Asus has thrown in their own flavour to the mix, making it one of the most feature-rich boards in the market. Today, we’ll be taking their SABERTOOH X79 motherboard for a spin in our labs. This board hails from their TUF series, which focuses on strengthened components, better cooling, etc. It’s also designed to work under extreme temperatures without failing.
Design and Layout
The SABERTOOTH is based on the LGA Socket 2011, so only the new Sandy Bridge-E CPUs are compatible. Unlike the previous TUF series boards from Asus, the X79 ditches the full “thermal armour”, which is a plastic covering over the entire motherboard to channel air flow to all the components. The reason for this was the lack of space on the motherboard to fasten a full shell properly. Instead, we have cooling for just two areas on the motherboard, the CPU VRM area and the PCH chip at the bottom. Both the heatsinks are made of aluminium with copper pipes, along with low profile fans from Delta used to blow air outwards, away from the motherboard. In order to make room for larger 3rd party heatsinks near the CPU area, the heatsinks around the CPU are connected to the ‘Thermal Armor’ via heat pipes, which exhausts all the hot air directly outside the case through vents in the I/O shield. The design is quite clever and makes the best use of the little space that’s available.
Good cooling solution
Coming to rear I/O ports, we have a PS2 combo port, 4x USB 3.0 ports, 6x USB 2.0 ports, FireWire, eSATA, powered eSATA, Optical (S/PDIF) out, 6x audio jacks, Gigabit LAN and BIOS Flashback button. The VRM area is completely covered by the ‘Thermal Armour’ heatsink and you have the choice to fit an optional fan, as well for added cooling. There is sufficient space around the CPU area for third party coolers and we didn’t have a problem installing a water cooler as well. There are four RAM slots on either side for a total of 64GB DDR3 memory in quad-channel mode. The RAM slots also have the fastening clips only on one side, so it’s easy to swap RAM sticks, after you’ve installed a graphics card.
A good selection of ports
For expansion slots, we have 2x PCI-E 3.0 slots that are capable of x16 speeds even in SLI or CrossFire mode. The third PCI-E slot is also x16 but runs in x8 mode if you run three cards together. The same applies to the first two slots as well. We also have two PCI-E x1 slots and a legacy PCI slot. For storage, Asus has provided two SATA III ports, four SATA II ports with support for RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10. Onboard headers include 1x USB 3.0, 4x USB 2.0 and 4x chassis fan connectors. There aren’t any power or reset buttons on the motherboard itself, just a MemOK! button to test the memory. In the box, you get a user's manual, driver disk and utilities, two SATA II cables, four SATA III cables, SLI bridge, Q-connectors, I/O shield, TUF certification and 5yr warranty.
The SABERTOOTH X79 features Asus’s UEFI BIOS, giving you full mouse support and a very easy to use graphical user interface. The X79 boards also come with their new Digi+ VRM for better power distribution amongst components. You can even take a screenshot of the BIOS page you’re in, simply by hitting F12. Since this is from their TUF series, the Choke, Capacitor, MOSFETs are certified by military standard.
The SSD caching feature was one of the highlights of the Z68 platform, but that’s been omitted from the X79 platform. However, Asus have added their own utility, in order to make this work. It also has their new USB BIOS Flashback feature, which lets you flash the BIOS by simply pressing a button, you don’t even have to go into the BIOS or use a Windows utility for it.