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Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards
Written by Olin Coles & David Ramsey   
Sunday, 13 November 2011
Table of Contents: Page Index
ASUS Sabertooth X79 TUF Motherboard
The Intel X79 Express Chipset
Closer Look: ASUS Sabertooth X79
ASUS Sabertooth X79 Details
ASUS Thermal Radar
ASUS UEFI BIOS
ASUS TUF Sabertooth X79 Specifications
Motherboard Testing Methodology
AIDA64 Extreme Edition Tests
PCMark Vantage Tests
CINEBENCH R11.5 Benchmarks
CPU-Dependent 3D Gaming
PassMark PerformanceTest
Media Encoding Benchmarks
SPECviewperf 11 Tests
SPECapc Lightwave
Blender and POV-Ray
ASUS TUF Sabertooth X79 Conclusion

ASUS TUF Sabertooth X79 Conclusion

IMPORTANT: Although the rating and final score mentioned in this conclusion are made to be as objective as possible, please be advised that every author perceives these factors differently at various points in time. While we each do our best to ensure that all aspects of the product are considered, there are often times unforeseen market conditions and manufacturer changes which occur after publication that could render our rating obsolete. Please do not base any purchase solely on our conclusion, as it represents our product rating specifically for the product tested which may differ from future versions. Benchmark Reviews begins our conclusion with a short summary for each of the areas that we rate.

The ASUS Sabertooth X79 motherboard is designed for for stability above all else, but is also well-suited for extreme overclocking enthusiasts using liquid helium (-269° C) or liquid nitrogen (-180° C) for their projects. Overclockers at this level will make good use of the handy TUF Thermal Armor and TUF Thermal Radar features ASUS makes available, and rely on the TUF components used to build this motherboard. Sabertooth X79 compromises specialty features and functionality seen elsewhere in the ASUS X79 product line, and replaces them with military-grade components for a more stable component design that can handle massive current loads. There are fewer digital power phases and lower memory speed range on Sabertooth X79, but this is done intentionally to ensure the motherboard meets or exceeds its five-year warranty. Those wanting Bluetooth connectivity and more PCI-Express graphics slots should look to ASUS' P9X79-series, which offer support for Bluetooth 3.0 and four-way video card combinations. But for those seeking The Ultimate Force in stability, they're sure to find it in the new ASUS Sabertooth X79 motherboard.

Without question, the Intel Core i7 3960X is the most powerful desktop processor produced to-date. Our benchmark performance tests illustrate how well this extreme edition processor compares to past CPUs from Intel and AMD, and also how well the ASUS P9X79 Deluxe motherboard performs with it installed. Quad-channel 64GB DDR3 system memory support makes a big difference over previous generations, and allows for speeds up to 1866MHz with XMP 1.3 support. Yielding forty PCI-Express lanes from the processor alone, we can also see why Sandy Bridge Extreme is best suited for the Intel X79 Express motherboard platform. If you're looking for a platform to build the best computer possible, Sandy Bridge Extreme and X79 Express are clearly the ideal way to go.

Yet while the 3960X is a significant step forward for CPU performance and efficiency, in terms of motherboard performance we must examine how well the ASUS Sabertooth X79 compares to the previous generation and competing alternatives, as well as Intel's new DX79SI Desktop Board. More than anything else though, it will come down to the manufacturer-specific features that are value-added to the motherboard that make the difference. The term 'reference board' applies to video card products, not motherboards. Intel's own X79 Express solutions are retail products competing for shelf space, which is why we've used Intel's DX79SI flagship enthusiast desktop motherboard as a point of reference. By comparison, benchmark performance tests using identical system settings and hardware components pushed the ASUS Sabertooth X79 motherboard ahead of Intel's DX79SI every time. When overclocking, ASUS AI Suite II offered an incredibly simple process to achieve speeds beyond what the Intel motherboard could deliver, making it possible for even the most novice hardware enthusiast to reach impressive overclock results.

There could be many reasons for this, but it seems likely that the ASUS TurboV Processing Unit helps by offloading CPU duties which then allow the processor to concentrate on more demanding tasks. Additionally, because X79 Express does not currently support Intel's Smart Response Technology it then rests on the manufacturer to deliver suitable alternatives. ASUS addresses this problem by offering their own proprietary solution: ASUS SSD Cache, which can take advantage of a small solid state drive for hybrid storage configuration or even us part of the available 64GB DDR3 capacity to create a RAM-disk partition for the same purpose. In the end, these proprietary add-on features give one manufacturer an edge over others, because without them these are all just X79 Express platforms with the same basic potential.

Despite all the great features ASUS has added onto Sabertooth X79, there are still a few fundamental design flaws with the Intel X79 Express platform that keep it from greatness. When Intel's P67 Platform Controller Hub (PCH) launched with only one set of native SATA 6Gb/s ports to supplement two older sets of SATA 3Gb/s ports, it made sense on some level because this was their mainstream platform. Most people then expected the X79 enthusiast platform to remedy this and deliver SATA 6Gb/s ports throughout, because after all, SATA 6Gb/s ports are backward compatible and automatically work with older SATA 3Gb/s or 1.5 Gb/s devices. This was not the case, and on paper the only real advancement Intel offered was native SuperSpeed USB 3.0 support - something manufacturers like ASUS have been offering for nearly a year before now.

ASUS-TUF-Sabertooth-X79-Motherboard-Package.jpg

With regard to functionality, ASUS has loaded every one of their X79-series motherboards with proprietary add-on technology to expand the user experience. Their second-generation UEFI BIOS gives new users a friendly way of making adjustments to the internal settings and tweak their hardware like a seasoned veteran. USB BIOS Flashback is an innovative means of upgrading system firmware without the need for CPU/RAM/VGA/HDD, while ASUS SSD Caching and USB 3.0 Boost with UAS protocol are two great add-on technologies not delivered standard by Intel. The ASUS TPU (TurboV Processing Unit) can increase performance by automatically overclocking the system, and very few other manufacturers can offer similar functionality on competing products.

Taking proprietary functions one step further to improve product longevity, ASUS adds TUF Thermal Armor and ESD Guards to help prolong the life of mil-spec electronics for enhanced durability on the Sabertooth X79 motherboard. These design upgrades undoubtedly help promote their five-year TUF motherboard warranty, and entice system builders seeking out the most reliable mainboard for their mission-critical computers. While a processor failure due to overclocking damage is not covered under any warranty (neither Intel nor AMD offer support under these circumstances), ASUS does cover the Sabertooth X79 under such failures.

In terms of appearance, some will agree that the Sabertooth X79 TUF motherboard actually looks, well, tough! The ultra-durable looks help turn heads, but it's the durable mil-spec components that earn the TUF namesake. ASUS knows how to keep a professional appearance while throwing off a few eye-catching combinations of color and material. The heatsinks are suitable for thermal loads far beyond what this motherboard will produce under normal circumstances, but then again Sabertooth was build for the abnormally high/low-temperature environments only an extreme overclocking enthusiast could help create. Still, I wish ASUS would make a decision on their color pattern and stick with it, because items like the anodized green VRM heatsink don't fit in well with the overall theme. Although inconspicuous, ASUS could also match the DIMM levers to the socket, just as they do with the PCI-Express slots.

At the time of launch, 14 November 2011, the ASUS Sabertooth X79 TUF motherboard is sold for $339.99 at Newegg. This places Sabertooth X79 among premium-priced motherboards, neither the least or most expensive. Rating value can be subjective since one person may need every single feature offered, while another only wants a few. Compared to other X79 Express motherboards, ASUS Sabertooth X79 delivers an unmatched warranty that could be considered worth every cent of the purchase price.

In conclusion, ASUS has integrated so many features into this X79 Express motherboard they've clearly elevated the Sabertooth X79 platform to a level unobtainable by their competition. TUF Thermal Armor and ESD Guards protect ultra-durable mil-spec electronics, while DIGI+ Power Control ensure digital voltage regulation modules deliver precision power to performance-boosting microprocessors. For anyone looking to achieve maximum overclock results using extreme methods, Sabertooth X79 is a truly dependable motherboard.

The ASUS Sabertooth X79 TUF motherboard delivers a solid Intel X79 Express LGA2011 platform for new Sandy Bridge Extreme Edition Core-i7 processors. It's my recommendation that for anyone seeking out the most reliable and stable motherboard, only the ASUS Sabertooth X79 will be capable. ASUS enjoys a build quality second to none, which translates to fewer RMA's and longer product lifetime, but should any failure occur you'll be covered under a five year warranty.

Pros:Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award

+ UEFI Graphical User Interface BIOS replacement
+ Supports 64GB quad-channel DDR3 up to 1866MHz (2666MHz OC)
+ DIGI+ Power Control 8+2+2+2 power phase digital voltage
+ MemOK! Increases memory compatibility for bootup
+ USB BIOS Flashback enabled firmware update without CPU/RAM/VGA/HDD
+ Four total SATA 6Gb/s storage ports
+ USB 3.0 Boost introduces USB Attached SCSI (UAS) protocol
+ Four back panel SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports
+ Supports 2/3-card AMD CrossFireX or NVIDIA SLI sets
+ Military-specification electronic chokes, capacitors, and MOSFETs
+ TUF Thermal Armor with Thermal Radar management
+ Five-year product warranty support

Cons:

- High priced enthusiast-level motherboard solution
- Lacks hardware-based encryption features
- Fewer digital VRMs compared to other ASUS X79 motherboards
- Expanded DIMM socket banks may obstruct larger heatsinks

Ratings:

  • Performance: 9.50
  • Appearance: 9.00
  • Construction: 9.75
  • Functionality: 9.00
  • Value: 7.75

Final Score: 9.0 out of 10.

Excellence Achievement: Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award.

Benchmark Reviews invites you to leave constructive feedback below, or ask questions in our Discussion Forum.


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Comments 

 
# sata/raid supportscott macfarlane 2011-11-14 20:52
Wow, another awesome review by the Benchmark Folks!
Thorough, detailed, and on the cutting edge as usual.
Not to mention that it coincides with their timely reviews of the new CPU chips and the Intel "Extreme"(cough) motherboard - its put them all together in perspective so we know where to focus Mom's xMas gaming and upgrade cash!

I have a previous X58 Sabertooth motherboard that has the Intel Raid chip supporting 6x3gb sata drives plus the Marvel chip that adds another 2x6gb ports. I have my C: Drive SSD and another SSD for virtual machines on the Marvell and two raid 5 arrays on the six sata ports.

One question is: with the new configuration that has 2x6gb asus ports plus 2x6gb chipset ports plus 4x3gb ports, will I be able to support both of my raid 5 arrays?
i.e. are all six of the chipset ports on the same controller, or are they logically split so raid arrays must stay within each set of ports?

Thanks BMR!
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# RE: sata/raid supportOlin Coles 2011-11-14 20:59
Once you set ports to RAID within the UEFI (formerly called BIOS), it will boot right into your old drives because they use the same Intel RAID driver.
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# sata/raid supportscott macfarlane 2011-11-14 20:59
O, and one more thingy: I see this baby has two fans integrated right into the motherboard to cool the components. Are these standard sized fans that can easily be replaced with aftermarket ones after they blow up or will we have to fly to Asia and wait in the cattle line to get a $99 cent proprietary fan replaced for one-k large?
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# RE: sata/raid supportOlin Coles 2011-11-14 21:01
Sadly, it's the latter. The back panel fan is fairly common if you order online, but that 'Southbridge' fan (which is really the X79 chip fan) is much harder to come by.
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# Wow, that's really too badMergatroid 2011-11-14 21:37
This looks like an excellent board. It's really too bad to hear they went with proprietary fans. Do they give any type of MTBF on those fans? I'm hate to be at their mercy.
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# RE: ASUS Sabertooth X79 TUF MotherboardAthlonite 2011-11-15 08:29
The south bridge/x79 chipset fan looks like something out of a laptop maybe you'd be able to get one from a laptop repair shop or from an old dead single slot ATI cooler like an old HD2600/HD2400
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# LINUXThe Techno Alien 2011-11-15 12:33
Too bad I can't use all those nice features for overclocking and BIOS and stuff, I can always Dual Boot, but *sigh*... Why not? Windows is for gaming.
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# Memory supportratnev 2011-11-16 00:04
Does this board support 2133 MHz memory without overclocking? I mean if the memory module of 2133 MHz with xmp profile on is activated through the bios, will the motherboard recognize it? I'm asking because sabertooth x79 manual guide says it supports only 1866 memory max.
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# RE: Memory supportDavid Ramsey 2011-11-16 06:48
We didn't test 2133Mhz memory in this board, but I recall seeing that frequency as an option in the popup menu where you select memory frequency in the BIOS, so I don't see any reason it wouldn't work...
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# RE: RE: Memory supportratnev 2011-11-16 07:41
Thank you for your reply. It was very helpful for me and gave the last step in choosing the board. )))
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# RE: Memory supportOlin Coles 2011-11-16 07:56
My answer is that 1866MHz is suppported, as that's what the manual claims is the maximum speed. However, UEFI firmware revisions may change this.
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# RE: RE: Memory supportratnev 2011-11-16 08:15
I saw another review of that motherboard where the g.skill ripjaws Z 2133Mhz were used. They claim no problems at all. I just wanted to be insured that this will work.
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# RE: RE: RE: Memory supportDavid Ramsey 2011-11-16 13:29
Right now, this is my favorite X79 motherboard. I'm sure you'll like it.
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# RE: RE: RE: Memory supportDavid Ramsey 2011-11-30 13:58
Just in case anyone was still wondering: according to the specs on the box, the board handles up to DDR3-1866 memory. However, in the BIOS, you can set up to DDR3-2666.
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# RE: ASUS Sabertooth X79 TUF Motherboardanonymous 2011-11-25 22:35
Here you say: "And it's really odd that only two of the SATA ports are SATA 6G"

But in the comparo-graph on this web page:
#benchmarkreviews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=833&Itemid=69&limit=1&limitstart=2

for SATA this for this motherboard it says:

4xSATA 3G, 4xSATA 6G

Please clarify, am I reading one of these pages wrong?

Also, not really an issue, but on this page it says:

"there are 14 USB 2.0 ports and 6 SATA ports"
and
"touted as a reason for not supporting SuperSpeed USB 3.0"
which doesn't explicitly say that there are no USB 3.0 ports, but it sort of reads that way to the casual reader. On the other page listed above it says for USB for this motherboard:

"6xUSB 3.0, 14xUSB 2.0"


Thanks for the wonderful reviews of this cutting edge stuff! Its great to get all of this info so quickly after they are released.
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# ASUS Sabertooth X79 TUF Motherboardcmjohncheng 2011-11-25 22:55
another 2 SATA 6G is [ESATA]
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# RE: ASUS Sabertooth X79 TUF Motherboardanonymous 2011-11-25 22:36
Oh, there - you do say it: "no USB 3.0"
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# RE: ASUS Sabertooth X79 TUF MotherboardDavid Ramsey 2011-11-26 08:15
Anon, you're confused. The section where I say there are only 2 SATA 6G ports and no USB 3.0 is the section on Intel's X79 chipset. The clue is the heading "Intel's X79 Express Chipset" in large type at the start of that section.

ASUS adds extra SATA 6G ports and USB 3.0 via third party controller chips, which is part of the "added value" they bring to this board.
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# RE: RE: ASUS Sabertooth X79 TUF Motherboardanonymous 2011-11-28 16:46
Awesome. I am indeed going to build a computer based on this board. Thanks for the clarification!
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# Software EngineerVan Anast 2011-12-07 17:31
The most complete review of a product this type i've ever seen and since i recently ordered the exact pair of mobo-processor i have to thank you very much for this article.
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# RE: ASUS Sabertooth X79 TUF MotherboardArt Ford 2011-12-22 11:48
I wanted to use G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 16GB (4 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1866 (PC3 14900) Desktop Memory Model F3-14900CL9Q-16GBXL with the mobo but have been unable to find out if this RAM is compatible.
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# RE: RE: ASUS Sabertooth X79 TUF MotherboardDavid Ramsey 2011-12-22 15:22
That memory will work fine...
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# tpurichard alexander 2012-01-30 19:42
Where exactly is the tpu switch located?
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# PCI-E:16/16/8 = okay for Revo?Bruce 2012-05-13 22:21
Hi.
Love the review... nice and thorough.
Question (as I have been looking for a suitable upgrade & replacement for my P67 Sabertooth board...

Will this board allow me to run my two GTX580's in SLI @ 16x, and allow the Revodrive3 x2 to run in the bottom PCI-E okay?

In my present rig, I have to drop a GPU.

Thanks
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# RE: PCI-E:16/16/8 = okay for Revo?David Ramsey 2012-05-14 07:55
Yes. In fact, I'm running two GTX 580s in exactly the configuration you mentioned. In the bottom slot, I'm running an Asus Xonar sound card, but your Revodrive will work just fine.
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# terrific review siteGord 2013-02-11 21:49
Thanks for the very comprehensive review. Off to buy one tomorrow for my graphics workstation build along with the i7 3930K and a Corsair Graphite Series case and various other goodies.
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