|ASUS Sabertooth X79 TUF Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by Olin Coles & David Ramsey|
|Sunday, 13 November 2011|
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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.
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.
+ UEFI Graphical User Interface BIOS replacement
- High priced enthusiast-level motherboard solution
Final Score: 9.0 out of 10.
Excellence Achievement: Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award.
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