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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

Closer Look: ASUS Sabertooth X79

The new ASUS X79 Express motherboard series supports the latest Intel Core i7 (Sandy Bridge) Extreme Edition processors, which are the first six-core 32nm desktop processors based on Intel's 2nd-generation Sandy Bridge micro-architecture. These socket LGA2011 CPUs integrate PCI-Express and quad-channel DDR3 memory controllers and large micro-operations cache to improve overall performance and efficiency. In benchmark tests this adds up to significant increases over previous architectures, allowing overclockers and performance hardware enthusiasts to realize the most substantial improvement in their daily real-world computing experience beyond tasks of the average user. Intel's Core i7 3960X and 3930K processors will offer a completely-unlocked product for overclocking enthusiasts, while the soon-to-be-released Core i7-3820 can manipulate the maximum Turbo Boost delivered to one CPU core.

ASUS designs their P9X79-series motherboards for mainstream hardware enthusiasts, while designating their Rampage IV Extreme and TUF Sabertooth X79 motherboards for more advanced overclockers and extreme performance enthusiasts. TUF Sabertooth X79 debuts with a familiar black printed circuit board (PCB) and hardware components. Benchmark Reviews has tested more than a few motherboards in our time, and ASUS has repeatedly proven itself as the premier name in motherboard technology and hardware stability. While our benchmark tests will prove this claim later into the article, this section concentrates on basic motherboard features and component details.

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

Unlike past Intel motherboards, the new X79 Express chipset supports quad-channel memory. This means there are now wight DIMM sockets available for non-ECC unbuffered DDR3 memory on the ASUS Sabertooth X79 TUF motherboard, capable of up to 64GB of system memory (8GM DDR3 modules). 1600 MHz is the fastest standard base frequency supported, but if overclocked settings are configured this motherboard can handle 1866MHz DDR3 (yet the UEFI speed selections allow up to DDR3-2666). Since 32-Bit Windows Operating Systems allow only 4GB maximum memory mapping space (anything more is ignored), having 64GB of available system memory clearly designates this as the ideal 64-bit system platform.

Intel X79 Express motherboards fit only socket LGA2011 desktop processors and no other, which also means that a new mounting bracket is required for older CPU coolers. At the time of this writing many of the most popular heatsink manufacturers were offering free LGA2011 mounting kits for previous customers, so users may not need to purchase a new heatsink. There have also been a few adapter kits that replace the mounting system with an older LGA1366 or LGA1156 retention bracket. Based on how large the new Intel Core-i7 CPU and LGA2011 backplate are, it seems unlikely that these adapters will offer the same levels of support or coverage. Additionally, some heatsinks were designed to take advantage of DIMM sockets on one side of the motherboard. The inclusion of four additional DIMM sockets could mean that large heatsinks will not work with X79 Express motherboards.

ASUS-TUF-Sabertooth-X79-Motherboard-PCB-Reverse.jpg

The rear input/output panel (I/O panel) is a busy place on the ASUS Sabertooth X79 motherboard, with ample wired and wireless support across many standards. One legacy PS/2 port supplements four SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports, which can revert to USB 2.0 speeds for backwards compatibility. Six Hi-Speed USB 2.0/1.1 ports are located at the IO panel, with one of the ports (white) offering USB BIOS Flashback functionality. The USB BIOS Flashback button resides beside this port, and allows for firmware flashing without any video card, processor or boot drive attached to the system. VIA Technologies supplies the SuperSpeed USB controller hub that ties it all together.

ASUS-TUF-Sabertooth-X79-Motherboard-IO-Panel.jpg

A powered external SATA (eSATA) 6.0 Gb/s port is available on Sabertooth X79, courtesy ASMedia ASM1061, and is colored green for easy identification. Power eSATA ports require a specially designed signal cable to provide 5.0 volts of power to the external SATA device. The Power eSATA signal cable is not included with ASUS X79 motherboards, but many Power eSATA devices will bundle this cable with their kit or one can be purchased separately. There's also a non-powered eSATA 6Gb/s port in standard red color, supported by the same ASM1061 chip. A VIA VT6315N controller delivers supports IEEE-1394a at the back panel, for when these older pre-USB 3.0 devices resurface. The ASUS TUF Sabertooth X79 comes with a Gigabit Ethernet RJ-45 1000 Mb/s network adapter based on the Intel 82579V chip, which qualifies as an 802.3az Energy Efficient Ethernet (EEE) network appliance.

ASUS-TUF-Sabertooth-X79-Motherboard-Angle-PCI.jpg

Audio support for the ASUS TUF Sabertooth X79 utilizes the Realtek ALC892 chip, which is capable of eight channel 7.1 High-Definition sound. This particular audio chipset may be integrated onto the motherboard, but with a featured 106 dB Signal-to-Noise ratio and 192khz absolute pitch / 24-bit true BD lossless sound over eight channels it's anything but low end. The coaxial and optical S/PDIF out ports deliver eight digital audio channels to PC audiophiles, also delivering DTS Surround Sensation UltraPC support and Blu-ray Disc audio layer Content Protection. Realtek's ALC892 chip also supports audio-jack detection, multi-streaming, and front panel jack-retasking. Six analog-out audio jacks are available further down the panel, for backwards compatibility.



 

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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