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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 Sabertooth X79 Details

Keeping with the times, ASUS joined the digital revolution back in 2010 when their Intel P67-series motherboard platform made the transition from analog power. On the Sabertooth X79 Express platform, ASUS incorporates an onboard micro-processor chip: TPU (TurboV Processing Unit). ASUS TPU relieves parts of process-intensive tasks from the CPU, and increases overall system performance. Now into its third generation, TPU uses DIGI+ Power Control technology (formerly DIGI+ VRM) features fully-digital power voltage regulator modules (VRMs) that give the overclocker ultra-precise memory voltage tuning and processor voltage control. DIGI+ Power Control takes digital voltage settings from only the CPU vCore and extends them to CPU vCore, CPU VCCSA, and DDR3 system memory.

These programmable digital VRM controllers make it possible to accurately match multiple digital power signals (SVID) without power transfer loss. DIGI+ Power Control on Sabertooth X79 offers 8-phase vCore power for the CPU, 2-phase VCCSA power to the processor's integrated memory controller, and 2+2 phase VDIMM power for the system DRAM. The switch from an analog to digital CPU and RAM power regulation allows ASUS P9X79-series motherboards to be more energy efficient, because DIGI+ Power Control reduces total power dissipation, and as a positive byproduct the mainboard components do not create excess heat. With the ASUS DIGI+ Power Control feature, users can choose between an auto Spread Spectrum mode where the VRM frequency is varied dynamically, resulting in lower interference (dBuV) and higher system stability. With DIGI+ Power Control configured with Fixed Frequency Mode, the motherboard allows for greater overclocking potential as the frequency increases towards 500k Hz in precise 10k Hz increments.

The ASUS TurboV Processing Unit is designed to manage processor, memory, and various component voltages. There are few technical details available about the TPU micro-processor other than what the chip is labeled with: TPU 035-CA1. There's also a DIGI+ chip labeled ASP1101-C nearby. ASUS EPU actively manages the power phases and hands off necessary commands to the EPU driver, which coordinates functions with voltage control software to adjust operating frequency and voltage according to the load applied. Gone are the days when 1.50V meant that your hardware actually received +/- 0.025 volts (or worse), now the requested voltage setting correctly delivers exactly the right amount of power assigned. This becomes especially handy with ASUS AI Suite II, which allows users to specify exact operating limits for their projects.

ASUS-TUF-Sabertooth-X79-Motherboard-LGA2011.jpg

Another development revealed with Intel's X79 Express chipset is the support for quad-channel DDR3 memory configurations, which places eight DIMM slots onto the motherboard. As 64-bit Operating Systems become the standard and high-density memory modules shed their high price tag, power users will seek out the massive system memory capacities available to push their high-demand applications. Besides the addition of four additional DIMM slots beside the processor, there's the option of using some of this memory for inventive purposes. For example, keen users could load their X79 motherboard 64GB DDR3, and use half of this to create a RAM-disk to work with ASUS SSD Caching for improved overall system performance.

With eight hungry DIMM slots, there's the increased possibility that incompatible memory could cause a boot failure. In such a situation, ASUS MemOK! will lend a helping hand. First, the DRAM_LED light will blink continuously near the MemOK! button. By holding down this button until the DRAM_LED begins blinking, ASUS MemOK! will begin automatic memory compatibility tuning to help increase the chances of a successful motherboard boot up. MemOK! determines failsafe settings and improves the chances of system boot-up when they might not be otherwise possible.

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

Intel X79 Express brings with it a new processor package: socket LGA2011. This new CPU socket in compatible with new Intel Core i7 processors 3960X, 3930K, and the soon-to-be-released Core i7-3820. ASUS positions anodized aluminum heatsinks near the LGA2011 socket, using the CPU cooler's fan to help cool power components hiding under the heatsink. The surface of each heatsink is shaped to cover tall VRM's, and several low-profile electronic components. Combined with US Military specification electronics, ASUS uses all Japanese manufactured SMD solid state capacitors containing a solid organic polymer and lower equivalent series resistance (ESR) will likely outlast the useful life of any ASUS X79-series motherboard.

Native SuperSpeed USB 3.0 support in finally available to Intel motherboards, but the new X79 Express platform keeps this port in very short supply. Intel's design offers only one pair of ports, so ASUS was quick to include large-scale support for this appropriately named technology by adding two more SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports using an ASMedia ASM1042 chip. SuperSpeed USB 3.0 file transfer tests have proven 5.0 Gb/s signaling rates are possible, but that wasn't enough for the engineers at ASUS. Their non-proprietary ASUS USB 3.0 Boost goes beyond SuperSpeed USB transfer speeds by using the more efficient USB Attached SCSI (UAS) protocol for more responsive bandwidth. Additionally, ASUS USB BIOS Flashback returns with X79, and enables firmware updates without any CPU/RAM/GPU hardware components installed on the motherboard.

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

Intel Smart Response Technology, the creative tool for joining a SSD cache drive to a large-capacity hard disk drive, is not supported on Intel's X79 Express chipset. This means that motherboard manufacturers are free to engineer solution of their own, which is what ASUS SSD Caching accomplishes on the Marvell 9128 controller. Users can benefit from ASUS SSD Caching by using solid state drive speeds to intelligently accelerate frequently-accessed tasks and applications on a hard disk drive. Offering application speeds up to three times faster than mechanical hard drives alone, ASUS SSD Caching features an exclusive user interface and storage control options that boosts performance with one click.

PCI Express 3.0 is supported on X79 Express motherboards, capable of delivering up to 32GB/s on compatible devices across 48 lanes. The integrated PCI-Express controller on Sandy Bridge Extreme processors offers 40 shared PCI-E graphics lanes, and the Intel X79 Express chip adds another 8 shared PCI-Express lanes used for motherboard functions. While the Sabertooth X79 user manual describes support for Quad-GPU configurations, this is only possible if you're pairing two graphics cards that each house two GPUs, such as NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 590 or AMD's Radeon HD 6990. Three-way NVIDIA SLI and AMD CrossFireX configurations are supported, and on the ASUS Sabertooth X79 TUF motherboard PCI-E 3.0 graphics lanes can be configured into a x16/x16/x8 formation. Theses newly added PCI-E lanes enable X79 Express motherboards to operate with full functionality when multiple graphics cards are installed, utilizing USB 3.0 and other mainboard resources without sacrifice.

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

The same two native SATA 6Gb/s ports introduced with P67 Express return on X79. The Intel SATA 6Gb/s ports (colored dark brown: SATA6G_1-2) are joined by four additional SATA 3Gb/s ports (colored black: SATA3G_3-6) with RAID-0/1/5/10 support. Intel's third-generation SATA storage controller allows performance enthusiasts to enjoy faster top-end bandwidth speeds from capable storage devices, primarily Solid State Drives, and supports RAID-0/1/5/10 functionality. ASUS then adds an additional two SATA 6Gb/s ports (colored white) by using the Marvell 88SE9128 controller with RAID-1/0 support through Marvell RAID utility (MRU) and driver. The orientation of all eight SATA ports utilizes transverse-mount connections to stem cables outward to the side of the motherboard. This layout works extremely well for all modern video cards, especially those that measure 9.5" or longer that occupy multiple expansion slots.

Intel's X79 Express chip rests beneath the black plastic shroud of an actively-cooled heatsink at the Southbridge location, where heat output is rather mild. This Southbridge fan can be controlled using ASUS Thermal Radar software, as well as all other sensors and fan headers on this motherboard. Additionally, a Nuvoton Technology NCT6776F Super I/O chip positioned elsewhere on the board to help monitors several critical parameters in PC hardware, including power supply voltages, fan speeds and temperatures.



 

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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