Asus Sabertooth Z77 Motherboard Review
( Review From Bartman1973.com - By : Mrs. Bartman1973 )
Bartman1973 has been occupied with his daytime job, so when I received a package containing one Asus Sabertooth Z77 motherboard (along with the bartman’s prize from a recent Asus contest), I definitely had mixed emotions. I was excited to mount my first MOBO on the Den’s test bench and scared that I may not be able to OC the board the same way the bartman does.
Let us start with the usual visuals and appearance.
The box is a combination of black and gold which is the default color combo of ASUS’ Sabertooth series. A quick glance at the unopened box gives the immediate impression that this is from the high end section of the Z77 line-up. The printed information says that the board supports SLI and Crossfire along with Virtu Technology. The rear side and a sort of box extension, if you may, gave some very useful information which needs to be considered when testing and OCing the board.
Upon opening the box, the motherboard in anti-static wrap, is immediately revealed. Having worked in the semicon industry for some time, I understand and appreciate this move. This protects the board from any unwanted electro-static discharge which can unknowingly harm the board.
The accessories and manuals are neatly divided and tucked in a 2nd layer in the box.
In addition to the manual (which shows how to setup and power on the board), ASUS included a Certitificate of Reliability, a TUF sticker and a paper that says the board is covered by, brace yourself, 5 years warranty! Yes, you read correctly, and just to convince you it’s not a typo, I will state it again – 5 years. As long as you don’t get your board burnt, I guess ASUS will (and should) honor this 5-year warranty period.
Now onto the motherboard itself. This Sabertooth is tagged as a TUF motherboard or “The Ultimate Force“ motherboard.
ASUS boasts that the plastic ‘armor’ (which includes the removable slot covers) is there for a reason! Actually 3 reasons: optimized air flow for better heat dissipation; real time temperature detection on critical parts of the board with the built in thermal radar; and dust repelling specifically for unused slots, preserving contact effectiveness and extending lifespan as well.
The optional and configurable fan (push or pull) can be seen on the picture and this will cool down the critical parts of the board. This fan is more focused on cooling the regulator modules.
Based on inputs from the bartman, putting a bigger 3rd party cooler may not be good idea, especially those that come with 120mm or 140mm fans in push-pull configuration as there is a chance that the ‘armor’ will be struck by the fan. There is also a possibility that it may hit the add-on 40mm fan below the processor. Personally, with my Industrial Engineering instincts kicking in, even if the plastic armor does what it says it does, I am not sure if the gains are significant enough to be ‘felt’ by the user and outweigh the additional manufacturing costs and steps it brings with it. In short, as a consumer I will have to ask myself - Am I willing to pay for this add in and does this add value to the product I am buying? The CPU area is also covered by the ‘thermal armor’ and we can hardly see the VRMs along with the heatsink. Based on documentations and other previews from the web, the board will be coming with 8 + 4 + 2 VRM configurations.
There are 3 physical x16 expansion slots. The first 2 slots are pcie gen 3.0. If only one video card set-up will be used , a full x16 pcie gen 3.0 system is attained, while putting 2 graphics cards will make it 2 by x8 pcie gen 3.0 configuration system. The last black pcie x16 slot is actually a pcie gen 2.0. The 3 x1 slots are all pcie gen 2.0 as well. The board is good enough to support both SLI and CrossfireX along with LucidLogicX Virtu MVP Technology.
The board comes with 4 RAM slots which is for dual channel configuration. Officially it supports up to 2133Hmz but with the right tricks (and in my case, a techie hubby), we know this board should be capable of running more than that.
The rear I/O comes with several ports and buttons:
6 USB 3.0 ports – 4 of which come from the Intel z77 chipset. 2 of the 4 are located near the SATA slots and the remaining 2 are in the back. The other 2 USB 3.0 slots are coming from the AS Media 1042 controller which is also located in the rear I/O.
10 USB 2.0 slots - 4 at the back and 6 via header in the board. The 2 red slots there are intended for the eSATA which is being controlled by the AS Media 1061 controller.
a CMOS reset button, a 7.1 channel audio (using a Realtek ALC 892chip) and an optical out option.
one HDMI and one Display Port for connecting your monitor. a gigabit LAN from Intel.
Now onto the SATA ports, the first 2 brown ports are the SATA 6Gbps from Intel and followed by the 4 SATA 3Gbps from Intel as well. The white ports are actually SATA 6Gbps but coming from another AS Media 1061 controller.
Setup and Testing Setting up the board on the test bench was pretty straight forward. The necessary labels were present and given my virgin MOBO set up skills, with a little guidance from the bartman, I experienced no problems in mounting the board for testing, overclocking and running benchmarks.
There was one thing that initially confused my newbie OC skills. I found that CPUZ results defaulted to the same speed and multiplier at stock and OC settings and would change (increase) real time when benchmarks are run. Going back to the information on the box, I realized this is the Digi power control functionality which automatically adjusts voltages as needed, thus optimizing power consumption. Benchmark Results Summary By applying a 1.45 Core voltage and a multiplier of 47, the core speed was brought up from the 1.6 GHz stock default (though based on observations, the board ran a maximum of 3.5 GHz at stock during benchmarks when speed step is not kicking in) to 4.84 GHz.
Not bad for my first OC results. With a few tricks the bartman1973 has passed down, I was able to make the system pass the usual benchmarks at 4.63 Ghz, and push the board a little more at 4.84 Ghz!
Board performance is pretty solid and very overclockable even for a beginner like me.
The graphics card layout is pretty good and ensures that a 2 card setup is possible as long as we stay away from the old direct Cu II cards which consume 3 slots.
More than sufficient USB and SATA slots. Memory handling is pretty good. The Minuses
A bit of a bother on the CPU area with the plastic armor. I bet the bartman1973 will not be too happy doing liquid nitrogen cooling as placing all those kneaded erasers all over the CPU area may prove to be more difficult.
Still not totally sold to the plastic armor idea. I am not sure how much heat this plastic can withstand without getting soft or saggy. It also made taking out the video card more difficult as I had to use a screw driver to push the lock free as even my small fingers couldn’t find a way through sides with the armor in the way. But if the gains from the armor ASUS enumerates outweighs these small pet peeves, this board will still be worth buying.
Back-up Pictures ( Stock and OC )