ASUS X99 Sabertooth Motherboard Review
ASUS' The Ultimate Force (TUF) motherboards may be hard to place for some potential buyers. The boards donít quite cater to overclocking enthusiasts like the RoG series does, they arenít priced at stratospheric levels like the Deluxe products and they provide a enhanced feature set when compared against entry level products. Instead of looking to appease certain niches, the TUF series sets out to offer a blend of longevity through military-class components, forward-looking additions and a bleeding-edge attention to detail that surpasses anything the competition can offer.
This attention to detail is what made the previous X79 Sabertooth such a cult classic, and why on the LGA-1155 side of the fence the Sabertooth Z97's made such a splash. However, X99 is the enthusiast chipset of choice and as such a TUF branded motherboard has to not only meet the previously high watermark that those TUF boards left, but has to exceed them. This is what the TUF Sabertooth X99 sets out to do: destroy any preconceived notions about what a $350 socket 2011-v3 motherboard could offer. In order to do this ASUS did not stray from their previous philosophy and concepts but instead doubled down on them in a big way.
The TUF Sabertooth design philosophy starts above the surface of the motherboard and works down from there. Specifically ASUS has included their iconic TUF Thermal Armor which utilizes the concept of a wind tunnel by providing direct airflow through the heat-critical components of the board. In previous generations this so-called armor was either a touch bland, a touch bulky, or a combination of both. The new version used on the X99 Sabertooth not only makes use of a stunning form fitting two-tone design but also includes a more aggressive appearance that simply looks like it belongs on a board named after a hunter of cavemen.
Literally backstopping the plastic TUF Armor is a backplate that ASUS calls their TUF Fortifier. This ultra-thick and ultra-stiff all-metal backplate provides insane amounts of protection for the motherboard back area and doubles as a large heatsink that improves the overall thermals of mission critical components.
ASUS' definitions of mission critical components on TUF boards go under the label of TUF Components. This includes military grade Caps, Chokes and MOSFETS. To help keep these and the rest of the parts protected by the TUF Thermal Armor cool ASUS has once again included active cooling. Unlike the previous X79 Sabertooth this takes the form of one fan with a fully customizable speed profile.
Also in keeping with TUF boards, the Sabertooth X99 also supports what ASUS calls "TUF ESD Guards 2". This second generation ESD guard is now twice as capable of its predecessor and protects all the back IO ports from damaging electrostatic discharges.
The new Thermal Radar 2 also builds upon its predecessorís design and allows for not only completely custom - and individual - fan tuning of the eleven included fan headers, but also complete monitoring of the motherboard via a dozen integrated thermal sensors. All of this is made possible due to the new TUF Ice integrated controller.
ASUS is well aware that monitoring is only as good as the method in which it gets this information to the user so they have also included their TUF Detective software as well. TUF Detective allows for the monitoring of all the various components via USB and your Android tablet / phone and quickly tracks down where an issue originates from. To help ensure common accidents do not happen, ASUS even includes their 'CPU Gadget' which makes bending a socket pin during insertion of a socket 2011-v3 processor much, much more difficult.
Also in an effort to appease their ultra-demanding TUF fans, ASUS included a whole host of cutting edge features. For example, there is an OC 2011-v3 socket which supposedly allows for better overclocking and enhanced stability at higher voltages. Thereís also USB 3.1 compatibility via two back-mounted ports, eight channel audio via a 'TUF Audio' version of the ALC 1150 controller, ten SATA 6Gb/s ports, two SATA Express Ports, a five year warranty, and even a four PCIe lane capable M.2 port - that supports even ultra-long M.2 22110 drives. This last port also includes support for bleeding edge Small Form Factor NVMe solid state drives such as the Intel 750.
Mix in the features expected from an ASUS X99 motherboard such as the ability to offer 40 PCIe lanes - including dual GPUs in full x16 mode, an advanced 128MB UEFI BIOS, an excellent software suite, plus other enthusiast friendly features and this Sabertooth may indeed easily justify its $350 asking price and sway consumers away from the competitionís solutions.
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