ASUS Sabertooth Z87 Motherboard Review

Article Index

Hard driving General George S. Patton actually had a tank named after him, the M46 Patton. This isn’t all that surprising, given that he was infamous for his use of tanks in warfare, using a battering ram style with his troops rather than finesse. The M46 could take just about anything thrown at it…after all, it was a tank. What set it apart from its predecessors, however, was its speed and agility. That is quite the combination when you think about. Patton was naturally proud to have such a tank named after him, and if he were to choose a motherboard to bear his name, I have no doubt it would be the ASUS Sabertooth.

ASUS SABERTOOTH Z87 Motherboard

 

While taking full advantage of the new Z87 chipset, the improvements and upgrades on the new ASUS Z87 Sabertooth don’t stop there. The ASUS Z87 Sabertooth features what have been dubbed “TUF” components, including solid Japanese Black Metallic caps featuring 20% increase in high/low temp tolerance and 5x longer life than standard caps., high amp alloy chokes and high efficiency RDS mosfet in the 8-Phase VRM. Keeping these advanced components cool brings another unique twist to the Z87 Sabertooth. Thermal Armour is retained from previous generations to keep out the dust and keep the cool air in, but even this has been improved upon. Dual assist fans are included with a focus on keeping airflow going over the VRM and PCIe areas. However, a new Direct Airflow Valve allows for selectable venting around the CPU area to take advantage of airflow from CPU coolers, if so desired, or can be closed in liquid cooling scenarios to take better advantage of the Sabertooth’s VRM heatpipe configuration. Dust Defenders are included with the Z87 Sabertooth for all memory and expansion slots, keeping the slots clean and effectively extending the life of the connectors. A nice bonus to the Dust Defenders is that they add to a sleek, finished appearance. Around the back of the board, the new TUF Fortifier is a unique backplate which enhances PCB strength, but also serves to help dissipate heat, as well as prevent direct touches of solder points during installation.

ASUS SABERTOOTH Z87 Motherboard

 

Since the Z87 Sabertooth places such a focus on heat dissipation and durability along with performance, it is not surprising that fan controls go way above and beyond the norm. The Sabertooth sports eight fan headers capable of controlling 3-pin or 4-pin PWM fans. Along with the UEFI controls, the Sabertooth has specifically written Thermal Radar 2 software that maximizes fan control in ways no other board can. To start, it borrows from Fan Expert 2 and is able to assess each fan individually for true speeds through the cycle making for a far more accurate adjustment. Fans can be controlled individually, or in zones linked to the CPU and/or GPU areas. Thermal Radar 2 is even capable of dissipation ability assessments on the CPU. Included thermistor cables can be mounted to any component or chassis area for precise readings to aid in fan tuning. On the connectivity front, the Z87 Sabertooth features 10 SATA6.0 connectors (2 eSATA), 8 USB 2.0, 6 USB 3.0, HDMI/DP and 8-Channel Audio. Two PCIe 3.0/2.0 16x slots are included along with one PCIe 2.0 16x and are, of course, CrossfireX/SLI ready. DDR3-1866 RAM is supported with a max of 32GB.

 

 


Unboxing and Product Overview:

 

UEFI Overview:

 

Sabertooth TUF Features:

TUF Fortifier

While the original Sabertooth TUF featured front armor, the latest incarnation in the Z87 line now features armor in the back as well dubbed the "Fortifier" because that is exactly what it does. Additional strength support for the PCB is provided to prevent any trace damage or actual trauma to the board.

TUF Fortifier

Thermal Armor with Flow Valve:

Cool military-styled Thermal Armor covers the entire motherboard, using dual fans to provide boosted airflow for rapid cool down. Exclusive flow valve design controls heat pipe air contact, better-utilizing liquid cooling setups. The back I/O fan draws cold air in for extra stability, helping conduct heat away using the smart shunt design. PCB convection holes add underside circulation, denying temperatures room to build up.

Thermal Armor

 

Dust Defender

TUF design protects back I/O ports, expansion and memory slots, plus critical connectors from dust and particles that degrade system performance over time if left unchecked. With a filter to protect the back I/O and special shields to minimize dust build up in expansion slots, your PC performs in an optimal and stable state longer.

Dust Defender

 

Thermal Radar 2:

Active cooling is essential to running an optimized system, especially when in non-ideal operating environments. Thermal Radar 2 intelligently senses mainboard thermal requirements for each zone and adjusts fan speeds accordingly. 

 

USB 3.0 Boost:

 

AI Suite III:

 

TurboV:

 

ASUS 4 Way Optimization (DIP 4):

 

 


Specifications:

CPU LGA 1150 Socket for 4th Gen Intel Core i7/i5/i3/Pentium/Celeron
Chipset Intel® Z87 Chipset
Memory
  • Support four DDR3 DIMMs 1066/1333/1600/1866 DRAM (32GB Max)
  •  * Due to a Windows 32-bit operating system limitation, when more than 4 GB of physical memory is installed, the actual memory size displayed will be less than the size of the physical memory installed.
  • Dual channel memory architecture
Onboard Graphics
Integrated Graphics Processor:
  • 1 x Display Port
  • 1 x HDMI port
Audio
  • Chipset integrated by Realtek® ALC1150
  • High Definition Audio
  • Flexible 8-channel audio with jack sensing
  • Compliant with Azalia 1.0 Spec
LAN Intel I217V Gigabit
Expansion Slots
  • 2 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots
  • 1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 slot
  • 3 x PCIe x1 slots
Multi-Graphics Technology
  • Support for AMD CrossFire technology
  • Support for NVIDIA SLI technology
Storage Interface
  • 8 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
  • 2 x eSATA 6Gb/s connectors
  • SATA1~6 support Intel® Rapid Storage Technology enterprise (AHCI/ RAID 0/ 1/ 5/ 10) by Intel® Z87
USB
  • USB 3.0 - 4 Rear, 2 Front
  • USB 2.0 - 4 Rear, 4 Front
System Tuning
  • Full Contr
  • The motherboard provides a Desktop Management Interface(DMI) function which records your motherboard specifications.
Operating System
Support for Microsoft® Windows 8/7/Vista/XP
Form Factor
304.80mm(L) x 243.84mm(W) ATX Form Factor

 

 

Features

  • New Thermal Armour - Thermal Armour with two fans and Valve Control for the utmost in MB component cooling. Rear fan draws in cool air for components
  • TUF Fortifier - All new backplate design for increase PCB strength and heat dissipation. Decreased flex in PCB decreases potential circuit damage and microfracturing. TUF Fortifier stands up to today's heaviest GPUs and CPU coolers.
  • Dust Defenders - Snap in shields protect components from dust and dirt accumulation while adding a sleek finished look.
  • Thermal Radar 2 - With added thermistors and motherboard sensors, Thermal Radar 2 offers the most precise fan control available. Thermal Radar 2 offers customizable controls for each fan as well as zone settings to tweak cooling to match your specific needs.
  • TUF Components - Military grade components featuring solid 10K Japanese caps, alloy chokes and Low RDS On MOSFETS for the ultimate durability and life expectancy.
  • Server Grade Testing Program
  • UEFI BIOS - Featuring EZ and Advanced Modes for one click tuning or fine adjustments.
  • Unparalleled DIY Experience - Mem OK!, Q-LED Status and USB BIOS Flashback for ultimate troubleshooting and restore.

 

 


Benchmarking

To test all systems, processors, and motherboards, Hi Tech Legion has compiled a list of popular programs to test performance; these benchmarks are taken from programs that are available to the public. We have compiled these to create the Hi Tech Legion Benchmark Suite, which includes system, graphics, processor, rendering, compression, and word processing. All scores will be graphed for each specific test under its category: video benchmarks (gaming will be rated in FPS: Frames per second), system scores will be graded by numbers which are given as results by their respective programs, higher will be better unless otherwise specified. If file compression is chosen, then all times will be in seconds. All temperatures will be measured in Celsius. LAN Speed test v3 will be conducted with another Gigabit ethernet (Intel 82579V) capable system running the LAN Speed Test server plugged in to the Gigabit router with 6ft. long Cat5e cables.

Systems

Test System

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-4770K
  • Motherboard: ASUS Z87 Sabertooth
  • CPU Heatsink: Corsair 100i
  • Heatsink Paste: Noctua NT-H1
  • Memory: 2x8GB Corsair Vengeance Pro 2400MHz Dual Channel
  • Video Card: ASUS GeForce GTX 780(320.18 WHQL), Intel HD Graphics 4000 (Quick Sync only)
  • Storage: Patriot Pyro 240GB SSD
  • Power Supply: Corsair AX 860W
  • Case: Cooler Master HAF XB
  • Router: ASUS RT-N66U Gigabit/Wireless N Router
  • Operating System: Windows 8 Pro 64-bit

 

 

Benchmarks

System Benchmarks

  • PCMark 7
  • Cinebench (R11.5)
  • AIDA 64 (Cache and Memory)
  • Sandra (Cryptography/Memory Transaction)
  • WinRAR

Connectivity Benchmarks

  • LAN SpeedTest v3
  • Crystal DiskMark
  • JPerf 2.0.2
  • USB 3.0
  • SATA III 6.0 Gb/s

Multimedia Benchmarks

  • X264 5.0.1
  • Cyberlink Media Espresso

Gaming

  • 3DMark
  • Borderlands 2
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Discreet Video Card Gaming

  • 3DMark
  • Unigine Heaven 4.0
  • Metro Last Light
  • Crysis 3

 

Performance Tuning:

Performance Tuning was done through the UEFI with the following settings:

ASUS Z87 Sabertooth Overclocked

    • CPU Clock Ratio: 46
    • Voltage: 1.255
    • All other settings: Default/Auto

Memory Performance Enhance:

  • XMP Profile: Profile 2400 MHz
  • All other settings: AUTO

 

 


PCMark 7

Designed for Windows 7, PCMark 7 benchmarks your system with a variety of tests including video, photo editing, gaming, and communications. For results, a total PCMark score will be given (default setting) and individual scores for the tasks that are tested. To learn more about PCMark 7 visit Futuremark's website.

PCMark 7 Benchmark Score 

 

AIDA64

AIDA 64 is a diagnostic and benchmarking tool. AIDA 64 will be used for its Cache and Memory benchmark. System memory, L1 cache, L2 cache, and L3 cache will be benchmarked for latency, read, write, and copy. Final Wire is the producer of this software.

AIDA64 Benchmark Windows 8 

AIDA64 Benchmark Windows 8 

AIDA64 Benchmark Windows 8 

AIDA64 Benchmark Windows 8 

Sisoft Sandra

One of our favorites, Sandra from SiSoftware is a system benchmark that individually tests all components of your system. For our benchmarking purpose, we will use the processor section with Cryptography testing (bandwidth, AVX and AES) as well as run a memory transaction test. All scores will be listed as given by benchmark, higher will be better unless otherwise stated.

SiSoft Sandra

 

Cinebench R11.5

Created by Maxon, Cinebench R11.5 tests rendering of your CPU and GPU and scores their performance individually. We will be using the CPU rendering portion of the program and benchmark single CPU and multiple CPU performance.

Cinebench R11.5 Benchmark

 

WinRAR

WinRAR is a popular file compression and decompression tool it is a multi-threaded application that reads most compressed file formats. HiTech Legion uses WinRAR to measure Speed (MB/s) using the WinRAR benchmark and hardware test found in its Tools section. We also use our own 5GB uncompressed file folder and compress it to a RAR file (normal setting) measuring the amount of time required to compress the file.

 WinRAR Benchmark Windows 8

 

 


LAN Speed Test 3.0

LAN Speed Test is designed to be a rock solid tool to measure your file transfer and network speeds (wired & wireless) easily and accurately.  It does this by building a file in memory, then transfers it both ways (without effects of Windows file caching) while keeping track of the time, and then does the calculations for you.  Simple concept and easy to use. Both the LAN Speed Test v2 and LAN Speed Server software used in this review are the full retail versions. This software was developed by Totusoft and a free version is also available for download.

Lan Speed Test Benchmark

 

JPerf 2.0.2

JPerf 2.0.2 is a simple JAVA based tool that is designed to test the network bandwidth of a system. It does this using client/server setup and by transmitting packets over 100 second period between the systems. JPerf then automatically measures the bandwidth based on how much data can be transferred within the 100 seconds. HiTech Legion uses JPerf for two reasons, to measure bandwidth and to see bandwidth jitter. When measuring bandwidth a sustained transfer rate is more important than the final result. JPerf also graphs bandwidth jitter, what we are looking for is a smooth straight line which will denote sustained transfer rates.

JPerf Benchmark

 

Crystal DiskMark 3.0 x64

Crystal Mark is a disk benchmark software that features:

  • Sequential reads/writes
  • Random 4KB/512KB reads/writes
  • Text copy
  • Change dialog design
  • internationalization (i18n)
  • Download Crystal Mark

Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 x64

Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 x64

Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 x64

File Transfer Tests

The 1 and 5 GB files are placed on the desktop then sent to the SSD. This allows the SSD to both read the file before transfer then write it to the SSD. Times are calculated in Seconds for the 1 GB file and Minutes and Seconds for the 5 GB file.

File Transfer Test Timed Transfer Benchmarks

File Transfer Test Timed Transfer Benchmarks

File Transfer Test Timed Transfer Benchmarks

 

 


Methodology

Prior to the first actual on-die GPU, integrated graphics was delegated a position of a system's motherboard. Being placed on the motherboard doomed any type of gaming performance, due to bottlenecks caused by onboard controllers, the motherboard's architecture or the lack of bandwidth produced. Intel's first CPU with on-die graphics was codenamed "Clarkdale" and was launched in March of 2010 (Core i5 661). Although many of the bottlenecks were bypassed, performance was still nowhere near the caliber of a budget discrete video card. A year later, Intel launched their second generation of CPU with on-die graphics, which was codenamed "Sandy Bridge". We saw many advances and were even introduced to a technology called Quick Sync, which uses the power of the CPU and GPU combined to accelerate video transcoding (encode and decode). Unfortunately, it still lacked a few qualities a discrete video card had to offer and one of those was DirectX 11. With the launch of "Haswell", Intel has overcome many obstacles and those who seek the performance of a budget level discrete video card will no longer have to spend the extra money. They can now purchase the entire package in the form of a 22nm processor and game at 1080p (Low Settings).

Intel 4600 Series HD Graphics was tested on multiple motherboards with exact system specifications (other than the motherboard) and our results were virtually identical throughout. The benchmarks below represent an average of all tests combined.

 

Intel HD Gaming Intel Core i7 4770K

 

Settings:

  • 3DMark: Extreme Preset (1920 x 1080)
  • Unigine 4.0: Highest/4x AA
  • Metro Last Light: Ultra Preset, Tessellation
  • Crysis 3: Very High

 

3DMark Benchmark Intel Core i7 4770K

 

HD Gaming Benchmarks Intel Core i7 4770K

 

 


X.264 HD Benchmark

X264 by VideoLAN is a free application which contains a software library for encoding video streams into the H.264 and MPEG-4 AVC formats. HiTech Legion uses X264 to measure conversion times of predetermined files. X264 is also a multi-threaded application. AMD has also been working closely to develop an OpenCL accelerated x264 application that provides even better performance. X.264 is measured in Frames Per Second.

 

X264 Benchmark Intel Core i7 4770K

 

 

With Intel Quick Sync Technology and Lucid Virtu, the user can take advantage of Multimedia Multitasking. When set to D-Mode, Lucid Virtu enables the user to game with the benefits of their discrete video card while utilizing the parallel processing capabilities of the on-die GPU of the "Haswell" Processor to transcode video. When set to I-Mode, the user still has full control over Intel Quick Sync Technology but will also consume less power to run their system.

"WithVirtu software, next-generation PCs with 2nd, 3rd and 4th Generation Intel® Core™ processor platforms will dynamically balance the advanced power-efficient, built-in media features of Intel Core processor graphics with the high-end, DirectX 11 3D, anti-aliasing and performance features of discrete GPUs, while significantly reducing the power drain of traditional entertainment desktops. Ultimately, the consumer is assured optimal simultaneous performance in 3D gaming and video functions like transcoding and HD playback without the need to swap video cable connections between GPUs."

"Express video conversion softwareMediaEspressois the hassle-free solution for converting all your favorite videos for playback on iPhone, PSP, Xbox, YouTube and more. Simply choose the preferred media player or medium, and let MediaShow Espresso do the rest."

Lucid Virtu LogoespressoLucid Virtu MVP

 

Settings:

  • Input File: MPG, 1080p, 11:57
  • Output File: Apple Generic, Smart Fit, TrueTheater Enhancements Off

 

Cyberlink Media Espresso using Intel Quick Sync Intel 4770K

 

 


Provided by: ASUS
No compensation was received for review of this product.

Price Point

Price: $259.00 USD

Class: Enthusiast

At a price point of $259.00 USD, the ASUS SABERTOOTH Z87 is in the Enthusiast category of Intel Z87 motherboard systems.

Performance

Benchmarks – The ASUS Sabertooth Z87 was a very strong performer through all benchmarking tests, with results falling right into line with top tier Z87 boards in all tests.

Board Layout - The Sabertooth Z87 is a standard ATX motherboard measuring 12 inches in length and 9.6 inches in width. The topmost PCI-E 3.0 slot is positioned at the second ATX slot, with two PCI-E x1 slots between it and the second PCI-E 3.0 slot. This allows not only for clearance for large heatsinks but also for airflow between multiple graphics cards. Some of the SATA ports are in line with the first PCI-E slot and can be hard to get to if a long video card is used.

Pre-bundled Accessories – The accessory pack of the Sabertooth Z87 goes above and beyond what we normally see. The typical rear I/O shield and cables are included, along with a driver and utility CD. Added to this are Dust Defender covers for all connection points on the board including RAM slots.

Wireless – The ASUS Sabertooth Z87 board does not provide on-board wireless.

LAN – The Sabertooth Z87 comes equipped with Intel's I217V LAN solution. The I217V features advanced Gigabit networking and is a strong performer in all respects.

USB 3.0 – Six USB 3.0 ports are provided in total, two via onboard header and four more built into the rear I/O. Four USB 3.0 ports are natively provided by the Intel Z87 Express Chipset, while two are controlled by the Asmedia chip. One port is shared with USB BIOS Flashback. The transfer speeds observed were on par with what the typical Z87 USB 3.0 bandwidth provides.

SATA 6G – There are six SATA6.0 connectors provided by the Z87 chipset, as well as two additional provided by the Asmedia chip. Two additional SATA6.0 eSATA connectors from the Asmedia chip reside on the rear I/O.

Peripherals – There are eight system fan connectors available on board, allowing the fans to be controlled by the motherboard, along with a TPM or trusted platform module header for those that need the security feature.

Performance Tuning – ASUS acclaimed TPU/EPU allows for one click OC of the CPU and iGPU, as well as one click energy saving modes. We had no issue with single click OC, which took our CPU to 4.3GHz for a substantial performance boost with little additional voltage or heat.

 

Reviewer's Opinion

There is no question that the Sabertooth in its Z87 incarnation remains a segment board, but the appeal of its feature set is going to hit home with a lot more mainstream users than ever before. While once looked at as a Spartan design centering around durability for workstations and servers, the Sabertooth has branched out to become far more feature rich while maintaining ultimate durability and cooling potential. With the exception of those wanting to run tri-SLI or load up for DICE runs, there will be very few left wanting for any features that the Sabertooth Z87 does not offer. At the same time they will be getting unique and wholly usable features not offered on any other board. The Sabertooth Z87 is nothing if not unique.

Looking at the performance of the Sabertooth, you see that it is right on par with the best boards available. There is absolutely no skimping on performance in order to make the Sabertooth “bulletproof”. ASUS accomplishes this the old fashioned way; by using higher quality components all around. It is this simple premise that makes the Sabertooth so appealing to enthusiasts. On one hand, you get extreme durability for the rigors of OCs and system rebuilds, on the other you get top flight performance. What could be better?

It seems that the functionality of the Thermal Armor is often missed simply due to the fact that it makes the Sabertooth such a good looking board, but make no mistake, it is very functional. In addition to keeping dust and dirt out of connection areas when used in conjunction with Dust Defender inserts, it also serves to keep board components cooler. Dedicated assist fans channel air over board components, while the new Direct Airflow Valve allows for CPU fan to add to the flow. This results in incredibly low MB component temperatures on the Sabertooth and, as we all know, lower temps lessen the wear and tear as well as failure rate.

Coupled with the Thermal Armour is an all new Thermal Radar 2, which takes heat monitoring and fan control to a whole new level. Physical fan assessment allows the actual, rather than assumed, characteristics of the fan to be used in manipulating fan curves and adjustments. Fans can be individually controlled by each of the eight fan headers, or broken into zones for optimal CPU and GPU cooling. This type of control is truly unparalleled, and allows for the perfect balance of cooling to noise that fits your tastes and your build perfectly.

Also helping out is the new TUF Fortifier backplate. When I saw this all I could think was “well, it’s about time someone did this”. With larger, heavier CPU coolers and GPUs becoming more common, it only makes sense to reinforce the PCB. Flex in the PCB leads to microfracturing as well as loss in conductivity in traces where it occurs. This leads to heat buildup as well as decreased performance, and the TUF Fortifier is a simple and effective solution. Added side benefits are the fact that it actually acts to help dissipate heat and also makes the board easier to handle with mishaps far less likely.

The Sabertooth has been my board of choice for several generations now, and the new Z87 incarnation has done nothing to change that. The thermal advances are impressive, while performance and build quality stay top notch. The Sabertooth isn’t for everyone, as you still do give up some fluff (onboard DVI, onboard wireless, for example) as a trade-off for the rock solid build, and it is not going to be a board of choice for OC drag racers. However, for the enthusiast looking for the most stable base for their build, the Sabertooth Z87 is second to none.

 

Likes:

  • Top Notch Performance With Incredible Durability
  • Solid Black Japanese Caps
  • CrossfireX and SLI ready
  • Eight Channel Audio
  • TPU/EPU One Click OC
  • Thermal Radar 2 Offers Outstanding Fan Tuning
  • TUF Fortifier for Added Strength and Heat Dissipation
  • Thermal Armour for Increased Component Cooling
  • Flow Valve for Selectable MB Airflow
  • Intel Gigabit LAN
  • Eight SATA6.0 Connectors
  • Dust Defenders for All Connection Points
  • Very Good Looking MB
  • Eight Phase CPU Power Control
  • Onboard Status LED
  • EZ BIOS Mode With Expanded Functionality
  • MemOK!/USB BIOS Flashback Prevents Setup Mishaps

 

Dislikes:

  • Feature Set May Be Too Spartan For Those Looking for All-In-One Solution

 

HiTech Legion Gold Award

 

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