Motherboards are the heart of any machine. As we so often prove here at OC3D Towers, the benefit of a great motherboard to your system, or indeed the problems caused by a poor one, cannot be overstated.
Because of the rather fiddly nature of switching them around, when compared to processors, graphics cards and the like, most people tend to upgrade only if they are changing chipset or socket, rather than when a better model arrives.
This makes it doubly important to not only buy a good motherboard in the first place, because it will be with you for such a long time, but also to buy one that will last the journey.
Finding one "built to last" isn't as easy as it sounds. Most manufacturers will happily tell you about the overclocking prowess of their latest creation, very few will mention the longevity.
This neatly brings us to the Asus X58 Sabertooth. This has been designed, and is marketed, almost solely for its long-lasting properties, over and above any overclocking abilities or trumpeting about the latest technologies.
That isn't to say it's not bursting with them anyway, as we'll find out soon enough. Firstly, let's see what we have our hands on.
For those of you who enjoy reading through specification tables as much as we do, you'll see that the Sabertooth doesn't really want for anything.
We have SATA 6Gbps, USB 3.0 and a couple of full speed PCIe x16 lanes.
|CPU||Intel® Socket 1366 Core™ i7 Processor Extreme Edition/Core™ i7 Processor |
Supports Intel® Turbo Boost Technology
|Chipset||Intel® X58 /ICH10R|
|System Bus||Up to 6400 MT/s ; Intel® QuickPath Interconnect|
|Memory||6 x DIMM, Max. 24 GB, DDR3 1866/1800/1600/1333/1066 Non-ECC,Un-buffered Memory|
Triple channel memory architecture
Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
*Hyper DIMM support is subject to the physical characteristics of individual CPUs. Some hyper DIMMs only support one DIMM per channel. Refer to Memory QVL (Qualified Vendors Lists) for details.
|Expansion Slots||2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (dual at x16/x16 mode) |
1 x PCIe x16 (at x4 mode)
2 x PCIe x1
1 x PCI
|Multi-GPU Support||Supports NVIDIA® Quad-GPU SLI™ Technology |
Supports ATI® Quad-GPU CrossFireX™ Technology
|Storage||Intel ICH10R controller |
6 xSATA 3.0 Gb/s ports (black)
Intel Matrix Storage Technology Support RAID 0,1,5,10
Marvell® 9128 PCIe SATA6Gb/s controller
2 xSATA 6Gb/s ports (gray)
Supports EZ Backup and SuperSpeed functions
JMicron® JMB362 SATA controller:
1 xPower eSATA 3Gb/s port (SATA On-the-Go)
1 xeSATA 3Gb/s port (SATA On-the-Go)
|LAN||Realtek® 8110SC Gigabit LAN controller featuring AI NET2|
|Audio||Realtek® ALC892 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC |
ASUS Noise Filter
Supports 192khz/24bit BD Lossless Sound
Supports Jack-Detection, Multi-Streaming, Front Panel Jack-Retasking
Optical S/PDIF Out port at back I/O
|IEEE 1394||VIA® VT6308P controller supports 2 x 1394a port(s) (one at midboard; one at back panel)|
|USB||NEC® USB 3.0 controller|
- 2 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports (blue, at back panel)
Intel® ICH10R Southbridge
- 12 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports (6 ports at midboard, 6 ports at back panel)
|ASUS Unique Features||"TUF ENGINE!" Power Design |
- 8-phase CPU Power
- 2-phase Memory Power
- 2-phase VTT_CPU Power
- E.S.P. : Efficient Switching Power Design
- TUF Components (Alloy Choke, Cap. & MOSFET; certified by military-standard)
"Ultimate COOL!" Thermal Solutions
- CeraM!X Heatsink Coating Tech.
- ASUS Fan Xpert
"Safe & Stable!" Guardian Angel
|Special Features||Multi-language BIOS|
ASUS MyLogo 2
ASUS EZ Flash 2
ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
ASUS O.C. Profile
ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED)
True USB 3.0 support
True SATA 6Gb/s RAID support
|Back Panel I/O Ports||1 x PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse Combo port |
1 x S/PDIF Out (Optical)
1 x IEEE 1394a
1 x LAN(RJ45) port
6 x USB 2.0/1.1
8 -Channel Audio I/O
2 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports (blue)
1 x Power eSATA 3Gb/s port (green)
1 x eSATA 3Gb/s port (red)
|Internal I/O Connectors||3 x USB connectors support additional 6 USB 2.0/1.1 ports |
1 x IEEE 1394a connector
1 x Power Fan connector
1 x S/PDIF Out connector
Front panel audio connector
System Panel (Q-Connector)
2 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors (gray)
6 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (black)
1 x CPU Fan connector (4-pin)
1 x NB Fan connector
3 x Chassis Fan connectors (1 x 4-pin, 2 x 3-pin)
24-pin ATX Power connector
8-pin ATX 12V Power connector
1 x MemOK! button
|BIOS||16 Mb Flash ROM , AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.5, ACPI 2.0a, |
2 in 1 Q-connector
2 x SATA 6Gb/s cables
2 x SATA 3Gb/s cables
|Form Factor||ATX Form Factor |
12 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm )
So all in all on paper it looks to be everything you could desire. Time to see it in the flesh.
Hardcore nicely describes this packaging. No nonsense. It's a tough box for a TUF product. Normally motherboard packaging is strewn with logos and the like. The Sabertooth solely sells its longevity and it makes for a refreshing change.
Further reinforcing the importance of the reliability of the Sabertooth, you get a "certificate of reliability" in the box, should you have doubted Asus' intentions.
Although the manual is to be expected, a five year warranty shows that Asus have put their money where their mouth is when it comes to the Sabertooth.
In keeping with the Military, all go no show, aspect of the Sabertooth, the IO shield is black, and the SATA cables are black too. It's the Spinal Tap of motherboard accessories.
And here she is. At first glance you might think this is some kind of hideous abomination. But it's only because you're trained to look for blue or red.
Stop. Take another look. It's easy on the eye. We found the more time we spent with it, the more we liked it. Until now we actually think it looks fantastic. It's just such a lovely change. Surprisingly neutral. Very inoffensive. We really like it. By the end of the next page you might too. By the end of the review you definitely will.
Up Close With The Sabertooth
Straight away let's cut to the chase. This is gorgeous. The layout is excellent and we haven't seen as much care taken over the design of an Asus board since the Rampage III Extreme.
The CPU socket is nicely clear of obstructions whilst the power phases still have some beefy cooling.
The RAM slots are the really nice single-latch type and it's nice to see an alternate hue used. One that, as you can see from the ATX24 pin, matches perfectly. No expense spared it seems, as we've seen plenty of otherwise pretty boards be stopped from true greatness by a default colour power connector here and there.
In keeping with the surprising nature of the X58 Sabertooth, it's still packed with the latest hardware bells and whistles. We have SATA 6Gbp/s and USB3.0.
The rear panel contains everything you could expect. Whilst you might consider the single LAN a slight let down the reality is that few people need twin LAN ports and, especially when you look at the price, if Asus have saved a little bit in unimportant areas we prefer than to money spent just to have a big spec sheet.
In keeping with the colour-coded nature of the Sabertooth, the PCI slots are also in the same caramel colour as the rest of the board. It's nice to see the USB headers colour-coded too. If anything, and we're being really picky here, it would be great to see the COM header, fan headers and SATA sockets in the same colour. They've gone the extra mile and stopped just before finish line. Admittedly Asus have still gone further than most.
The southbridge heatsink is very cool. It wouldn't look out of place in a science fiction set, or on the back of a Leopard 2A6.
Finally before we move on, another couple of shots of the colour scheme and heatsinks. The choice of colours really keep nicely with the 'Military Components' theme, and hopefully now you've seen it a few times you can all appreciate the easy-on-the-eye nature of it when compared to the heavily saturated hues we more commonly see.
Intel Core i7 930 @ Stock and 4.2 GHz
ASUS X58 Sabertooth
6GB Corsair Dominator GT
Windows 7 Ultimate 64 Bit
Prolimatech Armageddon with Arctic MX-3
As the pricing is similar, and it is one of our favourite "value" motherboards, we'll be putting the Sabertooth up against its stablemate, the P6X58D-E.
With a board that places such an emphasis on longevity and quality we weren't too sure what to expect from our overclocking venture.
Partly because companies normally like to sing about their overclock capabilities, and partly because experience has taught us that high quality power components usually lead to excellent overclocks.
Starting as we always do with testing the maximum BCLK, we were somewhat disappointed to only manage 214.8 MHz. Knowing how much the stability of this drops off as you increase the CPU multiplier
Imagine our delight at finding that once the multiplier was increased back to normal, the Sabertooth barely took a hit on the BCLK, only dropping 8 MHz. The emphasis on build quality has had the happy side-effect of producing a serious overclocker.
As we wouldn't want to run with 1.4v on the CPU Core as a 24/7 overclock, we dropped things back a little and found a perfectly stable 200x21 for 4.2GHz with 2000MHz RAM. I think you'll agree this is a fantastic result for such a great value board.
An absolutely amazing set of results here. We've said for a while now that modern chipsets have reached the point where a lot of motherboards can produce similar results, but this is bordering on the ridiculous.
The reason we test using a specific set of hardware with only the review item changing is so that results are easily comparible, and so it proves between the Sabertooth and the P6X58D-E. Two very similar specification motherboards available for around the same price. One is a exercise in reduction (from the full-fat P6X58D to the E variant) and the other is a demonstration of longevity.
Proving how well Asus have their act together, they are nearly inseperable.
Although the AES results are very similar, as would be expected from a complex algorithm run on a processor without the additional AES instruction set, once we reach the rest of the tests we finally see the Sabertooth just edging ahead. In zLib the gains are tiny, but nonetheless there in both stock and overclocked form. PhotoWorxx sees a similar benefit.
CPU Queen is where the Sabertooth really starts to shine, being 13000 points clear of the P6X58D-E.
Maxons CineBench gives us a bit of an improvement in the CPU stock test, up from 4.8 to 5, but it's in the OpenGL test that we really see the difference. Since we tested the P6X58D-E there have been a couple of updated Catalyst releases from ATI, but even those improvements can't account for such a comprehensive spanking laid down by the Sabertooth.
It seems so far that if one board is going to gain an edge over the other, unlike in our previous page, then it will be the Sabertooth. The differences might be slight, but these days motherboard differences are so slight when they are at similar price-points that every improvement is worthwhile.
PC Mark Vantage
What was that I was just saying about tiny differences? Ignore it. The Sabertooth dominates the PC Mark Vantage charts. When we take into consideration that this is our first major application based test of the day, it really speaks volumes for how good the Sabertooth is under load. So impressive is it that the stock results beat the overclocked P6X58D-E in the Memory and Productivity benchmarks.
3D Mark Vantage
In both our Performance and High tests the Sabertooth just drops behind the P6X58D-E. Considering how well it performed on the previous page we were surprised, but then when you see how much higher the GPU is scoring it's possible that the new drivers have just taken the edge off the HD5870 compared to when we tested the P6X and that has led to the difference in the final score.
Once again it's a close run thing between the two boards. The Sabertooth again seems to perform magnificently at stock. Indeed it's so much better than the P6X58D-E at stock that it's pushing close to the overclocked result.
We finish up with Unigine Heaven, which is one of the harshest benchmarks we run. Similarly to 3D Mark Vantage it is very GPU dependant and therefore it's not surprising to see the P6X58D-E take a lead as the 3D Mark GPU score showed the Sabertooth not quite having the same performance in that department.
There is an old adage that you must be aware of, it runs 'Never assume because it makes an ass out of u and me'.
As we're in the hardware business it's important that we approach everything with an open mind. However we're only human and so when you see a motherboard that's priced around £150 and is designed for longevity rather than overclocking, you can forgive us if we were a little apprehensive of the potential performance.
When we opened it and found it was a cross between light green and tan you can imagine we weren't dancing with joy.
However, after our usual prodding and poking to get a feel for the board, it quickly started to grow on us. After all, every motherboard is blue or red. Why not have a subtle one, an understated one? By the afternoon we positively liked it.
Once we built the system we just took to it more and more. The whole board layout is a joy to work with.
The differences between a good design and a poor one are small, because the margins for placement are slight. Everything on the Sabertooth was exactly where we expected to find it and had plenty of clearance to work with.
Overclocking was a joy too. Being an Asus board everything in the BIOS was where we are used to it being, and the dedication to high quality components really makes this board fly. 4GHz is no longer the benchmark figure as any board can do that, it's how they respond past that which defines them.
The relatively low BLCK actually became fine once we'd upped the CPU multiplier because the board can easily cope with a BCLK over 200MHz. At 200x21 it was right in the sweet spot and felt like it could run until the end of time.
Run it certainly can too. It is almost identical to the P6X58D-E in most of our testing but the benchmarks where it edged ahead were the important ones. The differences in 3D Gaming benchmarks can largely be attributed to the better graphics card performance from the earlier Catalyst drivers on the P6X58D-E tests. Even then the X58 Sabertooth stays within a cats whisker.
£150 is right at the basement end of the X58 market, and yet Asus have produced a board that looks great, is built like a tank, overclocks with the best and has all the modern technologies you could ask for.
Without question it's a Gold Award winner.
Thanks to Asus for supplying the Sabertooth for review. Discuss in our forums.