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ASUS Sabertooth Z97 Mark 1 Motherboard Review

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Sabertooth Z97 Mark 1 Details

Just in case you overlooked the mil-spec theme of this board, ASUS puts little black chevrons on their diamond-patterned alloy chokes. ASUS says these chokes run over 9 degrees Celcius cooler than their previous generation chokes. The two sliver slide switches seen at the top of this image open and close ventilation channels in the Thermal Armor cladding, although in my testing I didn’t see any temperature difference either way.

asus_z97_sabertooth_chokes

ASUS says their “TUF Black Metallic Caps” are good for 10,000 hours (thus the “10K” designation) and can operate from -70ºC to +125ºC. This is a range of temperatures your rig will likely never experience!

asus_z97_sabertooth_10K-caps

As expected with ASUS, there are a number of third party and ASUS-custom chips on the board. The TUF chip makes its first appearance, and ASUS says it’s dedicated to temperature monitoring and fan control, which makes me wonder what’s left for the Nuvoton NCT6792D to do. ASUS’ TPU is present and accounted for, although oddly the AI Suite software included with this board doesn’t allow CPU frequency and voltage tweaking from within Windows, which is a capability the TPU normally provides. The digital power system is under the control of the custom Digi+ chip; and the ASMedia 1184e is a PCI Express packet switch chip, possibly supporting the new SATA Express connectors. The ASMedia 1042AE is a USB 3.0 host controller, an enables ASUS to provide a total of 8 USB 3.0 ports (4 on the rear panel, and 4 via motherboard headers). Not shown is the ALC1150 sound chip and the Realtek 8111GR chip that powers the secondary Ethernet port.

asus_z97_sabertooth_chips

Working around the edges of the board, we first see the 8-pin EPS-12V power connector, followed by a tiny connector for one of the dedicated assistant fans. Next is a 3-pin fan connector, and two four-pin fan connectors for the CPU fans. This latter feature is especially appreciated given the number of dual-fan CPU coolers these days, like the Thermalright Silver Arrow I’ll be using for testing.

asus_z97_sabertooth_connectors_edge1

Around the corner are the main ATX power connector, another four-pin fan connector, and the MEM_OK button. Pressing this button after a failed overclock automatically resets your memory timings to their default (non-XMP) settings.

asus_z97_sabertooth_connectors_edge2

At the bottom edge of the board are the Trusted Platform Module connector, and just above and to the right is a mysterious “PC Debug” connector, which is not mentioned in the manual. An S/PDIF out connector resides just above the front panel audio connector, and the three two-pin connectors that come next are for the extra thermal probes ASUS includes with the board. You can place these probes anywhere in your case and use the Thermal Radar feature to slave a fan to each one. Next we have a Thunderbolt header, followed by two more fan headers and a USB 3.0 header.

asus_z97_sabertooth_connectors_edge4

Next are two USB 2.0 headers, two extra SATA 6G ports, another fan header, and last the front panel connector.

asus_z97_sabertooth_connectors_edge3

The mounting bracket for the Thermalright Silver Arrow cooler just barely fits within the confines of the Thermal Armor around the CPU socket. Although it looks very tight, I had no problem fitting this enormous cooler to the board.

asus_z97_sabertooth_cpu_socket_cooler

Let’s take a look at the latest iteration of ASUS’ UEFI BIOS in the next section.


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5 comments

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  1. f doggrell

    will the asus sabertooth z97 mark 1 ( or mark 2 ) be fully compatible with the new broadwell cpu ? when will intel finally start selling the broadwell ? great review . thanks .

    1. Caring1

      It will be backwards compatible with current gen Intel processors as well, but you will lose some of the functionality. You will not be able to use Broadwell processors on current gen motherboards.

      1. David Ramsey

        Just to clarify: we know you will be able to use Broadwell CPUs on motherboards with Z97 chipsets. Older chipsets, well, I haven’t heard anything official either way.

  2. David Ramsey

    Broadwell support is the main reason for the existence of the Z97 chipset, so yes, any new motherboard with a Z97 will support Broadwell, although it wouldn’t surprise me if you had to update the BIOS when Broadwell comes out. As to when Intel will start selling Broadwell CPUs: well, it was originally supposed to be late 2nd quarter, but has slipped since then. Hopefully some time this year.

  3. James

    Re the mystery pins, I think it actually says “LPC DEBUG” so I’m guessing it might be to hook up something similar to this: http://amzn.to/1oedVBz

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