Sabertooth Z97 Mark 1 Bundled Software
Of course ASUS includes the latest iteration of their AI Suite 3 Windows-based utility for the Z97 TUF motherboard. The automatic optimization and overclocking features we saw in our review of the ASUS Z97-DELUXE motherboard aren’t here, though: this version of AI Suite is all about the fans and temperature. Well, and a lot of other stuff, too…
The main feature of AI Suite 3 on the Sabertooth Z97 is the Thermal Radar 2, the latest iteration of a feature ASUS introduced a couple of revisions back for their TUF series motherboards. Basically, this system comprises a number of thermal sensors on the motherboard combined with a very intelligent fan control system. There are nine temperature sensors on the board (including the integrated sensor in the CPU), as well as plugs for three additional sensors which ASUS includes; these extra sensors may be placed anywhere in the system. Along with support for up to nine fans (7 3-pin or 4-pin fans and two special “assistant” fans you can install as part of the Thermal Armor), the Thermal Radar system lets you slave individual fans to any temperature sensor, and to create a pre-defined (auto, quiet, turbo, etc.) fan profile or an entirely custom one. Although all the standard fan connectors are 4-pin PWM connectors, the TUF motherboard can use 3-pin fans as well, controlling the RPM by varying the voltage. The motherboard automatically detects what type of fan is in use and uses voltage or PWM as appropriate.
The main Thermal Radar screen shows a diagram of the motherboard with each temperature sensor flagged with a green dot. Note that two of the sensors are devoted to the primary and secondary PCI-E x16 slots, to keep an eye on temps in the vicinity of your graphics cards. Hovering the mouse over a sensor will reveal a pop-up showing the temperature at that sensor, but all the temperatures are shown at the bottom of the window anyway:
…as are the fan speeds:
You can let the system optimize your cooling needs on an assembled system with a single click, and you can also run a “thermal assessment” on your CPU cooling. The Thermalright Silver Arrow CPU cooler, a massive dual-fan chunk of metal, received an “Excellent” assessment as you can see below.
The Fan Control section lets you do anything you’d ever want to do with your fans, including shutting them down completely. Not shown in this screen shot are the controls for the small assistant fans, which can be configured to run in reverse at full speed for 30 seconds at start time (to remove dust), and to run for a period of time after power down.
But there’s more to AI Suite than automated optimizations, as we’ll see in the next section.