ASUS Motherboard Final Thoughts
ASUS’ TUF line of motherboards started with the relatively obscure LGA1156 platform, but they’ve expanded it since then. Unlike the Deluxe series, the TUF boards don’t come with features like mSATA sockets or built-in WiFi and Bluetooth. Unlike the Republic of Gamers series boards, they don’t have voltage test points, extra EPS-12V power connectors, or POST code displays. The point behind the TUF series is reliability, and ASUS backs its claims up with a five-year warranty.
Although full-sized ATX motherboards almost seem like dinosaurs these days, they still have their place in enthusiast systems. If you’re running an SLI or CrossFireX setup, an ATX board gives you some extra space between your cards, which can help keep them cooler. Extra USB and SATA ports are available, which are nice to have if you need them. And having a few extra slots for a third-party sound, NIC, or PCI-E SSD card is nice, too.
The newest version of ASUS’ AI Suite utility bundled adds some nice new features, especially the Thermal Radar 2 auto-fan profiling. This is an excellent example of the type of innovation ASUS brings to the market, along with the schedulable network program priority.
In my recent review of ASUS’ micro-ATX version of this board, the GRYPHON, I wondered what extra features the ATX version would have. The answer is: more slots, more ports, marginally better overclocking, and the standard inclusion of the ASUS Thermal Armor kit.
SABERTOOTH Z87 Conclusion
Bereft of features like on-board start and reset buttons, POST code displays, integrated wireless, and so forth, the ASUS SABERTOOTH Z87 seems almost ascetic in its minimalist approach. But as we know, this board trades on the earned reputation of previous generations of TUF motherboards. “The Ultimate Force” may sound like a cheesy marketing term (because it is), but there’s no denying the thought and design ASUS has put into this board.
Of course the feature everyone notices first is the Thermal Armor. ASUS deserves kudos for their innovative approach to the problem of managing thermals down at the board level, instead of just slapping some big heat sinks on and depending on case airflow to keep everything cool. The one thing that concerns me is that overheating might be a possibility (especially for the CPU power supply area) if you don’t install the two small optional fans. I installed the helper fans for my overclocking runs and I could hear them ramping up and down as tests ran.
ASUS continues the khaki-schemed colors of previous TUF boards on the SABERTOOTH, although it’s mostly hidden under the Thermal Armor. I understand some modders have painted the Thermal Armor upper panel. Not a bad idea, and it opens up some new ideas for system customization.
ASUS uses many mil-spec components on their TUF boards. Capacitors, chokes, and MOSFETs pass tests for thermal shock, salt spray, vibration, and mechanical shock– you know, the type of stuff your rig goes through every day. Well, not really of course, but it’s nice to know that there’s something backing up that 5 year warranty. The construction quality of the board, as might be expected, is immaculate.
Like its little brother, the GRYPHON, the SABERTOOTH forgoes many enthusiast features, as I mentioned at the start of this section. There’s plenty of board real estate to add such features, but don’t hold your breath, since that’s not the demographic they’re trying to appeal to. The TUF series is all about reliability, and while long-term reliability is impossible to evaluate in a standard review, ASUS is confident enough to give their TUF series the their longest warranties.
The value proposition for this board isn’t clear-cut. For $259.99 (Amazon|Newegg), the ASUS Z87 SABERTOOTH is an expensive ATX motherboard, and for the same or a lower price you can get other Z87 ATX motherboards that have more (obvious) features, such as onboard WiFi/Bluetooth or POST code displays. The benefits of the TUF lineup are not those that can be easily discerned in a review like this; rather, it’s a statement of durability and reliability that you pretty much have to take on faith. So it boils down to function over flash, and you’ll have to decide how important either is for yourself.
+ Thermal Armor and Fortifier
+ Mil-spec components backed by 5 year warranty
+ Three extra thermal probes to work with Thermal Radar 2
+ Excellent and innovative UEFI BIOS
+ AI Suite continues to impress
– Turbo V Evo not included
– Rather light on features, given the price
- Performance: 9.50
- Appearance: 9.25
- Construction: 9.75
- Functionality: 8.50
- Value: 8.50
Final Score: 9.0 out of 10.
Excellence Achievement: Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award.
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