Closer Look: SABERTOOTH Z87
The first thing you’ll notice about the ASUS SABERTOOTH Z87 is the plastic shield over the top of the board. ASUS calls this “TUF Thermal Armor”, and claims that it is “…to prevent heat inside the chassis from affecting the operating temperature of onboard components.” Under-cover air flow is assisted by two small fans: one can be seen in the center of this image, while the other is housed in the bulge below the “Z87” on the cover over the I/O area. The use of these fans is optional; although both are included with the motherboard, it’s up to the user to install them. Given that there will be almost no airflow over the CPU power heat sinks otherwise, I’d strongly suggest installing them.
When you first pick up the SABERTOOTH Z87, you will notice that it’s quite heavy. That’s because of a new feature: the TUF Fortifier. This is a surprisingly thick metal plate screwed to the back of the motherboard that serves two purposes: one, it stiffens and reinforces the motherboard to guard against flexing caused by heavy components. Given the weight of modern air coolers, this seems like a good idea to me!
The second thing it does it act as a heat sink to six MOSFETs ASUS has placed on the back of the motherboard. Thermal tape is clamped to the MOSFETs when the Fortifier is in place.
The accessories package include manuals, a Certificate of Reliability, latching SATA cables, a driver and utility disk, two accessory fans, ASUS Q-connectors for the front panel and audio, a tiny dust filter for the rear intake fan, an I/O shield, an SLI bridge, and a slew of plastic components that look as if they fell out of a model car kit. These are dust shields: you plug them into your unused RAM and PCI-E slots, as well as unused rear I/O ports and internal SATA ports. I’ve never really had a problem with dust clogging my connectors, but these shields do give the board a very sleek appearance– check out the PCI-E slot shields in the first image in this section. Not shown below are three plug-in thermal probes that you can place anywhere in the system and connect to Thermal Radar 2.
After the removal of 16 screws, the Fortifier and Thermal Armor slip off, revealing the naked board. Since the power supply heat sinks are normally shrouded, they’re not as “decorative” as the heat sinks ASUS normally uses.
Let’s take a look at the details of this board in the next section.