The ASUS SABERTOOTH Z87 is an ATX version of the GRYPHON Z87, with two more SATA-600 ports and a better audio codec. It is part of ASUS’ TUF (The Ultimate Force) series and, as such, comes with ASUS’ exclusive thermal armor to improve the system’s thermal management. Let’s check it out.
The new Intel Z87 chipset provides two important upgrades compared to its predecessor, the Z77: six USB 3.0 ports instead of four and six SATA-600 ports instead of only two. Another important difference between the two chipsets is where the video outputs of the motherboard are connected. While with both chipsets the video is generated by the CPU, on the Z77 the video signal was routed to the chipset, and the video outputs were connected to the chipset. On the Z87 chipset, the video outputs are connected directly to the processor. Both chipsets support up to three independent video monitors. The Z87 supports all other features provided by the Z77, such as Smart Response (installing an SSD as a cache for the main hard drive), Smart Connect (allowing the computer to receive emails and refresh webpages while in sleep mode), and Rapid Start (faster boot times) technologies.
You can see the ASUS SABERTOOTH Z87 motherboard with the thermal armor in Figure 1. In Figure 2, you can see the motherboard after removing the thermal armor.
The motherboard comes with two 35 mm fans that can be installed to improve the airflow under the armor. There is also a set of covers for the unused connectors, slots and sockets, and three thermal probes that allow you to monitor different points of your system. Those parts are shown in Figure 3.
The SABERTOOTH Z87 has also a metal shield on the solder side of the motherboard, as shown in Figure 4.
The ASUS SABERTOOTH Z87 comes with two PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots, one PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (working at x4 speed), and three PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots.
The two PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots are controlled by the CPU, with the first slot working at x16 when only one video card is installed, and with both working at x8 when two video cards are installed.
The third PCI Express x16 slot is 2.0 and works at x4. If you plan to install a dual-slot video card in this slot, you will have to buy a case with at least eight slots. (Computer cases usually have seven.)
The PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots support both SLI and CrossFireX technologies. It is important to note that the PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot does not support these technologies and can not be used to install a third video card under SLI or CrossFireX modes.
[nextpage title=”Memory Support”]
Intel socket LGA1150 CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor, not the chipset, that defines what memory technologies you can have and the maximum amount of memory that is possible. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.
The integrated memory controller from socket LGA1150 processors supports DDR3 memories up to 1,600 MHz. According to ASUS, the SABERTOOTH Z87 supports memories up to 1,866 MHz.
The ASUS SABERTOOTH Z87 has four memory sockets. Since DDR3 memory modules can be found in capacities up to 8 GiB, you can have up to 32 GiB with this motherboard if you use four 8 GiB modules.
In order to enable the dual-channel mode, you must install two or four memory modules. On the ASUS SABERTOOTH Z87, the first and third memory sockets are beige, while the second and fourth are brown. When installing two memory modules, use the beige sockets.
[nextpage title=”On Board Peripherals”]
The Intel Z87 chipset is a single-chip solution, which is also known as a PCH (Platform Controller Hub). This chip has six SATA-600 ports, supporting RAID (0, 1, 10, and 5). The ASUS SABERTOOTH Z87 has two additional SATA-600 ports, controlled by an ASMedia ASM1061 chip (no RAID support), and two eSATA-600 ports, controlled by a second ASM1061 chip, located at the rear panel of the motherboard. The SATA ports are installed on the motherboard edge and rotated 90°, so the installation of video cards will not block them.
The Intel Z87 chipset supports 14 USB 2.0 ports and six USB 3.0 ports. The ASUS SABERTOOTH Z87 offers eight USB 2.0 ports, four located on the motherboard’s rear panel and four available through two headers located on the motherboard, and six USB 3.0 ports, four available on the motherboard’s rear panel and two available through a header.
The ASUS SABERTOOTH Z87 does not support FireWire ports.
This motherboard supports 7.1+2 audio format, i.e., eight channels plus two independent channels for audio streaming. On this motherboard, the audio is generated by the chipset using the Realtek ALC1150 codec, which is an excellent audio codec, providing 115 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog outputs, 104 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog inputs, and up to 192 kHz sampling rate for both inputs and outputs, with 24-bit resolution. These specifications are good even for the user who wants to work professionally capturing and editing analog audio (e.g., converting LPs to CDs or MP3, converting VHS to DVDs or any other digital format, etc.)
The analog audio outputs are independent and the motherboard also comes with an on-board optical SPDIF output. It also has a two-pin header labeled “SPDIF_OUT”, where you can install an adapter to have a coaxial SPDIF output or to connect a cable to older video cards that required a physical connection to have audio on their HDMI outputs.
The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by an Intel I217-V chip.
There is a “BIOS Flashback” button in the motherboard’s rear panel that allows you to upgrade the motherboard BIOS by installing a USB memory on a USB 2.0 port containing the new BIOS file, without the need to turn the computer on and load the operating system or the motherboard’s setup program.
In Figure 8, you can see the motherboard’s rear panel with four USB 2.0 ports, the BIOS flashback button, four USB 3.0 ports, two eSATA-600 ports, optical SPDIF output, HDMI output, DisplayPort output, one Gigabit Ethernet port, and the analog audio jacks.
[nextpage title=”Other Features”]
The “MemOK!” button, shown in Figure 9, allows you to test the compatibility of the memory modules that are installed.
A button called “DirectKey,” shown in Figure 10, allows you to enter directly into the motherboard setup program.
The portrayed motherboard supports the installation of a TPM (Trusted Platform Module), in charge of storing encryption keys in order to increase the security of the computer.
In Figure 11, you can see the accessories that come with the ASUS SABERTOOTH Z87.
[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]
The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the ASUS SABERTOOTH Z87 has eight phases for the CPU. The voltage regulator is controlled by an ASUS DIGI+ ASP1251 chip, which uses a digital design. Each phase is driven by two NTMFS4937N MOSFETs, which provides a maximum RDS(on) of 6 mΩ.
The ASUS SABERTOOTH Z87 uses high-end solid Japanese electrolytic capacitors, from Nichicon, on its voltage regulator circuit (a.k.a. “10K Black Metallic Capacitors”). According to ASUS, these capacitors have a lifespan five times longer than regular Japanese solid capacitors, and have a higher temperature tolerance (between -55° C and +105° C, making them military-grade components). This allows you to use liquid nitrogen on your CPU without damaging the capacitors.
All coils used on this motherboard are ferrite-core models.
If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.
[nextpage title=”Overclocking Options”]
The ASUS SABERTOOTH Z87 has several overclocking options. Below, we list the most important ones (1208 BIOS):
- CPU Base Clock: From 80.0 MHz to 300.00 MHz in 0.1 MHz increments
- Memory Frequency: From 800 MHz to 3200 MHz in 266 MHz increments
- Host/PCIe Clock: From 80.0 MHz to 133.33 MHz in 0.01 MHz increments
- CPU Core Voltage: From 0.001 V to 1.9200 V in 0.001 V increments
- CPU Cache Voltage: From 0.001 V to 1.9200 V in 0.001 V increments
- CPU Graphics Voltage: From 0.001 V to 1.9200 V in 0.001 V increments
- System Agent Voltage Offset: From 0.001 V to 0.999 V in 0.001 V increments
- CPU Analog I/O Voltage Offset: From 0.001 V to 0.999 V in 0.001 V increments
- CPU Digital I/O Voltage Offset: From 0.001 V to 0.999 V in 0.001 V increments
- CPU Input Voltage: From 0.800 V to 3.040 V in 0.010 V increments
- Chipset (PCH) Voltage: From 0.7000 V to “DRAM Voltage” in 0.0125 V increments
- Chipset (PCH) VLX Voltage: From 1.2000V to 2.0000 V in 0.0125 V increments
- Memory Voltage: From 1.20 V to 1.92 V in 0.005 V increments
- Memory Termination Voltage (VTTDDR): From 0.6000 V to 1.0000 V in 0.0125 V increments
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specifications for the ASUS SABERTOOTH Z87 include:
- Socket: LGA1150
- Chipset: Intel Z87 Express
- Super I/O: Nuvoton NCT6791D
- Parallel ATA: None
- Serial ATA: Six SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, 10, and 5) and two SATA-600 ports controlled by one ASM1061 chip
- External SATA: Two eSATA-600 ports controlled by one ASM1061 chip
- USB 2.0: Eight USB 2.0 ports, four on the motherboard real panel and four available through two headers on the motherboard
- USB 3.0: Six USB 3.0 ports, four on the motherboard rear panel and two available through one header on the motherboard
- FireWire (IEEE 1394): None
- Thunderbolt: None
- On-board video: Controlled by the CPU; HDMI and DisplayPort connectors
- On-board audio: Produced by the chipset together with a Realtek ALC1150 codec (7.1+2 channels, 24-bit resolution, 192 kHz sampling rate, 115 dB SNR for the outputs, and 104 dB SNR for the inputs), on-board optical SPDIF output
- On-board LAN: One Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by an Intel I217-V chip
- Buzzer: No
- Infrared interface: No
- Power supply required: EPS12V
- Slots: Two PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slots (working at x16/x0 or x8/x8), one PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (working at x4 or x1), and three PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots
- Memory: Four DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-1866, 32 GiB maximum)
- Fan connectors: Two four-pin connectors for the CPU cooler, four four-pin connectors for auxiliary fans, and two three-pin connectors for auxiliary fans
- Extra features: Thermal armor, three thermal sensors, and support for TPM
- Number of CDs/DVDs provided: One
- Programs included: Motherboard utilities
- More Information: https://www.asus.com
- Average price in the U.S.*: USD 250.00
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.
The ASUS SABERTOOTH Z87 is a motherboard targeted to the enthusiast user who wants to build a gaming PC using one of the new “Haswell” CPUs (fourth-generation Core i5 or Core i7 processors). It is actually an ATX version of the ASUS GRYPHON Z87, that we analyzed recently, with two more SATA-600 ports, and a better audio codec.
The main highlight of this motherboard is its thermal management, with a thermal armor that prevents air that was heated by the motherboard from going inside the computer case, where it would heat other components. This thermal armor comes with two fans that remove this hot air from the motherboard. The motherboard also comes with three thermal sensors, allowing you to monitor the temperature of three points inside your computer.
Other nice features of this motherboard include the presence of six USB 3.0 ports, eight SATA-600 ports, two PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots, a good voltage regulator circuit with high-end capacitors, and more. The audio codec is a highlight of this motherboard, offering signal/noise ratios that allow the user to work professionally with analog audio.
There is, however, one drawback with this motherboard, but it should not affect most users. It is regarding the PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot, which works at x4 speed and you can not use it with SLI and CrossFireX configurations.