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[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

We analyzed the ASUS Vanguard B85, an entry-level socket LGA1150 motherboard based on Intel B85 chipset. It is part of the TUF (The Ultimate Force) series, which means it uses some high-grade components that give it a longer lifespan than “common” boards.

The Intel B85 is the most basic chipset for fourth-generation “Core i” Intel CPUs. Its main differences from the high-end chipset for this platform, the Z87, are the lower number of SATA-600 ports (four instead of six) and USB 3.0 ports (also four versus six), the absence of RAID and SRT (Smart Response Technology) support, and the support for only one PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot. There is no support (at least officially) for changing the clock multiplier on “K” unlocked CPUs, which makes it bad for overclocking.

You can see the ASUS VANGUARD B85 motherboard in Figure 1. It uses the microATX form factor, measuring 9.6” x 9.6” (244 mm x 244 mm).

ASUS VANGUARD B85Figure 1: ASUS VANGUARD B85 motherboard

[nextpage title=”Slots”]

Unlike the Z87, the B85 chipset does not allow the bandwidth of the PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot to be shared with a second (and a third) slot.

The VANGUARD B85 comes with one PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot, one PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot, one PCI slot, and one PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (which always works at x4 speed).

The motherboard support CrossFireX, but not SLI technology.

ASUS VANGUARD B85Figure 2: Slots

[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 VANGUARD B85 also supports memories up to 1,600 MHz.

The VANGUARD B85 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 identical memory modules. If using two modules, install them in sockets of the same color.

ASUS VANGUARD B85Figure 3: Memory sockets; install two or four modules for the best performance

[nextpage title=”On Board Peripherals”]

The Intel B85 chipset is a single-chip solution, which is also known as a PCH (Platform Controller Hub). This chip has four SATA-600 ports, and two SATA-300 ports, with no RAID support. The ASUS VANGUARD B85 offers all of them.

Figure 4 shows the SATA ports, four of them rotated 90 degrees in order to not interfere with video cards.

ASUS VANGUARD B85Figure 4: SATA-600 (brown) and SATA-300 (black) ports

The Intel B85 chipset supports 12 USB 2.0 ports and four USB 3.0 ports. The ASUS VANGUARD B85 offers eights USB 2.0 ports, two located on the motherboard’s rear panel and six available through three headers located at the motherboard; and six USB 3.0 ports, four available on the motherboard’s rear panel and two available through a header. The two extra USB 3.0 ports are controlled by an ASMedia ASM1074 chip.

The ASUS VANGUARD B85 does not support FireWire ports.

This motherboard supports 7.1 audio format using a Realtek ALC887 codec. This codec has the same specifications as the Realtek ALC892, except that the ALC892 has two extra channels for audio streaming. The main specifications for this codec include 97 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog outputs, 90 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 specs are good for the mainstream user, but if you are looking into working professionally with audio editing, you should look for a motherboard that provides an SNR of at least 97 dB for the analog inputs.

The analog audio outputs are independent even if you use a 7.1 analog speaker set, but the motherboard does not come with SPDIF outputs. However, there is a header labeled “SPDIF_OUT”, where you can install an adapter to have SPDIF outputs 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.

In Figure 5, you can see the motherboard’s rear panel with a shared PS/2 keyboard/mouse connector, two USB 2.0 ports, DisplayPort output, HDMI output, VGA output, DVI-D output, four USB 3.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet port, and the analog audio connectors.

ASUS VANGUARD B85Figure 5: Motherboard rear panel

[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]

The voltage regulator of the VANGUARD B85 has four phases for the CPU. It is controlled by an ASUS DIGI+ ASP1253 chip, which uses a digital design. Each phase uses a NFMFS4955N and a NTMFS4737N MOSFETs.

ASUS VANGUARD B85Figure 6: Voltage regulator circuit

The ASUS VANGUARD B85 uses high-end solid Japanese electrolytic capacitors on its voltage regulator circuit (a.k.a. “10K 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). The coils are ferrite 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 VANGUARD B85 has a few overclocking options. Below, we list the most important ones (0214 BIOS):

  • CPU Core Voltage: From 0.001 V to 1.920 V in 0.001 V increments
  • CPU Cache Voltage: From 0.001 V to 1.920 V in 0.001 V increments
  • CPU Graphics Voltage: From From 0.001 V to 1.920 V in 0.001 V increments
  • System Agent Voltage Offset: From -0.999 V to +0.999 V in 0.001 V increments
  • CPU Analog I/O Voltage Offset: From -0.999 V to +0.999 V in 0.001 V increments
  • CPU Digital I/O Voltage Offset: From -0.999 V to +0.999 V in 0.001 V increments
  • CPU Digital I/O Voltage: From 1.0000 V to 2.2000 V in 0.003125 V increments
  • SVID Voltage: From From 0.001 V to 2.440 V in 0.001 V increments
  • Memory Voltage: From 1.200 V to 1.920 V in 0.01 V increments
  • Chipset (PCH) Voltage: From 0.7000 V to DRAM Voltage in 0.0125 V increments
  • Chipset (PCH) VLX Voltage (prortional do DRAM Voltage): From 0.395x to 0.630x in 0.005x V increments
  • Memory CTRL REF Voltage (relative to DRAM Voltage): From 0.3950x to 0.6300x in 0.0050x increments
  • Memory CTRL DATA Voltage (relative to DRAM Voltage): From 0.3950x to 0.6300x in 0.0050x increments

ASUS VANGUARD B85Figure 7: Overclocking options

ASUS VANGUARD B85Figure 8: Memory timing settings

ASUS VANGUARD B85Figure 9: Memory timing settings

[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]

The main specifications for the ASUS VANGUARD B85 include:

  • Socket: LGA1150
  • Chipset: Intel B85 Express
  • Super I/O: Nuvoton NCT6791D
  • Parallel ATA: None
  • Serial ATA: Two SATA-300 and four SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (no RAID support)
  • External SATA: None
  • USB 2.0: Eight USB 2.0 ports, two on the motherboard real panel and six available through three 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; four ports controlled by the chipset and two controlled by an ASMedia ASM1074 chip
  • FireWire (IEEE 1394): None
  • Thunderbolt: None
  • On-board video: Controlled by the CPU; VGA, DVI-D, HDMI and DisplayPort connectors
  • Produced by the chipset together with a Realtek ALC887 codec (7.1 channels, 24-bit resolution, 192 kHz sampling rate, 97 dB SNR for the outputs, and 90 dB SNR for the inputs)
  • On-board LAN: One Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by an Intel I217-V chip
  • Buzzer: No
  • Infrared interface: No
  • Power supply required: EPS12V
  • Slots: One PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slot, one PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (working at x4), one PCI Express x1 slot, and one PCI slot
  • Memory: Four DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-1600, 32 GiB maximum)
  • Fan connectors: One four-pin connector for the CPU cooler, and four four-pin connectors for auxiliary fans
  • Extra features: None
  • Number of CDs/DVDs provided: One
  • Programs included: Motherboard utilities
  • More Information: https://www.asus.com
  • Average price in the U.S.*: USD 200.00

* Researched at Amazon.com on the day we published this review.

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

The ASUS VANGUARD B85 is, at first sight, a simple low-end motherboard. It uses the most basic chipset for the LGA1150 platform, a mainstream audio codec, and has no extras such as on-board buttons and switches, voltage monitoring points or LEDs, and other frills that make any overclocker excited. Hardcore gamers will also not be impressed with the simple slot configuration.

But the VANGUARD B85 is a simple motherboard, but not a low-end one. It is aimed on the user who wants to build a rock-solid, robust computer, using a simple, cost-effective platform. Being a TUF Series member, this motherboard comes with military-grade components on the most sensitive part of a motherboard regarding durability: the voltage regulator circuit.

So, if you are looking for a simple and robust motherboard, and you will not use more than one video card and four hard disk drives (or SSDs), and have no interest on overclocking, the ASUS VANGUARD B85 is an interesting option.