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ASUS SABERTOOTH Z170 MARK 1 (Intel Z170) Motherboard Review

By: Steven Bassiri | Socket LGA 1150/1151 in Motherboards | Posted: Oct 20, 2015 2:14 pm
TweakTown Rating: 94%Manufacturer: ASUS

Packaging and Overview

 

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The box and packaging are very secure, and the motherboard is not only in its own box but also in an anti-static bag. This motherboard has more accessories than any I have ever seen before, and everything is in its own anti-static bag.

 

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There are so many accessories. In the image on the left; ASUS Hyper M.2 x4 mini card w/screws, IO shield, SLI bridge, CPU installation tool, 4x SATA 6Gb/s cables, Q-connector, TUF case badge, Certificate of Reliability (3rd party military specification certification for components), driver DVD, and manuals. In the image on the right; optional low profile bracket for Hyper card, 40mm and 35mm assistant fans, beaded chain for metal TUF cover, connector cap set (USB 3.0, DVI, HDMI, DP, LAN), 5x audio caps, 7x SATA caps, 2x SATA Express caps, 8x back IO USB caps, USB Type-C cap, IO dust frame, IO dust cover, 3x thermistor cables, 3x PCI-E 16x slot covers, 3x PCI-E 1x slot covers, 2x DRAM slot covers, and screws.

 

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The ASUS SABERTOOTH Z170 MARK 1 has the most fan headers I have ever seen on a motherboard, and the most temperature sensors. The fan headers circled in red are individually controllable. There are two CPU fans that can all work in PWM or DC mode, one header for a compatible water pump, five chassis fan headers that can operate in DC or PWM mode, and three different assistant fan headers for the shield cooling. There is also an extension header for controller two sets of PWM fans with an add-on card or some hacking.

 

Dotted with orange are eight built-in temperature sensors in different regions of the motherboard (I am not sure if I counted right, but the CPU and PCH internal temperatures are not included in the count). Circled in green are 3x two pin temperature sensor headers, and ASUS provides the three wired temperature sensors that you plug into the motherboard.

 

Almost the entire motherboard is covered by the shield that is meant to protect the PCB from dust, channel airflow from fans, and reinforce the PCB. A lot of people who don't like seeing the circuitry of the motherboard also like the TUF series shields because they cover up a lot of the motherboard while providing unique styling. The brown/green camouflage colors featured on some previous generations has been replaced with an off-white/hint of orange theme that looks a bit better in my opinion. ASUS's troubleshooting LEDs located in a column between the PCH heat sink and the SATA ports also light up orange. The new gray/black/orange color theme looks quite nice.

 

The back of the motherboard features the "TUF FORTIFIER" which is a solid piece of aluminum that is screwed to the topside shield and makes contact with the backside VRM MOSFETs through a thermal pad. ASUS claims a 19C reduction in temperatures around the VRM area compared to when there is no TUF FORTIFIER. It is also meant to strengthen the PCB so that heavy heat sinks don't bend the PCB. It can stand up to 10KG weight, safe to say there won't be any bend-gate with this motherboard.

 

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The IO panel features a USB BIOS Flashback button, 5x USB 2.0, 2x USB 3.0 ports, 1x USB 3.1 Type-A, 1x USB 3.1 Type-C, 1x Intel Gbit NIC, 1x Realtek Gbit NIC, HDMI, DisplayPort, and 7.1 audio outputs with TOSLINK. There are also plugs that can be used to cover unused ports; they can help keep the dust and humidity out.

 

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There are three full sized PCI-E slots. The first two are routed to the CPU and operate at 16x/0x or 8x/8x for two-way SLI and CrossFireX. The third full sized slot is routed to the PCH, and oddly enough it shares two PCI-E lanes with two SATA ports, so you can use the slot in 2x mode or use the two SATA ports. All the PCI-E 1x slots are routed directly to the PCH. The top shield is also supposed to help re-enforce the PCI-E slots.

 

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There are eight SATA ports. The off-white ports are routed to an ASMedia controller while the other six are routed to the PCH. The two ports routed to the PCH not part of the two SATA Express ports share their two ports with the third PCI-E 16x lane. You can also spot the LEDs that can be used for troubleshooting. ASUS provides SATA and SATA Express dust covers.

 

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The shield also has vents that users can use to constrict and control airflow so that air either blows towards the CPU socket or out the ends of the VRM heat sink. The shield is quite sturdy, and nothing feels flimsy, construction is strong.

 

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The board carries a single 32Gb/s M.2 slot, but a second drive can be added through the last PCI-E 16x slot and the Hyper M.2 kit provided. The M.2 drive bay also allows access to the CMOS battery and airflow is supposed to be diverted towards the M.2 slot from the fan above the PCI-E slots.

 

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A single USB 3.0 internal header is located below the 24-pin header. A MemOK button is located above the 24-pin connector.

 

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This motherboard is loaded with fan headers, and they are color coded and you should refer to the manual to see which headers to use.

 

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Here is the board with all the plugs in place and the dust filter installed on the IO shield. I have also installed both fans and the temperature probes. I also removed both the bottom and top shields from the motherboard. The bottom shield uses a thermal pad to cool down the back of the CPU VCore VRM.

 

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Here is the front and back of the motherboard without the shield.

 

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The heat sinks make excellent contact with the PCB components.

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