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ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77 (Intel Z77) Motherboard Review

The SABERTOOTH name is back and we check it out with the Intel Z77 chipset.
@TweakTown
Published Fri, Aug 10 2012 1:44 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:31 PM CDT
Rating: 98%Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Package

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VIEW GALLERY - 43 IMAGES

When I first saw the SABERTOOTH line of motherboard with the Intel P67 chipset I loved the whole look that ASUS was going for with it. We saw when they released the AMD based 990FX and Intel X79 chipsets that they removed the TUF Thermal Armor which was the stand out feature for me.

When we got first sign of the SABERTOOTH Z77, though, it was awesome to see that the TUF Thermal Armor had been re-introduced. Outside of the TUF Thermal Armor we've got a whole lot of other features on the SABERTOOTH line of boards which we'll take a closer look at when we check out the package.

As always, though, there are a number of things we've got to do before we look at the performance side of things. The first thing we're going to do is dive into the package and see what exactly the SABERTOOTH Z77 brings to the table while we also cover some of the major features that are present.

Once we've done that we'll check out the motherboard and see exactly what's going on with the board before we move into the BIOS to see how that looks on the SABERTOOTH Z77. We'll then take the time to quickly cover our testbed today before we have a look at the overclocking side to things to see just what kind of performance we can get before we finally check the actual performance via our benchmark lineup.

Package

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Looking at the front of the box we can see some of the main features which include Lucid Virtu MVP support while the big one is that the TUF Series brings with it a five year warranty. Starting to move inside we get a better idea what being a TUF series board brings to the table starting with the Thermal Armor which helps control the airflow of what's going on with the board.

Next up we've got the Thermal Radar technology which helps track the temperature of the board area along with the Dust Defender technology. Finally on the top half of the box you can see we've got TUF components which brings with it higher quality components, just as you'd expect.

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Looking across the bottom half of the box you can see we've got some of the more ASUS specific features which include DIGI+ Power Control, USB BIOS Flashback and Network iControl. The back of the box quickly covers some of the main features again while the bottom gives us a run down on the main specifications of the board.

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Moving inside the package you can see we've got a fair bit going on starting with the normal user guide, information on the Thermal Armor technology and how to set it up along with a Certificate of Reliability cover the SABERTOOTH features along with a driver CD.

Across the bottom we've got four SATA III cables, two SATA II cables, I/O back plate, SLI bridge, EZ connectors and two fans which we'll talk about a little later when we take a closer look at the motherboard itself.

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Finally the last part of the package is the dust guards you can see above. A lot of them give you a fairly good idea of what's going on, but to see exactly how they work, we'll need to use them in conjunction with the board itself which we'll again take a closer look at when we move over to the next page.

ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77 Motherboard

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Looking over the top we can see just how the Thermal Armor looks which covers almost every part of the board. It makes for an extremely unique design overall and we'll move in a bit closer to see some of the main features that the SABERTOOTH Z77 brings to the table.

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Looking at the expansion side of things you can see we've got three PCIe x1 slots along with three PCI x16 slots. As usual the bottom most black slot is wired for only x4 while the other two run in x8 if a card is in each slot. If you're using only one video card in the top slot then it will as always run at x16. This is the typical design we see out of Z77 boards when they move to a three x16 slot setup.

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Across the bottom of the board you can see a fairly standard header setup with three USB 2.0 headers present, two four pin fan headers and the main front panel header sitting on the right side which can be used in conjunction with the EZ connectors included in the box.

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Turning the corner you can see on the far right in green we've got a USB 3.0 header while to the left we've got a total of eight SATA ports. The four black ones are SATA II which run off the Intel Z77m while the two brown ones are running off the same chipset, but are SATA III. The far left white ones are also SATA III as well, but these two run off the ASMedia ASM1061 controller.

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Moving to the top half of the board we get a closer look at the Thermal Armor around the memory slots along with a look at the four DDR3 slots that support up to 32GB of DDR3 ranging from 1333MHz to 1866MHz officially. Higher is possibly via overclocking in the BIOS, though. We can also see the main 24-pin ATX power connector, another fan header and the MemOK! button which is used to help with any memory issues that may occur.

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Moving across the top you can see the standard 8-pin CPU power connector while here we also see a bucketload of fan headers. Looking above you can see we've got a total of four present here.

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When we talk about a clean CPU area I don't think we've seen one that looks cleaner than the SABERTOOTH Z77 thanks to the Thermal Armor design. Looking above you can see the whole setup looks fantastic. Towards the left you can see a place for one of the included fans to help airflow while at the top near the I/O side of things you can see where another fan can be inserted. For the most part you'll probably find yourself wanting to avoid the installation of the fans as no one is really a "fan" of these smaller ones which have a tendency to be louder due to their size. We'd always opt for a silent solution over one with added noise, but that's up to you.

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The I/O department starts off with four USB 2.0 ports and then a large gap which shows where the fan would be installed that we just spoke about. Here we've also got the BIOS Flashback button, next to that we've got two eSATA connectors running off the ASM1061 controller and two USB 3.0 connectors above that.

Moving across again we've got a couple of display outputs in the form of a DisplayPort and HDMI connector along with an optical out port that runs off the Realtek ALC892 HD audio codec. Continuing along we've got two more USB 3.0 connectors, Gigabit networking via the Intel 82579V controller and six auxiliary connectors running off the same Realtek ALC892 audio codec.

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While normally here we'd get into the BIOS side of things we need to quickly take a closer look at the Dust Defenders. Looking above you can see we've got the PCIe ones in place along with our RAM ones. I'm a big fan of them as they help make an already clean board look even cleaner, especially in the event you're using a case that has a window.

BIOS

If you've seen a BIOS from ASUS since they've introduced the UEFI design or even looked at one of our reviews you'll be extremely comfortable here. Like all our non ROG based boards the first screen you're going to be greeted with is the EZ Mode BIOS option.

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The chances are you're going to want to jump up to the top right corner and get into Advanced Mode.If you're going to do any overclocking you'll no doubt want to be in the Ai Tweaker section while looking above you can get an excellent idea of what exactly is going on with the rest of the BIOS thanks to the images above.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup and Overclocking

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASUS, MSI, Western Digital, MemoRight and Corsair.

Having a look above you can see our testbed which hasn't changed over the last few months as we work our way through the large line up of Z77 boards which we were sent for review. With that ultimately covered, let's quickly cover the boards that will be in our graphs today starting of course with the ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77, which will be ran at stock and overclocked speeds. We'll look at the overclocked numbers in just a second.

We've also got the ASRock Z77 Extreme6 present alongside the X79 Extreme4. Another couple of ASUS boards are also included in the form of the Maximus IV Extreme-Z and the Maximus V GENE to round off our motherboard line up today.

With stock testing done it was time to head into the BIOS which I have to say took a lot of attempts; no fault to ASUS, though. Something I noticed with this board is the boot time was extremely fast. I don't think I've missed hitting the "DEL" key to enter the BIOS so many times in previous testing of motherboards.

Getting into the BIOS, though, we started messing around with the voltages and multiplier. We started at 47x which brought our CPU in at 4.7GHz. We got up and running in Windows without an issue. With that done it was then time to miss pressing the "DEL" key a few times before getting back into the BIOS.

The next step as always is that we move to a 48x multiplier which adds another 100MHz. We booted up with no issue and got into Windows, but when we started the MediaEspresso encode, the program crashed straight away. Now with a bit of baring in where we can end up it was time to do a little bit of fine tuning.

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Moving back to the 47x multiplier we started to play around with the BLCLK to see just what kind of overclock we could land on. Looking above you can see we landed at 100.6 which with the 47x multiplier gave us a clock speed of 4728MHz or 4.73GHz as illustrated in our graphs here today.

Let's get started!

CPU Benchmarks

HyperPi 0.99

Version and / or Patch Used: 0.99

Developer Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br

Product Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br

Download It Here

HyperPi is a front end for SuperPi that allows for multiple concurrent instances of SuperPi to be run on each core recognized by the system. It is very dependent on CPU to memory to HDD speed. The faster these components, the faster it is able to figure out the number Pi to the selected length.

For our testing we use the 32M run. This means that each of the four physical and four logical cores for the i7 and the four physical cores of the i5 is trying to calculate the number Pi out to 32 million decimal places. Each "run" is a comparative to ensure accuracy and any stability or performance issues in the loop mentioned above will cause errors in calculation.

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AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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Straight out of the box we can see that the SABERTOOTH Z77 performance lines up with the other Z77 based motherboards. Overclocking, as always, brings with it a nice boost in performance as we see a few minutes shaved off our HyperPi time and a strong increase in our CPU synthetic numbers.

System Benchmarks

PCMark 7

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.04

Developer Homepage: http://www.pcmark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.pcmark.com

Buy It Here

PCMark 7 includes a range of tests that give different views of your system's performance. In the Advanced Edition you can choose which tests to run. The common use and hardware component tests are unavailable in the Basic Edition.

Overall system performance is measured by the PCMark test. This is the only test that returns an official PCMark score. The Lightweight test measures the system capabilities of entry-level systems and mobility platforms unable to run the PCMark test, but it does not generate a PCMark score. Common use performance is measured by the scenario tests - Entertainment, Creativity and Production - each of which results in a scenario score. Hardware component performance is measured by the hardware tests - Computation and Storage - each of which results in a hardware score.

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MediaEspresso

Version and / or Patch Used: 6.5

Developer Homepage: http://www.cyberlink.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.cyberlink.com/products/mediaespresso/overview_en_AU.html?fileName=overview&r=1

Buy It Here

MediaEspresso is a blazingly fast media universal converter that can transcode your videos, photos and music files and out put them to a huge range of portable devices including mobile phones, portable media players and even game consoles. With technologies like Smart Detect, Direct Sync and CyberLink's TrueTheater™ video enhancements, you can not only forget about complicated format, resolution and output settings, but your converted file will come out the other side looking better than when it went in!

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Looking at PCMark 7 and MediaEspresso, though, we see a bit of a different picture painted. Looking above you can see out of the box the SABERTOOTH Z77 performance is extremely strong against the other Z77 based boards here with a clear lead in both programs.

Overclocking, as always, helps extend the lead even further.

USB 2.0 and 3.0 Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.70.1400

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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Looking at our USB performance we don't find ourselves shocked with what's going on with very typical performance being seen in both our USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 numbers.

SSD Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.70.1400

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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HD Tune Pro

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.61

Developer Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com

Product Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com

Buy It Here

HD Tune Pro gives us accurate read, write and access time results and for the last couple of years has been gaining popularity amongst reviewers. It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.

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SSD performance is an area we see ASUS boards always do extremely well in and even though it's using the same Z77 chipset as other boards, we consistently see that the ASUS offerings do push out better performance when it comes to testing our SATA III SSD drives.

Memory Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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Looking at memory performance we can see at stock we're a little higher than the ASRock Z77 Extreme6 in some areas, but nothing that stands out quite as much as the PCMark 7 and MediaEspresso numbers.

Gaming Benchmarks

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/

Buy It Here

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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Metro 2033

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.4a-games.com//

Product Homepage: http://www.thqnordic.com/

Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in Ukraine and released in March 2010 for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360.[3] In March 2006, 4A Games announced a partnership with Glukhovsky to collaborate on the game.[4] The game was announced at the 2009 Games Convention in Leipzig;[5] a first trailer came along with the announcement.[6] A sequel was announced, currently titled Metro: Last Light.

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Quickly looking at video performance we don't see anything too shocking. At stock we see for the most part all our Intel rigs line up quite closely. Overclocking does bring with it a slight boost to the 3DMark 11 Performance preset and a few extra FPS at the lower resolutions under Metro 2033.

Temperature and Power

Power Consumption

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Often we see ASUS boards draw a little more power and you can see that here when compared against the ASRock Z77 Extreme6. Compared to the ASUS Maximus V GENE we can see the number sit fairly close while overclocking as you'd expect increase both the idle and load numbers.

Core Temperature

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Looking above you can see that the ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77 does run a little warmer than the ASRock Z77 Extreme6 at stock while compared to the ASUS Maximus IV GENE it runs a little cooler. With no added cooling and the Thermal Armor installed this isn't a huge surprise. Before we finished off, though, we wanted to see what kind of difference the addition of the two included fans made to the overall temperature.

Starting off with the overclocked numbers since that's where our CPU was sitting when we installed the two additional fans we saw no change on the idle front with a minimum again of 37c. On the other hand we saw a 5c drop in load temperature as we came down from 81c to 76c.

When it comes to the stock numbers we saw a 1c drop in idle with that coming in at 34c. As for load we managed to see 3c shaved off with our CPU running at 56c instead of 59c. At idle we'd 100% ignore installing the extra two fans; overclocked on the other hand the decision is a little harder. At 81c we're not worried, we of course won't deny that the 76c number looks better, though.

Final Thoughts

The SABERTOOTH Z77 brings back everything I missed about the X79 and 990FX based SABERTOOTH boards. The Thermal Armor is what makes the board from an aesthetic point of view and really the SABERTOOTH Z77 is a great looking board that really stands out.

What the Thermal Armor does alongside the Dust Defenders is make not only for an extremely clean motherboard, but quite possible the cleanest Z77 board on the market. It really does look fantastic, though the fun doesn't just stop there. Alongside the Thermal Armor we've got a whole lot of other features that make up the TUF Series SABERTOOTH board with one of the big stand outs being that five year warranty - a rarity on motherboards. It really speaks of how much faith ASUS have in the board.

Performance is also fantastic; you can see out of the box at times we see it was able to outperform other Z77 boards with the best gains being seen in PCMark 7 and MediaEspresso. As always we then look at the overclocking side of things and the 4.73GHz number is strong which helps push performance even further ahead.

It feels like all of this should come at quite a high cost, but at $239.99 the SABERTOOTH Z77 is extremely well priced and between it and the $449.99 ASUS P8Z77-V Premium, which is the most expensive Z77 based board on Newegg, we've got a whole lot of boards that come in at a higher cost.

Going back to the look of the board, the massive five year warranty, strong out of the box performance and just overall massive feature set, it's extremely difficult to fault this board. If you can do without installing the added fans we'd suggest it for as we mentioned before no one really likes these extremely small fans due to the noise, let alone two of them. If you do add them though, you'll see a drop in temperatures, which is great.

ASUS does an awesome job of ticking all the right boxes with the SABERTOOTH Z77 which is something we've seen them do before with the SABERTOOTH series. Priced in that mid $200 bracket, we've got a board that looks and feels like it should cost more than it does.

At that $230 - $260 mark we've really got some great options when it comes to Z77 based motherboards. We'd tend to lean on the side that this is probably one of the best if not the best in that area. Especially when you consider we're closer to the $230 side of things than the $260 side, this motherboard is one to seriously consider.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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