Asus 990FX Sabertooth AM3+ Motherboard Review

Asus India sent a motherboard to take a look at Asus 990FX Sabertooth!

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Apologies: This is not a review. The only processor we have for testing was 550BE and we needed something that we can evaluate the board properly. Despite efforts taken to contact AMD India directly (and through some people) ended with no reply, I’ll just put these up.

 


Specs and Packaging

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The board comes in a pretty good packaging (as one will expect from a ROG series). We’ve seen boards that came in such packaging but without any anti-static bag. Thankfully, this isn’t the case here.

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The board comes with 4 SATA 6Gb/s cables for your SATA 3 Hard drives, an SLI connector, I/O panel, Q- Connectors, the usual driver+ utility disc, a motherboard manual and a Certificate of reliability.

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The board comes with the latest 990FX/SB950 AMD Chipset.

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Sabertooth series is emphasized on TUF CeraM!X Heatsink, TUF Thermal Radar, DIGI+ VRM, TUF Components and ESP. The MOSFET/NorthBridge/SouthBridge since is coated with Ceram!x.

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The Bord comes with 8+2 Phase with Digi+ VRM and alloy chokes with solid capacitors. All AM3+ Boards will sport a black socket to differentiate from the older AM2/AM2+/AM3 sockets. Also, boards will use a 2 piece bracket for the CPU coolers. There are 2x 4 PIN CPU fan headers on top- really smart implementation, especially since most of the users will end up using heatsinks with dual fans. You will also see 2 more 4 pin Chassis fan header next to the Northbridge.

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Etron and ASMedia are the new players in the USB 3.0 host controller business. As of now, Gigabyte would be using USB 3.0 host controllers from Etron and this board is booted with ASMedia. ASM1042 USB 3.0 controller is used to power up the front panel USB 3.0 headers (green connector next to the DIMM slot). The board with the MemOK! button. There’s a CPU Diagnostic LED on the left side of the first DIMM slot whereas one DRAM diagnostic LED below the MemOK! button. You will 1 more 4 pin Fan header on the top right corner and a 3 pin header towards the left of the USB 3.0 header.

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There are 4x PCI-E x16 slots, 1 PCI-E x1 and a PCI slot. The first and the third slot are on x16 when on CF/SLI. So the slots are configured x16/x4/x8/x8 or x16/x4/x16. Towards the left, the board has Realtek ALC892 (standard implementation for almost boards now) either channel Audio controller, JMicron JMB362 controller powering up 2x E-SATA ports on the Rear I/O Panel, RTL8111E Gigabit Lan controller and the same Asemedia USB 3.0 controller. There is a VGA LED below the first PCI-E x16 slot.

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The SPDIF out is now on the better-than-before placed area on the bottom of the board, above the front panel header. The LED indicated power supplied to the Southbridge. The black headers are for the firewire whereas the khaki connector is for the USB 2.0.

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Towards the lower right, the board comes with a single bios chip. CMOS clear headers are present and nicely kept away between the USB 2.0 headers. There is a Boot device LED clearly labelled below the southbridge. Right-angled SATA connectors are becoming more of a standard (atleast in the most mid-to-high-end board). The Brown coloured SATA connectors via the SB950 Southbridge are SATA III with RAID 0,1,5,10, JBOD, whereas the black SATA ports VIA the JMicron controller powers up SATA II.

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THE I/O is pretty much what everyone will expect: Keyboard/mouse PS/2 port with 10x USB 2.0 port, Optical SPDIF connector, firewire and 2x E-SATA port. There’s the Gigabit LAN and the audio channel connector.

Now, the new Chipset is nothing more than a support for the Zambezi processors with HT 3.1 support, other than that the Chipset comes with 40 PCIe Lanes. If you’re wondering why older chipset board comes with only 1 USB 3.0 controller, its because to 40 PCIe Lanes. Because of the flexibility, a manufacturer can easily route 2x USB 3.0 controllers, powering up a generous (for now) 4 USB 3.0 controllers. With the better than NEC controllers being implemented, it’s a worthy bump up. The only strong selling point this chipset has is the support for SLI and Crossfire.

Sabertooth Series is pitched to be the best of both worlds- for the value and performance.

However, if you’re seeing from an enthusiast/user’s point of view, most likely a lot of people will pick such boards rather than the more expensive ones. Most do not want a board with voltage headers and DEBUG LED, a ROG connector (both wired and wireless) and a big LED light.

Mainstream boards sell more than high-end boards because the difference is certain features. Even the MOSFETS that are used on the rear of the PCB like how MSI does is slowly becoming a standard. Other than the implementation of NF200 controllers that help to boost up PCIe slots to the max on x16 mode, dedicated ways to overclock via wired/wireless access, Debug LED there’s little or no difference to the mainstream users. Give it a few months, and manufacturers might bundle an SLI. Since Sabertooth comes with a 5-year warranty, it further puts the high-end board in the dark.

You might spend bit more money on non-reference GPUs which would have factory overclocks, better coolers, bit better voltage regulation with dedicated power phases and thermal pastes, but spending more money on the board, especially from a majority of the user’s point of view, by max who will stick to air/water overclocking- pretty much won’t see the reason to pick up a high-end board. This is good for mainstream board shortening the gap, but also pretty much questions the purpose of the board that costs Rs. 16,000+.

The official pricing for this board is Rs. 13,570/-.

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