Articles: Mainboards

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PCB Design and Functionality

TUF series mainboards are manufactured using only high-quality electronic components, which undergo strict certification testing, like the military class products. The visual reminder of this fact is the color scheme they chose for their mainboards that consists mostly of khaki and camouflage shades.

The “DIGI+” digital processor voltage regulator circuitry is designed as 8+2 phases and boasts increased efficiency and lower component temperatures, which prolongs their service life. Moreover, as we will see in the chapter devoted to the mainboard BIOS, “DIGI+” allows the users to flexibly adjust the voltage regulator settings. The heating components of the circuitry are covered with an additional heatsink, which is connected to the North bridge heatsink with a heatpipe. The unique “CeraM!X” ceramic coating of the heatsinks creates grainy surface, which dissipates heat much better than traditional metals. All heatsinks, including the third one on the chipset South Bridge are secured in place with reliable screws.

The expansion card slots and the layout of the graphics card slots are exactly the same as we have just seen on Asus Crosshair V Formula. You can install one or two graphics cards that will work at full PCI Express 2.0 x16 speed, or even three graphics cards that will in this case work as x16/x8/x8. The fourth slot has only four PCI-E 2.0 lanes provided by the South Bridge at its disposal. Besides the six SATA 6 Gbps ports provided by the AMD SB950 South Bridge, there are also two SATA 3 Gbps ports implemented via additional JMicron JMB362 controller. The second controller like that provides support for the eSATA ports on the back panel.

Here is the list of all ports and connectors on the back panel:

  • PS/2 connector for keyboard or mouse;
  • Ten USB 2.0 ports, four more are laid out as two onboard pin-connectors;
  • Optical S/PDIF and six analogue audio-jacks provided by eight-channel Realtek ALC892 codec;
  • IEEE1394 (FireWire) port implemented via VIA VT6308P controller, the second port is available as onboard pin-connector;
  • Two eSATA 3 Gbps ports including one Power eSATA (green) port implemented via JMicron JMB362 controller, another controller like that adds two more internal SATA ports;
  • Two USB 3.0 ports (blue connectors) implemented via ASMedia ASM1042 controller, second controller like that provides an additional internal pin-connector for two more USB 3.0 ports;
  • A local network port (network adapter is built around Gigabit Realtek RTL8111E network controller).

Just like other Asus mainboards, Sabertooth 990FX features convenient wide “Q-Slot” latches on graphics card slots and one-sided “Q-DIMM” locks on the memory module slots. There is MemOK! button that allows the mainboard to successfully start even if there are some problems with the system memory. A peculiar feature of all TUF mainboards is the so-called Thermal Radar technology. There are several thermal diodes integrated onto the mainboard, which monitor temperatures of the most critical knots. This technology uses the readings taken off these diodes to automatically adjust the rotation speed of the processor and system cooling fans to achieve maximum efficiency at the minimal level of noise. By the way, the mainboard has six fan connectors, five of which are four-pin ones. All system fan connectors are able to adjust the rotation speed of the three-pin fans, while in case of processor fans it is only the four-pin ones that can be adjusted. We specifically said “fans” in reference to CPU fan for a reason; the mainboard is equipped with two CPU fan connectors. It is no secret that many CPU coolers can significantly improve their efficiency with an addition of a second fan, and some of them even come with a retention kit for a second fan already included. However, it is often difficult to connect the second fan: even if the cable is long enough to reach one of the additional connector, how could we ensure that both fans will react identically to the CPU temperature changes? Of course, having two CPU fan connectors resolves this issue completely.

The table below sums up all the technical characteristics of Asus Sabertooth 990FX mainboard:

Overall, Asus Sabertooth 990FX looks quite worthy. The functionality of AMD 990FX chipset has been significantly extended with onboard controllers that deliver additional SATA and eSATA ports, USB 3.0 support and IEEE1394 (FireWire). The mainboard supports both types of multi-processor graphics sub-systems, AMD CrossFireX and Nvidia SLI. The use of superior-quality components guarantees exception quality of the product and allows for 5-year warranty.

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