Articles: Mainboards

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PCB Design and Functionality

Asus Sabertooth P67 mainboard makes an unforgettable impression. We have never seen anything like that, and I am talking not about the color scheme or unique heatsinks typical of the “TUF” series. Almost the entire PCB surface is covered with a plastic “TUF Armor” casing:

Of course, they wouldn’t implement this protection against inexperienced builders, who constantly drop screwdrivers onto the PCB, but at first I was under the impression that it was something like a huge additional heatsink. However, it is indeed armor that separates the mainboard components from such hot units as graphics card or the system CPU. It may strike as a questionable solution at first, because the hot air getting underneath this armor panel will not go anywhere, however, they did have special measures planned for that matter. You may notice a cover in the middle of the board that hides a mounting slot for an additional 50x50x10 mm fan and a power connector for it. You will need to purchase the fan separately and the retention screws for it are already included with the bundled accessories. Now everything seems to be set up, but you will very soon notice that the fan is in fact right between the CPU and the graphics card, which means that it will suck hot air right under the casing, thus diminishing the original purpose of the “TUF Thermal Armor” to serve as heat barrier. So, at this point we will have to take the developers’ claims for granted, because according to them, this engineering solution lowers the temperature of the mainboard components by 13%, which ensures their long-term stability and fail-free functioning.

“TUF Thermal Armor” is not the only unique feature of the Asus Sabertooth P67 mainboard. There is also “TUF Thermal Radar” technology using several thermal diodes for monitoring some critical temperatures. It wasn’t easy to find the result of this technology working. Let me put it this way: the “Monitor” section in the mainboard BIOS shows only system and CPU temperatures, AIDA64 and HWMonitor programs also didn’t detect any additional diodes. The proprietary AI Suite II utility set helped resolve this issue. We have already discussed the tools and utilities bundled with the latest-generation Asus mainboards in our Asus P8P67 Pro review. The suite hasn’t been updated since then, however, the list of programs that got installed for Asus Sabertooth P67 mainboard turned out totally different. Of course, we weren’t offered to install BT GO! utility, because the mainboard doesn’t have an integrated Bluetooth controller, but this wasn’t the only change. We didn’t see such programs as Asus Probe II, FAN Xpert, EPU and even TurboV EVO. Instead, we could install Thermal Radar tool.

This program not only shows where thermal diodes are located and what they read, how fast the connected fans are rotating and how high all the major voltages are. It also allows adjusting the fan rotation speed if necessary. Of course, in case of the CPU fan it is better to leave its rotation speed dependent on the CPU temperature. But as for the rotation speed of the additional central and other case fans, we can tie them to the readings off any other diode in the system, set the acceptable temperature interval for them as well as rotation speed.

Just like all other mainboards in the TUF series, Asus Sabertooth P67 is manufactured only with high-quality components: capacitors, transistors, core chokes. They still use ceramic-coated heatsinks, although they are no longer listed among the mainboard’s advantages. Either they forgot to mention them, or these heatsinks simply do not deliver any cooling advantages. However, if we leave aside the unique exterior design and unique features of the TUF product series, the board will come before us in its original shape: convenient layout, up-to-date list of features provided by Intel P67 Express chipset and extended by a number of additional onboard controllers, such as: Marvell 88SE9120 controller (adds two 6 Gbps SATA ports); two Renesas (NEC) D720200F1 controllers (deliver two external and two internal USB 3.0 ports); VIA VT6308P controller (supports two IEEE1394 (FireWire) ports); eight-channel Realtek ALC892 audio codec; Gigabit Intel WG82579 network controller. The processor voltage regulator circuitry is designed as “8+2” phases. The mainboard also allows building NVIDIA Quad-GPU SLI or ATI Quad-GPU CrossFireX graphics configurations.

The complete list of connectors on Asus Sabertooth P67 mainboard back panel looks as follows:

  • PS/2 connector for keyboard or mouse;
  • Eight USB 2.0 ports, six more USB ports are available as three onboard pin-connectors;
  • Two USB 3.0 ports (blue connectors) implemented via Renesas (NEC) D720200F1 controller, the second controller like that provides support for two more internal USB 3.0 ports;
  • 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 an onboard pin-connector;
  • Power eSATA 3 Gbps ports (green connectors) and 3 Gbps eSATA ports implemented via JMicron JMB362 controller;
  • A local network port (network adapter is built on Gigabit Intel WG82579 controller).

The illustration below summarizes all mainboard features and functions:

We also summed up all the technical data for Asus Sabertooth P67 mainboard in the following table:

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