05/11/2011 | 06:04 AM
If you don’t know which mainboard to buy, try checking out ASUSTeK products. For each processor socket type and each available chipset they offer dozens of models differing in price and functionality, so you will most likely find a product that will match your specific criteria. Asus mainboards are known for their well-balanced design, excellent configuration and overclocking functionality, easy-to-use BIOS, and well-developed distribution and technical support system allows easily purchasing or fixing a mainboard in any part of the world. All manufacturers stress the use of high-quality components in their products, all of them promise superb reliability and fail-free operation, any mainboard may be repaired or replaced under warranty terms if there is a production defect or issue with it. However, only ASUSTeK offer a specific “TUF” mainboard series (“The Ultimate Force”), which come with an extended 5-year warranty. 5 years is an average life span of a mainstream computer system, it is the period of time when the performance and functionality of the average computer system remains sufficient for the tasks it is facing. After that, it is considered more cost-effective to purchase a new system instead of upgrading or repairing the old one. So, Asus “TUF” series of mainboards will guarantee that your computer system will run fail-free for its entire life span.
“TUF” mainboard series is still fairly young and until recently included only two models. The first one was Sabertooth 55i mainboard based on Intel P55 Express chipset and supporting LGA1156 processors. We really wish we had the opportunity to review this product in the past, however, it won’t be of interest today anymore. Instead we were lucky to check out Sabertooth X58, which made a very good overall impression. Its major peculiarity was a combination of 5-year warranty, extended functionality and relatively low price, which was comparable with the price of other mainboards based on Intel X58 Express. Of course, this unique combination of features makes the mainboard one of the primary choices for purchase. Today is the era of Sandy bridge processors, so it was obvious that an Asus Sabertooth P67 “TUF” mainboard would eventually come around, which would be based on Intel P67 Express and support LGA1155 CPUs. So, our today’s review will be dedicated to a mainboard like that.
“TUF” mainboards are packaged into boxes of the same particular design. All six sides of steel-gray cardboard packaging, that resembles a metal box, indicate clearly that Asus Sabertooth P67 uses a new B3 revision of the Intel P67 Express chipset. There is a photo of the mainboard on the back of the box and a brief list of technical specifications. The list of mainboard’s major features can be found behind the front flip-cover:
The mainboard itself is inside an individual box with a plastic cover. The bundled accessories are neatly arranged in two-section box beneath:
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:
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:
In our Asus P8P67 Pro review we have already discussed the new EFI BIOS that Asus started using on their new mainboards. The BIOS of Asus Sabertooth P67 didn’t have anything noticeably different, so today we are going to briefly remind you what it looks like and what functionality it has to offer. Please see the screenshots from all major sections below:
However, when we worked with the mainboard we uncovered a couple of small issues that surfaced during the transition to the new EFI BIOS. When we tried to restore the settings from the previously saved profile, the parameter responsible for displaying the startup image remained unchanged: the image was up even though it was supposed to be disabled in the profile. We successfully updated the BIOS to the latest available version at the time of tests with the help of the built-in EZ Flash 2 utility, however, now when we save the current BIOS version it is placed in the root folder of the drive.
All performance tests were run on the following test platform:
We used Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64 bit (Microsoft Windows, Version 6.1, Build 7601: Service Pack 1) operating system, Intel Chipset Software Installation Utility version 126.96.36.1995, Nvidia GeForce/ION Driver 266.58 graphics card driver.
We didn’t have any problems during the system assembly on Asus Sabertooth P67 mainboard. There were no issues during the mainboard operation in nominal mode and even during overclocking. The Asus P8P67 Pro mainboard reviewed earlier also easily overclocked our CPU to 4.8 GHz, but it consistently refused to boot at 1600 MHz memory frequency, even though it still passed all stability tests after a reboot. As for Sabertooth P67, we didn’t experience any boot-up issues, even though we used the exact same memory modules in exactly the same operational mode.
In idle mode all processor power-saving technologies worked perfectly fine: the processor clock frequency multiplier as well as its core voltage was lowered as necessary.
Overclocking to 4.8 GHz is a very good result. Some of the previously reviewed mainboards could only go as far as 4.7 GHz with the same CPU.
As usual, we are going to compare the mainboards speeds in two different modes: in nominal mode and during CPU and memory overclocking. The first mode is interesting because it shows how well the mainboards work with their default settings. It is a known fact that most users do not fine-tune their systems, they simply choose the optimal BIOS settings and do nothing else. That is why we run a round of tests almost without interfering in any way with the default mainboard settings. For comparison purposes we are going to include the results of Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD4-B3 and Intel DP67BG mainboards. The results are sorted out in descending order and Asus Sabertooth P67 is marked with darker color on the diagrams.
We used Cinebench 11.5. All tests were run five times and the average result of the five runs was taken for the performance charts.
We have been using Fritz Chess Benchmark utility for a long time already and it proved very illustrative. It generated repeated results, the performance in it is scales perfectly depending on the number of involved computational threads.
A small video in x264 HD Benchmark 3.0 is encoded in two passes and then the entire process is repeated four times. The average results of the second pass are displayed on the following diagram:
We measured the performance in Adobe Photoshop using our own benchmark made from Retouch Artists Photoshop Speed Test that has been creatively modified. It includes typical editing of four 10-megapixel images from a digital photo camera.
In the archiving test a 1 GB file is compressed using LZMA2 algorithms, while other compression settings remain at defaults.
Like in the data compression test, the faster 16 million of Pi digits are calculated, the better. This is the only benchmark where the number of processor cores doesn’t really matter, because it creates single-threaded load.
There are good and bad things about complex performance tests. However, Futuremark benchmarking software has become extremely popular and is used for comparisons a lot. The diagram below shows the average results after three test runs in 3DMark11 Performance mode with default settings:
Since we do not overclock graphics in our mainboard reviews, the next diagram shows only CPU tests from the 3DMark11 – Physics Score.
We use FC2 Benchmark Tool to go over Ranch Small map ten times in 1920x1080 resolution with high image quality settings in DirectX 10.
Resident Evil 5 game also has a built-in performance test. Its peculiarity is that it can really take advantage of multi-core processor architecture. The tests were run in DirectX 10 in 1920x1080 resolution with high image quality settings. The average of five test runs was taken for further analysis:
As we have expected, there is barely any performance difference between the mainboards: all three of them work at about the same speed. The biggest performance difference is less than 3%, but in most cases it is less than 1%.
Now we are going to run the same tests at the increased CPU and memory frequencies. Remember, that Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD4-B3 overclocked our processor only to 4.7 GHz, while on other mainboards the CPU frequency as increased to 4.8 GHz. The system memory worked at 1600 MHz with 6-6-6-18-1T timings on all three testing participants.
Here the performance difference between the boards got a little greater, but mostly because on Gigabyte mainboard the CPU was overclocked 100 MHz lower. As for Asus and Intel solutions working in identical conditions, their performance doesn’t differ by more than 1.5%.
We performed our power consumption measurements using an Extech Power Analyzer 380803. This device is connected before the PSU and measures the power draw of the entire system (without the monitor), including the power loss that occurs in the PSU itself. In the idle mode we start the system up and wait until it stops accessing the hard disk. Then we use LinX to load the CPU. For a more illustrative picture there are graphs that show how the computer’s power consumption grows up depending on the number of active execution threads in LinX (both at the default and overclocked system settings). The mainboards are sorted in alphabetical order on the diagrams.
Intel mainboard turned out the most energy-efficient of all, although it was only slightly ahead of the competitors. The only exception is our today’s hero – Asus Sabertooth P67, which consumes considerably more power during overclocking and heavy CPU utilization.
Our tests showed that despite radically unusual looks, Asus Sabertooth P67 mainboard is a typical product from this world famous manufacturer. In this context the word “typical” has purely positive connotation, because Asus mainboards always please us with convenient design, wide range of supported features, excellent configuring and overclocking functionality and well-establish technical support system. The drawbacks, if there are any at all, are usually insignificant. All this is totally true about Asus Sabertooth P67 mainboard, although it has an additional advantage over other regular mainboards: prolonged warranty period of 5 years.
As for the drawbacks, we could probably point out the lack of “Asus Probe II”, “FAN Xpert”, “EPU” and “TurboV EVO” programs in the AI Suite II utility suite. This is a minor omission, because the new “Thermal Radar” utility replaces and even extends the functionality of the first two. As for the other two, you can do just fine without them, because all the energy-efficiency and overclocking settings are available in the mainboard BIOS. In our Asus Sabertooth X58 review we mentioned that we hoped there would be more TUF series products out there, which offer a unique combination of superb functionality, low price and long life span. Overall, our expectations came true, although the implementation of TUF Thermal Armor and TUF Thermal Radar didn’t come free. To our regret, the new Sabertooth P67 costs considerably higher than other regular Asus mainboards with more or less similar functionality and features. We are still a little uncertain whether the new technologies are a necessity, but the 5-year warranty period is undoubtedly totally worth it.