ASUS introduced the TUF (The Ultimate Force) series of motherboards a few generations ago. This series is basically designed for durability, stability and compatibility. Systems with TUF series motherboards can be left unattended for a lot more time as compared to other motherboards as they are quite robust. These motherboards come with a very unique design, solid BIOS and software suite along with high quality military components to ensure long term reliability. All the TUF series motherboards are hand-tested individually for perfect operation. ASUS is so confident about their TUF series that it offers a special 5 year warranty on these motherboards.
When the TUF series was first announced with the Intel P55 chipset, I wasn’t really convinced with what ASUS was trying to sell; it looked like another gimmick for the most part. However, with time the TUF series has really evolved and matured into a very respectable and dependable series and with the latest Haswell platform, ASUS has split the TUF series into three variants. On top, there is the Sabertooth Z87 priced at around $250; it’s a full ATX motherboard with all the TUF exclusive features like Thermal Armor with Flow Valve, TUF Fortifier, Thermal Radar 2 and a lot more. Second one is the mATX Gryphon Z87 which is priced at around $170. It doesn’t come with some over-the-top features like Thermal Armor, TUF Fortifier and 5 years warranty but it has all the essentials. However, ASUS is selling a separate $45 kit for the Gryphon Z87 which rigs it up with the Thermal Armor and TUF Fortifier. And then lastly, there is the recently released Vanguard B85 which is basically a budget-oriented TUF series motherboard. It comes with the cheaper Intel B85 chipset and the bare essential features but it is still put through all the tests and validations to bear the ‘TUF’ badge.
The one we’ve with us is the top-end Sabertooth Z87 model. Its specifications list doesn’t really tell much about it. In terms of ports and connections, it isn’t much different from most of the mid-end boards. It has four memory slots, eight SATA III ports, six USB 3.0 ports, 2-way SLI/Crossfire support, HDMI port and Display Port along with the usual Realtek 7.1 channel audio. That’s all pretty much the standard stuff. What sets it apart from the others is the selection of components, some nifty physical additions to the design and a rich accessory package. To begin with, it comes with military class components like 10K Japan-made metallic capacitors which are rated for 10 thousand hours of operation with higher temperature range as compared to normal capacitors. The chokes and MOSFETS are also optimized for better power efficiency and low heat output. Extra design additions include the Thermal Armor which ensures optimal airflow over the board surface to keep the on-board components cool for longer periods of usage. And then there is the metallic backplate which ASUS calls TUF Fortifier; it strengthens the PCB against any bends caused by huge CPU coolers or graphics cards. It also comes with the Thermal Radar 2 suite, which is a combination of some hardware ICs and software. It’s a complete suite for monitoring and optimizing system’s cooling and thermal characteristics. In terms of accessories, the Sabertooth Z87 comes with dust defenders which protect the unused ports and slots against dust. It also comes with three temperature probes which plug onto the motherboard and work in-coordination with the Thermal Radar 2 suite to help you optimize the cooling performance of the system.
That’s just a quick introduction of the motherboard. Let’s have a quick look at its specifications before we jump into a detailed look and testing of the motherboard.
|CPU Support||4th Gen Intel Core i7/i5/i3/Pentium/Celeron processor family for the LGA 1150 Socket|
|Power Design||CPU Power: 8 Phases
Memory Power: 2 Phases
|Memory||4 x DIMM, Max. 32GB, DDR3 1866/1600/1333 MHz Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory|
|BIOS||AMI UEFI BIOS with 64 Mb Flash ROM|
|Expansion Slots||2 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16 or dual x8)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (x4 mode, black)
3 x PCIe x1
|Storage||8 x SATA 6.0 Gb/s (Intel Z87 PCH)|
|Connectivity||1x Intel Gigabit LAN|
|I/O||1 x DisplayPort
1 x HDMI
2 x eSATA 6Gb/s
1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
4 x USB 3.0 (blue)
4 x USB 2.0
1 x Optical S/PDIF out
6 x Audio jack(s)
1 x USB BIOS Flashback Button(s)
|Audio||Realtek ALC1150 Audio Codec|
|Form Factor||ATX Form Factor (305 mm x 244 mm)|