ASUS Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 Reviewformerstaff - June 27, 2013
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ASUS Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 Closer Look:
I continue to think the evolution of the UEFI BIOS has been interesting. Every time I pop into one I think that the days of having a peek behind the DOS curtain is gone. Today when overclocking is one of if not the main selling feature, the UEFI BIOS is a study in a hardware company's parsing of taking the user from a scary behind the curtain DOS looking "yikes I can really screw things up here," to a comfortable place to be in control of their hardware. If it has been a while or if you are having your first look at the ASUS UEFI BIOS and utilities, it may take you some time to get acquainted with it, only for the number of options at your disposal. Even the most seasoned overclocker needs to ferret out what exactly the difference between 110% and 120% DRAM capacitance actually means in real overclocking and for that matter, energy and heat demand. As they evolve one of the biggest problems I have encountered is that some of them are what I would call clunky; hard to get in and out of, not holding values steady if taking the entered value at all. In previous incarnations of the ASUS UEFI BIOS these aspects have been excellent. Let's see if the tradition continues with the Sabertooth 990FX R2.0.
Entering the BIOS under EZ Mode you can choose basic function settings from energy saving, normal, and extreme. You can also focus your system performance towards quiet, energy saving, or high performance on an animated radar graph. Above you get basic system voltages and temperatures, below you can rearrange the boot order by simply doing a drag-n-drop of your storage devices depicted in graphic form. From here you also have the option of entering the advanced mode by hitting F7. You can also save a copy of any page of the UEFI BIOS by installing a USB Flash drive and pressing F12 when in the current page you want saved. The main tab in the advanced mode is for very basic CPU, memory capacity, speed, and BIOS information. Here you set the system clock and security level; that's about it.
Under the main tab there is some basic information on the BIOS, including BIOS version and date, the CPU make and model, and the speed and amount of system memory installed. This is the place to set the system time and language, as well as the basic security level for access.
Upon clicking the Advanced mode, you are met with six tabs. The second is where most of the action takes place for the hardcore overclocker, in the form of ASUS AI Tweaker. ASUS has its own take on the UEFI BIOS, which incorporates of course the TUF Digi+ Power Control delivery to the usual options of raising multipliers and voltages. Here you can unlock just about everything and give the system permission to 'go extreme' if you wish with voltages.
Opening up Digi+ Power in the AI Tweaker tab opens up options that will be new to some users and can be looked at as the fine tune controls for power delivery. Here you control the capacitance for the CPU, CPU/NB, and the DRAM. Adjustments for the aforementioned capacitance can be made in 10% intervals, from 100% to 130% (140% in the case of phase control). Not only does this allow greater voltage to be used, but changes the switching frequencies for faster response and the stabilization of higher overclocks. Getting even more finely tuned, you have a separate setting that changes the switching frequencies for faster transient response. This level of control is great news for those of us, who in the course of our computing, used to have to choose between large amounts of RAM and high overclocks.
Moving down the list of power delivery options and optimizations are CPU Power Phase Control, which delivers increased stability to the CPU, or enable VRM Spread Spectrum for lower emission of EMI (electromagnetic interference), which also increases stability by limiting interference to surrounding components. CPU Power Duty Control allows the VRM to balance the loads applied onto each power phase to correspond to either the temperature or the current draw of each power phase. CPU Power Thermal control prevents the damage to the CPU power delivery components. You can see that digital power offers new and different implementations and protections, along with the ability to control how the power is delivered to the CPU, NB, and DRAM. The best way I found to overclock with this system is to set the parameters for the digital power delivery in the BIOS, and then do the fine tuning in the ASUS TurboV EVO Suite II. As I said, most of the controls are intuitive, but it may be worth some time invested to experiment incrementally to find how these values interact with each other when manually overclocking.
The Advanced tab is your configuration and function screen. Here you can set up and configure everything from the CPU to your SATA devices, Northbridge and Southbridge configurations, as well as LAN and network onboard devices. You can also control the behavior of USB ports. Two functions for the overclocker are here as well, in the CPU core on/off and the ability to enable or disable Application Power Management.
Under the CPU configuration are all the settings for the various AMD power saving features, such as Cool'n'Quiet, C1E, C6, and APM, among others.
The next tab over is your Monitor tab and it is a what you see is what you get. All of the main voltages are listed here and fluctuate in real time. I like to check these against the OS-based software monitoring to make sure they are reading the same from time to time.
Under the Boot tab you find all of your options and boot override options, as well as information on detected drives and their capacities and model numbers. This function can be taken care of in EZ mode by simply dragging and dropping the drives in the order you desire.
The last tab in Advanced mode is the Tool tab. Here you can store up to eight overclock profiles and label them for easy loading when you wish. This is a great feature for BIOS overclockers who like to try out several types of approaches to OCs and can be accessed quickly through the DirectKey button on the motherboard or the DRCT front panel modification if it is supported.
That rounds out a look at the Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 UEFI BIOS. The arrangement and organization of the BIOS is well polished and intuitive, as well as being option rich. ASUS provides a BIOS and software that makes overclocking as fun and drawn out as you want to make it, or will entirely suck the fun out of it with built in auto-tune and algorithms that can be set in the BIOS or TurboV EVO that will find a stable overclock for you, if that is more to your liking.