ASUS Sabertooth X58 ReviewRHKCommander959 -
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The ASUS Sabertooth X58 has three x16 length slots ready for triple-card configurations in either NVIDIA SLI or AMD CrossFireX. A fourth card can be added to the lower of the x1 slots although the lesser bandwidth would hurt performance. One of the x16 length slots is only wired for x4 speeds. These PCI Express slots are setup this way because the X58 design only provides 40 PCIe lanes to work with, 36 from the X58 chipset and another 4 from the southbridge. With this motherboard, 32 go to the dual x16 slots, four to the third x16-length slot (wired for x4) and two more for the x1 slots. Thus adding up to the 38 lanes available for the PCIe slots. Some manufacturers add NVIDIA NF200 chips to add extra lanes for more x16 slots, but most users don't usually need that many lanes and since this board can support three graphics cards easily - most consumers should be satiated.
The layout of the motherboard is standard for the i7 X58 motherboards on the market, although there are some key improvements such as around the CPU socket area. As only three capacitors come near the CPU socket, extreme cooling users will appreciate this aspect a lot as it is much harder to insulate a CPU socket from condensation for sub-ambient cooling when capacitors butt up against the socket. The power circuitry and northbridge have decent cooling judging by the height of the heat sinks. The southbridge also has a large flat heat sink although it hardly has any fins. Testing will reveal how well the CeraMIX coating performs. The primary color scheme consists of two tones of brown, two tones of green and since the colors don't match perfectly between heat sinks, black. The only backplate on the motherboard is the standard one that holds the CPU socket retention mechanism. The CPU cooling device is held in by spring-loaded screws and push-pins.
The CPU socket has very little around it. With the retention mechanism removed, there is plenty of room for insulation against condensation for users attempting sub-ambient cooling such as phase change, dry ice, liquid nitrogen, or other extreme cooling devices. Combined with the TUF Components that are suited to harsher conditions, this board could probably see some high overclocks. The 8-pin power connection sits between the top heat sink and PS/2 port on the I/O panel. The memory slots use an uncommon method for holding the memory. Users open the top clamps only as the bottom clamps don't actually move. The memory is then slid into the slotted clamps and pivoted towards the clamps that can be latched until they are locked into place. Immediately to the right of the memory slots is the MemOK! Button and diagnostic DRAM_LED light to help diagnose problems and get the motherboard working with virtually any memory.
The I/O panel has eight different USB options between NEC USB 3.0 and Intel 2.0, eSATA, powered eSATA provided by JMicron's JMB362 chip, a single VIA IEEE 1394 FireWire port, a combination PS/2 keyboard/mouse port, a LAN port, SPDIF output and six audio ports. The motherboard comes with eight SATA ports, six of which are SATA 3 Gb/s ports provided by the ICH10 southbridge which also provides six USB 2.0 controllers. The other two SATA ports are SATA 6 Gb/s provided by the Marvell 9128 chip located right next to the ports.
The slot layout is pretty solid although, if the top two x16 slots are used by a double-wide graphics card or similarly large device, the PCI slot would be unusable. This is the perfect setup to be able to run triple video cards with the top slot for a LAN, sound card, or similar device. There is a chassis and a chipset fan header port on each side of the chipset heat sink. The front panel audio pins are at the very bottom corner of the motherboard and could be a hard reach for the wiring in some cases. Two more chassis fan headers are located immediately above the SATA ports.
The 24-pin main power connection sits next to another fan header at the center of the edge of the motherboard, close to the memory slots. The 8-pin secondary power cable is mounted at the top of the motherboard near the PS/2 port which can be a stretch for computer cases with a bottom mounted power supply. The CPU PWM fan header is located near the 8-pin plug and topmost heat sink.
In these pictures you can get a good view of the TUF components. These are high quality alloy capacitors, chokes and MOSFETs. The chokes are capable of supporting 40A of current and since they are designed as a single piece, they won't make those annoying high pitched buzzing vibration noises. The CeraMIX heat sink coatings improve heat dissipation due to the increased surface area caused by the uneven surfaces. All four heat sinks are coated in CeraM!X but none of the heat sinks have a back plate. In this case the motherboard didn't flex so they weren't needed anyway.
With the motherboard examined, it is time to install it and setup the drivers!