ASUS Sabertooth Z170 Mark 1 Motherboard Review

Add Your Comments

Today we continue our Z170 and Skylake motherboard parade with another offering from ASUS. This time, we get to look at the rugged Sabertooth Z170 Mark 1 motherboard. As we know, the Sabertooth line offers a board that should handle a bit more of the rough and tumble situations. It offers an ‘armor’ to protect the board and even dust caps all around to keep the nasties out of where it shouldn’t go. ASUS says it is an “Enduringly-tough Z170 board with ultimate cooling and extreme durability”. So, it’s time to strap the board on to the Humvee and take it out in the desert and…..ok, ok, we won’t do that, but we will put it through its paces and see if it comes out swinging in the end.

Specifications

Below is a long list of specifications from the ASUS website for the Sabertooth. From the looks of the list, I would imagine things are present and accounted for. At a high level, the ATX sized Z170 Sabertooth Mark 1 supports up to 64 GB of DDR4 RAM with speeds up to 2400 MHz. As far as storage, there are plenty of options here with a total of eight SATA III 6 Gb/s ports (six native to the Intel chipset and two on the ASMedia controller) along with two SATA Express. The board supports RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10, on the six Intel ports as well.

For GPU support, there are three full length PCIe slots allowing quad CrossfireX and SLI support (with dual GPU cards), otherwise it is a dual configuration with NVIDIA and up to three-way CrossfireX with AMD. On the USB side of things, the board supports a total of six USB3.0/2.0 ports (two on the back panel, blue, and four mid-board) and another eight USB2.0/1.1 ports (four on the back panel, black, and four mid-board). For USB3.1 the Sabertooth has two ports using the ASMedia controller. The first is on the back panel, teal, and is a Type-A. The other, also on the back panel, is Type-C and reversible.

For LAN connectivity, ASUS uses the new Intel I219-V NIC and a Realtek RTL8111H.

Last but not least, the audio used is the solid Realtek ALC1150 codec featuring Crystal Sound 3. I think I see the kitchen sink listed as well. A pretty robust list! More details found below:

ASUS Sabertooth Z170 Mark 1 Specifications
CPU Intel® Socket 1151 for 6th Generation Core™ i7/Core™ i5/Core™ i3/Pentium®/Celeron® Processors
Supports Intel® 14 nm CPU
Supports Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0
* The Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 support depends on the CPU types.
* Refer to www.asus.com for CPU support list
Chipset Intel Z170
Memory 4 x DIMM, Max. 64GB, DDR4 2400/2133 MHz Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory
Dual Channel Memory Architecture
Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
* Hyper DIMM support is subject to the physical characteristics of individual CPUs.
* Refer to www.asus.com for the Memory QVL (Qualified Vendors Lists).
Graphics Integrated Graphics Processor- Intel® HD Graphics support
Multi-VGA output support : HDMI/DisplayPort ports
– Supports HDMI with max. resolution 4096 x 2160 @ 24 Hz / 2560 x 1600 @ 60 Hz
– Supports DisplayPort with max. resolution 4096 x 2160 @ 24 Hz / 3840 x 2160 @ 60 Hz
Maximum shared memory of 1024 MB
Supports Intel® InTru™ 3D, Quick Sync Video, Clear Video HD Technology, Insider™
DP 1.2 Multi-Stream Transport compliant, supports DP 1.2 monitor daisy chain up to 3 displays
Multi-GPU Support Supports NVIDIA® Quad-GPU SLI™ Technology
Supports NVIDIA® 2-Way SLI™ Technology
Supports AMD Quad-GPU CrossFireX™ Technology
Supports AMD 3-Way CrossFireX™ Technology
Expansion Slots 2 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16 or dual x8)
1 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (max at x4 mode) *1
3 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x1
Storage

Intel® Z170 chipset :
2 x SATA Express port, Compatible with 4 x SATA 6.0 Gb/s ports
1 x M.2 x4 Socket 3, with M Key, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices support (both SATA & PCIE mode)*2
6 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), gray
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
Intel® Rapid Storage Technology supports*3
Supports Intel® Smart Response Technology*4
ASMedia® SATA 6Gb/s controller : *5
2 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), beige,

LAN Intel® I219V, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s)
Realtek® RTL8111H, 1 x Gigabit LAN
Gigabit Intel® LAN Connection- 802.3az Energy Efficient Ethernet (EEE) appliance
ASUS Turbo LAN Utility
ASUS LAN Guard
Audio Realtek® ALC1150 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC featuring Crystal Sound 3
– Supports : Multi-streaming, Front Panel MIC Jack-retasking
– High quality 112 dB SNR stereo playback output (Line-out at rear) and 104 dB SNR recording input (Line-in)
Audio Feature :
– Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel
– BD Audio Layer Content Protection
– Audio Shielding: Ensures precision analog/digital separation and greatly reduced multi-lateral interference
– Dedicated audio PCB layers: Separate layers for left and right channels to guard the quality of the sensitive audio signals
– Audio amplifier: Provides the highest-quality sound for headphone and speakers
– Unique de-pop circuit: Reduces start-up popping noise to audio outputs
– Top notch audio sensation delivers according to the audio configuration
– Absolute Pitch 192khz/24bit true BD lossless sound
Separate layer for left and right track, ensuring both sound deliver equal quality
USB Ports Intel® Z170 chipset :
6 x USB 3.0/2.0 port(s) (2 at back panel, blue, 4 at mid-board)
Intel® Z170 chipset :
8 x USB 2.0/1.1 port(s) (4 at back panel, black, 4 at mid-board)
ASMedia® USB 3.1 controller :
1 x USB 3.1/3.0/2.0 port(s) (1 at back panel, teal blue, Type-A)
ASMedia® USB 3.1 controller :
1 x USB 3.1/3.0/2.0 port(s) (1 at back panel, , Type-C, Reversible)
Back I/O Ports 1 x DisplayPort
1 x HDMI
1 x USB 3.1 (teal blue)Type-A
1 x USB 3.1 Type-C
4 x USB 2.0
2 x USB 3.0 (blue) (one port can be switched to USB BIOS Flashback)
1 x Optical S/PDIF out
5 x Audio jack(s)
1 x USB BIOS Flashback Button(s)
1 x 8-channel Audio I/O
1 x TUF Detective USB port
Internal I/O Ports 1 x AAFP connector
2 x USB 3.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 4 USB 3.0 port(s) (19-pin)
2 x USB 2.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 4 USB 2.0 port(s)
2 x SATA Express connector: , Compatible with 4 x SATA 6.0 Gb/s ports
1 x M.2 Socket 3 with M Key design, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices support (Supports both SATA & PCIE SSD)
8 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)
1 x CPU Fan connector(s) (4 -pin)
1 x CPU OPT Fan connector(s) (4 -pin)
6 x Chassis Fan connector(s) (4 -pin)
3 x Assistant Fan connector(s) (1 x 3 -pin, [White])
1 x S/PDIF out header(s)
1 x Thunderbolt header(s)
1 x 24-pin EATX Power connector(s)
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector(s)
1 x System panel(s) (Q-Connector)
1 x 5-pin EXT_FAN(Extension Fan) connector
1 x Chassis Intrusion connector(s)
1 x DRCT header(s)
1 x MemOK! button(s)
3 x Thermal sensor connector(s)
1 x CPU OV
1 x Clear CMOS jumper(s)
1 x Water Pump header (4-pin)
1 x 14-1 pin TPM connector
Accessories User’s manual
Accessory Guide
ASUS Q-Shield
4 x SATA 6Gb/s cable(s)
1 x M.2 Screw Package
1 x CPU installation tool
1 x Supporting DVD
1 x HYPERM.2 X4 with M Key design, type 2230/2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices support (Support PCIE SSD only)
1 x SLI bridge(s)
1 x Q-connector(s) (1 in 1)
2 x Accessory Fan(s) ( 35 /40 mm )
1 x TUF Certification card(s)
1 x TUF 5 Year Warranty manual(s) (by region)
1 x TUF Inside sticker(s)(white)
1 x STAY COOL BE TUF sticker(s)(white)
1 x Bead Chain for Metalic Cover
1 x Accessory Package(s):
– 3 x PCIe x16 slot dust cover(s)
– 2 x DRAM slot dust cover(s)
– 3 x PCIe x1 slot dust cover(s)
– 2 x Short fan screw(s)
– 4 x Long fan screw(s)
– 3 x Thermistor cable(s)
– 1 x back I/O dust frame
– 1 x back I/O dust grid
– 1 x connector dust cover collection (On board USB 3.0, DVI, HDMI, DP, LAN)
– 2 x On board USB 2.0 connector dust cover(s)
– 8 x back I/O USB connector dust cover(s)
– 7 x On board SATA connector dust cover(s)
– 2 x SATA Express conector dust cover(s)
– 5 x Audio connector dust cover(s)
BIOS 128 Mb Flash ROM, UEFI AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI3.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 3.0, ACPI 5.0, Multi-language BIOS, ASUS EZ Flash 3, CrashFree BIOS 3, F11 EZ Tuning Wizard, F6 Qfan Control, F3 My Favorites, Quick Note, Last Modified log, F12 PrintScreen and ASUS DRAM SPD (Serial Presence Detect) memory information
Form Factor ATX Form Factor
12 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm )
Special Features OC Design – ASUS PRO Clock Technology
– Full BCLK range for extreme overclocking performance
TUF Features:
TUF ENGINE! Power Design :
– 8 +4 Digital Phase Power Design
– TUF Components (New Alloy Choke, Ti-Cap. & MOSFET; certified by military-standard)
– ASUS DIGI+ Power Control Utility
Ultimate COOL! Thermal Solution :
– TUF Thermal Armor with Flow Valve
– TUF Thermal Radar 2 with Thermistors
– TUF ICe
Safe & Stable! Guardian Angel :
“We Got Your Back!” Shape Force
– TUF Fortifier
– Dust Defenders with connector covers and back I/O dust filter
– TUF ESD Guards 2
ASUS Exclusive Features :
– GPU Boost
– USB BIOS Flashback
– MemOK!
– AI Suite 3
– Ai Charger
– Ai Charger+
– M.2 & SATA Express
– Anti-Surge
– Front Panel USB 3.0 Support
– ASUS UEFI BIOS EZ Mode featuring friendly graphics user interface
– USB 3.1 Boost
– Disk Unlocker
– Turbo LAN
– PC Cleaner
ASUS EZ DIY :
– ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
– ASUS EZ Flash 3
– ASUS USB BIOS Flashback
– ASUS UEFI BIOS EZ Mode
– Multi-language BIOS
ASUS Q-Design :
– ASUS Q-Shield
– ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED, HDD LED)
– ASUS Q-Slot
– ASUS Q-DIMM
– ASUS Q-Connector
Overclocking Protection :
– ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
Notes *1: The PCIe x16_3 slot shares bandwidth with SATA6G_56. The PCIe x16_3 is default set at x2 mode.
Supports Intel® RST for PCIE RAID storage.
*2: The M.2 socket shares SATA ports with SATA Express_1 port. Adjust BIOS settings to use an M.2 SATA device.
*3: Supports PCIE RAID configurations via onboard M.2 and PCIEX16_3 slot storages.
*4: These functions will work depending on the CPU installed.
*5: These SATA ports are for data hard drivers only. ATAPI devices are not supported.

Features

After seeing the long list of specifications, you can pinpoint a lot of these on the board with this nice, ‘map’ as I am going to call it, of where some of these items are located.

High Level Features

High Level Features

Digging in a bit deeper, I plucked out a few more things, “shamelessly” as Lvcoyote used to say, from the ASUS website below.

First is the Q-LED indicators which gives users a clear display of alerts on five boot actions, Power, Boot, VOA, DRAM, and CPU. This gives you an idea of what may be wrong if things do not boot up. A good feature for troubleshooting, particularly since there isn’t a debug LED.

Next is the thermal armor. Now, those that know me, understand that I was never a big fan of the armor on these boards. Most of that dislike was probably rooted in ignorance and aesthetics as we will see a bit later. That aside, not only does the thermal armor add to the unique look, with the dual fans it helps keep the VRMs and other board parts cool underneath that armor. This is good for water cooling as the air around the socket is usually moved around by the CPU heatsink.

ASUS uses a TUF ICe which is a dedicated processor to monitor onboard temperatures and fan speeds. You can adjust settings manually, or let the Thermal Radar 2 and TUF Detective 2 do it for you in one click.

Being a board more able to take some dings, I would expect the warranty to be a bit longer than the product average and was not let down. The ASUS Sabertooth Z170 Mark 1 brings a five year warranty to the table.

Like all Z170 boards, the Sabertooth also supports USB3.1 10 Gb/s. It has one Type-A port and one reversible Type-C. ASUS also uses a USB3.1 Boost technology they state automatically accelerates USB3.1 performance even further.

For other than the traditional SATA III 6 Gb/s storage, the board has two SATA Express (SATAe) 10 Gb/s ports. With a splitter it can also become four more SATA ports. The M.2 form factor was not forgotten here either. There is one 32 Gb/s M.2 slot supporting up to 110 mm drive. This drive also resides tucked away under the armor.

Last out of this grouping is the audio. It has all the usual suspects with the physical shielding and separation from the rest of the components on the board. The Sabertooth goes a step further though and separates the left and right channels in layers of the PCB. It has a unique feature in its de-pop circuit which helps reduce that annoying popping noise we occasionally hear when plugging things into the audio. There are also audio amplifiers to help enhance the audio on your speakers or cans.

icoqled
Q-LED indicators
With a design Inspired by an armored cockpit, see the power and act on the alerts, with a clear indication of five key boot actions.
icothrmlarmr1
Thermal Armor
Strengthen your ability. Totally boosted airflow.
TUF Thermal Armor is more than a futuristic shield: it employs dual fans to provide maximum airflow and rapid cooling board-wide, and a new interior shunt design to boost air cooling to the M.2 slot. Reversible-airflow technology blows dust up and away from the heatsink VRM, while the exclusive flow-valve design controls the heat-pipe’s air contact — great for liquid-cooling setups.
The innovative design beneath the armor strengthens the PCIe slots to minimize the risk of damage.
icotoughice
TUF ICe
The total cooling commander
ASUS TUF engineers have forged TUF ICe, a dedicated processor that monitors onboard temperature sensors and fan speeds for ultra-accurate cooling — whether you’re adjusting settings manually or using the automatic one-click optimization via Thermal Radar 2 and TUF Detective 2.
ico5yrwar

5 Years Warranty Guaranteed Reliability

You demand 24/7 durability, so we’ve delivered! TUF motherboards undergo the industry’s most-punishing tests to ensure they’re ready for permanent duty in all scenarios. In our development labs we heat them, chill them, bend them, shock them and drop them — so you know that your TUF motherboard is certified for 24/7 durability!

icousb3110g
Ultimate-speed 10Gb/s with USB 3.1 onboard
With one USB 3.1 Type-A port and one reversible USB 3.1 Type-C for the very fastest USB connections, you’ll experience data-transfer speeds of up to 10 Gbit/s — or twice as fast USB 3.0. USB 3.1 is completely backward-compatible with your existing USB devices, and you’ll be all set for USB 3.1’s breakneck speeds. And ASUS-exclusive USB 3.1 Boost technology automatically accelerates USB 3.1 performance even further!
icosataexp

SATA Express

Evolve your storage speed with SATA Express – 10Gb/s

icom232gbps

M.2

Speed up with onboard M.2 up to 32 Gb/s

icoaudio

TUF Audio Design

TUF Audio Design makes short work of optimizing audio settings for the way you want to listen, chatting, watching movies or relaxing to your favorite music. Onboard physical shielding, professional engineered design and premium components result in sound output that has exceptional clarity and fidelity.
Includes:
Audio Shielding – ensures precision analog/digital separation and greatly reduced multi=lateral interference
Unique de-pop circuit – Reduces start-up popping noise to all audio outputs
Audio amplifiers – Enhance the highest quality sound for headphone and speakers
Special layout design – Separate layers for left and right channels to guard the quality of the sensitive audio signals

Next up are more features and images from the Sabertooth Z170 Mark 1 produc page:

  • Tuf Fortifier – Reinforced back plate to increase rigidity of the motherboard against heavy GPUs and CPU coolers put on the PCB.
  • OC Design – Uses a custom designed dedicated BCLK generator couple with the ASUS Turbo Processing unit to enhance voltage and BCLK overclocking control to boost performance to “extreme heights”.
  • Thermal Radar 2 – Software to help monitor and control cooling with 13 fans, even via smartphone or tablet in real time.
  • Tuf Detective 2 – A free companion app that presents detailed system information in a user-friendly manner also on your smartphone or tablet. One can find and correct errors and adjust the system operations.
  • Tuf Defenders – Dust caps for PCIe slots, rear I/O and the memory slots to protect the board from airborne particles from entering critical connectors.
  • Tuf Components – ASUS uses Alloy chokes (cooler running for extra durability), 10K Ti-Caps (higher temperature tolerance and 5x longer lifespan), and military grade certified MOSFETs with lower RDS(on) (more power efficient and less heat).
  • Tuf ESD Guards – 2x stronger ESD protection on USB/LAN/DVI/HDMI/Displayport ports.

This board is loaded with features to help make sure things are running quickly (OC design), within designed temperature parameters (TUF Radar 2/Detective 2), keeps dust and debris out of sensitive areas with the armor and dust defender guards (TUF Defender). It is truly a lot more robust of a motherboard physically than anything not named Sabertooth, and we have not even jumped deeper into the electronics yet!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Retail Packaging and Accessories

Below is a slideshow of the retail packaging. On the front of the box, you see a grey theme/background along with some high-level features and support such as SLI and Crossfire, LGA 1151, Windows 10, etc. Also emblazoned on the front is their five year warranty which is better than most other boards, particularly in this class. The back of the board shows some high level features like the Thermal Armor, TUF Fortifier, Thermal Radar 2, and the Dust Defenders. It also shows some board specifications as well.

Opening up the box shows some of the slew of accessories on top of a plastic cover protecting the motherboard that rests underneath it. Below the motherboard is where the remainder of the accessories are stored. The board comes with the two fans for the thermal armor. They are tiny, and screamers, but you can adjust their speed with the fan control in the AISuite 3.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A Closer Look

Getting our first glimpse at the board shows all the protective gear attached to it. There is armor on the front covering the VRM area, rear I/O, and between the PCIe slots extending to the PCH. This helps protect all the fragile parts the reside underneath this cocoon of protection. Even the back of the board is fortified. This time its just a pure black metal plate that gives the board more rigidity and also protects anything underneath it.

In the alternate shots, we can see a bit more of the thermal armor and its airflow and vents around the socket. There are two switches, one above the CPU and one to the left, that control airflow to the VRM heatsinks hiding underneath it. I initially tested without the fans with them open, and found in my case on an open test bench, the fans were not needed (I do have a fan moving air across the motherboard – similar to a case environment, note). In warmer environments or for peace of mind, or if you decide to benchmark the heck out of this board, you will want to consider using them. Otherwise, it just got warm, and that is all, during my testing.

ASUS Sabertooth Z170 Mark 1 - Front

ASUS Sabertooth Z170 Mark 1 – Front

Back

Back

Alternate 1

Alternate 1

Alternate 2

Alternate 2

Next, I broke down the board removing the armor to see what is really shaking underneath. Was this sexy appearance because of a girdle (armor) or is there some real merit to what is going on? OK, perhaps the analogy was a bit much. If it didn’t make you laugh with me, you laughed at me for it…either way, you likely got a kick out it. Anyway, the first picture simply shows the board with the fan mount in the upper right hand corner removed (where the larger of the two fans fit), the metal badge removed (which is where the smaller fan goes), and finally, I took off the cover for the M.2 slot showing where it would go right at the bottom of the armor above the last PCIe slot.

The next picture shows the board without any armor… looks just like a regular motherboard under there doesn’t it? Last, is a shot of the armor removed. The back piece did have a thermal pad on it to help keep the VRMs cooler, so there is more to aesthetics, rigidity, and fortification to that part. As far as the process to remove the armor, well, it was pretty easy once everything was off. The problem I had was making sure I had all the screws removed. Some were under the front shroud (like by the M.2 slot/SATA ports) and others were under the back shroud. Perhaps I may have tried to remove the parts in the wrong order but I had to swing the back plate around in order to reach more screws on the back of the motherboard so I could get it off. I may have been a screw short in putting it back together too…shhh! But chances are, you aren’t going to take it off anyway.

M.2 cover, badge, and fan cover removed

M.2 cover, badge, and fan cover removed

Armor removed, heatsinks still on

Armor removed, heatsinks still on

Armor without the board

Armor without the board

Zooming in on the scantily clad Sabertooth, we’ll start off towards the bottom. Here on the left hand side we see the audio section with its Realtek ALC1150 codec (no shielding?) along with a couple of Texas Instrument amps. The audio section, like a lot of others, is physically separated from the rest of the board to improve the sound. Above that is the Super I/O Nuvoton chip.

The PCIe layout is fairly conventional. From top to bottom, you are looking at a x1 slot, x16, x1, x16 (physical – x8 elctrical), x1, and another x16 (physical – x8 electrical). This supports up to quad SLI/CFX (in dual GPU configuration), or 3x AMD cards and 2x NVIDIA .

Swinging up to the DIMM area, we see a front panel USB3 port, the 24-pin power input, and the MemOK button just in case things get a bit wonky with memory compatibility. The DIMM slots themselves, four of them in total, support up to 64 GB and DDR4 2400 MHz (will go higher with overclocking of course – We use 3000 MHz in our testing successfully). One really cool addition to this area of the board are the three fan headers just above (or in the case of this picture, to the right of) the VRM heatsink. There are two headers for fans, and one header specifically for a pump! This isn’t the first time this has been done, but it’s a great addition nonetheless!

The next picture shows the CPU area. Here we see the armor/shrouding and its vents a bit more clearly. You can also see the two switches, labeled “valve control” on the top of the shroud. Keep these open if you have an air cooler that blows down/around/through that area, or close it to allow the included fans do that job for you (like in the case with an AIO or custom water loop where there is little airflow around the socket). I left them open my testing, with their fans in use or without, and the VRM area stayed cool in both scenarios.

Audio, PCIe, PCH, area

Audio, PCIe, PCH, area

DIMM area

DIMM area

Socket Area

Socket Area

8 pin required

8 pin required

The next pictures show the back I/O, SATA and SATA Express (SATAe) and the bottom I/O. On the back I/O, from left to right, are a stack of USB 2.0 ports (4), another USB2.0 (for TUF Detective only), and the BIOS flashback button. Above that button and the single USB 2.0 port is where the fan (40 mm) will get its air from in order to keep the VRMs cool. Next is a display stack featuring a full size DisplayPort, and HDMI. Next in line is the Intel NIC on top of two USB 3.1 ports, followed by the Realtek NIC on top of another USB 3.1 port, and a Type C USB 3.1 G2 port. Last is the audio stack with its typical fare and S/PDIF out.

The SATA ports, eight in total plus two SATAe, are controlled by the chipset and an ASMedia chip. From left right again, the light brown are controlled by the 3rd party chip. The rest are controlled natively by the chipset.

Back Panel I/O

Back Panel I/O

SATA and SATAe prots

SATA and SATAe ports

Bottom I/O

Bottom I/O

Next up are pictures of the board after we took off all of its armor. Nothing terribly exciting to see really, but something to note on the back is the electrical layout of the PCIe slots, specifically the x16 slots. As mentioned earlier, the top slot (tan) is full 16x, while the bottom two full length are a maximum of 8x.

The next set of pictures shows the 8+4 Digi+ VRM area. You will recall from above that ASUS uses high-end TUF alloy chokes, 52A MOSFETs, and solid state 10K Ti capacitors. This design should allow for any kind of overclocking you desire, be it air, water, or even extreme cooling without breaking a sweat.

Board sans armor and heatsinks

Board sans armor and heatsinks

Back of the board no armor

Back of the board no armor

CPU Area, no armor, with heatsinks

CPU Area, no armor, with heatsinks

Heatsinks removed

Heatsinks removed

Last up are a few pictures of just some of the IC’s used on this board.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

UEFI BIOS and Software

Below are some screen captures of the ASUS UEFI BIOS. The first shot captures it in “EZ Mode”. This front end gives you a ‘state of the union’ type of information on the CPU, its temperature and voltage, as well as the motherboard temps too. It also shows DRAM status (what slots are populated and running what speed – you are also able to enable XMP), and SATA information (what is connected to the SATA ports). You are able to switch boot priority from here as well as adjust motherboard connected fans (and there are plenty of headers!). There is also an EZ System Tuning section that will ‘auto overclock’ for you. Depending on how aggressive you are with the settings determines where it reaches.

For the next screenshots we moved into the advanced portion where we get all the bells and whistles… and there are a lot of them! The first section is Main (favorites can be set and is first). Here it gives a high-level of what hardware is in the PC. You can also set the system date and time. Next is AI Tweaker. Here is where all the overclocking magic happens (several more screens in the next slideshow for this section).

After AI Tweaker is Advanced. Here is where we change options for CPU configuration, PCH, USB, Network, System Agent, and even Thunderbolt. I the Monitor section, here is where you can access the thermal radar temperatures and select how you want to monitor a slew of items on the board: CPU temperatures, CPU fan speeds, 2nd CPU fan, pump speeds (remember that port for pumps?!), and of course all of the chassis fan speeds.

Boot is pretty self explanatory, I think! The Tools section is where you can flash your BIOS using the ASUS EX Flash 3 Utility, set overclocking profiles, get information on the memory (SPD), and general graphics card information. A neat feature here is you are able to Secure Erase your drives from the BIOS. Overall the BIOS looks good, and is easy to navigate around it. I have to say it is right up there with MSI’s BIOS as far as stability, ease of use ergonomics, and appearance.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The next eleven slides are details of the AI Tweaker section. Here is where us overclockers will find ourselves playing around. There are all the options one needs and more to squeeze the most out of your system. There are plenty of options with the RAM timings, plenty of voltage control, and other options to help overclocking go smooth.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The last slideshow is for the Thermal Radar 2 application for Windows. This application monitors all the sensors on the board and puts it in a nice easily readable display with a map of the board on top that shows where the sensors are located, and on the bottom is a text readout of those sensors. The next screen is fan control. This section allows you to make custom fan profiles for each fan on the system. Next, thermal status, gives you a birds eye view of how the thermals are on the board. It will let you know with ratings from Excellent to Needs Improvement. The next section, Recorder, is a graphical representation of voltages, temperatures, and fan speeds. The next couple of slides shows the DIGI+PowerControl for the CPU and DRAM. Here you can change LLC, CPU current capability and thermal throttling among other things. Very handy to see this is a Windows-based application.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Test Setup
CPU Intel 6700K @ Stock (for the motherboard – 4.0 boost to 4.2 GHz)
Motherboard ASUS Sabertooth Z170 Mark 1
RAM 2×4 GB DDR4 GSkill Ripjaws 4 @ 3000 MHz 15-15-15-35 2T 1.35v
Graphics Card MSI R9 390 Gaming 8G
Solid State Drive OCZ Vertex 3
Power Supply SeaSonic SS-1000XP (80+ Platinum)
Operating System Windows 7 x64 SP1
Graphics Drivers Catalyst 15.7.1
Equipment
Digital Multimeter

We’ll perform our usual set of benchmarks, which test rendering, memory performance as well as single and multi-threaded CPU performance. For 2D benchmarks, we’ll use SuperPi 1M and 32M, wPrime, Intel XTU and PiFast. For rendering, Cinebench R11.5 and R15. Memory performance is checked against AIDA64 and MaxxMEM. For encoding we use x264 and PoV Ray. Stock testing is performed with the BIOS as you get it out of the box, which will vary from motherboard to motherboard. When overclocking, an overclock of 4.7 GHz will be used for testing purposes. Memory speed is unchanged at DDR4 3000 CL15-15-15-25 2T.

AIDA64 and MaxxMEM – Memory Bandwidth and Throughput

AIDA64 - Stock

AIDA64 – Stock

4.7 GHz

4.7 GHz

MaxxMEM2

MaxxMem - Stock

MaxxMem – Stock

4.7 GHz

4.7 GHz

Cinebench R11.5 and R15 – CPU Rendering Benchmark

Cinebench R11.5 - Stock

Cinebench R11.5 – Stock

4.7 GHz

4.7 GHz – 11.07

R15

Cinebench R15 - Stock

Cinebench R15 – Stock

4.7 GHz

4.7 GHz – 1,009

Super Pi 1M and 32M / Pifast – Single Threaded CPU Benchmark

Super Pi 1M - Stock

Super Pi 1M – Stock

4.7 GHz

4.7 GHz – 7.778

32M

Super Pi 32M - Stock

Super Pi 32M – Stock

4.7 GHz - 6:45.448s

4.7 GHz – 6:45.448s

PiFast

PiFast - Stock

PiFast – Stock

4.7 GHz - 13.72s

4.7 GHz – 13.72s

WPrime 32M and 1024M, x624, PoV Ray R3.73, 7Zip, and Intel XTU – Multi-Threaded CPU benchmarks

WPrime 32M/1024M - Stock

WPrime 32M/1024M – Stock

4.7 GHz - 4.602s and 139.497s

4.7 GHz – 4.602s and 139.497s

x264 Pass 1 and 2

x264 - Stock

x264 – Stock

4.7 GHz

4.7 GHz

PoV Ray R3.73

POV Ray v3.73 - Stock

POV Ray v3.73 – Stock

4.7 GHz

4.7 GHz

7zip – Compression Benchmark

7Zip - Stock

7Zip – Stock

4.7 GHz - 29,360

4.7 GHz – 29,360

Intel XTU

Intel XTU - Stock

Intel XTU – Stock

4.7 GHz - 1,400

4.7 GHz – 1,400

Motherboard Comparison

If we put all these results together, we start to see a picture of performance between motherboards. Typically they are within 1% or so of each other. In this industry, for most users (non-competitive benchmarking purposes), that is a statistical tie. The results below more or less paint that picture. WPrime 32M was around 2.8% slower, while in 1024M the Gigabyte board had a nearly 3% lead. Other benchmarks in the first graph are right around or below that 1% value.

In looking at comparison two that shows Cinebench, Intel XTU, 7zip, POVRay, and x264, we see the Sabertooth is a bit slower here than previously reviewed boards for one reason or another.

In the memory side of things, the ASUS Sabertooth Z170 Mark 1 compared quite well to the other boards in the lineup, matching them closely in AIDA64, but taking a slight lead in most tests with Maxxmem.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Pushing the Limits

Below is a screenshot of a 4.8 GHz overclock while using 200 BCLK and manually setting the RAM speed and timings. I’m not sure about the overall stability, but this was enough to get through two pretty brutal, albeit short, benchmarks. Getting to 200 BCLK was easy breezy… no voltages were changed. The only changes made here was the vCore voltage and that varies in every CPU.

4.8 GHz 1.42v (load), DDR4 3000 MHz CL15, 200 BCLK

4.8 GHz 1.42v (load), DDR4 3000 MHz CL15, 200 BCLK

Conclusion

ASUS’ Sabertooth line has been a leader in making a more robust motherboard for a few years now. The look with its protective armor is without a doubt unique. For me personally, it is a love/hate appearance. I have not liked its look for a while I will admit. Thank goodness that looks are subjective right? On the flip side, some people just prefer not to look at a PCB either so that is covered as well. Overall the theme will really fit with a lot of builds so we are good there. I won’t lie… it has grown on me a bit.

The only curious design concern I have are that the Q-LED indicators located on the PCH heatsink, are not really visible with a full size (basically anything over 8″) and particularly a dual-slot or larger GPU, populating the top spot. If its longer than 8″ or so it will start to cover the LEDs. The bigger the heatsink/more slots it takes up, the more of them covers.

Feature-wise, the board is packed with items to keep the board cool, including the armor which comes with fans to help get airflow through the armor/shrouds. Even at 4.7 GHz, I found I didn’t really need them in my 22 °C environment, but it’s a nice value add for sure, even if they are a bit loud being such tiny high RPM fans (adjustable – don’t worry!). Along with keeping temperatures in order, the front and back armor is there to protect critical components.

Being a part of the Z170 chipset, it is loaded with all the goodies that come along with it. USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type A ports, the new Intel I219-V NIC as well as the Realtek RTL8111H and wireless capabilities. It has an incredibly large accessory stack as well from the small fans to aid with cooling, to the dust covers for all the parts, to the wireless, its in there… I think there was a kitchen sink too!

Pricing on the ASUS Sabertooth Z170 Mark 1 is $250 (MSRP). This places the it in the mid- to high-end price bracket for Z170 motherboards. With the board being so unique in its feature set/armor, there isn’t too much direct competition. The board can overclock without complaint so it takes care of any dedicated ‘overclocking’ motherboards that are in that price bracket, and has all the features that gamers want too. It’s not the least expensive Z170 board out there, but for the components used, the fortified “TUF” nature of it, and the accessory stack chock full of goodies, I believe asking price fits in the market. If you need a board that is a step (or a few) above the rest as far as durability goes and would like additional protection both physically and with better components, you have arrived at the ASUS Sabertooth Z170 Mark 1. This board is Overclockers.com approved!

What Does This Mean? Click to Find Out!

What Does This Mean? Click to Find Out!

Joe Shields (Earthdog)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Discussion
  1. The little fans move enough air to keep the vrms cool... it's not sucking in PSU air. Besides a lot of cases these days have the psu at the bottom anyway. :)

    This exhausts the air in the case and its taken out by the exhaust fan.
    Nicholas Steel
    Do PSU's these days suck air from the behind the case and pump it in to the case? I just find it really strange that the ASUS Sabertooth motherboards suck air from behind the case and dump it inside at the front of the case. Why do I find it odd? 3rd party CPU coolers, case fans and the video card typically try to push air from the front of the case to out the back of the case, creating a hot pocket for the motherboard to suck air in from...


    True, it seems a little odd, but I can see the reasoning behind it. If you were to put a fan on the opposite side of the VRMs, and one were to use the stock CPU cooler, or any designed like it (or even a downward firing or short tower design cooler), it would probably be damaged by the fan on the cooler. Plus, with this design, they could push more air over more of the board without redesigning the entire layout, and without using more than 2 fans.
    Do PSU's these days suck air from the behind the case and pump it in to the case? I just find it really strange that the ASUS Sabertooth motherboards suck air from behind the case and dump it inside at the front of the case. Why do I find it odd? 3rd party CPU coolers, case fans and the video card typically try to push air from the front of the case to out the back of the case, creating a hot pocket for the motherboard to suck air in from...
    It means that for the boards there are problems on. Not necessarily across the entire line. If it was across the entire line and goes generations back, one would think more people would be complaining about it. As it is, I can barely google it and get returns.

    Thanks again! :)
    Sure, but it is still the Z170 and it seems to be a common problem plaguing the asus boards.

    The solution is to use a powered usb hub. Mine is coming in a few days and if that fixes the problem it means that asus haven't fixed the problem in 3 years. I will report back here.
    That is a different board than the one in the review. Regardless, I will check it out if I have time and report back. I thought your experience was on this specific board...

    Thanks for the information on your board. :)
    Here we go Earthdog:

    http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/324159-28-hear-mouse-moving-windows-speakers

    I get the same scratching when I use my audio onboard card, but not when I use my headphones plugged into my USB port.
    SupaMonkey
    I think someone needs to point out a design fault with the ASUS motherboards that seems to go unnoticed by reviewers. If my interweb reading is correct, then the ground on the audio is connected to the ground on the USB and this means that if you have a usb mouse (that's pretty much everyone) when you move your mouse you get noise through your speakers.

    This is really really frustrating and can only be solved by going and buying a powered usb hub and plugging your mouse and keyboard into there.

    Terrible design flaw and really ought not to be Overclockers approved until they sort it out.


    I only notice that when connecting my headphones to the computer case audio jacks (Generally located at the front of the case somewhere) because their either unshielded (or very poorly shielded) and located right next to the front USB jacks. I wouldn't be surprised if my case bundles the cables for the USB and audio jacks together either. The problem worsens if you have a USB cable connected to one of the front ports even if the USB cable isn't connected to a device.

    When connecting the headphones directly to the soundcard/integrated audio jack's there's no interference. So basically, it's best to never use the audio jacks your computer case provides if you experience buzzing or weird crackle when using them.

    I've noticed this with the below ASUS Motherboards and various Thermaltake computer cases:

    Asus P5KC

    ASUS P6T

    ASUS z87 Sabertooth
    (scrapped what I wrote before)

    I had a USB mouse for the review. I did not experience that through my speakers.

    Can I read some links that you read? I am having trouble finding anything myself...
    I think someone needs to point out a design fault with the ASUS motherboards that seems to go unnoticed by reviewers. If my interweb reading is correct, then the ground on the audio is connected to the ground on the USB and this means that if you have a usb mouse (that's pretty much everyone) when you move your mouse you get noise through your speakers.

    This is really really frustrating and can only be solved by going and buying a powered usb hub and plugging your mouse and keyboard into there.

    Terrible design flaw and really ought not to be Overclockers approved until they sort it out.
    The QVL states that it supports RAM speeds in excess of 3.2GHZ, also I'm a bit concerned about that audio trace on the PCB connecting the audio circuitry to the sockets on the back of the board, it seems to run pretty darn close to a screw hole. Also no one seems to know which version of HDMI or Displayport it supports.

    I'm a bit annoyed that it doesn't support PS/2 connectivity and I know you can get adapters for that, but I dunno if connecting a PS/2 keyboard to a USB port imposes the USB limitations on the keyboard (Generally not complete N-Key roll over support, am aware that the keyboard it self is also responsible for this limitation in addition to USB standards)