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Asus Sabertooth X79 LGA 2011 Intel X79 Motherboard

Posted

Pros: 5 year warranty. Stability. Overclocking features.

Cons: Chipset fan. Be wary of onboard audio failing

I've had this board for nearly 6 months. It replaces a Gigabyte X79 G1 Assassin 2 which although costing £60 more is far inferior. The Asus works seamlessly and the up to date bios releases ensure that.
With the Gigabyte I could only overclock to 4.5 Ghz maximum but the Sabertooth can run 4.9 Ghz stably using exactly the same components. That should say it all.

Posted

Pros: 5 year warranty, UEFI BIOS features, thermal design, easy BIOS update

Cons: Picky about memory, QVL list doesn't get updated, no "official" Linux support (only Windows), Marvell SATA controller

EDIT 9.1.2014: BIOS release 4608 works fine, including VT-d support for SB-E CPUs (not yet for IVB-E !!!). I raised the rating by 0.5 to reflect the BIOS fixes.

Host OS: Xen 4.3 hypervisor with Linux Mint 16 (as of 9.1.2014)
Guest OS: Windows 7 Pro using VGA passthrough

I bought the Asus Sabertooth X79 in April 2012, mainly because of the 5 year warranty and the supposedly good thermal design. The Asus Sabertooth X79 sure is an impressive board.
  • Heat sinks and heat pipe for voltage regulators, incl. optional fan
  • Fan cooled Intel X79 chipset
  • Military specs components for increased durability
  • UEFI BIOS with plenty of options for normal operation and OC

A nice feature is the USB BIOS Flashback feature. A white USB connector on the back with a BIOS push button next to it lets you easily update (flash) the BIOS. Just connect the board to the power supply, insert the USB stick with the new BIOS, power up and press the BIOS flash button.

I fitted the board with a 3930K CPU and the huge Noctua NH-D14 SE2011 air cooler, as well as 32GB of Kingston 1600 MHz quad-channel memory. There was no problem installing a graphics adapter in the first PCIe 16x slot. But using the Noctua cooler you can't use just any memory - those DIMMs with extra cooling fins won't fit. The reason is that the Noctua cooler covers 2 DIMM slots on each side of the CPU, and there isn't enough clearance underneath the cooler for big-sized DIMMs. However, liquid CPU cooling should allow you to use whatever memory you choose.

There are lots of features that I like, but you can find them on the Asus website or in other reviews.

Here are the things I don't like, starting from minor inconveniences and improvement suggestions to major issues and risks:

  1. Unnecessary stickers on chipset fan intake and I/O connector panel. I did see the sticker over the X79 chipset fan intake and removed it. I wonder what would have happened if I forgot that?
    I didn't notice the sticker on the I/O panel, covering the heat pipe and cooling fins for the voltage regulator. I already had everything installed inside the chassis when I noticed that. Bad luck - one needs to remove the board from the chassis to access and remove the sticker.
  2. Assistant fan for voltage regulator cooling doesn't come pre-installed. You have to install it yourself and connect it to the appropriate Assist fan header on the board. Why the inconvenience?
  3. USB3 ports next to PS/2 keyboard/mouse connector. Asus even got it wrong in the User Guide (see chapter 2.3.11, page 2-39). No, you don't connect a mouse or keyboard to the USB 3 ports as shown in the illustration - Asus actually warns the user on page 2-40 (see top of page). So, the USB3 ports shouldn't sit beside the PS/2 connector, this is a call for trouble, in particular when the ports aren't marked in plain text, but color coded. At least Asus should correct their user guide.
  4. Lousy BIOS update documentation - next to useless.
  5. User manual not up-to-date - new BIOS features are missing.
  6. The Qualified Vendor List (QVL) for the memory support is antiquated as of this writing (latest one is from November 2011, around the time the board was released). Try find a 32GB memory kit. I had major issues getting this board working with 32GB of memory. 4GB, 8GB, or even 16GB were no problem with the memory I tried, but 32GB gave errors. Worst of it, it's not that it is black and white - e.g. it either works or doesn't work. I was able to boot my first 32GB memory kit just fine and install Linux without any BIOS adjustments at all. Later on I got problems that pointed to faulty memory. Trying to install Windows didn't work (looks like Windows is more picky, which in this case is a good thing), only when I enabled the XMP setting did it install. But later it was just the same - memory errors during extensive memory stress tests.
    After replacing 2 different G.Skill memory kits (8x4GB as well as 4x8GB DIMMs), the third one - a Kingston 1600MHz quad channel 32GB kit - finally worked. My computer lab also tested Corsair and others with varying failures. Others have had success with the first two kits I tried from G.Skill. In between I updated the BIOS 2 times, as the Asus BIOS release notes mentioned "improved memory support" (but failed to mention what exactly they improved).
    To make it short: If you plan to run lots of memory (32GB or more), have it pre-installed AND tested at the computer shop. Run different memory and stress test applications for 48 and more hours to make sure the memory works. You don't want to have memory issues, believe me.
    NOTE: BIOS 4608 is running fine, but haven't tested with any different memory.
  7. Marvell SATA controller: The Marvell Sata controller works under a regular Linux install, but not using the Xen hypervisor. It turns out to be a bug (phantom device). I wish Asus had chosen a different, more compatible controller (ASMedia works fine for me). NOTE: New Linux 3.11 kernels may have a workaround for this bug.
  8. Asus only supports Microsoft. If you're addicted to Microsoft, or just don't know anything else, I can wholeheartedly recommend the Asus Sabertooth X79 board. But, if you ever have doubts about using Microsoft Windows products and like to try another operating system, or if you already do use Linux, FreeBSD or whatever, this lack of support for other operating systems puts you at risk. As much as I like the board, if I were to buy a board today, I would most likely go for a different vendor who lists Linux as a supported OS.

Verdict:

If I were a die-hard Windows user and wouldn't know anything better, I'd give the Asus Sabertooth X79 a 4.5 rating.
But as it stands, Asus has some serious shortcomings that reflect on the usability of their desktop motherboards in general and the Sabertooth X79 in particular. My 3 rating reflects the value of the board, minus some inconveniences and problems (memory compatibility, Marvell SATA controller bug), lack of up-to-date documentation, and lastly the inability or lack of interest in catering Linux users. You can run the board with Linux, but if you ever run into problems you are on your own.

It's yours to decide to buy the board or not, as it is a nice board technically speaking.



I contacted Asus to get their response on the pressing issues (for me). Here my email with the questions:
Quote:
Hello, I got 3 questions/issues. I hope you can help.

1. Does Asus support Linux? In other words, can Asus assure me that future BIOS
updates won't break Linux support?
I'm currently running Linux Mint 13 Mate 64bit with Xen hypervisor 4.1.2 and most of it
works. But I'm worried that one day, perhaps after a BIOS update, Linux won't run
anymore on that motherboard. I need assurance that Asus will not do anything to
prevent running Linux on the motherboard, and will do its best to make the product
Linux compatible.

2. The onboard Marvell 88SE9128 SATA 6Gb/s controller doesn't work under Linux
with Xen hypervisor and causes the system to freeze at boot. Since I need all SATA
ports for my disks (7 internal drives plus DVD), do you know of any fix or work-
around?

3. Almost 2 months ago someone on the Asus forum reported that VT-d support is
broken under the latest BIOS releases 2002 and 2104. Luckily I haven't upgraded my
BIOS and am still running 1203.
Do you know if and when this gets fixed? Is there a newer BIOS release in the
making that will address this problem?
And here their response:
Quote:
Dear Valued Customer,

Thank you for contacting ASUS Technical Service.

1. We don't officially support Linux on desktop motherboard. So, we don't have drivers to provide.

2. Maybe you haven't loaded Marvell controller driver.

3. We don't broke vt-d in new bios. As long as cpu could support vt-d, you could use vt-d.

Sorry for the trouble. Wish you a good day.

If you continue to experience issues in the future, please do not hesitate to contact us again.
Best Regards,
Cherry
ASUS Global Technical Support Center
Asus Sabertooth X79 LGA 2011 Intel X79 Motherboard
By:
Description:

Model Brand ASUS Model Sabertooth X79 Supported CPU CPU Socket Type LGA 2011 CPU Type Core i7 (LGA2011) Chipsets North Bridge Intel X79 Memory Number of Memory Slots 8×240pin Memory Standard DDR3 1866/1600/1333/1066 Maximum Memory Supported 64GB Channel Supported Quad Channel Expansion Slots PCI Express 3.0 x16 2 (@ dual x16/x16) 1 (@ x8) PCI Express x1 2 PCI Slots 1 Storage Devices SATA 3Gb/s 6 SATA 6Gb/s 4 x SATA 6Gb/s SATA RAID 0/1/5/10 Onboard Video Onboard Video Chipset None Onboard Audio Audio Channels 8 Channels Rear Panel Ports USB 3.0 2 x USB 3.0 eSATA 2 x eSATA 6Gb/s Physical Spec Power Pin 24 Pin Features Features Thermal Armor Technology - Improves air flow with an innovative vent design and integrated turbo fan on two focal points TUF Capacitors, Chokes and MOSFETS - Certified by military standard to ensure ultimate durability Thermal Radar - Real-time thermal detection for a better cooling solution ASUS SSD Caching - One click away from experiencing the benefits of both SSD and HDD without any capacity limitation DIGI+ Power Control - Flexible precise adjustments for System Stability, High Power Efficiency and Improved Performance Scaling on both CPU & RAM

Details:
DetailValue
Models:
Model Name/TypeMPNEAN/UPC
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