Pros: 5 year warranty, UEFI BIOS features, thermal design, easy BIOS update
Cons: Picky about memory, QVL list doesn't get updated, no Linux support (only Windows), Marvell SATA controller
- 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.
Attention: The BIOS ROM file must have been renamed to SABERX79.ROM, else it won't work.
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 some minor inconveniences and improvement suggestions to major issues and risks:
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- New BIOS versions cannot be reversed. If you install the latest BIOS versions 2002 or 2104 or newer the file system needs to be converted to .CAB files. This is irreversible. In other words, if the new BIOS releases introduce problems/bugs/incompatibilities, you can't go back and will be stuck with it. Since Asus doesn't support anything but Microsoft Windows (see last point), you may be taking a big risk when updating the BIOS, even if you don't see that risk now.
Let's assume you are running BIOS release 1203 (like I do) and want to install Windows 8. Asus gives you the new BIOS releases 2002 and 2104 (latest as of this writing) that were specifically released to support WIndows 8. You update the BIOS and install Windows 8 and all is fine. But in a year from now you want to switch your OS to Linux. The new BIOS may or may not support Linux (I haven't tried yet), and Asus doesn't tell you that (Linux is not on the supported OS list). Worse even, Microsoft can change their license agreement with the vendor (Asus) and demand that the vendor locks the BIOS to use only Microsoft. Since MS seems to be going that way with tablet PCs, who's going to stop them doing the same with your PC (via BIOS update)? I hope you get the point.
- 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.
- Marvell SATA controller: It turns out that the Marvell Sata controller works under a regular Linux install, but not using the Xen hypervisor. Marvell seems to show little interest in Linux, and there is no mention of a Linux driver etc. for their Marvell 9128 SATA 6Gb/s controller on their website. This lack of support under Xen has turned the Marvell controller useless to me. I wish Asus had chosen a different, more compatible controller.
- 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 definitely go for a different vendor who officially supports Linux at least. Asus' stance at not supporting another OS is so out-of-vogue (to say the least); heck, I can't remember any major hardware vendor who doesn't support Linux: Intel, Nvidia (although only proprietary drivers), AMD, etc. to name a few of the top vendors.
So, even if you plan to run your Sabertooth X79 with Windows, be aware that if you ever want to switch to Linux or another OS, you may be out of luck with Asus.
Remark: I'm running a Xen hypervisor with Linux and a Windows guest system on the Asus Sabertooth X79 board, using the 1203 BIOS version. Most of it works fine, except the Marvell controller under Xen. So yes, I can attest that the board sort of works under Linux. What I can't say is whether or not it will also work with newer BIOS versions, or perhaps different Linux kernel versions, since up to now Asus decided NOT to support Linux.
I'd give the Asus Sabertooth X79 a 4.5 rating, if it wasn't for Asus' lack of support for anything that doesn't come from Microsoft.
My 2.5 rating reflects the value of the board, minus some of the inconveniences and problems (memory compatibility), and lastly the lack of choice for OS support. You can run the board with Linux, but you are on your own then, and one day with another BIOS release it just might not work anymore.
It's yours to decide to buy the board or not, as it is a nice board technically speaking. But you've been warned about possible consequences or limitations.
EDIT: Just found this on the Asus forum: http://vip.asus.com/forum/view.aspx?id=20120806185452699&board_id=1&model=SABERTOOTH+X79&page=1&SLanguage=en-us. It says that the 2 latest BIOS releases 2002 and 2104 break VT-d support and which, if I had done the upgrade, would have rendered my PC useless/inoperable.
EDIT 2: I contacted Asus to get there response on the pressing issues (for me). Here my email with the questions:
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
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-
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?
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.
ASUS Global Technical Support Center