Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 Motherboard Review
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Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 Motherboard Review

June 14th, 2013 James Leave a comment Go to comments

Overview

 

Today I will be taking a look at the Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 motherboard. This will be the first time that I have reviewed an AMD motherboard myself, although I have worked with both Charlie and David in the past on their AMD based reviews.

What we have here is an updated version of the original Sabertooth 990FX from Asus, hence the R2.0 suffix. As most of you are aware from the Sabertooth branding this motherboard comes from one of the internal Asus brands; the TUF series, with the other being the Asus Republic of Gamers (ROG) brand. In the past we have seen full TUF motherboards from Asus featuring large areas of TUF armour; here we just have the CeraM!X – Heatsink Coating Technology and the TUF Thermal Radar being utilised. In addition to this we also have the military style of colour coding, with beige/browns being the main colours used.

The Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 Motherboard supports AMD FX™/Phenom™ II/Athlon™ II/Sempron™ 100 Series Processors.

The front of the box features various logos and monikers, but most importantly of all it features a smart looking shield boasting about the TUF Series 5 year warranty, now that is worth shouting about!

The back of the box features a small image of the motherboard within and also highlights the following TUF features:

  • CeraM!X – Heatsink Coating Tech. Larger cooling area for maximum heat dissipation with the revolutionary ceramics-coating technology
  • Thermal Radar Multiple embedded sensors provide real time temp. readings from critical areas of the board with automatic fan speed adjustments for better cooling.
  • TUF Components Heavy duty TUF components include alloy chokes, solid state capacitors and MOSFETs built to withstand even the most demanding usage for greater system stability and longevity.
  • Tested Server-Grade Reliability Hardcore series of tests includes extreme temp and humidity trials for completely reliable motherboards that are ready for intense heavy duty usage with the utmost stability.
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      Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 - box front Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 - box back

       

      The box itself features a lift up lid that allows you to see all that the Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 Motherboard has to offer (see image below left).

      Opening the box allows you to see the mother board within, or not, as the motherboard’s hidden not only behind a clear plastic lid but also within an anti-static bag (this makes the clear plastic lid somewhat pointless of course!). Removing the lid and the anti-static bag allows you to have a good look at the Sabertooth within.

       

      Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 - box (lid) Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 - box (motherboard)

       

      Below the motherboard we find the rest of the paraphernalia, this can be split into two sections; the paperwork, comprising of the following: User Guide, Certificate of Reliability, Support DVD, Exclusive Boot Features, Quick Start Guide, SATA Mode Notice (damn good idea!), Warranty Notice and a TUF Inside sticker!

      And accessories consisting of motherboard back-plate, x4 Serial ATA 6.0GBs cables, SLI bridge and a Q-Connector Kit (these are so useful!).

       

      Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 - box contents (paperwork)

       

      At the time of writing the Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 is retailing for approximately £135 and comes with a 5 year warranty (yes that’s right 5 YEARS!).

       

      Specifications/Features

      courtesy of Asus

      CPU AMD FX™/Phenom™ II/Athlon™ II/Sempron™ 100 Series Processors
      Supports AM3+ 32 nm CPU
      Supports CPU up to 8 cores
      Supports CPU up to 140 W
      AMD Cool ‘n’ Quiet™ Technology
      Chipset AMD 990FX/SB950
      Memory 4 x DIMM, Max. 32GB, DDR3 1866/1600/1333/1066 MHz ECC, Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory
      Dual Channel Memory Architecture
      * Refer to www.asus.com or user manual for the Memory QVL (Qualified Vendors Lists).
      * Due to OS limitation, when installing total memory of 4GB capacity or more, Windows® 32-bit operation system may only recognize less than 3GB. Install a 64-bit Windows® OS when you want to install 4GB or more memory on the motherboard.
      * Due to CPU spec., AMD 100 series CPUs support up to DDR3 1066MHz. With ASUS design, this motherboard can support up to DDR3 1333MHz.
      System Bus Up to 5.2 GT/s HyperTransport™ 3.0
      Multi-GPU Support Supports NVIDIA® Quad-GPU SLI™ Technology
      Supports AMD Quad-GPU CrossFireX™ Technology
      Expansion Slots 3 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (dual x16 or x16/x8/x8) *1
      1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (x4 mode, black)
      1 x PCIe 2.0 x1
      1 x PCI
      Storage AMD SB950 controller :
      6 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), brown
      Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
      ASMedia® PCIe SATA controller :
      2 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), gray
      2 x eSATA 6Gb/s port(s), red
      LAN Realtek® 8111F, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s)
      Audio Realtek® ALC892 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
      – Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
      Audio Feature :
      – Absolute Pitch 192kHz/ 24-bit True BD Lossless Sound
      – Blu-ray audio layer Content Protection
      – ASUS Noise Filter
      – Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel
      USB Ports ASMedia® USB 3.0 controller :
      2 x USB 3.0/2.0 port(s) (2 at mid-board)
      ASMedia® USB 3.0 controller :
      4 x USB 3.0/2.0 port(s) (4 at back panel, blue)
      AMD SB950 controller :
      12 x USB 2.0/1.1 port(s) (8 at back panel, , 4 at mid-board)
      Special Features TUF ENGINE! Power Design :
      – 8 +2 Digital Phase Power Design
      – TUF Components (Alloy choke, Cap. & MOSFET; certified by military-standard)
      – ASUS DIGI+ Power Control Utility
      – E.S.P. : Efficient Switching Power Design
      Ultimate COOL! Thermal Solution :
      – TUF CeraM!X Heatsink Coating Tech.
      – TUF Thermal Radar
      ASUS Exclusive Features :
      – Remote GO!
      – USB BIOS Flashback
      – MemOK!
      – AI Suite II
      – Ai Charger+
      – Anti-Surge
      – ESD Guards
      – Front Panel USB 3.0 Support
      – ASUS UEFI BIOS EZ Mode featuring friendly graphics user interface
      – Network iControl
      – USB 3.0 Boost
      ASUS EZ DIY :
      – DirectKey
      – ASUS O.C. Profile
      – ASUS EZ Flash 2
      – ASUS MyLogo 2
      – Multi-language BIOS
      ASUS Q-Design :
      – ASUS Q-Shield
      – ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED)
      – ASUS Q-Slot
      – ASUS Q-DIMM
      – ASUS Q-Connector
      Back I/O Ports 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port(s)
      2 x eSATA 6Gb/s
      1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
      4 x USB 3.0 (blue)
      8 x USB 2.0
      1 x Optical S/PDIF out
      6 x Audio jack(s)
      1 x USB BIOS Flashback Button(s)
      Internal I/O 1 x USB 3.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 2 USB 3.0 port(s) (19-pin, moss green)
      2 x USB 2.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 4 USB 2.0 port(s)
      1 x TPM connector(s)
      1 x COM port(s) connector(s)
      8 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)
      1 x CPU Fan connector(s) (1 x 4 -pin)
      1 x CPU OPT Fan connector(s) (1 x 4 -pin)
      4 x Chassis Fan connector(s) (4 x 4 -pin)
      1 x S/PDIF out header(s)
      1 x 24-pin EATX Power connector(s)
      1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector(s)
      1 x Front panel connector(s)
      1 x System panel(s) (Q-Connector)
      1 x DirectKey Button(s)
      1 x DRCT header(s)
      1 x MemOK! button(s)
      1 x Clear CMOS jumper(s)
      Accessories User’s manual
      ASUS Q-Shield
      4 x SATA 6Gb/s cable(s)
      1 x SLI bridge(s)
      1 x Q-connector(s) (2 in 1)
      1 x TUF Certification card(s)
      1 x TUF 5 Year Warranty manual(s) (by region)
      BIOS 64 Mb Flash ROM, UEFI BIOS, PnP, SLP2.1, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.7, ACPI 2.0a, Multi-language BIOS, ASUS EZ Flash 2, F12 PrintScreen, F3 Shortcut Function and ASUS DRAM SPD (Serial Presence Detect) memory information
      Manageability WfM 2.0, DMI 2.0, WOL by PME, WOR by PME, PXE
      Support Disc Drivers
      Anti-virus software (OEM version)
      ASUS Update
      ASUS Utilities
      Form Factor ATX Form Factor
      12 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm )
      Note *1: When running dual graphics cards, be sure to insert the card in the first and third PCIex16 slot to get the best performance.

      * Additional details available here

       

      First Impressions

       

      Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0

       

      First impressions are good, the layout looks good apart form the position of that USB 3.0 header, it looks somewhat in-line with the first PCIE slot, I guess we will have to see. Of course there’s the matter of the colour scheme too, some guys like it some don’t, I guess I fall into the latter category (soz)…

       

      Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 - bottom Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 - top
      Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 - South Bridge heatsink Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 - Mem OK

       

      Taking a tour of the Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 and starting at the bottom of the board we find a front panel audio connector and digital audio-out connector, to the right of this we find the somewhat obscure (Trusted Platform Module) TPM connector. Then there’s the far more useful power LED, a couple of USB 2.0 headers (with plugs!), a clear clock jumper, a COM port, the direct key button and connector (allowing easy BIOS access) and the front panel header. Just above the COM port is one of the on-board debug LEDs, this one is the boot device LED. The right side of the board is dominated by the large South Bridge heatsink.

      Looking at the Sabertooth from the top and looking left to right we see the Mem OK button and its associated debug LED. Then we find the first of four chassis fan headers followed by the four DDR3 DIMM slots supporting up to 64GB of memory with a maximum supported speed of 2400MHz. Next are the two CPU fan headers (always good to see two) and finally the AM3+ CPU Socket and its associated 12v 8-pin power connector.

       

      Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 - right Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 - left
      Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 - SATA ports Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 - expansion slots

       

      Looking at the right side of the Sabertooth we find the 8 SATA 6GBs ports, with the brown ones being provided by the AMD chipset and the two white ones provided by a third party, AS-Media (do not use, unless all AMD are used first as generally slower). Then we find the second chassis fan header with the USB 3.0 header behind. Next we find the 12v 24-pin power connector and finally the Mem OK button in the corner of the board.

      Looking at the board from the left side we find all of the PCIE slots with support for up to 3-way SLI and Quad Crossfire (the box seems to claim 4-way SLI, but I think not!). Between the PCIE slots and the back-plate there are an additional couple of fan-headers taking the total to four, all four are PWM controlled. Finally we have the main IO back-plate, detailed below.

       

      • PS/2 Combo Port
      • USB 3.0 ports 1 and 2
      • LAN (RJ-45) port
      • USB 2.0 ports 7 and 8
      • Optical S/PDIF Out port
      • External SATA ports
      • USB 2.0 ports 3, 4, 5 and 6
      • USB 3.0 ports 3 and 4
      • USB BIOS Flashback button
      • USB 2.0 ports 1 and 2
      • Audio I/O ports
      Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 - I/O

       

      Below are a couple of images of the CPU area and the CeraM!X heatsinks, very nice…

       

      Asus-Sabertooth-990FX-R2-heatsinks Asus-Sabertooth-990FX-R2-heatsinks-2

       

      Hardware Installation

       

      The CPU of choice was AMD’s finest, the Piledriver FX-8 Eight Core 8350 Black Edition 4.00GHz, this hopefully will give the Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 something to get its teeth into.

       

      AMD Piledriver FX-8 Eight Core 8350 Black Edition 4.00GHz

       

      As this was effectively a new build installation into the Cooler Master HAF XB case was a simple enough affair. The only potential issue is the routing of the internal USB 3.0 cable as it’s almost in-line with the top expansion slot, used for the main Graphics Card. It’s just a case of careful cable routing to be fair. The SSD Kingston Technology 60G V+200 was connected to the AMD SATA port 1 and AHCI was enabled in the UEFI/BIOS (although AHCI seems to be the default setting). The Cooler Master Seidon 240M AIO liquid CPU Cooler was also installed with no issues. The Memory of choice was Kingston’s awesome Beast modules with a rated speed of 2400MHz.

      All in all a nice straight forward install, let’s see if it works…

       

      Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2 installed Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2 installed

       

      Testing Methodology/Setup

       

      A new installation of Windows Home Premium 64bit (Service Pack 1) was performed and the following drivers were then installed. The latest Asus Drivers were used and can been obtained here (I did not use the ones on the disc as I wanted to be using the latest).

      * The latest BIOS version (1503) was downloaded and installed (this was a simple easy procedure).

      Drivers installed:

      • AMD Catalyst (INF driver ver: 08.00.0903)
      • Realtek High Definition Audio Driver (6.0.1.6699)
      • Realtek LAN Driver (7.61.612.2012)
      • AMD USB 3.0 (1.14.3.0)
      • NVIDIA Graphics (320.18)

      During testing the following tools/benchmarks & games were used:

      • Prime 95
      • CPUz
      • 3DMark
      • Unigine Heaven 4.0
      • Unigine Valley 1.0
      • Tomb Raider
      • Metro Last Light

       

      Hardware Performance

       

      The Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 booted first time with no issues and the first job was to upgrade to the latest BIOS. This was downloaded from here and the BIOS was updated via a USB Drive to version 1503.

      With the new BIOS up ‘n running Windows 7 64Bit was installed and some basic tests run to prove stability. With Stability proven at the AMD Pildriver’s stock speed of 4.00GHz, it was time to look at the memory speed. As I’m using the Kingston Beast modules as part of this test, the next task was to get them running at, or as close to their rated speed of 2400MHz, the highest rated speed that this Sabertooth motherboard supports! By default the BIOS uses Asus’s EZ Mode with the Standard Profile set (see below left). At this setting the Memory runs at the default speed of 1333MHz. Using Asus’s Optimal setting in EZ Mode boosts this to 1728MHz along with the CPU, boosting it up to 4.366GHz. Now this is a nice overclock by just pressing one button in the BIOS/UEFI, but assuming there was more left in the system I pushed on, determined to get those Beast RAM modules running closer to 2400MHz.

       

      Asus EZ Mode - Asus Normal Asus EZ Mode - Asus Optimal

       

      After a fair bit of work playing with Bus speeds and Prime95, the sweet spot was found to be 4.8GHz and 2239MHz. For stability at 4.8GHz the CPU voltage was set manually to 1.45V. As AMD doesn’t support eXtreme Memory Profiles (XMP) the Voltage and Timings of the Kingston Beast RAM modules were set manually (1.65v 11-13-13-30). At these settings the Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 was completely stable, nice!

       

      Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 @ 4.8GHz

       

      Below are some images from the BIOS showing all of the settings changed to achieve the 4.8GHz overclock.

       

      Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 - 4.8GHz AiTweaker 1 Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 - 4.8GHz AiTweaker 2 Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 - memory timings

       

      At 4.8GHz and 1.45v set in the BIOS (1.5v showing in CPUz) the CPU temp never got above 60 degrees Celcius using a Cooler Master Seidon 240M AIO liquid CPU Cooler.

       

      • Benchmark Results (CPU @ 4.8GHz : RAM @ 2239MHz) with NVIDIA GTX 780
      Benchmark Resolution Result
      Metro Last Light 2560×1440 44.33
      Metro Last Light 1920×1080 63.00
      Tomb Raider 2560×1440 51.1
      Tomb Raider 1920×1080 76.4
      Unigine Heaven 4.0 2560×1440 FPS 32.4 Score 816
      Unigine Heaven 4.0 1920×1080 FPS 51.7 Score 1302
      Unigine Valley 1.0 2560×1440 FPS 37.3 Score 1560
      Unigine Valley 1.0 1920×1080 FPS 59.8 Score 2501
      3DMark Firestrike Default 8160
      3DMark Firestrike Extreme 4416

       

      Those are some pretty good numbers and the Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 has performed flawlessly during the benchmarks with no signs of instability. But the question that’s on my lips is; how does this compare to an Intel setup, So for a comparison here’s the AMD above compared to an Overclocked Ivy Bridge setup (3770K @ 4.4GHz : RAM @ 2400MHz via ASRock Fatal1ty Z77 Professional MB). Everything is the same apart form the motherboard and CPU (obviously!).

       

      • Benchmark Results AMD Piledriver FX 8350 @ 4.8GHz vs Intel Ivy Bridge 3770K @ 4.4GHz with NVIDIA GTX 780
      System Benchmark Resolution Result
      AMD (Piledriver FX 8350) Metro Last Light 2560×1440 44.33
      Intel (Ivy Bridge 3770K) Metro Last Light 2560×1440 46.00
      AMD (Piledriver FX 8350) Metro Last Light 1920×1080 63.00
      Intel (Ivy Bridge 3770K) Metro Last Light 1920×1080 66.33
      AMD (Piledriver FX 8350) Tomb Raider 2560×1440 51.1
      Intel (Ivy Bridge 3770K) Tomb Raider 2560×1440 53.0
      AMD (Piledriver FX 8350) Tomb Raider 1920×1080 76.4
      Intel (Ivy Bridge 3770K) Tomb Raider 1920×1080 76.5
      AMD (Piledriver FX 8350) Unigine Heaven 4.0 2560×1440 FPS 32.4 Score 816
      Intel (Ivy Bridge 3770K) Unigine Heaven 4.0 2560×1440 FPS 33.2 Score 837
      AMD (Piledriver FX 8350) Unigine Heaven 4.0 1920×1080 FPS 51.7 Score 1302
      Intel (Ivy Bridge 3770K) Unigine Heaven 4.0 1920×1080 FPS 52.9 Score 1333
      AMD (Piledriver FX 8350) Unigine Valley 1.0 2560×1440 FPS 37.3 Score 1560
      Intel (Ivy Bridge 3770K) Unigine Valley 1.0 2560×1440 FPS 37.7 Score 1578
      AMD (Piledriver FX 8350) Unigine Valley 1.0 1920×1080 FPS 59.8 Score 2501
      Intel (Ivy Bridge 3770K) Unigine Valley 1.0 1920×1080 FPS 62.0 Score 2594
      AMD (Piledriver FX 8350) 3DMark Firestrike Default 8160
      Intel (Ivy Bridge 3770K) 3DMark Firestrike Default 8742
      AMD (Piledriver FX 8350) 3DMark Firestrike Extreme 4416
      Intel (Ivy Bridge 3770K) 3DMark Firestrike Extreme 4454

       

      OK, so the Intel Ivy Bridge 3770K @ 4.4GHz beats the AMD Piledriver FX 8350 @ 4.8GHz in every test, but not by much, in fact you’re really not going to notice it in Game. I think it’s pretty darn impressive for a CPU costing around £100 less! Imagine what additional GPU power you could get for another £100… 😉

       

      • Additional Software/Features

       

      Asus AI Suite II

       

      The Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 comes with a wealth of software, should you wish to install it (I wouldn’t). But I did take a look at it as part of the review and I have to say that I was very impressed with what I saw. All of the software that’s part of Asus’s Ai Suite II just oozes quality and class, all of the software is slick and smart in its operation and some even has real benefit! Check out the images below for some of the software highlights.

       

      Asus Ai Suite II - Thermal Radar Asus Ai Suite II - TurboV Evo

       

      All of the software that is until you come to the USB 3.0 Boost plugin. Unfortunately for me this just rendered all of my USB 3.0 ports useless. Not sure what went wrong, but when I plugged in my Kingston Technology 128GB USB 3.0 DTHX Flash Drive the system went into a software/driver install mode and never came out! After this all USB 3.0 ports were rendered inoperable, not good. This was then quickly un-installed and the system was returned to working order. One to avoid me thinks, you have been warned…

       

      Asus Ai Suite II - USB 3.0 Boost (not without its problems)

       

      Final Thoughts

       

      I have really enjoyed my time with the Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0, the board has a well laid out design with 4 chassis fan headers and two CPU fan headers all of which feature PWM Control. The position of the USB 3.0 header is a little close to the top PCIE slot, but in practice good cable management avoided any potential issues. The aesthetics of the board are good, but for me I’m still not a fan of the Brown/Beige (Khaki) colour scheme, as it forces you down a route where little else will match (NOCTUA!).

      The Sabertooth performed well too, with the BIOS/UEFI being easy to use and navigate. It doesn’t look like the Asus UEFI has come on much in recent years though and I feel the UEFI could do with a bit of a refresh. The board had no problem overclocking our AMD Piledriver FX 8350, pushing easily to 4.8GHz and beyond (I could get into Windows at 5.0GHz but Prime95 would fail). I’m sure with a little more effort (sorry for being lazy!) I could probably get this board stable at 5.0GHz!

      The board has a lot of good features and good software too, with the only fly in the ointment being the USB 3.0 Boost software that rendered my USB 3.0 ports inoperable and was quickly un-installed. Although as this is just a software glitch I’m sure this should get sorted.

      From my Gaming focused testing the AMD Piledriver FX 8350 gives an Intel Ivy Bridge 3770K a good run for its money, not bad for a CPU costing around £100 less. And at around £135 at the time of review the Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 seems like the perfect partner.

       

      Verdict

      Please Share, Like & Comment below, we really value your thoughts and opinions…

       

        Design/Quality pcGameware awards the Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 a Silver
      Performance
      Value
      Overall

       



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