Features and Motherboard Layout
Courtesy of ASUS
- LGA1150 Socket for the 5th, New 4th and 4th Generation Intel® Core™ i7/i5/i3/Pentium®/Celeron® Processors
- Intel® Z97 Express Chipset
- TUF ICe – Your Total Cooling Commander
- Thermal Armor with Flow Valve – Total Airflow-boosting Heat Dissipation
- TUF Fortifier – Damage Protection and Improved Cooling
- Dust Defenders – Repel the Dust, Expand the Lifespan
- Thermal Radar 2 – Customized Fan Tuning, Complete System Cooling
- TUF Components [TUF 10K Ti-Caps, TUF New Alloy Choke & MOSFETs; Certified by Military-standard] – Certified for Tough Duty
The Sabertooth Z97 Mark 1 features a matte black plastic Thermal Armor board overlay with most ports and slots colored tan or brown, giving the board a desert camouflage-style appearance. The board surface is matte black colored to blend with the color of the overlay. The chipset heat sink is black colored with a desert camouflage ASUS branded logo along it's center portion. All integrated components and headers are placed to minimize the effect of the overlay on port and header use with adequate space provided around most components.
The back of the board is covered by the TUF Fortifier back plate – a matte black aluminum plate offering added protection to the components on the board's back, as well as rigidity and a secondary heat dissipation path. With this current incarnation of the Sabertooth board, ASUS placed TIM (thermal interface material) in between the board and the back plate to facilitate heat transfer. The area directly behind the CPU is full free of components, ensuring no risk of board damage or chip crush from the CPU cooler back plate.
The Sabertooth's rear panel is enclosed by the back side of the Thermal Armor, forming a seal of sorts between the rear panel and the case so that air flows effectively into and out of the layer sandwiching the Thermal Armor and the board's upper surface. ASUS integrated the following ports into the Sabertooth Z97 Mark 1's rear panel: 4 USB 2.0 ports, 2 USB 3.0 ports controlled by the Intel Z87 chipset (located below the inner Intel GigE NIC port), 2 USB 3.0 ports controlled by the ASMedia controller (located below the outer Realtek GigE NIC port), dual GigE NIC ports – Intel GigE NIC is inner port and Realtek GigE NIC is outer port, a BIOS Flashback button, an HDMI video port, a DisplayPort video port, an optical audio port, and 5 analogue audio ports. The lower USB 3.0 port located under the inner Intel NIC port can be used in conjunction with the USB BIOS Flashback function.
The USB BIOS Flashback button can be used to re-flash the BIOS without having to boot the system into the UEFI BIOS interface or DOS. Simply plug in a USB drive containing the proper BIOS file in the root of the drive into the bottom USB 2.0 port(to the lower right of the button) and press the button for 3 seconds until the integrated LED begins to flash. As the BIOS is updated, the LED flashing frequency increases. Once the LED goes out, the flash operation is completed and the board can be booted. Note that if the BIOS Flashback LED flashes for 5 seconds and then glows solid, it means that something went wrong with the flashback operation. Check the USB drive for the the BIOS file in the root and make sure that the BIOS file is named correctly. BIOS Flashback looks for a specific filename and file format when attempting to replace the on-board BIOS. According to the user manual, the BIOS file in the root of the flash drive must be named Z97ST.CAP for the BIOS Flashback applet to successfully re-flash the board's BIOS.
ASUS designed the Sabertooth Z97 Mark 1 with a total of six PCI-Express device ports – three PCI-Express x16 slots and three PCI-Express x1 slots. For the PCI-Express x16 slots, the board supports full x16 bandwidth with a single card, x8 bandwidth with cards in the primary and secondary slots with two cards populated, and x8 in the primary and x4 in the secondary and tertiary slots with three cards populated. Note that the tertiary PCI-Express x16 slot can be set for x1 or x4 operation, but in x4 mode, the tertiary PCI-Express x1 slots as well as the ASMedia controlled rear panel USB 3.0 ports (ports below outer Realtek NIC port) are disabled. Notice that ASUS designed the board's PCI-Express section layout with a PCI-Express x1 slot to the right of the primary x16 slot so that an x1 slot remains available in all cases. Additionally, there is sufficient space between the primary PCI-Express x16 slot and the secondary PCI-Express x1 slot to accommodate a tri-slot cooler or a dual-slot cooler with a card populated in the secondary PCI-Express x1 slot.
Best viewed from the board's underside because of the Thermal Armor overlay, ASUS placed the board's audio components on a physically separate PCB to minimize noise and crosstalk from other integrated components. While the PCB separator line is not illuminated with the board powered, you can easily see the separator .
The TPM (trusted module port) header, debug header, S/PDIF header, front panel audio header, thermal sensor headers, and Thunderbolt device port are located in the upper left corner of the board, along the outside of PCI Express x16 slot 3. The CMOS battery is located just below PCI-Express x1 slot 4 in between the secondary and tertiary PCI-Express x16 slot. The thermal sensor headers can be used for attaching the included temperature diodes for BIOS and Thermal Radar 2 based monitoring. The Thunderbolt header is used to connect to the optional ThunderboltEX II PCIe board using a USB extension cable included with the Thunderbolt card.
Along the lower left side of the tertiary PCI-Express x16 slot are multiple fan headers, an Intel Z97 controlled USB 3.0 header, and the on board USB 2.0 headers.
The USB 2.0 headers, the ASMedia controlled SATA III ports, CPU Overvoltage jumper, CMOS battery, CMOS reset jumper, DirectKey header (DRCT), a fan header, and front panel headers are located in the lower left corner of board. The DirectKey header can be connected to a case button, used to trigger direct boot into the UEFI BIOS on next system restart. The CPU Overvoltage jumper enables a higher voltage ceiling selectable from the CPU Voltage setting within the BIOS.
The Intel Z97 Express chipset is covered by a low profile aluminum heat sink just below the PCI-Express x16 slots. The heat sink is matte black in color with a desert camouflage ASUS branded logo along its center portion.
ASUS integrated a total of six on-board SATA 6 Gb/s ports and one SATA Express 10 Gb/s port into the port block located just under the chipset cooler. To the right of the SATA port block is an additional Intel Z97-controlled USB 3.0 header. All ports in the SATA block are controlled by the Intel Z97 chipset controller.
The on-board DDR3 memory slots are located just below the CPU socket in the lower right quadrant of the board. Dual Channel memory mode is enabled by seating memory modules like colored slots with the tan colored slots acting as the primary slot set. The board supports up to 32GB of memory running at a maximum speed of 3200MHz. Note that memory speeds above 1600MHz are considered overclocked speeds and are outside of the official Intel stock memory speed specifications.
To the lower right of the DIMMM slots are the 24-pin ATX power connector, a fan header, and the MEMOK! button. The MemOK! button can be used to reset memory-related BIOS settings to defaults, useful when the system doesn't boot because of memory options set over-aggressively.
The CPU socket is mostly clear of obstructions with the power circuitry and VRM heat sink surrounding the upper and left sides of the socket. The Thermal Armor leaves a pocket around the CPU area that does not impede either. The board contains a total of 8 digital power phases to ensure board stability under all operating conditions. Notice how the MOSFETs are completely encased in tan colored heat sinks, ensuring that the heat dispersed as quickly as possible from them.
The capacitors just above the CPU socket are a bit close for comfort, especially when using a CPU cooler with a larger footprint base plate. As you can see from the pictures, the base plate of the Corsair H100i used for testing came in contact with those upper capacitors, as shown via the thermal paste markings in the screen shots. Our installation orientation did not match with the intended instructions from Corsair for the H100i and after correct installation this was no longer an issue. It is worth nothing for potential users that may not always pay attention to those details during setup.
One of the major enhancements ASUS made to the Thermal Armor on the board was the inclusion of air flow control valves above and to the right of the CPU socket. These switches open or close the slotted ports permitting customization of airflow over the VRM heat sinks located just under the control valves.
The CPU fan and secondary CPU fan headers, chassis fan header, Thermal Armor rear panel fan header, and 8-pin ATX12V power connector are located to the upper right of the CPU socket, along the outer edge of the VRM sinks to the right of the CPU socket.