ASUS Sabertooth Z77 Motherboard
By Rafael Coelho on October 25, 2012


Introduction

The ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77 is a top mid-range socket LGA1155 motherboard targeted to the third-generation Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 processors, codenamed “Ivy bridge,” and also supporting the second-generation Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 processors (“Sandy Bridge”). Let’s see what the ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77 has to offer.

The Intel Z77 is an upgraded version of the Z68 chipset with the same basic features (Intel Smart Response Technology and Virtu video switching technology), plus native support to four USB 3.0 ports. It also has two new technologies: Smart Connect (allowing the computer to receive emails and refresh webpages while it is in sleep mode) and Rapid Start (faster boot times).

In addition, the ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77 supports the Virtu Universal MVP, which allows you to combine the performance of the integrated graphics processor available in the CPU with the performance of any video card installed. This is similar to what occurs with the Hybrid SLI and ATI Hybrid Graphics technologies, with the notable difference of not being limited to GPUs from a specific manufacturer.

ASUS has launched 12 different motherboard models based on the Intel Z77 chipset. In the tables below, we compare their main specifications.

Specification

P8Z77 WS

P8Z77-V DELUXE

SABERTOOTH Z77

P8Z77-V PRO

Form Factor

ATX

ATX

ATX

ATX

Memory Sockets

4

4

4

4

PCI Express 3.0 x16

4 (x16/x16/x0/x0 or x16/x8/x8/x0 or x8/x8/x8/x8)

2 (x16/x0 or x8/x8)

2 (x16/x0 or x8/x8)

3 (x16/x0 or x8/x8)

PCI Express 2.0 x1601 (x4)1 (x4)1 (x4)

PCI Express 2.0 x1

2

4

3

2

Standard PCI

0

0

0

2

CrossFireX

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

SLI

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

SATA-300

4

4

4

4

SATA-600

4

4

4

4

eSATA-300

0

0

0

0

eSATA-600

2

2

2

0

USB 2.0

9

8

10

10

USB 3.0

6

8

6

8

FireWire

0

0

0

0

Bluetooth

No

Yes, 4.0

No

No

Gigabit Ethernet

2

2

1

1

Wi-Fi

No

Yes (a, b, g, n)

No

Yes (b, g, n)

VGA

0

0

0

1

DVI

1

0

0

1

HDMI

0

1

1

1

DisplayPort

0

1

1

1

Audio

ALC898

ALC898

ALC892

ALC892

Voltage Regulator

16+4

16+4

8+4+2

12+4

Price

NA

USD 285

USD 240

USD 235


Specification

P8Z77-V

P8Z77-V LE

P8Z77-V LK

P8Z77-V LX

Form Factor

ATX

ATX

ATX

ATX

Memory Sockets

4

4

4

4

PCI Express 3.0 x16

2 (x16/x0 or x8/x8)

1

2 (x16/x0 or x8/x8)

1

PCI Express 2.0 x161 (x4)1 (x4)1 (x4)1 (x4)

PCI Express 2.0 x1

2

2

2

2

Standard PCI

2

3

2

3

CrossFireX

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

SLI

Yes

No

Yes

No

SATA-300

4

4

4

4

SATA-600

4

3

2

2

eSATA-300

0

0

0

0

eSATA-600

0

1

0

0

USB 2.0

10

10

10

10

USB 3.0

6

6

6

4

FireWire

0

0

0

0

Bluetooth

No

No

No

No

Gigabit Ethernet

1

1

1

1

Wi-Fi

Yes (b, g, n)

No

No

No

VGA

1

1

1

1

DVI

1

1

1

1

HDMI

1

1

1

1

DisplayPort

1

1

1

0

Audio

ALC892

ALC892

ALC892

ALC887

Voltage Regulator

8+4

6+2

4+1+1

4+1+1

Price

USD 210

USD 165

USD 150

USD 140


Specification

Maximus V GENE

P8Z77-M PRO

P8Z77-M

P8Z77-I DELUXE

Form Factor

microATX

microATX

microATX

Mini-ITX

Memory Sockets

4

4

4

2

PCI Express 3.0 x16

2 (x16/x0 or x8/x8)

2 (x16/x0 or x8/x8)

1

1

PCI Express 2.0 x1601 (x4)1 (x4)0

PCI Express x4

1

0

0

0

PCI Express x1

0

1

1

0

Standard PCI

0

0

1

0

Mini PCI Express

2

0

0

0

CrossFireX

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

SLI

Yes

Yes

No

No

SATA-300

2

4

4

2

SATA-600

4

2

2

2

eSATA-300

1

0

0

2

eSATA-600

0

2

0

0

USB 2.0

8

8

10

8

USB 3.0

6

6

4

6

FireWire

0

0

0

0

Bluetooth

No

No

No

Yes, 4.0

Gigabit Ethernet

1

1

1

1

Wi-Fi

No

No

No

Yes (a,b,g,n)

VGA

0

1

1

0

DVI

0

1

1

1

HDMI

1

1

1

0

DisplayPort

1

0

0

0

Audio

SupremeFX III

ALC892

ALC887

ALC898

Voltage Regulator

8+4

6+2

4+1

8+2

Price

USD 210

NA

USD 140

NA

A unique feature of the SABERTOOTH Z77 is the “Thermal Armor,” a plastic shield that covers most of the motherboard area, guiding the airflow provided by two fans and protecting the components at the same time. There are also plastic covers for the expansion and memory slots to protect them from dust. Figure 1 shows you the ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77 motherboard with the plastic protection.

ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77
click to enlarge
Figure 1: ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77

Figure 2 shows the SABERTOOTH Z77 with its plastic cover removed.

ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77
click to enlarge
Figure 2: Cover removed

Slots

The ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77 comes with two PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slots, one PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot, and three PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots.

The two PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slots are controlled by the CPU, with the first slot working at x16 when only one video card is installed, and with both working at x8 when two video cards are installed. Since these slots are controlled by the CPU, they will offer PCI Express 2.0 bandwidth (8 GB/s at x16) when a “Sandy Bridge” CPU is installed, but PCI Express 3.0 bandwidth (16 GB/s at x16) when an “Ivy Bridge” CPU is used.

The third PCI Express x16 slot is 2.0 and always works at x4 speed. If you want to install a dual-slot video card in this slot, you will need a computer case with at least eight expansion slots. (Computer cases usually have seven.)

The PCI Express x16 slots support both SLI and CrossFireX technologies.

ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77
click to enlarge
Figure 3: Slots

Memory Support

Intel socket LGA1155 CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor, not the chipset, which defines what memory technologies you can have and the maximum amount of memory that is possible. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.

The integrated memory controller from socket LGA1155 processors supports DDR3 memories up to 1,333 MHz (“Sandy Bridge” CPUs) or up to 1,600 MHz (“Ivy Bridge” CPUs). According to ASUS, the SABERTOOTH Z77 supports memories up to 1,866 MHz.

The ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77 has four memory sockets. Since DDR3 memory modules can be found in capacities up to 8 GB, you can have up to 32 GB with this motherboard if you use four 8 GB modules.

In order to enable the dual-channel mode, you must install either two or four memory modules. On the ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77, the first and third memory sockets are dark brown, while the second and fourth are light brown. When installing two memory modules, use the dark brown sockets.

ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77
click to enlarge
Figure 4: Memory sockets; install two or four modules for the best performance

As with other high-end motherboards from ASUS, the SABERTOOTH Z77 comes with the “MemOK!” feature, which allows you to test the compatibility of the memory modules that are installed by pressing the button shown in Figure 5.

ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77
click to enlarge
Figure 5: The MemOK! button

On-Board Peripherals

The Intel Z77 chipset is a single-chip solution, which is also known as a PCH (Platform Controller Hub). This chip supports two SATA-600 ports and four SATA-300 ports, supporting RAID (0, 1, 10, and 5). This motherboard has two additional SATA-600 ports, controlled by an ASMedia ASM1061 chip. The SATA ports are located at the motherboard’s edge and rotated 90°, so video cards won’t block them. ASUS used different colors to identify which SATA ports are SATA-300 (black), SATA-600 controlled by the chipset (brown) or SATA-600 controlled by the additional chip (gray). See Figure 6.

ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77
click to enlarge
Figure 6: The four SATA-300 ports (black), the two SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (brown), and the two SATA-600 ports controlled by the additional chip (gray)

This motherboard also has two independent eSATA-600 ports, controlled by another ASMedia ASM1061 chip.

The Intel Z77 chipset supports 14 USB 2.0 ports and four USB 3.0 ports. The ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77 offers ten USB 2.0 ports, four available on the motherboard rear panel and six available through three headers located on the motherboard; and six USB 3.0 ports. Four of these ports are controlled by the chipset, two located on the motherboard rear panel and two available through a header located on the motherboard, near the SATA ports, and two are controlled by an ASMedia ASM1042 chip and available on the rear panel of the motherboard.

The ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77 doesn’t have FireWire ports.

This motherboard supports the 7.1 audio format, i.e., eight channels. On this motherboard, the audio is generated by the chipset using the Realtek ALC892 codec, which is a good mainstream solution, providing a 97 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog outputs, 90 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog inputs, and up to 192 kHz sampling rate for both inputs and outputs, with 24-bit resolution. These specs are good for the mainstream user, but if you are looking into working professionally with audio editing, you should look for a motherboard that provides an SNR of at least 97 dB for the analog input.

The motherboard has on-board optical SPDIF output. A header labeled “SPDIF_OUT” also provides SPDIF output for you to install a coaxial SPDIF output or to route digital audio to older video cards that require this physical connection in order to have digital audio output in their HDMI connectors.

The analog audio outputs are independent, so you won’t need to use the “mic in” or the “line in” jacks when installing an analog 7.1 speaker set.

The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by the chipset using an Intel WG82579V chip to make the interface with the physical layer.

In Figure 8, you can see the motherboard rear panel with four USB 2.0 ports, a clear area for airflow (notice the fan), four USB 3.0 ports, two eSATA-600 ports, optical SPDIF output, HDMI output, DisplayPort output, Gigabit Ethernet port, the “BIOS Flashback” button, and the analog audio jacks.

ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77
click to enlarge
Figure 7: Motherboard rear panel

The BIOS Flashback button, shown in Figure 7, allows you to easily flash the motherboard BIOS with the computer turned off and without having to load any BIOS flashing program. With the computer turned off, simply install a USB memory on a USB port containing the file to be flashed, press the button for three seconds, and the BIOS will be updated.

In Figure 8, you can see all of the accessories that come with the ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77.

ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77
click to enlarge
Figure 8: Accessories

Voltage Regulator

The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77 has eight phases for the CPU main voltage (Vcc a.k.a. Vcore), one for the CPU VSA voltage (memory controller), one for the CPU VTT voltage (PCI Express and DMI interfaces), and four for the CPU integrated video controller (VAXG). Therefore, it uses a “8+1+1+4” configuration.

ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77
click to enlarge
Figure 9: Voltage regulator circuit

The voltage regulator is controlled by ASUS’s Digi+ EPU (ASP1000C) integrated circuit, using a digital design.

The ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77 uses solid electrolytic capacitors. All coils on this motherboard are ferrite-core models, which can provide up to 20% improvement in efficiency.

If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.

Overclocking Options

The ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77 has some overclocking options. Below, we list the most important ones:

ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77
click to enlarge
Figure 10: CPU overclocking options

ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77
click to enlarge
Figure 11: Voltage options

ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77
click to enlarge
Figure 12: Memory timing options

Main Specifications

The main specifications for the ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77 DELUXE include:

* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this First Look article.

Conclusions

The ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77 is a top mid-range motherboard, meaning it is targeted to the user who wants more features than mainstream motherboards provide, such as three PCI Express x16 slots and six USB 3.0 ports. The plastic cover that hides most of the motherboard, as well as the slot covers, is a feature that will make its owner feel like he or she has a unique motherboard.

However, the SABERTOOTH Z77 has some specs that make it closer to mainstream motherboards than to its sisters, the P8Z77-V PRO and the P8Z77-V DELUXE. It has a simpler voltage regulator circuit, no Wi-Fi, and lacks a PLX switch chip (that allows higher performance when several data transfers are being executed at the same time). The Realtek ALC892 audio codec is also a better option for mainstream motherboards than top-shelf ones.

In summary, the SABERTOOTH Z77 is an excellent motherboard, but unless you really like the plastic cover, you should pick the P8Z77-V PRO, which is a little less expensive and has a few more features, or the P8Z77-V DELUXE, which costs a little more but offers a lot more.

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/ASUS-Sabertooth-Z77-Motherboard/1645


© 2004-14, Hardware Secrets, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Total or partial reproduction of the contents of this site, as well as that of the texts available for downloading, be this in the electronic media, in print, or any other form of distribution, is expressly forbidden. Those who do not comply with these copyright laws will be indicted and punished according to the International Copyrights Law.

We do not take responsibility for material damage of any kind caused by the use of information contained in Hardware Secrets.