ASUS Sabertooth 55i P55 Chipset Motherboard Review

ASUS' latest introduction to its Intel P55 line of boards is the Sabertooth 55i. Sabertooth is totally new branding and product placement for ASUS. This board looks to have a solid combination of performance and features that should give the competition something to think about.

Introduction

ASUS has a long standing track record for quality and performance in the highly competitive computer component space. Over the years, the company has cultivated its loyal customer base with products that are made to withstand even the most brutal usage. ASUS' latest product line endeavors to combine cutting edge technology and innovative designs to continue fueling the company's reputation. ASUS' newest motherboard line joining the ranks of its Intel board line holds up well to this scrutiny.

We don't expect the world of these first ASUS "TUF" (The Ultimate Force) Sabertooth products, but we surely like the way things look to be headed. We have learned over the years that first products out of the gate with new lines can sometimes be shaky. Surely ASUS thinks differently though as we see terms like "Military Grade Reliability" thrown around. To give credit where credit is due, ASUS is glomming onto marketing spearheaded by MSI's "Military Class Components" a half year ago.

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The ASUS Sabertooth 55i motherboard uses the Intel P55 chipset. Using this chipset, the board supports the following technologies: the Intel LGA1156 Core i5 and i7 processor lines, DDR3 memory operating in Dual Channel memory mode up to 1333MHz officially, and either NVIDIA SLI or ATI CrossFireX graphics mode using matched video cards. The Sabertooth 55i comes standard with the listed integrated devices: 6 SATA II 3Gb/s ports (RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and 5 capable) on the Intel P55 controller; 2 SATA II 3Gb/s ports on the JMicron JMB322 controller; 1 ATA-133 IDE port and 1 e-SATA 3Gb/s port on the JMicron JMB363 controller; 14 USB 2.0 capable ports (8 in rear panel, and 3 onboard headers supporting 2 ports each); 1 Realtek GigE Ethernet port in the rear panel; VIA 10-channel HD audio codec with an integrated S/PDIF optical output port; onboard power, system reset, and MemOK! buttons; and a PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports in the rear panel.

Main Specifications Overview:

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Detailed Mainboard Specification List:

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Packaging

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The Sabertooth 55i motherboard comes delivered in smart looking packaging, with an industrial style look to the box front with a steel and black color scheme. The board name and supported technologies are clearly marked on the box front as well. The board itself is packaged in with the following accessories: an IDE ribbon cable; SATA drive cables; the rear panel shield; a 2-way NVIDIA SLI connector; a rear panel bracket containing both USB 2.0 and IEEE 1394 ports; CoolMem! fan frame; the Q-Connector modules; and the normal complement of manuals and drivers discs. The Q-Connector modules allow for an easy interface for connecting in to the motherboard headers. You simply plug in your front panel jumpers in to the white connector and the USB 2.0 jumpers in to the blue connector block, and then plug both blocks in to the motherboard headers. It makes for a much easier install for those typically hard to reach header areas. The CoolMem! fan frame assembly allows for attachment of a user supplied 40mm or 50mm fan directly over the memory slots.

Board Layout

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The Sabertooth 55i sports an elegant design, in line with what we've come to expect from ASUS designs. There are no tight areas on the board whatsoever, with more than enough room provided around the CPU socket area for use of even the larger cooling mechanisms. ASUS also chose to include their single latch memory sockets in order to alleviate issues with memory when using larger video cards in the primary PCI-Express x16 slot. The board revision is silk screened to the surface, to the upper right of the P55 chipset cooler. The board used in testing was a model 1.02G revision. The board's serial number is located on the front flap of the box, as well as on a white sticker along the outer edge of PCI slot 2. ASUS paired the Sabertooth 55i with high quality polymer solid-electrolyte capacitors and Ferrite core chokes for the its power regulation needs.

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The CPU socket is clear of all obstructions, due in a big part to the placement of the P55 chipset under the PCI-Express slots. In addition, ASUS chose to use low profile components around the CPU in order to combat any possible component height issues with CPU cooler placement. The socket itself uses the standard LGA1156 mounting mechanism for the CPU cooler. To the upper left of the CPU socket are the CHA_FAN and CPU_FAN headers, in addition to the CPU voltage status LED bank. The MEM_FAN header is located to the lower left of the CPU socket. The ATX12V 8-pin power connector is tucked away to the right of the CPU socket, behind the power regulator heat pipe cooling mechanism.

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The onboard DDR3 based DIMM slots are located directly below the CPU socket area. The slots themselves are arranged in a bi-colored array. Note that Dual Channel memory mode becomes active with similar modules in like colored slots. The tan colored slots are the primary memory slots for the board. Directly below the memory slots are the 24-pin ATX power connector, the MemOK! button, the memory voltage status LED bank, and the serial port and PWR_FAN headers. The MemOK! button can be used to reset memory settings to default system fail-safe settings in the event of a non-booting system due aggressive memory settings.

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The Intel P55 chipset is located under a massive low profile cooler just below the secondary PCI-Express x16 slot. Directly below the chipset are 4 of the chipset controlled SATA II ports, and the onboard ATA-133 IDE port. The front panel and CHA_FAN2 headers are located to the lower left of the chipset. Just above those headers are 4 additional SATA II ports, with the black colored port controlled by the P55 chipset and the other two ports belonging to the JMicron JMB322 controller. The onboard USB 2.0 ports are directly above the SATA II ports along the left edge of the board, while the CMOS reset jumper is located to the upper left of the P55 chipset cooler.

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ASUS integrated a total of 7 ports in to the Sabertooth 55i's layout: 2 PCI-Express x16 slots, 3 PCI-Express x1 slots, and 2 PCI slots. The onboard Power and Reset button are located to the lower left of PCI slot 2, with the IEEE1394 header, the S/PDIF output header, the CD_IN header, and the front panel audio header just above along the board's left edge. The CMOS battery is located in between the primary and secondary PCI-Express x16 slots.

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The Sabertooth 55i's rear panel contains the following ports: PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports; 8 USB 2.0 ports; 1 IEEE 1394 port; 1 Realtek GigE Ethernet port; 1 e-SATA 3Gb/s port; and 6 analogue audio ports and an S/PDIF optical audio output port.