Previously ASUS has tacked suffixes such as "PRO", "EVO" or "Deluxe" to the end of their motherboard model numbers to designate the more upscale products, however they seem to be taking things to a whole new level with their Sabertooth series. I am reminded of similar MSI branding when I read about the new TUF features, such as military-grade components and aerospace-grade CeraM!X cooling.
The Sabertooth 990FX comes with a handful of accessories including user manual, driver/software disc, case badge and window applique, warranty info, four SATA 6Gb/s cables, motherboard jumper headers, I/O plate and SLI bridge. For those of you wondering about CrossFire, ATI packages bridge cables with their video cards, so unless the motherboard requires some longer spacing due to slot placement, these are typically not included. There is also a list of detailed component specifications designated as military-grade reliability. ASUS seems to be trying for a military-grade appearance as well because the coloration on this board is a not-entirely-unappealing mix of tan, brown, flat black and kind of an olive/pea green. They must believe pretty strongly in their hardware however as they have tacked on an impressive five year warranty for the TUF series of boards.
At the top front corner of the Sabertooth 990FX are three 4-pin PWM fan headers, MemOK button and LED indicator, USB 3.0 front panel connector, and the usual arrangement of AM3+ (AM3b) CPU socket, quad DDR3 slots in alternating dual channel spacing and 24-pin power connector. You'll note that the socket retention bracket is a new two-piece design, differing from the previous AM2/AM2+/AM3 style. I suspect this was done to gain more clearance for surrounding and underlying components, however I wonder if this will have any impact on coolers with a high amount of clip tension.
Moving further down we find the only 3-pin fan header located in the lower half of the board. There are six SATA 6Gb/s and two SATA 3Gb/s ports, stacked in pairs and facing forwards. The front panel pin header, serial port header and two USB headers are positioned along the very bottom edge, along with a clear CMOS header. Nearly invisible CPU and BOOT LEDs, located behind the last DIMM slot and adjacent to the Southbridge heatsink respectively, will light to indicate error on POST.
A matching VGA LED is located next to the first PCI-E 16x slot to indicate a video card problem at POST, while a big ugly green power/standby LED bulb is positioned along the bottom edge. Why ASUS chose not to make this LED the same style as the others is anyone's guess. Audio and SPDIF headers reside at the back corner of the board, while two more 4-pin PWM fan headers are placed near the middle. Heatsinks for the VRM power components and Northbridge are connected by heatpipe, while CPU power is supplied via an 8pin +12V connector.
The heatsinks are all attached to the board using spring-loaded screws, rather than plastic clips. This ensures better contact and thermal transfer, not to mention less likelihood of coming off or getting jarred loose. The rear I/O ports are comprised of a single PS2 for mouse or keyboard, ten USB 2.0 (black + red), two USB 3.0 (blue), IEEE 1394, one eSATA (red) and one powered eSATA (green) both 3Gb/s, one 1Gb/s network, optical SPDIF and six analog audio jacks.
Pictured from left to right, the Realtek RTL8111E supplies the Gigabit network interface. A JMicron JMB362 provides both eSATA ports, one of them powered, plus the two SATA 3Gb/s at the front. The VIA VT6308P offers two IEEE1394 connections, and the Realtek ALC892 handles the 8-channel audio.
Near the front, an ITE IT8721F provides temperature, voltage and fan monitoring. The AMD SB950 supplies the six SATA 6Gb/s and 14 USB 2.0 total, four at the headers and 10 at the rear I/O, while an ASMedia ASM1042 adds four USB 3.0, two via header and two at the rear.
Next let's get the Sabertooth 990FX installed and powered up.