ASUS Z97 TUF (The Ultimate Force) Motherboards
As mentioned, the TUF series of motherboards will also continue into the ASUS Z97 product stack, with both the ATX Sabertooth and the micro-ATX Gryphon carrying over. Both boards will be available with the TUF armoured exterior (Sabertooth Z97 Mark 1 and Gryphon Z97 Armor Edition) as well as without it (Sabertooth Z97 Mark 2 and Gryphon Z97). The armour, which comes with a rear fortifier plate too, is used for protection and cooling as well as stability and aesthetics.
Click to enlarge - The Sabertooth Z97 Mark 1 and Mark 2
It's not yet clear what the price and feature differences will be between the two varieties, although in our photos you can see that the two Sabertooth models have differing SATA arrangements – the Mark 1 has SATA Express connectivity on the right hand side and two additional SATA ports along the lower edge, while the Mark 2 simply has six standard SATA 6Gbps ports, forgoing SATA Express and the extra lower ones.
Click to enlarge - The Gryphon Z97 and Gryphon Z97 Armor Edition
As ever, the TUF motherboards are all subjected to strenuous and long-term 'server-level' burn-in tests. They also use components that have been certified for military use, and the new boards will be equipped with upgraded Alloy chokes, which you can see clustered around the CPU socket.
Click to enlarge
The armoured TUF motherboards will ship with a new feature called Dust de-Fan. This is a small fan mounted to the rear I/O panel – it typically draws cool air into the armour from outside the chassis to help cool the components beneath, but it can also periodically reverse its direction, and ASUS claims that this helps to dislodge and expel dust that might otherwise get trapped beneath the armour.
Click to enlarge
The TUF ICe controller is responsible for controlling system fans on the Sabertooth and Gryphon boards. It utilises data that it gathers from the twelve onboard sensors and ASUS claims it offers low latency monitoring even when the CPU load is heavy.
Click to enlarge - The Dust de-Fan itself
The software solution which presumably works in unison with the TUF ICe controller is the new Thermal Radar 2 suite. This adds in support for VGA fan control (with compatible ASUS cards), allowing you to fine tune your graphics card's fan profile. You can also use it to control the Dust de-Fan functionality, setting the assistant fan to run in reverse for a certain time when booting and/or at certain intervals during normal system operation.