We were keen to see how the Sabertooth performed compared with the Crosshair V Formula, and we weren’t disappointed. It recorded the second highest Gimp image editing and HandBrake H.264 video encoding
scores of 1,081 and 1,064 respectively. Its overall score
of 1,398 is the fastest we've seen from any AM3+ motherboard at stock speeds.
The Sabertooth was also the second fastest board in Arma II
, with a minimum frame rate of 63fps, and managed some stonking SATA speeds
too. The SB950 chip powered its way to a read speed of 546MB/sec and a write speed of 474MB/sec – the latter is even faster than the Crosshair V.
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As we expected, the Sabertooth’s EFI was fantastic – well laid out and lag-free. We reached the maximum HTT of 350MHz in no time at all by lowering the CPU multiplier and RAM divider to their lowest settings, and using a CPU NB of 1.3V, an NB of 1.325V, and
the NB HT at 1.3V and SB at 1.31V. Unfortunately, as with all the other motherboards on test, the Sabertooth wasn’t great at recovering when we pushed it a little too far, but unlike the recalcitrant ASRock 890FX Deluxe5, it just needed to be manually restarted once or twice.
Sadly, the Sabertooth wasn’t as adept at maintaining its high maximum HTT when we
ramped up the CPU multiplier. We initially thought that the voltages we’d applied were too high, as the motherboard’s heatsinks were quite toasty. However, even lowering the voltages significantly didn’t allow us to use an HTT higher than 315MHz, combined with a CPU multiplier of 13x.
This resulted in a final CPU overclock of 4.095GHz – not the fastest on test, but the HTT we were able to use was the second highest, and provides plenty of CPU-to-system bandwidth. The overclock did the trick too, with the Gimp image editing test score rising by 186 points, the HandBrake H.264 video encoding test improving by 402 points and the multi-tasking test increasing by 113 points. This resulted in the fastest overall Media Benchmarks score of 1,632 – nearly 17 per cent faster than the stock-speed score. The Sabertooth also recorded the highest minimum frame rate in Arma II of 72fps – a healthy increase of 13 per cent.
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We were pleasantly surprised by the Sabertooth 990FX’s performance, both at its stock speeds and when overclocked. It consistently held its ground against much more expensive motherboards and put others to shame with its excellent SATA performance and nippy, easy-to-use EFI. It has an excellent PCB layout and enough ports to satisfy even the most hardware-packed systems.
On-board power and reset buttons are an odd omission from what we consider to be an overclocking-orientated motherboard, especially given how poorly the latest batch of AMD motherboards seem to recover from overzealous overclocking. The competition therefore claws back some points for on-board buttons and other handy features for overclocking.
Despite this slight flaw, the Sabertooth performed similarly to more expensive boards and was much faster than its nearest competitors in some circumstances. Gigabyte’s 990FXA-UD7 and the Crosshair V Formula offer some extra lavishness in terms of overclocking, features and general pizzazz (waterblocks will be easier to buy for them too). However, the Sabertooth is a fast, well featured and competitively priced board that offers the most sensible option for anyone who wants maximum performance from an AMD system.