Asus Sabertooth Z97 Mark S review

Asus Sabertooth Z97 Mark S review

So, you want to stand out from the crowd and build an all-white PC? Well let's see how far you can get.

Case, no problem. Many case manufacturers make them. PSU? Check. There's a few of those around as well. Graphics card? Tick. Harder to find but there are one or two available. White motherboard?

Well, that's much more of a problem, sir.

White motherboards are like the Holy Grail of the modding world. In fact, giving it some serious thought, we can only think of two board manufacturers that ever ventured into the expensive world of producing white PCBs: Sapphire and Soyo. Hold on, ancient Abit made one too, so that's three.

And mentioning those last two long-forgotten names will give you an idea of how long ago it was.

Battle ready

All is not lost however because Asus has come to the rescue with a limited edition white version of its Z97 Sabertooth motherboard. The Sabertooth Mark S (which carried the codename Sabranco for a while) is an absolute stunner, too.

It may seem a little shallow to get excited about how a motherboard looks, but it must be said that even this cynical old hack cracked a smile and must tip his hat in approval at just how classy the Mark S looks.

The Mark S isn't an unrelenting sea of white, however, as the TUF Sabertooth 'thermal armour' sports a natty white and grey camo scheme, beloved of Arctic-based Special Forces teams and Battlefield 4 players alike.

It's up to you to decide whether this enhances the white PCB or makes you wish Asus had gone the whole hog and made everything just plain white, we're still not sure.

Even the reinforced back plate, or TUF Fortifier technology as Asus calls it, gets the camo treatment.

But, why oh why Asus, do you go and compromise the scheme by adding a couple of green and beige ports when every other port and slot is black?


CPU rendering performance
Cinebench R15 - Index score: higher is better
Asus Z97 Sabertooth Mark S - 756
ASRock Z97 Extreme 4 - 778
Gigabyte Z97X-SLI - 746

CPU encoding performance
X264 v4.0 - Avg FPS: higher is better
Asus Z97 Sabertooth Mark S - 45.69
ASRock Z97 Extreme 4 - 47.12
Gigabyte Z97X-SLI - 45.32

Sequential storage performance
AS SSD - Reads (MB/s): higher is better
Asus Z97 Sabertooth Mark S - 502
ASRock Z97 Extreme 4 - 480
Gigabyte Z97X-SLI - 482

4k storage performance
AS SSD - 4k reads (MB/s): higher is better
Asus Z97 Sabertooth Mark S - 24
ASRock Z97 Extreme 4 - 21
Gigabyte Z97X-SLI - 20

Hardware-wise the board follows the lead of the Sabertooth Mark 1; two PCIe 3.0 x16 slots running at x16 with a single graphics card, or x8/x8 when two cards are used. Connectivity extends to a single PCIe 2.0 x4 slot which sits near the bottom of the board and another three PCIe x1 slots.

Six edge-mounted SATA 6Gbps ports are supported by the chipset along with a SATA Express port. A further two SATA 6Gbps ports placed towards the base of the board are looked after by an ASMedia controller.

One thing notable by its absence is the chipset-supported M.2 slot. But pull off the 'thermal armour' and it becomes plain why it doesn't feature – there's simply no room.

Asus' TUF range is all about cooling flexibility and thermal monitoring, and one look at the Thermal Radar 2 section in the Asus software AI Suite shows it isn't mucking around.

It's probably the most comprehensive thermal management package available of any motherboard currently available, with no less than 13 pages of settings that enable you to tinker with just about everything on the board, cooling wise.

A quick word about the dust prevention package Asus has included in the box; that word is comprehensive. If it's a port and it's not being used, there's a rubber bung for it, but keeping with the overall scheme, the covers for the spare PCIe and memory slots are coloured white.

The problem is that the special edition premium adds a special premium amount onto the price tag.

That wouldn't be an issue if there was the sort of feature set you get with the expensive RoG boards, or the same benchmark levels. Unfortunately the whitewash aesthetic is what you're paying for here, not some beefed-up PC performance.

We liked

The general snowbound aesthetic may be an acquired taste, but for our money it looks fantastic. With the right Stormtrooper white chassis, and a large Perspex side panel, this could help make up the Heart of Gold-style PC of your dreams.

We disliked

We understand it's a limited edition board designed for a specific audience, but surely they're going to want all the PCIe-based storage the Republic of Gamers guys get.

And you're not getting the sort of performance numbers that something like the Asus Republic of Gamers Maximus VI Hero can offer.

Neither feature-set nor performance would be so much of an issue if it wasn't so darned expensive…


In the end, if you're after a white-washed motherboard to complete your perfect PC modification then you'll be able to overlook its deficiencies. But for the rest of us the Sabertooth Z97 Mark S simply doesn't offer enough to justify its cost.