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Asus Sabertooth 55i TUF Motherboard
Let's face it, enthusiast PC hardware is a male-dominated sector, and boys have always been attracted to army stuff. Thus Asus has had the brilliant idea of combining the two with its new 'Marine Cool' TUF (which stands for The Ultimate Force, but see the clever play on 'tough' here?) Sabertooth 55i motherboard. To be honest we think Asus has got its analogies a little mixed up here as saber-tooth tigers aren't the first things we think of when someone says military, but at least they've got the camouflage colour scheme spot on.
As the name suggests, this is one of the new socket LGA 1156 boards based on the Intel P55 chipset, compatible with Intel's latest Core i5 and i7 processors. And it's not just the combat colours that make it special; it also features 'rugged' build and components. Its capacitors, for example, have been shock, temperature, moisture, vibration, and even "Salt Spray" tested - invaluable if you want to take your new motherboard sailing. All joking aside though, this resistance can be genuinely useful if you live near the shore, as salty sea air can wreak havoc on PC parts (so even if the rest of your computer dies, your motherboard's capacitors should survive).
Getting back to aesthetics, everything's based on a black PCB, with the white TUF logo (two wings flanking a shield) discreetly visible between the PCI Express and memory slots. Most of the various slots and jumpers are clothed in brown, beige or gunmetal grey, and thankfully the memory slots are coloured according to pair so you know which slots to occupy for dual channel mode (why don't all motherboards do this?). Not only this but beige is the consistent colour to denote primary, so at a glance you know the beige 16x PCI-Express slot and memory slots are the ones to fill first.
The highlight in terms of looks though are the ceramic (or CeraM!X, as Asus prefers to call it)-coated heatsinks for the power phases surrounding the CPU socket and the P55 chipset cooler. While not as magpie-friendly as their polished metal counterparts on most other motherboards, Asus claims better performance thanks to improved heat dissipation.
So onto practical considerations. The Sabertooth 55i TUF's basic design and layout is very similar to Asus' P7P55D Deluxe, but then why fix what isn't broken? Thanks to P55 boards replacing the north and south-bridge of previous X58 motherboards with a single chip, there's plenty of room to play with layout. Here Asus got things right pretty early on and hasn't changed things just for the sake of it.