With Intel's Z77 desktop chipset expose in full swing the new Asus Sabertooth Z77 is one of the most intriguing of the motherboard models available at launch.

Of course, the full splendour of Intel's shiny new Z77 chipset won't be revealed until the new Ivy Bridge family of CPUs, for which it has really been created, arrive in a few weeks time.

Until then, we'll have to make do with putting the Sabertooth through it paces courtesy of Intel's existing Sandy Bridge processors, like the Core i7 2600K we're using here.

At this point, you'll have deduced that the Z77, and indeed Ivy Bridge, are not accompanied by a new CPU socket.

That's actually some relief given the almost punitive frequency with which Intel has been socket swapping of late.

We've still no real clue why the LGA1156 socket had to give way to the almost identical LGA1155.

But no matter, backwards compatibility is the name of the game and it's time to find out how the Sabertooth Z77 stacks up compared to both ye olde Intel 6 Series platforms and also a few of the competing members of the Z77 vanguard, including the MSI Z77A-GD65 and an in-house rival in the form of the Asus Republic of Gamers Maximus V Gene.

Bring it on.

Vital stats
Chipset - Intel Z77
Socket - Intel LGA 1155
CPU support - Intel 2nd & 3rd Generation Core
Form factor - ATX
Graphics support - Nvidia SLI and AMD CrossFire, Intel integrated
High speed interfaces - 4x USB 3.0, 4x SATA 6Gbps

Benchmarks

We've updated our benchmarks now to reflect the performance you get using Ivy Bridge CPUs, here in the shape of the Intel Core i7 3770K.

In terms of how the Sabertooth Z77 board compares with the other Z77 motherboards we've looked at it does rather well. That's to be expected though as it's one of the most expensive boards we've seen.

The straight battle is with the Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H, and it's nip and tuck all the way. The Gigabyte board takes the plaudits in the Cinebench score, but the Asus Sabertooth Z77 has the edge in both the X264 video encoding test and, more importantly for us, in the gaming benchmark.

Interestingly though the Asus P8Z77-V Pro is a cheaper board and isn't actually that far off the pace of either our top end boards.

CPU rendering performance

Asus Sabertooth Z77 benchmarks

CPU encoding performance

Asus Sabertooth Z77 benchmarks

Gaming performance

Asus Sabertooth Z77 benchmarks