Sapphire PURE CrossFireX 790GX Motherboard Review
Sapphire is one of ATIís closest GPU partners and they hold some of ATIís largest market share. While theyíve been successful in the GPU market, they havenít seen the same success with their attempts to branch out into other areas, namely motherboards. Sapphire has developed boards utilizing everything from ATIís RD480 to the more recent 790X. Today we are going to take a close look at the latest 790GX-based motherboard from Sapphire, the PURE 790GX. Featuring integrated Radeon HD3300 graphics, Hybrid Crossfire technology as well as the latest southbridge from AMD, the SB750, the 790GX boasts an impressive set of features.
|Sapphire PURE 790GX PC-AM2RS790GX|
|CPU||Supports AMD Socket AM2+/AM2:|
AMD Phenom FX/Phenom processors
Athlon 64 X2 / Athlon 64 FX / Athlon 64 / Sempron processors
|Chipset||AMD 790GX + AMD SB750 Chipset|
|Hyper Transport||HT 3.0|
|Memory||Dual Channel DDR2 memory technology|
4x 240-pin DDR2 DIMM slots
Supports DDR2 1066/800 non-ECC ,un-buffered memory
|Expansion Slots||2x 32-bit PCI Slots|
2x PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots (X8+X8 or X16+switch card)
2x PCI Express x1
Supports RAID 0,1,5
1x UDMA 133/100/66 PATA
|Audio||Realtek ALC888 8-Channel HD Audio Codec|
|LAN||Realtek RTL8111C GB NIC|
|USB||4x USB 2.0 Ports|
4x USB Headers
|Rear Panel I/O||4x USB 2.0/1.1 ports|
1x PS/2 mouse & keyboard port
1x VGA port + 1x DVI port + 1x HDMI port
1x RJ-45 port
1x 8 CH HD Audio I / O port
|Internal I/O||4x USB 2.0/1.1 headers for 8 USB 2.0/1.1 ports|
CPU / Chassis Fan connectors
1x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector
1x 24-pin ATX Power connector
1x Serial Port of 9-pin block
CD / AUX Audio in
1x Ultra DMA 133 / 100 / 66 IDE connector + 1x Floppy connector
1x HDMI_SPDIF header + 1x IR header
|BIOS||Award 8MB SPI Flash Rom|
|Form Factor||ATX Form Factor (305 x 245mm)|
The PURE 790GX is an AM2+ based board that also provides support for Phenom II AM3 CPUís. Surrounding the CPU socket is a moderately sized passive cooler for the chipset, which provides ample room for larger heatsinks. The 790GX can support up to 4 DIMMS in dual channel in both 800 and 1066Mhz speeds, with a maximum capacity of 16GB. For Crossfire, Sapphire included 2 PCIe 2.0 x16 slots (x8+x8) or users can enable single card x16 operation with the use a small switch card. The switch card is easily installed into the secondary PCIe x16 slot which enables full bandwidth on the primary graphics slot. Rounding out the internal expansion slots are 2 PCIe x1 slots and 2 PCI slots. The board integrates 6 SATAII plugs with support for many common forms of RAID, 0,1,5, and 0+1. There is also a single PATA connector located just south of the ATX power plug, next to the floppy connector.
Just above the SATA connectors sits built-in power and reset buttons, while a CMOS reset button sits towards the bottom of the board by the USB headers. These buttons allow the board to booted, reset, and the CMOS cleared without the need for a case or jumpers. From an overclocking perspective, this is a nice touch in the event you push the system a little far and cannot get back into BIOS to reset changes. Another excellent addition is an LED debug readout that gives you a code in the event the system is unable to boot. The manual for the 790GX includes a handy guide for deciphering the codes, which makes troubleshooting a snap.
The back panel for the 790GX is pretty standard fare, as it sports 8 channel Realtek ALC888 audio, Realtek Gigabit LAN and 4 USB 2.0 ports. The integrated video includes 128MB built-in sideport memory, which rests beneath the chipset cooler. The PURE 790GX features all 3 common video connectors, DVI, VGA, and even HDMI with support for audio pass-through. One of the big selling points of the 790GX chipset is that it is the first AMD chipset to support Hybrid CrossFireX.
Hybrid CrossFire is a technology that allows the on-board HD3300 GPU to run in CrossFire mode with a dedicated GPU. Only the HD 2400 to HD 3400 GPUís are supported in Hybrid CrossFire mode, which limits the usefulness to low end graphics. However, it is still an interesting technology that provides a performance boost to older GPUís.
Overall, board layout is good with the notable exception of the PCIe x1 slots, which are situated between the 2 x16 PCIe slots. Tall add-in cards might have clearance issues if running in CrossFire, while long cards could potentially block a fan on one of your GPUís. While there isnít a huge selection of PCIe add-in cards on the market, more and more manufacturers are moving in that direction. We would rather have seen at least one of these slots situated above the first x16 slot to avoid this problem. This way, if you decide to run an add-in audio or network card, you wonít run the risk of affecting airflow or clearance issues with water blocks.