Sapphire Pure PC-AM2RX780 Review

ajmatson - 2008-09-09 09:59:16 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: ajmatson   
Reviewed on: October 5, 2008
Price: $TBD

Introduction:

There are so many chipsets available on the market no matter what processor you choose these days. Figuring out the system you want to build is where you need to start with what motherboard you need. Do you need to run single or dual graphics cards? How many SATA ports do you require? What type of processor will you be running? Lastly, and most importantly, what will the computer's purpose be? Answering these questions can be a task in itself but with a variety of platforms available you have more hardware at your fingertips to make your selection the best one. One chipset that is out that you may have heard little about is the AMD 770 chipset. The AMD 770 chipset, which uses the same architecture as the 790 chipset, combines an AMD 770 Northbridge and a SB600 Southbridge for a powerful combination without a lot of overhead. Don't let this chipset fool you though. The AMD 770 supports AM2/AM2+ processors with HyperTransport 3.0 technology. It also supports CrossFireX with its dual PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots and all this with power saving features to top it off. Today we are going to take a look at Sapphire's offering of the AMD 770/SB600 chipset the Sapphire Pure PC-AM2RX780 motherboard. This board takes Sapphire's proven design technology and combines it with this latest chipset to provide you with a fast platform for your computing needs.

 

Closer Look:

The outside of the packaging is the green colored motif that Sapphire includes on its Pure motherboards packaging. On the front of the box are some limited specs for the PC-AM2RX780 motherboard along with the logos of the supported hardware. The back of the packaging expands on the supported hardware and the features of the 770 chipset. There is also a picture of the motherboard so you can see what it looks like prior to purchase.

 

 

Opening the box lets you get a view of what is included with the Sapphire 770 board. Sapphire has given you just enough to get started with your board while keeping the costs down. This is nice because you don't end up paying for stuff that you will never use. Included is the PC-AM2RX780 motherboard, the manual, the driver CD, one SATA cable, one IDE cable, the I/O shield plate with a color coded cover, and a PCI Express Switch Card which is used to enable full x16 speeds for a single graphics card solution.

 

 

Now that everything is un-boxed, let's move on over and take a look at the board more closely.

Closer Look:

Like I mentioned earlier, the Sapphire PC-AM2RX780 motherboard uses the AMD 770 chipset, which supports AMD processors and pairs it with cutting edge technology such as power saving features and CrossFireX options for a multi-GPU system. Sapphire has chosen to go with a dark brownish PC Board with a subtle color scheme which is pleasing on the eyes. The board is an ATX form factor design that offers enough room to work without having components jammed up on each other. On the backside is the socket support plate, which balances the load of the heatsink on the PC Board.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The back panel of a motherboard is important because no matter how many ports it has if the ones you need are not there then what is the point. The Sapphire 770 board gives a good start but I feel it is lacking on the I/O panel with the type and number of ports included. Starting from the top there are the PS/2 connectors, an S/PDIF Coaxial In and Out port, a Serial port, four USB 2.0 ports, a RJ45 LAN port, and the 8-Channel audio ports. Looking at the panel there seems to be so much wasted space. It would have been nice to have a few more USB 2.0 ports and maybe an eSATA or Firewire port there.

 

 

Sliding on down to the expansion slots you get a shot of where some of the magic happens. Since this board is CrossFireX capable there are of course two x16 PCI Express slots, however when in CrossFire mode the slots are only x8 electrical but remember this is at PCI Express 2.0 bandwidth so the decrease with not be very noticeable. There are also two PCI Express x1 slots and two legacy PCI slots for expansion of audio and other cards. One note is that for a single-GPU setup the card must be placed in the red PCI Express x16 slot and the switch card placed in the blue slot to enable the full 16 lanes for the video.

 

 

Moving on down to the bottom of the board, this is where the headers for expansion ports can be used as they are needed. Starting from the left side there are the audio header, a parallel header, three USB 2.0 headers, and the front panel header. Continuing up the right spine of the board are one floppy port, four SATA II 3.0Gbps ports, and one IDE port supporting up to two of the legacy devices. The PC-AM2RX780 board uses a 24-pin main ATX power connector and an 8-pin auxiliary power connector to provide the necessary power to run the board and overclock to your heart's content.

 

 

 

The CPU area is clear and open so you should have no trouble installing any heatsinks or water cooling blocks of your choice. This motherboard support AMD socket AM2 and AM2+ processors up to and including the Quad Core Phenom x4 CPUs. The capacitors around the CPU area are all solid for better stability and the board uses a five phase design for clean power while overclocking and pushing your hardware. The Sapphire 770 board also has four DIMM slots available, which allows use of up to 16GB of memory running up to 1066MHz. Each color represents a channel for dual channel setups with the yellow slots being the first channel to be used for optimal results.

 

 

The heatsinks on the Sapphire 770 board are small but they get the job done. Sapphire has opted to go with aluminum fin style heatsinks and has placed them on the Northbridge, Southbridge, and on the voltage regulators to aid in keeping the temperatures down and allow for higher stable overclocks.

 

 

Now that we have looked better at the board, let's boot up and see what the BIOS has in store for us.

Closer Look:

The BIOS, which is one of the most underrated and misunderstood parts of a computer, is actually more important than most other parts of your system. With a strong BIOS you can get the most out of your computer just as with a weak BIOS your components can suffer, such as memory timings and speeds. Most of the BIOSes available these days are broken down in a menu type system with different sections controlling different parts of the BIOS. We are going to take a look at the BIOS of the Sapphire PC-AM2RX780 by the menus so you can get a better idea of what is available for you and your tweaking adventure.

 

 

Main Screen, Standard CMOS Features & Advanced BIOS Features:

The Main Screen is what you are presented with when you first enter the BIOS program. This is where you choose the sub menu to go into based on your needs. This is also where you can load defaults and save your changes. The Standard CMOS section allows you to change the date/time and make changes to the drive selections. In the Advanced BIOS features section you can turn on and off features such as CPU Virtualization, Cool & Quiet, boot order and more.

 

 

 

 

Advanced Chipset Features:

The Advanced Chipset Features section is where you have control over the memory settings such as the timings and latency, HyperTransport features and PCI Express configurations including the HyperThreading frequency.

 

 

 

 

Integrated Peripherals:

The Integrated Peripherals section is where you have control over the onboard devices such as the SATA ports, IDE ports, and other peripherals like you mouse and keyboard. For the SATA ports you can set them in IDE mode, RAID mode or ACHI mode for hot swap abilities. Here you also can change the LAN settings and USB settings.

 

 

 

Power Management, Miscellaneous Control, PC Health & Thermal Throttling:

These small sub sections give you the ability to monitor and control safety settings in case of disaster or problems. You can also set the power settings of the computer to help do your part at keeping the earth greener.

 

 

 

 

Now let's flip over and look at the section where the overclocking tweaks take place.

Closer Look:

Power User Overclock Settings:

Now that we have seen the general part of the BIOS we are going to see the overclocking options that are available on the Sapphire PC-AM2RX780 motherboard. This is where you have the ability to change the settings to push your components like the CPU and memory. The majority of what you have control over on the board in this section is the clock speeds for the CPU bus, PCI Express bus, and the Southbridge bus by keying in the speeds that you want in 1Mhz increments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Underneath these speeds is the CPU Ratio which allows you to up the multiplier in half increments up to the limit of your CPU or more if you have a Black Box processor with an unlocked multiplier. You can also change the speed of your memory up to 1066MHz in predetermined increments of 400, 533, 667, 800, and 1066MHz.

 

 

In the last part of the Power User Overclock Settings is where you can change the voltages for your components. The options that you have to change are the CPU voltage up to 1.550v, The CPU VCore shift feature up to a 35% increase, the memory voltage up to 2.5v and the Northbridge voltage from 1.15v to 1.20v.

 

 

 

With the BIOS all set up we can now install the drivers to get this puppy running.

Closer Look:

Again, to keep costs to a minimal Sapphire has opted to include the minimum needed to get your system up and running smoothly. When you place the CD in to your drive you are presented with an autostart program for the driver installation. You options are to install the ATI drivers, sound drivers, LAN drivers, create a RAID disk, install a trial of PC-Cillin Anti-Virus, and to browse the CD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you opt to install the ATI drivers you are brought to the Catalyst Control Center installation which looks exactly like the CCC when you install ATI video cards. Just choose how you want to install and the path and away it goes installing everything you need to get your board up and running right away. Follow up with the LAN and the sound installation and you are all ready to go. Short, simple and to the point with no frills to delay you getting into your board.

 

 

 

 

Now that we have everything installed we can move on over to the testing phase of the review.

Specifications:

 

CPU:
Socket AM2+ HT3 2000 MHz AMD® AthlonTM64 With HyperTransport Technology
Compatible with 64-bit Dual Core AMD® AthlonTM64 X2 Processor and AMD PhenomTM
Chipset:
AMD 770 Chipset + AMD SB600 Chipset
Memory:
4 x 240-pin DIMM Sockets for unbuffered Dual DDR2 1066Mhz SDRAM (up to 8 GB)
Expansion Slots:
Expansion Slots 2 x 32-bit PCI Slots / 2 x PCI EXPRESS 2.0 x 16 slots(2 x PCI-E x 8 when used with CrossFireXTM Technology or PCI-E X16 when use Switch card) / 2 x PCI EXPRESS x1 slots
Storage
2 x Ultra DMA 133 / 100 / 66 IDE Device Support Embedded AMD SB600 Southbridge Chipset Supports 4 x Serial ATA2 HDDs with RAID 0, 1 , 10 Functions
Audio:
Realtek ALC883 8-Channel HD Audio
Ethernet:
Marvell M88E8049/M88E8056-F PCI Express Gigabit PHY
USB:
10 x High Speed USB @ 480 Mbit / s
Special Features:
Advanced Power Design that supports the latest Socket-AM2 K8 CPU Premium Capacitors and Power design afford best Over-Clocking performance “IMAGE IT!” System Backup Software and “ProMagicPLUS!” System Recovery System
Rear Panel:
4 x High Speed USB Connectors @ 480 Mbit / s
1 x PS / 2 Mouse & 1 x PS/2 Keyboard Connector
1 x RJ45 LAN Connector
1 x SPDIF Coaxial In and 1 x SPDIF Coaxial Out port
1 x Serial port
1 x 8-Channel Audio I / O
Internal I/O:
3 x High Speed USB Connectors @ 480 Mbit / s for 6 USB 2.0 Ports
CPU / Chassis Fan Connectors
1 x 12V 8-pin ATX Power Connector and 1 x 24-pin ATX Power Connector
1 x Parallel Port 25-Pin Header Block
CD / AUX Audio in Connectors
1 x Floppy Disk Drive Connector
SPDIF header
BIOS:
Award 8 MB Flash ROM
Form Factor:
ATX Form Factor 305X220mm

 

 

Features:

 

Testing:

The Sapphire PC-AM2RX780 has gotten me interested in seeing what it can do with the lesser known AMD 770 chipset especially since it is made by the well known Sapphire graphics card manufacturer. To test the PC-AMRX780 motherboard I am going to push it to the limits using a series of video and scientific benchmarks designed to bench the performance of the board. To compare how the AMD 770 chipset stands up I am going to pit the PC-AM2RX780 up against two other chipsets in its class, which are the newer 790GX and the GeForce 8300 chipsets. This will give a good representation of where the Sapphire board with the 770 chipset sits among other mainstream motherboards. To keep the tests fair and eliminate any variables from interfering with the scores, all of the boards tested and the companion hardware will be run at their stock speeds, timings, and voltages unless noted as in the overclocking tests.

 

Test Setup: 

 

Comparison Motherboards:

 

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

Since the Sapphire PC-AM2RX780 is an AMD chipset base board you can use either the BIOS for overclocking or the AMD Overclocking Utility. For the purpose of this review I tested overclocking on both options and ended up with the same result both ways. In the end the Sapphire board did not like any changes at all in the bus speed, not even 201Mhz, but this board was the most liberal I have had with the multiplier, allowing me to raise it up to 16x for a whopping 3.20GHz on the Phenom x4 9850 Black Box. This was achieved only by raising the VCore to 1.45v and Northbridge VID to 1.35v. This is one of the best overclockes I have achieved on this chip which goes to show you how well chipsets are evolving as time goes on.

 

 

 

 

Benchmarks:

  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. SPECviewperf 10
  4. PCMark Vantage Professional
  5. SiSoft Sandra XII
  6. ScienceMark 2.02 Final
  7. CineBench 10
  8. HD Tune 2.55
  1. Crysis
  2. Knights of the Sea
  3. BioShock
  4. Call of Duty 4
  5. World in Conflict
  6. Call of Juarez
  7. Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts
  8. 3DMark 06 Professional

Testing:

First up are the system specific benchmarks that will test overall scientific performance.

 

To get things stated, I will begin with Apophysis. This program is used primarily to render and generate fractal flame images. We will run this benchmark with the following settings:

 

The measurement used is time to render, in minutes, to complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WinRAR is a tool to archive and compress large files to a manageable size. We will use 10MB, 100MB, and 500MB files, as well as test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds.

ZIP:

 

RAR:

 

 

The Sapphire 770 board was faster than the Geforce 8300 and just about tied with the Foxconn board in Apophysis. The results in the WinRAR testing swing back and forth with the Sapphire ahead in one out of six tests but tied for the top spot in two.

Testing:

SPECviewperf 10 is a benchmark designed to test OpenGL performance. I will be using the multi-threaded tests to measure the performance when run in this mode. The tests used for comparison are listed below. The default multi-threaded tests were chosen to be able to compare across platforms. In these tests, higher scores equate to better performance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

 

 

 

 

PCMark Vantage is used to measure complete system performance. We will be running a series of tests to gauge performance of each individual board to see which board, if any, rises above the others.

 

Again, the Sapphire and the Foxconn board ran neck and neck until PCMark Vantage in which the Sapphire board stomped the competition.

Testing:

SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key areas of the motherboards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Processor Arithmetic

 

 

 

Multi-Core Efficiency

 

 

 

Memory Bandwidth

 

 

 

Memory Latency

 

 

Cache and Memory

 

 

 

File System

 

 

 

Physical Disks

 

 

 

Power Management Efficiency

 

 

The AMD boards were tied down in the row of benchmarks but both were taken at times by the GeForce board and vice versa.

Testing:

ScienceMark tests real world performance instead of using synthetic benchmarks. For this test, we ran the benchmark suite and will use the overall score for comparison.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CineBench is useful for testing your system, CPU and OpenGL capabilities using the software program CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.

 

 

 

HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.

 

 

 

In the Sciencemark and Cinebench tests the 770 was right on the heals of the 790GX board. In HDTune it again was close with the exception of the Burst speeds where the 770 chipset went speeding on by.

 

Testing:

Crysis has been out for quite some time now. In that time, there has yet to be a single or multi-GPU setup that can fully showcase the graphics performance of the game.  The Crysis single player demo includes both CPU and GPU benchmarks to test the performance of your processor and video card.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

The scores were just about even across the board.

 

Testing:

PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a new DX10 title that features its own proprietary graphics engine currently in development. The game is a combination of Real Time Strategy and Simulation. You have the ability to control the entire crew or just a single member. Play as the German, Russian or Allied navies, and prove your mettle on the open seas.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

The AMD 770 based board from Sapphire delivered performance numbers that were almost identical to the Foxconn and Asus offerings.

Testing:

BioShock is one of the creepier games out on the market, chronicling the building of a perfect Utopian society undersea gone horribly wrong - its inhabitants driven mad with the introduction of tonics and genetic modifications. Now Rapture is just a shadow of its former glory, with little girls looting the dead of what little they have left, while being shadowed by guardians known as "Big Daddies." It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This First Person Shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to provide a unique experience each time it is played. The environment as well as the story line will wrap you up for hours on end.

 

Video Settings:

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BioShock allowed the AMD 770 board to show its strength in the benchmark, pulling out ahead of the rest.

Testing:

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is the successor to the Call of Duty crown. This iteration of the game is fought in many of the world's hot spots with modern armaments and firepower. You can play as either a US Marine or British SAS trooper. Since this game does not feature an in-game test, I will run through a section of the game and measure average FPS using Fraps 2.9.3.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The AMD board tied almost all of the way but both were taken over by the GeForce board at the end.

Testing:

World in Conflict is a  DX10, Real Time Strategy game that simulates the all-out war the world hopes never comes. The difference in this RTS game is that it is not the typical "generate wealth and build" type of game. Instead, you advance by conquering your foe.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

 

In World of Conflict all of the boards tested out the same within margin.

Testing:

Call of Juarez is a DX10, First Person Shooter set in the Wild West of the late 1800's. The game is inspired, in part, by the movies of the Wild West genre of the seventies and eighties. The game can be played as both single player and multiplayer. The game focuses on realistic graphics and gameplay designed to take advantage of the latest video cards on the market.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here the scores were dead on in the highest resolution but the 770 was slightly faster in 1024x768.

Testing:

Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts is the latest chapter in the Company of Heroes series. The scene is WWII. The mission is Operation Market Garden, the first Allied attempt to break into the Third Reich. Play as the British or Germans. This Real Time Strategy game is brought to us by Relic Entertainment.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again the Sapphire board pulled off the lead in a slight margin.

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is begun. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of the scores were close but in the end the AMD chipset gave way to the NVIDIA chipset by a hair.

Conclusion:

This board was a pleasure to test. Not only does it bring cutting edge technology for a great value but it does it in a solidly built platform. This board takes what you throw at it and asks for more. With a slight raise of voltages I was able to obtain a 700MHz overclock, which is great for a mainstream board built for everyday users. Some high end boards are not even able to produce results like that. The Sapphire PC-AM2RX780 is a perfect solution for any build whether it be for gaming or general computing as it stood up to the competition and pulled through in the majority of the benchmarks that were put into its way. With features like CrossFireX and power saving you would be a fool not to consider this board for your next project.

As a power user a few thing quirked me however. First, I feel that the back panel is lacking especially with the amount of space available. I fill four USB ports without even setting up my whole system's components and when you add in other peripherals like my HOTAS flight stick and camera docks I was left thinking to myself why would they do that. Sure, there are headers for six more ports but that is just more stuff that I have to have taking up space for airflow in my case. Also, with the SATA ports I thought the same thing, why only four? I have more than four hard drives alone in my computer especially with RAID arrays so if you have a lot of drives or even SATA optical drives you might be a little upset here. Lastly, why the Switching card for the PCI Express x16 slots? Boards have had the ability to auto sense for some time now so why the need for this device in 2008?

With those little set backs, which are mostly personal preference, out of the way this board is amazing with its performance and potential and I recommend it to anyone who is building a system on a budget. You will not regret your decision and you will be keeping up with the rest of the population who spent a bunch more on their computers.

 

Pros:

  

Cons: