P67 Roundup Part Twotacohunter52 -
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As previously stated, Sapphire is most widely known for being a video card manufacturer. It's one of the best known AMD video card manufacturers, and it's good at it! However, as we've seen with a few of its past motherboards, Sapphire can do more than just make a mean video card. Every Sapphire board in the "Black" series has been a great motherboard, so we should be able to expect no less from the P67 Pure Black Hydra. This board is equipped with some of Sapphire's highest end components, such as solid capacitors and SAPPHIRE Diamond Black chokes. However, the board's main selling point is the Lucid Logix Hydra engine. This means that the board will be able to take a mixture of graphics cards, provided the games or other software support it. To me this has always been a cool feature and I hope that the support list will grow enough to make the Hydra engine a force to be reckoned with. Until then, I look at the Hydra chip as a novelty chip, but it's nice to see manufactures using it.
For packaging, Sapphire went with a very appealing black and silver design. Located directly in the center is the Black P67 Hydra logo. Two logos, Pure and Sapphire, are located directly above the center logo. The top left-hand corner of the packaging lists a few of the motherboard's key features, such as its four PCIe slots, USB 3.0 Support, and SATA 6Gb/s support. The upper right-hand corner of the packaging sports the Lucid Logix Logo, as well as that the motherboard uses a Lucid Logix chipset. The back of the board features a few more of the P67 Pure Black Hydra's highlights. These consist of its use of the Hydra Engine, its use of three generation 2 PCIe slots and one generation 1 PCIe slot, as well as its use of Sapphire TriXX software. TriXX will allow the user to easily tune and monitor their hardware. Opening up the P67 Pure Black Hydra's packaging reveals a secondary black box that houses the motherboard, as well as the included accessories.
Opening up the black box first reveals an owners manual and a few other accessories. Like many motherboard packages, these accessories are sitting on top of a piece of cardboard that can be removed. Removing this cardboard reveals the Sapphire P67 Pure Black Hydra sitting in an anti-static bag. While that extra piece of cardboard does help to keep the motherboard safe and secure, I prefer to see motherboards in clam shell packaging. It's not something that a lot of companies do, but the added security is something I'd like to see in all motherboard boxes.
The Sapphire P67 Pure Black Hydra's bundled accessories, in my opinion, were almost minimalistic compared to other motherboards we've seen. However, the inclusion of six SATA cables is pretty awesome because if you've got a lot of hard drives, nothing is worse than not having enough cables! Along with the SATA cables are a driver CD, an IO Shield, and an owners manual.
Talking about a motherboard's packaging is all well and good, but I know what every one really cares about is what that packaging was intended to protect — in this case, the Sapphire P67 Pure Black Hydra. The P67 Pure Black Hydra use's the good old ATX form factor and uses a black PCB. The black PCB is something that's grown popular among many motherboard manufacturers and, in the Pure Black Hydra's case, accents the blue slots nicely. The board appears to have a good layout, as well as an onboard speaker; something I've been missing. Flipping the board over reveals a relatively empty backside. However, we can easily see that the Pure Black Hydra is utilizing a Lotes socket and that the heat spreaders for the power phase and the Hydra chip are held on by screws, as apposed to plastic push pins. Whenever I see this on a motherboard, I always feel as though an extra level of quality has been put into manufacturing it.
Nowadays, users want ports and lots of them! Sapphire's P67 Pure Black Hydra will feed your addiction of ports and then some. Sure you'll be able to use your standard PS/2 port for your keyboard or mouse, but more importantly you'll be able to utilize a total of eight USB 2.0 ports! You'll also be equipped with two USB 3.0 ports, a 1394a port, a SPDIF Coaxial Out, a SPDIF Optical Out, an eSATA port, your standard audio ports, and Bluetooth® 2.1 + EDR by Atheros AR3011 support. Now that we've seen just how many ports the Sapphire P67 Pure Black Hydra offers you, let's take a look at the expansion slots. The first thing you'll notice is that the board has a total of four PCIe x16 slots, three of which are generation two, or x16, x8, and x8. The final PCIe X16 slot is a generation one slot which runs at x4. Along with the PCIe slots you'll be able to utilize two 32-bit PCI slots. I really like how Sapphire arranged the slots on the motherboard. If you're only using one dual-slot video card, or other dual-slot PCIe card, you'll still be able to use both your PCI slots. In fact, you can even run a dual SLI/CrossFire setup and still be left with a PCI slot. This can be very convenient for users using networking cards, such as a wireless adapter.
Moving on to the bottom side of the board, we can see that Sapphire included a great deal of features. Moving from left to right, you'll see a 4-pin Molex connector, a chassis fan connector, and a Clear CMOS button. Everyone who overclocks has probably used a clear CMOS button and knows how much easier it is to use than messing around with jumpers. Right above the Molex connector is the Sapphire Pure Black Hydra's AMI BIOS chip. To the right of the Clear CMOS button are two more buttons, the Power and Reset switches. While these are becoming more and more popular to be placed on motherboards, not every board has them. I definitely like to see them because it adds a convenience factor for people using benching stations. To the right of the power switch is the BIOS SEL switch. This allows you to switch between the board's dual BIOS if you manage to corrupt something while tinkering in the BIOS. After that, the P67 Pure Black Hydra has a 1394a header, two USB headers, another fan connector, and a SATA connector. Right above the SATA connector is a debug LED, which paired with the onboard speaker should make this motherboard very easy to... well... debug! Not only that, but once powered on, the Debug LED doubles as a temperature monitor for the CPU. Pretty cool feature, if you ask me.
Taking a look at the Sapphire P6 Pure Black Hydra's left side shows us that not every corner of the board was stuffed full of features. However, there is still a lot going on. The first thing you'll notice is that there are only six SATA connectors, giving the board a total of seven connectors. I would have liked to see more, especially considering I'm currently using all nine available on my current board. On the bright side, four of these SATA connectors are SATA III 6Gb/s, while the remaining three are SATA II 3Gb/s. Located in between the sets of SATA III connectors is the P67 Pure Black Hydra's onboard speaker. Moving in the direction I like to call 'up the board', we can see that it draws its power by the standard 24-pin connector. The board's 8-pin auxiliary connector is located right next to the P67 Pure Hydra's power phase. This is a relatively convenient place for wire management, but I would prefer to see the connectors placed at the edge of the board. Located behind the main 24-pin power connector are the four DDR3 DIMM slots, as well as the Pure Black Hydra's CMOS battery. The Pure Black Hydra supports up to 16GB of unbuffered, non-ECC memory rated at 1600+ MHz. Also located behind the main 24-pin power connector are a few of Sapphire's high quality Diamond Black Chokes. Before we move on, I'd also like to point out that Sapphire included some voltage read points. They are located right next to the DIMM slots and are something many overclockers look for.
For cooling, the Sapphire P67 Pure Black Hydra uses a few black heat spreaders. While they aren't the biggest cooling solutions, they should still hopefully get the job done. What's more interesting is what's located underneath these spreaders. I'm of course talking about the Lucid Logix Hydra chip. As most of you know by now, this chip will allow you to use multiple combinations of video cards, including mixtures of AMD and NVIDIA cards. However, these combinations don't scale as well as some hoped, but they are getting better. Perhaps worse than the scaling issues is the software support. There aren't currently a whole lot of games out there that support Hydra, so until that changes it isn't going to be all that useful of a tool. However, I do believe that it will eventually become a very useful tool, especially for those who use multi-GPU setups.
Last, but not least, the LGA 1155 socket and the area around it. The Sapphire P67 Pure Black Hydra uses a socket manufactured by Lotes, which I tend to prefer over Foxconn due to some past experiences. The DIMM slots are located pretty close to the socket, which means finned memory will probably get in the way of a large cooler if it occupies the first slot. Directly accross from the DIMM slots is the board's power phase, where we can see a nice row of Sapphire's Diamond Black Chokes.
Now that we've seen the Pure Black Hydra, let's take a look at a SABERTOOTH!