Sapphire PC-AM2RS790GX Pure 790GX Motherboard Reviewajmatson - March 4, 2009
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Sapphire has come a long way with its products and this shows in its designing of the 790GX motherboard. They have chosen a blue-colored PC board for the 790GX Pure, which gives a nice display of colors to show off through your case if you have a window. The colors on the plastics for the memory and the expansion slots contrast nicely without being overly dominant. The Sapphire 790GX has a full-size ATX layout and supports both AM2+ and AM3 processors, including the new AM3 processors, with DDR2 memory support up to 1066MHz.
The I/O panel of the Sapphire 790GX offers plenty of connections to suit your needs. Starting from the top of the board there are the two PS/2 ports for keyboards and mice, an HDMI port, a DVI port and VGA port, four USB 2.0 ports, one Ethernet port, and the audio ports supporting 8-Channel HD audio using the Realtek ALC888 codec. There is no digital audio support and it would have been nice to have seen an eSATA port included for faster speeds with external storage.
Moving on to the expansion slots, you can see right off of the bat that there are two PCI Express x16 slots. This board supports multi-GPU CrossFire and CrossFireX configurations using discrete graphics cards or one discrete card and the integrated video. When using two discrete cards the speed of each slot is only x8. However, this is PCI Express 2.0, which has a greatly increased bandwidth over the previous generation, so you should not see any real performance drops. When using a single card you have to insert the Switch Card into the second PCI Express slot to enable x16 on the single card. There are also two PCI Express x1 slots and two legacy PCI slots for further expansion cards, such as sound and networking cards.
Sapphire has placed a wealth of headers on the Pure 790GX. Starting on the bottom left, there is the front panel audio header, the CD-in header, and IR header for an infrared device, a COM header, four USB headers, the front panel headers, and a speaker header. There are also six SATA ports, one IDE port, and one floppy port. In addition to the headers and the ports, Sapphire has tried to make life easier by including a Debug LED and a series of switches to power and reset the system ,as well as one to clear the CMOS without having to use a jumper or pull the battery.
The CPU area of the board has a pretty clean layout that makes installing larger heatsinks easy; I had no trouble trying to fit the Titan Cool Idol cooler to it even with the large heatsink over the voltage regulators. Speaking of voltage, the Sapphire 790GX features a VCore 7-shift, which allows you to control the CPU core voltage in seven steps for more precise overclocking. This board supports both AM2+ and AM3 processors, including the Phenom and Phenom II series. There is also support for up to 16GB of Dual-Channel DDR2 memory up to 1066MHz using the four DIMM slots on the board.
Sapphire has also placed great care in keeping the critical points of the motherboard cool. There is a small heatsink on the southbridge to keep it cooler and then there is a heatsink on both the northbridge and the voltage regulators with a heatpipe connecting them to ensure that they are not overheated during operation and overclocking. This allows for cooler running components and better stability. To the right of the northbridge heatsink, you can see the 128MB DDR3 Sideport memory chip that adds dedicated memory to the integrated RV610 graphics core.
Now that layout has been covered, we can move on to the BIOS to see what options we have for overclocking and tweaking.