Sapphire PI-AM2RS780G Reviewajmatson -
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Like Gigabyte did with their 780G motherboard, Sapphire chose to go with a microATX design for the PI-AM2RS780G. This design provides the most flexibility for mainstream users who want to adapt the hardware to their needs, and not the other way around. The mATX form factor allows users to mount the mainboard in a variety of enclosures - from HTPC cases to full size towers - and everything in between. The mATX's main drawback is that its smaller size limits the number of expansion slots that can be placed on the board. Sapphire chose to go with a red colored printed circuit board (PCB); this is a common attribute found on the majority of their products. The motherboard's underside sports a standard backplate, which is used to uniformly distribute the CPU cooler's weight across the PCB.
Moving on to the back panel, we see that Sapphire has built in a full complement of connectors, including PS/2 mouse and keyboard jacks, video outputs, and four USB 2.0 ports. I'm a little disappointed that Sapphire doesn't include externally accessible eSATA or FireWire ports, which are present on the other two 780G motherboards OCC has reviewed - especially since they are supported by the chipset. Another big-ticket item absent from this motherboard is an HDMI port, which could have easily been added had Sapphire included a DVI to HDMI adapter.
As I mentioned before, the PI-AM2RS780G supports Socket AM2 and AM2+ processors, which are fed clean power by solid-state capacitors and a 5+5 power regulation design for better performance and tweaking. This board also uses an 8-pin power plug near the CPU for improved stability, and features HyperTransport 3.0 technology compatible with AM2+ processors.
Moving on down to the expansion slots, we see that the PI-AM2RS780G sports one PCI-E x16 slot for the addition of a discrete graphics card, and two PCI slots for sound, network or other PCI-based cards. There are no PCI-E x1 slots, which might make future expansion difficult, as more x1 hardware is released.
The Sapphire 780G board provides the headers needed to expand your system to suit your needs - including connectors for front-panel audio, CD in, and USB 2.0 expansion, to name a few. Swinging around to the right side of the board, we see that there are six SATA II ports supporting RAID arrays, a two digit debug LED, one IDE port, one floppy port and the 24-pin main ATX power plug. There are four RAM slots that support up to 8GB of 800MHz DDR2 memory.
The Sapphire mainboard uses aluminum heatsinks to passively cool the Northbridge, Southbridge and voltage regulators.