Sapphire A75 Pure Platinum Review

tacohunter52 - 2011-09-12 13:15:41 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: tacohunter52   
Reviewed on: October 13, 2011
Price: $100

Introduction:

When it comes to processor performance AMD has been the underdog for a long while now. However, this underdog has always had quite a few things going for it. For instance, AMD's low prices have made its chips great for high performance budget rigs. Not only that, but AMD computers are extremely upgradeable in that you can use newer socket chips in some older socket motherboards. However, this has changed with the release of AMD's APUs and socket FM1 motherboards. These new APUs (Accelerated Processing Units) combine AMD Radeon HD graphics with the CPU cores all on one die. This allows for users to build affordable computers with DirectX 11 support, without the need to buy a GPU. You can also combine the APU's graphic capabilities with a 6670, 6570, or 6450 to get even more of a performance boost. While these APUs would also make great budget gaming rigs, I expect the majority of them to be used in budget multimedia/HTPC rigs.

However, no matter what you decide to do with your APU, you'll still need an FM1 motherboard to get it up and running. Today we'll be taking a look at one of Sapphire's FM1 offerings, the Sapphire A75 Pure Platinum. Sapphire is usually known for being a video card manufacturer; however, we've seen a few of its motherboards in the past and each one has performed on par with its competition. So what exactly can we expect from the Sapphire A75 Pure Platinum? Well for one thing it comes equipped with Display Port, DVI-I, and HDMI connectors. Not only that, but it also has two SATA 6Gb/s slots and four USB 3.0 slots. Sure these aren't as cool as some of the features we've seen on other motherboards, but this is a very affordable motherboard which is meant to be paired with an affordable, yet powerful, CPU. Besides, what really matters is the performance right, so let's get this baby set up and start benching!

Closer Look:

When you receive a new motherboard the very first thing you do is admire the packaging, so, let's do that. The Sapphire A75 Pure Platinum arrives in a very shiny black and silver box. The front of the box is littered with logos and decals; however we only care about the ones located in the center. These are, of course, the Sapphire and Pure Platinum logos. The back of the box uses the same color scheme, but also features some information on the board. Some of these features are the board's "Pure Speed", "Pure Features", and "Pure Realiability". The one that we should care most about is the Pure Reliability. This feature talks about how the board uses 100% solid capacitors, Dual BIOS, Dual Graphics, and comes with a Diagnostic/CPU Temperature LED display. The sides of the A75 pure Platinum's packaging follow the same color scheme; however, other than a list of the board's specifications, no new information is found.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you've opened the main packaging you'll have the secondary inner packaging. This is just a black box that opens upwards revealing the board's included accessories. Removing the cardboard layer that separates the packaging from the A75 Pure Platinum gives us our first glimpse of the board nice and snug in an antistatic bag.

 

 

Last but not least, let's look at the board's included accessories. First up, you'll get a driver CD, an owner's manual, and an I/O shield. You'll also get a coupon for a free copy of Dirt 3 through steam. However, chances are good that you already got a copy of Dirt 3 with your llano CPU. Moving on, you'll also receive four SATA cables, and a front panel USB box which will take up a single 5.25" bay.

 

 

Now that we've unpacked everything, let's get up close and personal with the Sapphire A75 Pure Platinum!

Closer Look:

A first glimpse of the Sapphire A75 Pure Platinum shows us that there is a lot going on in the expansion port area, however, we'll move on to that a little bit later. Other than that the board looks almost empty, but not in a bad way. There are only two heatsinks, one for the chipset, and one for the power phase. The board looks very spacious, and the layout looks to be very good as well. As far as a color scheme goes, the board is almost completely black. Flipping the board over reveals some more black PCB as well as that the power phase heat sink is held together by screws as apposed to pushpins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up let's take a look at the board's rear panel ports. Sapphire has given a pretty decent amount of options, especially when it comes to the integrated display. For instance, you'll be able to use a Display Port, a DVI-I, and an HDMI port. As for other connections you'll have four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, a Bluetooth® 2.1 + EDR by Atheros AR3011 connector, an e-SATA port, a PS/2 port, and your standard audio connectors. The Sapphire A75 Pure Platinum gets a little more interesting when we look at the expansion ports. Here you'll have a PCIe X 16 2.0 slot, two PCIe X1 slots, a PCIe X4 slot, and two 32bit PCI slots. You'll notice that there is one more PCI slot located in the back. This is commonly seen in laptops and is known as a MINI PCI-E x1 slots. This is the first time that I've personally seen this on a full size ATX motherboard, so I thought it was pretty cool!

 

 

Moving on to the bottom of the board we can see that it is slightly emptier than other boards. Oddly enough, the first thing that I noticed was the inclusion of an onboard speaker. Now days this isn't really an important feature, but in my opinion it makes debugging easier, and I'm always glad to see them on motherboards. To the right of the onboard speaker is a clear CMOS button, a power switch, a reset switch, and a BIOS switch. To the right of that we have the connector for the front panel USB box, the USB headers are located right next to this as well. To the right of the USB headers you'll notice a debug LED. This debug LED also doubles as a real time temperature monitor for the CPU. This is something we've seen on a few Sapphire boards, and it's a pretty cool feature!

 

 

Moving on to the Sapphire A75 Pure Platinum's right side we see five SATA ports. Each of these five ports are SATA III 6Gb/s, which is pretty cool considering we've been seeing boards use only a few SATA III ports and primarily SATA II ports. To the right of the SATA ports is the Sapphire A75 Pure Platinum's main 24Pin power connector. For auxiliary power the Pure Platinum uses an 8Pin power connector. Located to the left of the auxiliary power connector, and right behind the DIMM slots, are some voltage read points. This is something I usually like to see on motherboards, but I can't see it being an important feature for an A75 board.

 

 

 

We've looked at almost everything on the Sapphire A75 Pure Platinum, but there are still a few things left. So let's move on to the boards DIMM slots. The four DIMM slots are located right behind the 24Pin power connector, and it is recommended that the two blue slots be occupied first. The slots are pretty far away from the CPU socket which will allow for a larger cooler to be used without interference from the memory modules. Next up we've got the FM1 socket. The area around the socket is fairly empty, and the board uses the familiar AM2/AM2+/AM3 cooling bracket. We can also see the board's 8 Power Phase located underneath a large blue HSF. Last but not least is the board's chipset which is also located beneath a finned blue heat spreader.

 

 

Now that we've had a detailed look at the motherboard, let's take a look at the BIOS!

Closer Look:

As with all motherboards, once you've got your hardware installed you'll want to install the drivers. Inserting the Sapphire A75 Pure Platinum's driver CD will bring up a menu that will give you a few options. These include an option to install drivers, install Sapphire TRIXX, install the Raid manager, install floppy drivers, read the manual, or download Sapphire wallpapers. We'll be interested in the drivers and TRIXX options. Clicking on the driver option will bring us to another menu. Here you'll be able to individually choose which driver you want to install. Unfortunately, there is not an option to automatically install all drivers, like we see on many other motherboards. However, individually installing four drivers really isn't that big of a deal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you've installed all the drivers you'll want to play around with the included utilities. in the Sapphire A75 Pure Platinum's case we'll be using the TRIXX overclocking utility. This software will allow us to increase the CPU frequency, as well as all the necessary voltages to do some nice in-OS overclocking. If you intend to overclock your hardware, you'll probably be doing so in the BIOS; however, the TRIXX utility can be fairly useful if you want to fine tune your overclock on the fly. Also included with the Sapphire A75 Pure Platinum was a temperature, fan, and voltage monitor. Programs like this can always be extremely useful; however, I was getting weird readings while using the Pure Platinum. At stock settings the board was reporting temperatures at 225C,which leads me to believe my hardware has a faulty temperature sensor.

 

Now that everything is installed, let's go through the BIOS!

Closer Look:

The BIOS

Here at OCC, most, if not all, of our members love to overclock. This means that they'll be spending a lot of time messing around in their motherboard's BIOS. For this reason we'll be taking a look at the Sapphire A75 Pure Platinum's BIOS. Despite the growing popularity of EFI BIOS, the Sapphire A75 Pure Platinum is still utilizing good old AMI BIOS. The first page you'll see is the good old main menu. Here you'll be able to view some system information, as well as change the system date and time. The next menu is where the overclocking will take place, the Performance menu. At a first glance this looks very empty compared to other motherb, but everything you need is there. You'll be able to adjust the CPU multiplier, as well as change the CPU frequency. You'll also be able to adjust memory timings and hardware voltages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up is the Advanced tab. Here you'll be able to adjust USB settings, IDE settings, CPU settings, as well as manage settings for other onboard devices. The Advanced tab is also the home to the hardware monitor, which will display important temperatures and voltage information.

 

 

After the Advanced tab we will move to the Chipset tab. Here you'll be able to adjust settings for both the north and south bridge. In other words, you'll be able to adjust memory and SATA settings. The Chipset tab is followed by the Boot tab, which will let you adjust system boot settings, such as the system boot order.

 

 

 

The remaining two tabs are Security and Save and Exit. The Security tab will allow you to set a BIOS password, and the Save and Exit tab will let you... Save and Exit! You'll also be able to restore BIOS defaults and change the boot device order. One thing I noticed while playing with the Sapphire A75 Pure Platinum's BIOS is that I actually needed to save and exit from the Save and Exit tab. Pressing F10, like on any other motherboard, did not do anything, which could get a little annoying.

 

 

Now that we've seen the BIOS, let's get to the benching!

Specifications:

CPU
Support AMD Socket FM1: AMD A-series and E-series APU with AMD Radeon HD Graphics
Chipset
AMD A75 (Hudson-D3 FCH)
Bios
AMI BIOS, 16Mb Flash ROM
Memory
4 slots 240-pin DDR3 800/1066/1333/1600+ non ECC, un-buffered memory 16GB Max
Graphics
AMD Radeon HD6000 series GPU Integrate in Socket FM1 A-series and E-series APU
 
 
Expansion Slots
1 x PCI Express 2.0 x 16 slots
1 x MINI PCI-E x1 slots
2 x 32-bit PCI Slots
2 x PCI Express x1 Slots
1x PCI Express X4 slots
Storage
5 x Serial ATA III 6Gb/s Connectors
Supports HDDs with RAID 0,1,10
Audio
Realtek ALC892 HD Audio CODEC with 8-Channel
Ethernet LAN
Marvell 88E8059 PCI-Express Gigabyte LAN
 
 
 
 
Rear Panel I/O
4 x USB 2.0 Port
2 x USB 3.0 Port
1 x HDMI Port
1 x DisplayPort 1.1a
6 x Audio I/O Ports
1 x Supporting Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR by Atheros AR3011
1 x e-Sata Port
1 x Single Link DVI
PS/2 KB/MS combo port
 
 
 
Internal I/O
4x USB 2.0 Headers
CPU 4 pin PWM Fan connectors
3 Pin Chassis Fan connectors
24-pin ATX Power connector
8-pin ATX 12V Power connector
Control (Front) panel headers
2 x USB 3.0 Headers
Form Factor
ATX, Size 12” x 9.6”
OS Support
Windows 7 (32/64) bit

Features:

Information on this page courtesy of Sapphire @ http://www.sapphiretech.com/presentation/product/?cid=2&gid=1093&sgid=1095&pid=1255&psn=&lid=1&leg=0

Testing:

Testing the AMD A8-2950 APU will include running it and comparison product(s) through the OCC test suite of benchmarks that includse both synthetic benchmarks and real world applications to see how each of these products perform. The gaming tests will also include both synthetic benchmarks and actual game play to see if similarly prepared setups offer any performance advantages. Instead of leaving the gaming tests to a discrete video card, the gaming prowess of the IGP will get a small workout as well. The APU will receive a fully updated, fresh install of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit edition and I've used the latest drivers for each board and the latest AMD Catalyst drivers for the XFX HD 6970. To ensure as little variables as possible, all hardware will be tested at their stock speeds, timings, voltages, and latencies — unless otherwise stated.

 

Testing Setup: AMD Socket FM1

 

Comparison Boards:

 

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked Settings:

Overclocking the Llano is slightly different, so I wasn't entirely sure what to be expecting. One thing I noticed right away is that at the stock 29 multiplier my hardware would go unstable at almost any BCLK increase. Dropping the multiplier down to 28 fixed this problem instantly. I was than able to increase the BCLK in nice 10MHz increments until 140MHz where I couldn't boot to windows. Dropping down the frequency to 138MHz allowed me to boot, and get through OCC benchmark suite, and remained stable. As for how decent of an overclock it was, after looking around the net I decided that this is a fairly decent overclock. However, I have not yet used enough A75 motherboards to know if the Sapphire A75 Pure Platinum unlocked all the potential from my chip, or if it just did an average job. At this time, I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.

 

 

 

Benchmarks:

  1. Apophysis
  2. Bibble 5
  3. WinRAR
  4. Geekbench
  5. Office 2007
  6. POV Ray 3.7
  7. PCMark Vantage Professional
  8. Sandra XII
  9. ScienceMark 2.02
  10. Cinebench 10
  11. Cinebench 11.5
  12. HD Tune 4.60
  1. Aliens vs. Predator
  2. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2
  3. Batman Arkham Asylum
  4. 3DMark Vantage

 

Testing:

 

 

The first part of our testing will be the system specific benchmarks.

 

Let's get started 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Lower is Better

 

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

ZIP:

  

  

Lower is Better

 

 

RAR:

  

  

Lower is Better

 

 

Geekbench:

Geekbench 2.1 is a benchmark that tests CPU and memory performance in an easy to use tool. The measure used for comparison is the total suite average score.

  

Higher is Better

 

Bibble 5:

This test consists of converting 100 8.2MP RAW images to JPEG format. The file size is 837MB. The measure used for comparison is time to convert the file in seconds.

  

Lower is Better

 

Both the Sapphire and Gigabyte board performed the same in these benchmarks. The Sapphire board technically came out ahead, but without any noticeable performance difference.

Testing:

Office 2007 Excel Big Number Crunch: This test takes a 6.2MB Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and performs about 28,000 sets of calculations that represent many of the most commonly used calculations in Excel. The measure of this test is how long it takes to refresh the sheet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Lower Is Better

 

POV Ray 3.7: This program features a built in benchmark that renders an image using Ray Tracing. The latest versions offer support for SMP (Symmetric MultiProcessing) enabling the workload to be spread across the cores for quicker completion.

  

Higher Is Better

 

The boards once again both performed exactly the same. If you get right down to the extremely small negligible differences, the Sapphire board once again came out on top.

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 functions of the CPUs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Processor Arithmetic

  

  

Multi-Core Efficiency

  

  

 

Memory Bandwidth

  

  

 

Memory Latency

  

 

Cache and Memory

  

 

 

Power Management Efficiency

  

 

The two boards once again proved to be equals, although the Gigabyte board took the top spots in the majority of the benchmarks.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

  

Higher is Better

 

 

 

CineBench 10 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.

 

  

 

  

Higher is Better

Cinebench 11.5

 

  

Higher is Better

 

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

 

  

 

  

Higher is Better

 

  

 

  

Lower is Better

 

In our final synthetic benchmarks the two boards still performed almost exactly the same.

Aliens vs. Predator, developed by Rebellion Developments, is a science fiction first-person shooter and is a remake of its 1999 game. The game is based off the two popular sci fi franchises. In this game, you have the option of playing through the single player campaigns as one of three species. The Alien, the Predator or the Human Colonial Marine. The Game uses Rebellion's Asura game engine that supports Dynamic Lighting, Shader Model 3.0, Soft Particle systems and Physics. To test this game I will be using the Aliens vs. Predator benchmark tool with the settings listed below. All DirectX 11 features are enabled.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

Higher = Better

 

We once again saw both of the A75 motherboards offer the same performance.

Testing:

Batman: Arkham Asylum is a new game that brings together two bitter rivals, the Joker and Batman. The Joker has taken over Arkham Asylum, Gotham's home for the criminally insane. Your task is to rein the Joker back in and restore order. This game makes use of PhysX technology to create a rich environment for you to become the Dark Knight.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

Higher = Better

 

We once again saw almost the exact same scores between the two motherboards. When the Sapphire board was overclocked we saw slight performance gains over the Gigabyte board, but nothing too major.

Testing:

Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista-based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. "Entry" is 1024 x 768 progressing to "Extreme" at 1920 x 1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

  

  

Higher = Better

 

The two boards once again performed more or less the same, with the Sapphire board technically coming out on top!

Conclusion:

Llano processors probably won't be seen in a multitude of gaming computers, especially with the upcoming release of the new Intel chips, and the freshly released Bulldozer. However, from the performance we've seen offered by it, the chip can definitely hold its own. As with all socket types, the motherboard isn't really going to give a noticeable performance increase or decrease. If they did, the comparison charts would be slightly more interesting. So instead of buying a motherboard based on performance, it's best to purchase one based on its overclockability, features, and sometimes even its looks. After using the Sapphire A75 Pure Platinum I'm confident in saying that it doesn't fall short in the latter two of these categories. The one that I'm slightly concerned about is the board's ability to overclock.

It is fairly well known that the A8 3850 CPU's have a problem with their multiplier. This is, the user can increase the multiplier past 29 without actually increasing anything. However, CPUz as well as the motherboard will still report the increase. For this reason it can appear as though your CPU is hitting something insane, like 6GHz on air, when really it's still at the stock 2.9GHz. So for overclocking you must keep the multiplier at 29 or below and increase the BCLK. The overclock I achieved by doing this was ok, but I haven't used enough A75 motherboards to know what to expect. However, by looking around the internet, I'd say it's a fairly decent overclocker.

As for features the board may not have as much as we'd see on one of Intel's high end Z68 boards, but the Sapphire A75 Pure Platinum still has a decent amount. In the Expansion slot category, the board has two PCIe x 16 slots, two PCIe x 1 slots, one x4 slot, and my favorite a mini PCIe X 1 slots. I'm not entirely sure what someone would actually use it for, but I think that it's extremely cool that it found its way onto an ATX motherboard. The Sapphire A75 Pure Platinum is also equipped with three display port options. You can use a DVI port, a displayport, or an HDMI port. This was another feature that I thought was pretty cool.

Earlier I stated that we probably won't see a whole lot of gaming rigs using A75 motherboards or AMD Llano chips. I do, however, believe that we will see a large amount of HTPC/Multimedia rigs using this hardware. The Sapphire A75 Pure Platinum paired with an A8 3850 would be perfect for both of these types of setups. Not only that, but you could easily do some light gaming on this hardware as well. The Sapphire A75 Pure Platinum isn't currently being sold on Newegg, or any sites that I could find, but it should be priced similarly to other A75 boards. This would give it a price tag at around $100. Paired with an A8 3850 and some other mid range components you could easily have a great Multimedia rig/light gaming machine for around $400. To me, this makes all of this hardware worth it! Not only that, but for the cheap price of the Sapphire A75 Pure Platinum, you'll be picking up a great board with Dual BIOS, a good Layout, and a Mini PCIe X 1 slot!

 

Pros:

 

Cons: