Sapphire PI-AM3RS785G 785G Chipset Motherboard Review
Reviewed by: ajmatson
Reviewed on: November 30, 2009
Since AMD released its newer 785G chipset, the mid-range market has blossomed with boards sporting this new chipset with better integrated graphics. The 785G chipset brings faster speeds to the table and the new HD4200 IGP boasts better onboard performance, especially when paired with SidePort memory, which gives the IGP its very own DDR3 memory buffer. The power of the chipset paired with the design of the board is what makes the difference when it comes to the selection. Today we are going to be taking a look at the Sapphire version of the 785G chipset, the Sapphire Pure PI-AM3RS785G motherboard. This board uses the mATX form factor and the newer chipset to provide you with a powerful multimedia platform. The Sapphire Pure 785G follows the previous IGP series board that Sapphire produced, which was based off the 780G chipset. With the newer chipset, this board should be faster and more powerful.
The Sapphire 785G motherboard comes packaged in the Sapphire-styled green and black colors with the Pure logo. On the front of the box are some of the badges for the products compatible with the Sapphire 785G Pure motherboard, as well as some features such as being AM3 compatible and the 128MB DDR3 SidePort memory for the integrated graphics. It also shows that it features DX 10.1 and claims an "Instant on Boot" in Windows 7. When I contacted Sapphire about it, since there was nothing in the documentation, the response was "This sticker just indicates that this board supports DX10.1 and can support Windows 7. There is no other meaning or function on this sticker." As such, it appears to be advertising a feature that is not included; a no-no in my book. On the back is a picture of the motherboard, as well as some more features and awards that Sapphire has won for its products.
Once the box is opened up, you get to see what is included with the Sapphire 785G Pure motherboard. To get you up and running, Sapphire provides the I/O panel shield, the manual, a driver CD and two SATA cables. Sweet and simple.
Now that the board and accessories are out of the packaging, we can get a better look at the board itself.
The Sapphire PI-AM3RS785G motherboard uses a dark color scheme, which helps keep the system looking good when presented in a case with a window. The design of the board is done in an mATX form factor, which makes it ideal for smaller computers, such as workstations and HTPC's. This would not be a great board for a home server with the limited number of memory slots, however. The back of the motherboard has the CPU retention bracket, which off loads the stress of the CPU from a small portion of the board to even out the weight. Sapphire has built this board to support DDR3 memory and AM3 processors, as well as Windows 7 and DirectX 10.1 for pure gaming and video immersion.
On the left side of the motherboard is the back panel. The back panel allows you to expand your system as needed with peripherals. On the Sapphire Pure PI-AM3RS7805G, there is everything you need to get you up and running. From the top are the PS/2 ports, an SPDIF Out port, an HDMI port, a VGA port, a DVI port, four USB 2.0 ports, one LAN port, and the audio jacks. The audio is a 6-channel setup powered by the Realtek ALC662 HD codec and 3D Audio.
Below the back panel connections you see the expansion ports. Since this is an mATX motherboard, there is less space for expansion. As such, Sapphire made the best of it with what they had. To expand the Pure PI-AM3RS785G, there is one PCI Express X16 slots with 16 full lanes for graphics power and two legacy PCI slots for older cards, such as your audio card. There is no X1 or X4 PCI Express slots for newer audio cards or other PCI Express based devices, so you only have one slot to add to and no compromise.
The CPU area is open and not crowded, so you will have no issues installing large heatsinks or water cooling blocks. The board supports AM3 processors including the latest Phenom II and Athlon II CPUs for maximum performance. The board also supports HyperTransport 3.0 to keep data flowing as fast as possible when it is needed. There are only two memory slots on the Pure PI-AM3RS785G motherboard, supporting up to 8GB of memory with a maximum speed of 1333MHz DDR3. It would have been nice to see four slots for memory, especially with the price of 4GB modules these days so high.
On the bottom of the board are the headers for expansion. Here you can add more ports for functionality as it is needed. From the left there are the audio header, a COM header, two USB headers, and the front panel headers. To the left of the audio header is the 3D Audio button, which enables 3D Audio support. In addition to the headers, there are six SATA ports that support RAID 0,1, and JBOD, as well as one IDE port supporting up to two devices.
To keep the chipset cool, Sapphire has placed two aluminum heatsinks to provide passive cooling via the case's natural airflow over the Northbridge and Southbridge. The Northbridge heatsink uses a fanned out design for maximum cooling.
Sapphire includes a CD filled with drivers and programs to help make your installation as smooth as possible - with options to install ATI, sound, and LAN drivers, create a RAID install disk, or enable Trend Micro's PC-Cillin security software. Let's take a look at each option more closely.
This software installs the chipset and video drivers to get you up and running; just click the Install button and choose where the drivers will go. After the drivers are in place, it is recommended that you restart the computer.
This option allows you to install the Realtek 6-Channel High Definition audio codecs and drivers - click Next and the installer will work its magic. After you get the sound drivers set up, another restart is recommended.
This option installs the Marvell Miniport drivers for the Realtek 8111DL LAN chip. After the LAN software is in place, you're ready to hit the Internet - no restart is necessary.
This software will help create a floppy disk with the drivers necessary to build a RAID array, and because RAID is supported by the ATI SB710 Southbridge chip, no other hardware is needed. Just insert the disk, click on the RAID Disk button and hit Install. Once that's done, you will be able to use the disk to install the RAID drivers during the Windows installation to create the RAID array.
PC-Cillin is a well known security suite from Trend Micro. This option will install a trial version of PC-Cillin Internet Security 2007 Suite on your computer. Again, this is only a trial version, but it does provide temporary malware protection right out of the box.
The BIOS of the Sapphire Pure 785G, just as in the 780G, is somewhat limited, but gives you just enough to get you by. To help you navigate, the BIOS is broken down into sections based on the operation you are looking to perform. In addition to normal operations, there are also advanced settings that allow you to overclock parts of your hardware to gain the maximum speed you can.
Main Section & Standard Section:
The BIOS main page is like a menu, listing the different sections of the BIOS where the tweaking magic happens. This allows you to have the options grouped together, so you do not have to spend a lot of time searching for them. The BIOS is also where you can load system defaults and save the settings for reboot. The Standard CMOS Features page allows you to control the date and time, and the drive configurations.
Advanced BIOS Features:
The Advanced BIOS section lets the user alter the disk boot order, boot options, and explore the CPU Features page. You can also set virtualization settings when running virtual Operating Systems on your computer.
Advanced Chipset Features:
The Advanced Chipset Features section allows users to control DRAM settings, the HT Link, HD audio, and PCI-Express and Integrated Graphics options.
The Integrated Peripherals page lets you configure onboard peripherals, including the Super I/O functions, PCI Devices, Onboard LAN and USB, and Hard Drives and SATA connections. The SATA Device page allows users to switch between IDE, RAID, or ACHI modes for hot-swap plug-and-play.
Power Management, Miscellaneous Control & PC Health:
These BIOS pages provide control over how the system manages power usage and resources. Systems temperature, fan speed, and voltage measurements are provided, so that you can make the correct adjustments needed to maintain the PC's health. In the Miscellaneous Control section, you can assign IRQs and select the Onboard Graphics mode for running IGP, enable Hybrid Graphics, or disable the IGP to use only a discrete video card.
Thermal Throttling allows users to command the motherboard to throttle down the CPU if the computer gets too hot. This tool allows you to specify the temperature at which this feature activates, and how much to slow the CPU.
Power User Overclock Settings:
This is the section that gets me drooling all over the place, as it's where you can adjust the CPU speeds, HT Link speeds, CPU Ratios, Multipliers and Voltages to maximize the performance of your components. The VCore can be adjusted using the 7 Phase Shift, offering a 5% to 35% voltage boost. The RAM can be set to run at speeds ranging from DDR-400 to DDR-1066, and the voltage can be increased by .05v increments.
Supports AMD Socket AM3: AMD AM3 Series processors
AMD™ 785G Chipset + AMD™ SB710 Chipset
Integrated Graphics Processor
ATI Radeon HD 4200 (Support Microsoft DX 10.1)
2 * 240-pin DDR3 DIMM slots
Supports DDR3 1333/1066 non-ECC ,un-buffered memory
2 * 32-bit PCI Slots
1 * PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot @16-lan
AMD™SB710 Southbridge Chipset :
6 * Serial ATA2 3Gb/s connectors
Supports HDDs with RAID 0, 1,JBOD Functions
1 * Ultra DMA 133 / 100 / 66 IDE Connector
Realtek ALC662 HD Audio CODEC with 6-Channel
Realtek RTL8111DL PCI Express Gigabit LAN
Embedded 8 * USB 2.0/1.1
Advanced Power Design that supports the latest Socket-AM3 CPU
3D Audio technology with onboard button
Real I/O Panel
4 * USB 2.0/1.1 ports
1 * PS/2 mouse port
1 * PS/2 keyboard port
1 * VGA port & 1 * HDMI port & 1 * DVI port
1 * RJ-45 port
1 * SPDIF_Out port
1 * Audio I / O ports
2 * USB 2.0/1.1 headers for 4 USB 2.0/1.1 ports
CPU / Chassis Fan connectors
1 * 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector
1 * 24-pin ATX Power connector
1 * COM header
CD / AUX Audio in
Front panel audio connector
1 *HDMI_SPDIF_OUT header
AMI DIP socket removable flash BIOS EEPROM
Micro ATX Form Factor (210X245 mm)
- AMD™ 785G Chipset and AMD™ SB710 Chipset
- Support DDR3 AMD Socket AM3 Series processors
- Support HT 3.0
- Integrated ATI Radeon HD 4200 (Support Microsoft DX 10.1)
- Onboard DDR3 128MB sideport memory
- Supports Dual Channel DDR3 1333/1066
- Integrated Serial ATA2 3Gb/s with RAID function
- Integrated ALC662 HD Audio CODEC with 6-CH
- Integrated Gigabit LAN
- Support 3D Audio Technology
- Onboard HDMI port/DVI port /VGA port
- Ready for Windows® 7™
- Micro ATX Form Factor (210x245mm)
- DIP Socket removable flash BIOS EEPROM
With the unboxing and closer look at the hardware and software that make the Sapphire Pure PI-AM3RS785G tick out of the way, we can now get to the nitty gritty of the review – the testing. To test the PI-AM3RS785G, I will be running a series of video and scientific benchmarks designed to push the hardware to the limits and see how well it performs. To see how well it stands out, it will be placed head-to-head with two other motherboards, one based on the same 785G chipset and one based on the 790X chipset, which is a step ahead of the 785G, but will show how the performance compares to each.
DDR3 Testing Setup:
- Processor: AMD Phenom II X4 965
- Motherboard: Gigabyte MA790XT-UD4P, GA-MA785GMT-UD2H
- Memory: OCZ Spec Ops Urban Elite DDR3 2 x 2GB 1600MHz 7-7-7-20
- Video Card : NVIDIA GTX 260 (216)
- Power Supply: Mushkin 800w Modular Power Supply
- Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 7200.11 750GB SATA w/ 32MB Cache
- Optical Drive: Lite-On 8x DVD+/-RW
- OS: Windows Vista Ultimate Edition
- Processor: Phenom II X4 965 @ 3.706GHz 1.5v
- System Memory: OCZ Spec Ops 2x2GB @ 1744MHz 7-7-7-20
When it came to overclocking the Sapphire Pure PI-AM3RS785G, I was a bit disappointed. Since there were minimal options in the BIOS, I could only get so much before the computer became unstable. I even tried getting more out of it by using the newest AMD Overdrive 3 utility, but with no luck. The highest I could push the reference clock, no matter how much voltage I gave it, was 218MHz and then I hit the wall where I could not go any further. With that limit, I ran the overclocked settings at 218MHz x 18 for a total overclock speed of 3.706MHz on the processor and 1744MHz on the memory.
- Scientific & Data:
- Excel 2007
- PCMark Vantage Professional
- Sandra XII
- ScienceMark 2.02
- Cinebench 10
- HD Tune 2.55
- Far Cry 2
- Crysis Warhead
- Call of Duty: World at War
- Dead Space
- Fallout 3
- Left 4 Dead
- 3DMark 06 Professional
- 3DMark Vantage
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:
- Resolution: 2750x2048
- Quality: 500
- Limit Memory use: 512MB
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 10MB, 100MB and 500MB files and test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds; the lower the better.
For Apophysis, the scores were dead on. However, in WinRar the Sapphire board was a bit behind.
Excel 2007 Big Number Crunch: This benchmark uses mathematics to perform complex calculations in Excel 2007, which puts a heavy load on the processor. The measurement is in seconds that it takes to complete the task. The benchmark is performed three times and then averaged for the final score.
Lower is better
PCMark Vantage is used to measure complete system performance. We will be running a series of tests to gauge the performance of each individual motherboard to see which board, if any, rises above the others.
For the Excel benchmark, the Sapphire board was faster than the Gigabyte 785G, but it fell behind in the PCMark Vantage 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 motherboards.
Cache and Memory
Power Management Efficiency
Throughout the Sandra tests, the Sapphire board was slightly behind the Gigabyte 785G board.
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 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
HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.
Higher is Better
Lower is Better
Here, in these three benchmarks, the two 785G boards were on par with each other.
Far Cry 2:
Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built specially for Far Cry 2, this engine allows for real-time effects and damage. This next generation first-person shooter comes to us from Ubisoft, surprisingly - not from Crytek. The game is set in a war-torn region of Africa where there is a non-existent central government and the chaos that surrounds this type of social environment. If you have seen the movie Blood Diamond, you know the setting. Ubisoft puts the main storyline of the game into focus with these statements: "Caught between two rival factions in war-torn Africa, you are sent to take out "The Jackal," a mysterious character who has rekindled the conflict between the warlords, jeopardizing thousands of lives. In order to fulfill your mission you will have to play the factions against each other, identify and exploit their weaknesses, and neutralize their superior numbers and firepower with surprise, subversion, cunning and, of course, brute force." In this Far Cry game, you don't have the beautiful water, but instead the beauty and harshness of the African continent to contend with. Most games give you a set area that can be played through, while Ubisoft has given the gamer the equivalent of 50km2 of the vast African continent to explore while in pursuit of your goals. The settings used are just a few steps below the maximum in-game settings and offer a good blend of performance vs. visual quality.
- DirectX 10
- Game settings to very high
- Vsync Off
The Sapphire 785G was behind in all the resolutions for Far Cry 2.
Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the storyline of the original Crysis. As Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, you have a secret mission to accomplish on the far side of the island. Along the way there are EMP blasts and Aliens to contend with, as you hunt down the KPA chief. This game uses an enhanced version of the CryEngine 2.
- DirectX 10
As the resolutions grew, the Sapphire board could not keep up with the other two.
BioShock is one of the creepier games you can play. 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 Daddys". 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 storyline, will wrap you up for hours on end.
- All settings to maximum
- V-Sync: Off
The board was close until 1920x1200, when it fell behind further.
Activision's Call Of Duty: World at War goes right back to the bread and butter of the franchise - WWII FPS action. In this rendition, you start off in the South Pacific and move through a series of missions that flip back and forth between the Russian front and the island hopping advance toward the Imperial Japanese homeland. Included is a mission on Peliliu Island, arguably one of the more difficult and costly battles in the Pacific theater. The gameplay in the single player mode is rather short, but the game makes up for this shortcoming in online gameplay. If you thought COD4 looked nice, this game is amazing with the graphics maxed out playing at a large resolution. This game just may be my reason to move to a 30-inch monitor. I will use Fraps to measure a section of gameplay in the Semper Fi map on Makin Island to compare performance of these video cards.
- All in-game settings to maximum
- FPS measured via Fraps
Again, the Sapphire board trailed a bit behind.
In Dead Space, as part of the crew of the USG Kellion you are headed on a repair mission to repair a ship in distress. Things go from bad to worse, starting with the crash landing of the seemingly silent and "dead" ship, the USG Ishimuru. Offering a non-traditional, over-the-shoulder viewing angle, the game gets right into the action as soon as the ventilation systems are activated. From there things get worse with the appearance of the Necromorphs. Survival now becomes a primary concern for the primary character Isaac Clarke. Survive and you may find the loved one that was aboard the Ishimuru.
- All in-game settings to maximum
The Sapphire 785G board pulled it together in Dead Space, keeping up with the other 785G-based board.
Fallout 3 takes place after the nuclear holocaust that nearly wipes out civilization and leaves the world an irradiated mess. The vault, or fallout shelter, you are born in is Vault 101, situated in the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia area. The premise of the game is that the Vault has been sealed for 200 years and now your father has opened the vault and escaped without a trace. The Overseer believes you are involved, so you must escape as well into the wasteland that was once our nation's capital. I find myself looking for landmarks since I am familiar with the streets of Washington DC.
- All other in-game settings to maximum
The Sapphire board was close to the rest throughout Fallout 3.
Left 4 Dead is a new release from Valve that leaves you as part of a group of survivors in a world where an infection has rapidly turned the populace into a zombie horde. Your goal is to make it to a rescue point, all while fighting what seems like overwhelming odds. Along the way there are safe houses where you can replenish your weapons and health. The movie "I Am Legend" comes to mind to set the stage for this game. But unlike the movie, there are four characters and not just a lone gun and his faithful companion. The horde is not at all like the typical slow walking, foot shuffling zombies. These zombies are quick and work with pack mentality. You have but one job; survival!
- Vsync Off
- All other settings to maximum
The 785G boards matched almost dead on.
3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest begins. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how these boards fare. The settings we will use are listed below.
- SM2.0 Graphics Tests: GT1- Return to Proxycon, GT2- Firefly Forest
- CPU Tests: CPU1- Red Valley, CPU2- Red Valley
- HDR/SM3.0 Graphics Tests: HDR1- Canyon Flight, HDR2- Deep Freeze
Again, the Sapphire board was strong, but still a bit behind the other boards.
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 1024x768 progressing to "Extreme" at 1920x1200. 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.
- All default settings in each preset level
- Entry: 1024x768
- Performance: 1280x1024
- High: 1680x1050
- Extreme: 1920x1200
The same trend here as well – a bit behind, but not by much.
When it comes to the Sapphire Pure 785G motherboard, I have mixed feelings. When I reviewed its 790GX-based board earlier this year, I felt Sapphire made great improvements in most of the areas that count on motherboards. However, with this board, I feel like the company took a step back. Sure the board runs decent when plugged in at stock speeds, but it is still lagging when compared to another mainstream 785G-based motherboard. When it came to overclocking, there was not much there. Using a Phenom II X4 965, I was barely able to squeeze 300MHz more out of it without the system locking up. The little bit I did get did not make a huge increase in overall performance for the added stress to the system. I was also not happy with only two memory slots on the board and no PCI Express X1 or X4 slots, since this is geared towards gaming and media, which can use the slots for increased memory and expansion cards. The integrated video is a huge bonus for applications when a more powerful card is not needed, which saves on the cost of the components for the computer. When you take into account the bottom line, if you are wanting the bare bones for a workstation build, this board would suit your needs. However, if you are looking for expansion and getting the most out of your money by overclocking, your money might be better suited on a more powerful board.
- HD 4200 integrated video
- Inexpensive chipset
- Ample expansion available
- Only two memory slots
- Low overclocking headroom
- No PCI Express X1 or X4 slots