Sapphire Pure Black 990FX Reviewred1776 - November 4, 2012
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Last year, in a bit of an odd move, the 990/950 AMD AM3+ motherboards built for the Bulldozer CPUs were released a few months ahead of the CPUs themselves, and the 990 AM3+ boards were roundly reviewed. About the same time that talk and speculation about the release of the second generation Piledriver CPUs was being discussed, there were rumors of a new 1090/1050 chipset that would accompany the new release. The new chipset did not come to fruition, whether it was actually never on the map or pure speculation from the get go nobody seems to know, but It does bring the 990FX motherboards back into play with what initially appears to be a successful release of the Vishera Piledriver CPUs.
The main reason for the release of the 990FX boards was stated as the new CPU architecture needed a beefier and more stable power delivery phasing, as only the higher end 890 chipset motherboards were made backwards compatible with a BIOS update. Perhaps with the Vishera being more efficient with its power requirements, the need for the alleged 1090/1050 was dropped as being redundant.
Today we have the Sapphire 990FX Pure Black motherboard on our bench; the company's one and only entrance into the AMD AM3+ high end category. As with all of the 990FX boards, Sapphire touts the Pure Black as being the choice for the enthusiast, heavy overclocking user with all the signs and features for those who push their chps to the limit. Let's have a look, heat it up, and see if it belongs with the big dogs.
Sapphire has packaged the Pure Black in one of the better looking retail boxes I have seen. As a matter of fact, you could call it understated sitting on the shelf next to screaming, "look at me first " packages; the Pure Black is just that, a good looking Black box with the main features of the board lined up along the bottom third of the box. While not much is to be gleaned from the sides of the box other than the serial number, SKU, and part number. The other side hosts a specification list in what is bordering on micro print. The back of the box goes into a bit more of the Pure Black philosophy. This consists of three ideals: Pure speed, Pure features, and Pure reliability. Popping the box open you get the first glimpse of the accessory bundle and the board in a static resistant bag secured tightly in a form fitting box and sitting atop a black foam insert.
The bundle for the Pure Black is to the average/slim side with a conspicuous missing item. You get half a dozen SATA cables, driver disc, rear I/O plate, a 3.5" USB 3.0 bay with an alternate rear knockout plate, and a quick-start guide. What is missing is a full manual. The QS guide is multi-lingual and enough to get you up and running if you are a more advanced user, but only ten pages are dedicated to the board setup with nothing regarding the BIOS or setup. This presents a few problems if, for example, you need the post debug code when your machine won't post, have a memory incompatibility, or HDD/SSD that is not being detected. You can download a full manual in PDF form from Sapphire's website of course, but if you are setting up your only machine, or don't have access to another during setup, you're kind of out in the cold. I actually ran into this during the setup of this test rig when I had an SSD MBR/GPT issue, and had I not known how to solve it, I would have been stuck.
Well that's what we have to work with hardware and accessory wise. Let's have a look at the board, aesthetics, and build quality.