Sapphire Pure Black 990FX Reviewformerstaff -
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Taking a look or relook and evaluation of the AMD 990/950 chipset motherboards has been an interesting experience. CPU dies shrink and transistor density have gone into the billions with ever lessening voltage to send the on/off signals to all of them at ever increasing speed. The focus for these motherboards really turns to better and more efficient power delivery. Overclocking stopped being a "cheat" and something for only the most advanced users to toy with quite a few squares back. In fact, it can be confidently said that taking that extra performance holed up in these always improving and evolving pieces of silicon is the number one selling point of most any motherboard you care to consider these days. Despite the usual warning against overclocking, companies provide you every possibility to obtain the highest overclock you can get with minimal effort. This leaves me at a loss at times when reviewing some of these motherboards.
The Sapphire Pure Black 990FX is a beautifully crafted motherboard with a great layout and is made for the high end enthusiast who wants to stack up two or three big GPUs and and clock their CPU to maximum frequency. It is full of top notch solid capacitors, ferrite 'Diamond' chokes and a long row of transducers with 8+2+2 phase power delivery. With Bluetooth and dual LAN in the back, and heat sinks that look like they could cap off Chernobyl on the front, this really great board is missing one crucial feature to truly fulfill its intended purpose of being an overclock powerhouse. It needs Load Line Calibration or Control. While I was able to obtain a respectable overclock on the FX-8150 of 4.6GHz, the silicon will be stable at 5.0GHz on a board with LLC. It is a feature that I cannot explain the absence of on high end enthusiast boards today.
The Sapphire Pure Black is loaded with connectivity and features that rival the best boards out there. With onboard power/reset buttons, dual BIOS, and an onboard switch makes life easy for the enthusiast while trying out the latest BIOS update or overclock settings. The six PCIe x16 slots are among my favorite features for building a graphics monster build. The Sapphire Pure Black also has a feature I would like to see on more boards of this caliber: dual Ethernet ports. For the enthusiast, voltage pads can be found at the upper outer edge of the board for taking readings of important system voltages throughout the components.
It's also littered with nice indicator features for status and troubleshooting. The two digit post code debug LED will give you a code as to why the system is not passing POST. A three LED indicator to the right of the memory DIMMs lets you know when the system is functional, powered on, and/or in standby mode. The third LED indicator is found near the Dual BIOS chips and comes on yellow when the secondary BIOS is in operation and green when the primary BIOS is being used. Very nice features that speed up troubleshooting as well as alerting you to problems.
Although I personally prefer that "black" PCBs be jet black and not dark brown, the Sapphire Pure Black is really a handsome board. The black and blue color scheme is really made with the blue anodized heat sinks topped off with silver insignia plates. This board is one of the reasons that side windows were invented for on a case and would look great in concert with a liquid cooling system.
- Great looks
- Great board layout
- 6 x PCIe slots for Tri-fire
- Hybrid BIOS
- Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
- Lack of LLC
- Northbridge runs warm
- Some BIOS settings don't translate to actual readings