Sapphire Pure Black X58 Reviewccokeman - January 27, 2011
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The Sapphire Pure "Black" is a motherboard built for socket 1366 Intel Core i7 processors and uses the Intel X58 and ICH10R chipsets. The board follows the naming with a black PCB and Sapphire blue accents. There is a large cooling solution to eliminate the thermal load from the X58 chipset and mosfets around the CPU socket. The socket is arranged slighly different from most X58 boards I have tested but this should not prove to be an issue. The back side of the board has an additional bracket to secure the mosfet cooler into place with screws instead of spring loaded push pins.
The I/O connectivity has enough connection options that it fits right in with some high end solutions from MSI and ASUS. You get (from left to right) a dual function PS/2 port that can be used for a keyboard or mouse, two of the eight USB 2.0 ports, Coaxial and Optical S/PDIF outlets, a Bluetooth module, a single eSATA port, a single IEE1394a port, a Gigabit LAN port, two (blue) NEC controlled USB 3.0 ports and the eight channel sound analog jacks. The expansion slots for this board include a total of four 16x PCIe slots. The top three blue slots are PCIe 2.0 compliant while the single gray slot is PCIe 1.0 compliant. Stacked in between the 16x slots is a single legacy PCI slot. If you plan on using a multiple GPU solution with this board the slots will run at 16X x 8X x 8X electrically when populated with two or more cards. As an AMD partner the one thing missing from the Pure Black is SLI support. CrossfireX is supported but not SLI, something that has been standard on just about every enthusiast X58 board sent to market over the past 2 years. But in the end, Sapphire is an AMD partner on the video side of their business and may not have wanted to incur the wrath of the 'Powers that Be' at AMD.
Along the bottom end of the board you have not only the front panel connectivity but a wealth of tools that show up on high-end boards. From left to right you have a debug LED that can help you troubleshoot problems during POST, a speaker, a CMOS clear switch, an on board power and reset switch, a bios selection switch, IEE1394a header, USB header, one of the five SATA 3Gb/s ports and the front panel switch and LED header. The power and reset buttons give you that added functionality if you are running your rig on a tech bench instead of in a chassis. The BIOS selection switch looks to add some redundancy in case you corrupt the BIOS with a bad flash.
Swinging around to the right side of the PCB you have the rest of the drive connectivity. There are two Marvell controlled SATA 6Gb/s ports in red and the balance of the five SATA 3Gb/s ports in black. The 90 degree connectors eliminate any interference with longer video cards. Next to the SATA connectivity is a single IDE port. My guess is that Sapphire wanted to give some backwards compatibility here but the option has been removed from most of the competing market. Further up you have the 24 pin ATX main power connection and an additional fan header. Memory support is labeled as up to 24GB so all six DIMM sockets can be populated with 4GB modules. The only problem would be if you use modules with tall heat shields as they may interfere with the CPU heat sink fans.
Across the top there is not a whole lot to look at but there is a feature found on higher end boards and that is the voltage measuring points that sit right above the dimm sockets. You can measure the voltage applied to the CPU, memory, CPU vtt, SB, NB and CPU PLL. The only down side is that you have to maintain contact much like you have to on the Rampage III Formula. This is something that has only been really addressed by MSI with the use of actual sockets to hold the multimeter probes so you are free to monitor the results without holding them to the measuring points. Between the VRM heatsink and the I/O connectivity is the eight pin auxiliary power connector. While it looks like a tight fit, the connector went in easily and there was room left to reach the release lever on the connector.
The area around the socket is crowded with capacitors and Sapphire Diamond Black chokes. Fortunately there is still room to mount a large heat sink even with the size of the X58 chipset cooler. The mounting assembly for my Noctua NH-U12P SE1366 had no interference issues when installed. The CPU hold down is made by LOTES and is finished in black chrome. This look goes well with the "Black" theme of the board. Along the bottom of the DIMM slots you can get a look at the Sapphire branded Black Diamond chokes.
The cooling solution used on the Pure Black X58 is a series of aluminum heat sinks with the two around the CPU socket interconnected by a large heat pipe. The heat sink used over the X58 chipset is absolutely huge. This alone should help with some excellent overclocking. The heat sink used on the VRM circuit is equally large and should easily keep the thermals for the power circuit in check. The heat sink used on the ICH10R chipset is of a low profile design to let it fit under the types of graphics cards most likely to be used on this board. On top of it is the design artwork for the Pure Black X58. By using such a large cooling solution the intent of the Pure Black X58 is clear. Overclock me... I dare you!
The board is well laid out and should not provide any clearance issues when using single or dual video cards. Installing a third video card effectively eliminates using the PCI and bottom PCIe slot. Now that we know that Sapphire can put together a good looking board I have to see just how well it performs and overclocks.