Sapphire Pure Black 990FX Motherboard Review and Radeon 6450 FleX
AMD recently released the FX range of CPUs and with new processors AMD often like to give a name to a platform as they also offer motherboards chipsets as well. In this case the platform is Scorpius and the breakdown of how each key component connects is shown above.
The Sapphire Pure Black 990FX is of course a Scorpius board…
Sapphire package their board in a box which is very similar in design to the rest of their motherboard range and a great deal of focus is placed on the product name and feature logos. Inside we find a decent bundle with padded I/O shield, plenty of SATA cables, product software/documentation and a front panel USB 3.0 bracket which can also be converted to locate at the back panel.
The Pure Black 990FX is an ATX board based on the AM3+ platform and it uses a black PCB with blue and red components. In terms of key features Sapphire offer dual BIOS, solid capacitors, diamond chokes, digital 8-phase PWM and a large heatsink which covers the power circuitry around the CPU. As a nice touch Sapphire have found a second use for the Debug LED which shows the CPU temperature when we have successfully passed POST and entered the OS. Finally, the board also features voltage test points at the top edge for enthusiast users.
Down at the bottom left of the board we find the add-in card slots and Sapphire have gone for full size parts in each location with no legacy PCI included. In terms of electrical arrangement these run from a PCIe 16x down through PCIe 4x, PCIe 16x, PCIe 8x, PCIe 8x to PCIe 4x and support for Crossfire X is present. Beneath the bottom PCIe slot we have a four pin power socket to add stability when multiple high end cards are used together then the on-board power/reset and clear CMOS buttons are also found here.
Round at the bottom right of the board we find our AMD SATA 6Gb/s ports which run through the Southbridge and these are capable of RAID and AHCI operation. Beside these SATA ports are additional sockets powered by the Marvell 9172 chipset and past them the internal USB 3.0 header. A Debug LED which assists us with fault finding is present also.
Further up the board we find the four dual channel memory slots which are capable of holding 32GB of DDR3-1866. Then beside the memory slots we have our AM3+ socket which supports all of the new FX CPUs.
Also worth noting are that an extra SATA3 port is available between the IO connectors and heatsink and that takes the total up to nine.
External connectivity starts with a PS/2 port and this sits on top of two USB 2.0 connectors. Next we optical and coaxial audio out, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, 2x USB 2.0, eSATA 3.0, 4x USB 2.0, Dual Marvell GB LAN, 2x ASMedia USB 3.0 and 3.5mm audio in/out for the Realtek 7.1 chipset.
Sapphire also now offer enhanced power on their USB ports, providing more current than standard connectors for fast charging of USB devices.
Sapphire provide a completely new GUI BIOS on their 990FX board and it is very clear and easy to use with all of the options we would expect from a quality board, including the option to tweak our CPU bus and multiplier as well as voltages in the Performance screen. Another plus is the inclusion of a BIOS flashing tool which allows us to update from a USB drive.
Sapphire also offer their TRIXX utility on the 990FX board, the same tool we have previously seen on board such as the X58. It offers monitoring and tweaking options as well as a handy desktop widget which allows us to keep an eye on key system readings. For enthusiast users the board is fully compatible with AMD Overdrive for tweaking of performance options within Windows as well.
On our test bench today is the Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE which looks to deliver many of the features of the competition such as enhanced audio and M.2. support but at a more aggressive price point.
Last month Intel launched their Z97 chipset, essentially an evolution of Z87, which in many cases brought new features such as SATA Express and M.2 compatibility to the mainstream desktop market. There was of course no new CPU at that time with the existing socket 1150 processors working without issue in the new boards. Since then though Intel launched (along with some lower spec models) the Core i7-4790K, a model which sits at the top of their mainstream platform. Today we see how it compares to various other models when installed on Gigabytes Z97X Gaming 5 and paired with PowerColors new dual core 290X Devil 13.
PowerColor offer their own branded version of the liquid cooled R9 295 X2… and now for those who want a similar level of framerate they have their air cooled dual core R9 290X with Devil 13 branding. Today we take a look at this R9 290X2 to see what Powercolor can do with their custom design card in a selection of games including Battlefield 4 and GRID Autosport at 4K resolution.