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Sapphire - Bill Donnelly Interview


by Stuart Davidson - 19th Mar 2009
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Visit SapphireTech.com

Bill Donnelly - Global PR Director


DH: Hi Bill, thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. Can you tell our readers your job title within SAPPHIRE and your everyday duties for the company?

Bill: Hi - my job title is Global PR Director, originating the news and new product announcements for the company. This includes managing the way this information is translated and distributed globally via our network of sales offices and reps as well as helping to provide samples for product reviews. But actually I have a much more diverse job – my experience in the industry means I have a hand in relationships with our industry partners, product definition, beta testing of products, building demo systems, presenting at shows and a whole raft more.

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DH: We were introduced to the forthcoming range of SAPPHIRE power supplies which look impressive. Can you explain why SAPPHIRE got into this market segment?

Bill: In the APAC region, SAPPHIRE is the official channel for the ATI FireGL and FirePRO workstation graphics products. Our team found we were being asked for a power supply that was suitable for the smaller workstation builders who needed a high quality, reliable solution that also catered for multi-graphics (CrossFire) installations.

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DH: What benefits will the Sapphire power supplies have over the reference Enermax Design?

Bill: We worked with Enermax as our partner to include a number of important protection features for temperature, voltage, power levels and so on, and then we put the design through strict approvals and certification to ensure that we shipped a product to the very best quality.

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DH: The first FIREPSU is rated at 625W and targeted towards the workstation audience. Are there any plans to introduce a higher wattage range for the more demanding enthusiast SLI or CrossFire gamers?

Bill: We already have 1050W and 1250W models planned, which we will market as Gaming Editions, but the existing model already supports up to four 6/8 pin connectors for multiple graphics installations.

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DH: Today we see the launch of the new Vapor X card. DriverHeaven has reviewed it today (Vapor X Review) but can you explain the reasoning behind Sapphire decision to introduce this range?

Bill: SAPPHIRE was the first company to introduce Vapor Chamber Technology to its cooling solutions for graphics. The Vapor-X cooler was first seen on the SAPPHIRE HD 3870 ATOMIC and TOXIC Editions and is now in production on the HD 4870 512MB and 1GB TOXIC Editions.

SAPPHIRE Vapor-X and hybrid cooling systems are very efficient, so they can use low air flow rates – and therefore low speed, low noise fans. Low noise is generally sought after in modern PC systems, so SAPPHIRE is now introducing this new family of graphics products using Vapor-X technology. Based on its high end graphics processors the new family is aimed at the discerning user who wants the low noise and high reliability, but does not want to pay the premium for the specialist faster memory and other premium components that deliver the overclocking capability of the TOXIC series.

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DH: Can you explain to our audience how the Vapor X technology works in theory and application?

Bill: Vapor-X is a Vapor Chamber Technology based on the same principles as heatpipe technology. A liquid coolant is vaporised at a hot surface, the resulting vapor is condensed at a cold surface then the liquid is returned to the hot surface. The recirculation process takes place inside an evacuated chamber and is controlled by a complex wick system. In SAPPHIRE Vapor-X systems, the whole chamber is very slim and is mounted in contact with the surface of the graphics chip. There is a more detailed description in a Whitepaper available on our website.

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DH: What specific models will we see with the cooler?

Bill: There will be three models in the new series. The SAPPHIRE HD 4870 Vapor-X Edition offers for the first time a choice of 2GB or 1GB of GDDR5 memory and runs with clock speeds of 750 MHz core and 900 MHz memory. The SAPPHIRE HD 4850 Vapor-X Edition has 512MB of GDDR3 and clocks of 625 MHZ core and 993 MHz memory. Both models feature Solid capacitors, the new SAPPHIRE ‘Diamond Black’ (patent pending) chokes which run cooler and more efficiently and both models have HDMI port on the backplate together with DVI and VGA giving the best choice of display connection options.

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DH: With a large number of companies now providing Nvidia and ATI cards do Sapphire have any plans to being producing Nvidia boards?

Bill: No - our position has not changed.

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DH: In the past Sapphire’s focus has clearly been graphics cards, despite you guys offering a range of motherboards. At Cebit we saw a new Sapphire AM3 board on display which was being put through its paces by some overclockers. Does this signal a change in direction with the motherboard business?

Bill: Yes – the latest chipsets from AMD give really good performance together with the new Phenom II processors and our graphics. We already have a DDR2 motherboard board based on the 790GX chipset and will have the DDR3 version soon. The focus on the new Phenoms and the so-called Dragon platform gives us a chance to leverage more exposure to our motherboard line-up which already includes an affordable CrossFire mainboard based on the 780 chipset and a micro-ATX 780G board ideal for HTPC or Hybrid CrossFire systems.

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DH: How high did the AM3 overclocking test go at Cebit?

Bill: Unfortunately the guys did not have an unlocked processor – so the results were not as high as we might have hoped – but it did serve to show the stability and overclocking potential of our 790GX platform – and provided a focus for enthusiasts passing our booth.

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DH: We hear you are quite an overclocker yourself and you mentioned to me on the phone a while ago that you got some serious clock speeds out of an i7 on water (6GHz if memory serves me right). It is not often I hear from company executives that they are capable of overclocking to this level, is this something you did in your spare time in the past?

Bill: I have an engineering background and I am still very ‘hands-on’. Yes I like to ‘play’ with all the latest stuff I can get my hands on – though more as a proof of concept rather than a serious challenger - its good if we understand the limits of performance that our customers can expect. So yes I am keen to push the hardware as far as I can. Sometimes that means using alternative cooling solutions as would our enthusiast customers.

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DH: There is quite fierce competition between motherboard companies, can you detail any benefits and technical data of the Sapphire boards with our readers? Why should a discerning enthusiast consider a Sapphire motherboard?

Bill: With the new generation chipsets we feel we bring together excellent performance with sound engineering. Like on the latest graphics cards we are using Solid capacitors on the mainboards for better reliability and we incorporate 7-way voltage regulation to allow the best stability and opportunity for overclocking. In the BIOS we have a special section with a wide range of tuning options for clock speeds, memory timings and voltages designed for the overclocker. Finally our manufacturing quality is good – so our return rates are one of the lowest in the industry.

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DH: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today Bill, have you anything else you would like to say to our readers before signing off?

Bill: SAPPHIRE continues to be the largest company dedicated to the supply of ATI/AMD based products in the world. We pride ourselves on innovation on the one hand and quality on the other - so we continue to offer the widest and safest choice in the industry.
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