23a Sapphire Shows Off its X79 Pure Black Motherboard

Although known more for its AMD Radeon graphics cards, Sapphire always tried to make inroads to the motherboard industry. Not that there are any major hurdles in its way, given that it has a cash-rich OEM (PC Partner) pulling its strings. Come LGA2011 Sandy Bridge-E HEDT platform, and Sapphire is out for its slice yet again, with the Pure Black CI7X79N motherboard, of which we scored some early pictures.

Although known more for its AMD Radeon graphics cards, Sapphire always tried to make inroads to the motherboard industry. Not that there are any major hurdles in its way, given that it has a cash-rich OEM (PC Partner) pulling its strings. Come LGA2011 Sandy Bridge-E HEDT platform, and Sapphire is out for its slice yet again, with the Pure Black CI7X79N motherboard, of which we scored some early pictures.

23b Sapphire Shows Off its X79 Pure Black Motherboard

The Sapphire Pure Black X79 is designed for overclocking, backed by a strong power delivery and some nifty features overclockers can use to their advantage. To begin with, power delivery to the CPU is habdled by a 7-phase digital PWM power supply that draws power from an 8-pin EPS connector, and a 2-phase VTT circuit that uses common choke + DrMOS design. Apart from the 24-pin ATX and 8-pin EPS, the board also draws power from a 6-pin PCIe power connector, this is probably to stabilize PCIe slot power delivery and other power domains. 

2 Sapphire Shows Off its X79 Pure Black Motherboard

There are four DDR3 DIMM slots, one per memory channel. Sandy Bridge-E packs a quad-channel DDR3 memory controller. The memory on this board is powered by a 4-phase VRM, which uses common chokes and driver-MOSFETs.

23c Sapphire Shows Off its X79 Pure Black Motherboard

Speaking of PCIe, all the expansion slots on this board are physical PCIe x16. Among these, three are PCI-Express 3.0 x16 capable, and all six are PCI-Express 3.0 x8 capable. We're not quite sure what the third set of 16 PCIe lanes are wired to, but that is quite a big heatsink (board area-wise) cooling the chipset. Perhaps there's a bridge chip, too? Even if there is, we don't expect it to be NVIDIA-made. Due to some industry politics, Sapphire doesn't have access to NVIDIA SLI on its motherboards, but hey you're not missing out much, and there are plenty of options from the Radeon camp. 

5 Sapphire Shows Off its X79 Pure Black Motherboard

Storage connecitivy includes four internal SATA 6 Gb/s (red) ports, out of which two are wired to the X79 PCH, and two to a Marvell-made SATA 6 Gb/s RAID controller; four SATA 3 Gb/s (black) ports from the X79 PCH; and two eSATA 6 Gb/s ports on the rear panel, driven by a Marvell-made controller.

23d Sapphire Shows Off its X79 Pure Black Motherboard

There are six USB 3.0 ports on this board, four on the rear panel, and two via internal header, all driven by ASMedia-made 2-port controllers. There are two gigabit Ethernet connection, which surprisingly, are handled by Marvell Yukon Ultra II PCIe GbE controllers – you don't see that everyday. Audio is care of a Realtek ALC892 HD audio CODEC, with 8+2 channels, optical and coaxial SPDIF outputs. Connectivity also includes a Bluetooth controller. 

4 Sapphire Shows Off its X79 Pure Black Motherboard

Moving on to the business-end of this board (overclocking), we could find many nifty features, starting with a strong VRM, a UEFI firmware with at least a basic interface yet loaded with options, consolidated voltage measurement points covering key voltage domains, some jumper-based hard overclocking, phase LEDs that give you a visual measure of phase loading, and both POST LED numeric display and a fixed PC speaker – a nifty touch.

Expect the Sapphire Pure Black X79 to feature in the first wave of LGA2011 motherboards.