PI CI7S33Z68 Sapphires Z68 unveiled at CeBIT

It's easy to forget that Sapphire is back in the motherboard business, as so far the company has only launched three boards, but at CeBIT Sapphire was showing off two additional models for Intel's Sandy Bridge platform, one full size ATX board with the Z68 chipset and one mini-ITX board with the H67 chipset. Neither board appeared to be retail ready, but we'd expect the mini-ITX board to be available before the Z68 board.

It's easy to forget that Sapphire is back in the motherboard business, as so far the company has only launched three boards, but at CeBIT Sapphire was showing off two additional models for Intel's Sandy Bridge platform, one full size ATX board with the Z68 chipset and one mini-ITX board with the H67 chipset. Neither board appeared to be retail ready, but we'd expect the mini-ITX board to be available before the Z68 board.

The Z68 appears to be going under the name of PI-CI7S33Z68 as for now, but Sapphire tends to have much better retail names for their boards, so we'll have to wait until the launch to find out what it'll be. We're not quite followings Sapphire's design either, as the board has three x16 PCI Express slots of which the second one only work in dual x8 mode while the third one is limited to four lanes worth of bandwidth. This is all fine and good, but the only other expansion slots are three PCI slots, of which two will be unusable in CrossFireX or SLI and there doesn't appear to be a reason why the topmost slot is missing.

Sapphire has added two additional SATA 6Gbps ports via a third party controller for a total of four SATA 6GBps ports and four SATA 3Gbps ports. We're not quite sure why Sapphire put the additional two ports so far away from the six connected to the Intel chipset, but at least it should reduce confusion as to which ports goes where. There are also headers for eight USB 2.0 ports and as with previous models Sapphire is using its special kind of chokes and the board is also equipped with a user selectable dual BIOS and a POST80 debug LED display.

PI CI7S33Z68 Sapphires Z68 unveiled at CeBIT

One other interesting feature we spotted is that Sapphire has fitted a Proadlizer to the PWM, a feature that so far only appears to be popular on high-end graphics cards. Around the back we find a PS/2 port, four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, a Bluetooth dongle, DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI and D-sub connectors and 7.1-channel audio with optical S/PDIF out. Overall we're not sold on this board, it has some interesting features, but the slot layout isn't what we'd hope to see on a Z68 board.

The mini-ITX H67 board is as far as we can tell currently called IPC-CI7S1DH67 but again, we're expecting a much better retail name. Sapphire decided to go with a single x16 slot for this design, which is pretty much all you can fit to a mini-ITX board, although hidden at the bottom of the board is a mini card PCI Express slot into which something like a Wi-Fi card can be installed. You also get two SATA 6Gbps and two SATA 3Gbps ports and two headers for an additional four USB 2.0 ports. Around the back Sapphire has managed to squeeze in four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, a Bluetooth dongle, DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI and a D-sub connector as well as 7.1-channel audio with optical S/PDIF out.

IPC CI7S1DH67 Sapphires Z68 unveiled at CeBIT

Sapphire's boards are still looking a bit rough and ready, but given some time we're confident that Sapphire will come out with some excellent boards as long as the company listens to customer feedback. We're quite eager to find out what Sapphire is working on for AMD's upcoming platforms as well, since Sapphire is a strong AMD partner on the graphics card side.

Source: Computer Base