Sapphire continues to take me on an emotional roller coaster when it comes to the motherboard market. The last board we looked at based on the A75 hit the ball out of the park. The Z68 offering we're looking at today was bit of a strike out. Unlike the Jetway HI09-Z, a board that couldn't even run at stock without having its settings adjusted, the Sapphire looks like an absolute Gem.
The problem for the Sapphire is up against boards like the GIGABYTE G1.Sniper2 and ASUS Maximus IV Extreme-Z the Sapphire just can't do anything to be up the realm of these big boys.
Even if you talk about the cost of these boards compared to the Sapphire, the ASRock offerings which come in significantly cheaper are also extremely strong boards and offer us a graphical UEFI interface.
To be completely blunt, this board should've been a lot better than it is considering the time it took to come out compared to others. Sapphire just hasn't been able to get a feel for this segment yet and they're creating these hit and miss boards when it comes to performing outside the realm of stock.
If it runs so good at stock, though, why wouldn't you pick it up over something like GIGABYTE or ASUS? The huge range both these companies have combined with the price point they're able to hit at and just the general brand awareness and confidence associated with them means that you'd be hard pressed to give a good argument to why you would buy the Sapphire over one of them. This is where the problem lies in the market for Sapphire, though.
While we don't have a price at this time, we know that it won't be the cheapest on the market. The lack of any stand out feature that separates them from other companies and when it comes to overclocking potential; it's more limited than other boards.
We have seen flashes of brilliance from them; the X58 was great, as was the A75. The Z68 and P67 leave something to desire, though. They haven't found a hook yet, though, and that's the biggest problem for the company. Why should you buy a Sapphire motherboard? Who knows!?!?
If you walked into a shop and you could only buy the Jetway we looked at, I'd say turn around, walk out the door and go somewhere else. If you walked into a shop and you could only buy the Sapphire, I'd say buy it. Out of the box it's going to run well and sure, there's going to be a bit of head room when it comes to overclocking. But if you walk into a shop and it's selling this Sapphire board along with similarly priced ASRock, MSI, ASUS and GIGABYTE offerings, picking this out of that batch is going to be a tough one.
I feel like Sapphire has got a large part of the engineering side of things down, but the overclock side of things needs to be worked on. There are some things that they can really improve on, though.
- Overclocking via multiplier should be adjusted via one area and not have to be done separately on all four cores.
- A move to a UEFI BIOS that can begin to separate them from other companies needs to start to take place, even if it's just in the most simplistic form like we saw from ASRock initially.
- Current voltage levels displayed in the voltage adjustment area along with a system that displays safe levels. Orange when above normal, Red when it gets too high.
- We need to move away from having so many Legacy PCI slots.
- Flashier looking heatsink design.
That's just a few that come to mind and honestly, if I didn't like Sapphire so much I'd just say, go buy someone else's board and don't worry about these guys. But like I said, we've seen flashes of brilliance from them. No doubt they're capable of creating stand out board over stand out board. It's also no doubt going to continue to take time, though.