Sapphire Pure Platinum A75 (AMD A75) Motherboard Review

Sapphire jump on the A75 bandwagon with a new motherboard. Hopefully it does more for us than their P67 board we looked at a while back.

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Mon, Jul 18 2011 2:12 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:01 PM CST
Rating: 93%Manufacturer: Sapphire

Introduction and Package

Introduction

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With the first Sapphire motherboard we looked at, we found ourselves really impressed with it. The X58 offering we tested performed well and offered great overclocking potential. When we got the P67 offering from them it was a good board as well, but in such a competitive market we found it just didn't really stand out from the competition.

Today, though, we look at their latest offering and it comes in the form of the Sapphire Pure Platinum A75. And as you can tell, it's of course based on the latest AMD chipset, the A75, which holds the Lynx APU that we've quickly grown to love.

So, the question is, can the Pure Platinum A75 stand out a bit more than the P67 board we looked at? The odds look good at the moment with having looked at only a few A75 boards. What worries me the most, though, is that while Sapphire did well with the X58 board we looked at, that was an old chipset. When it came to the newer P67, the performance wasn't as strong and it's a concern that after getting comfortable with a chipset they can create a good board, but at the launch of a new one they can't be as strong.

So the question we want to answer today is, can Sapphire create a motherboard that's able to stand out, or do they need more time with the A75 chipset before creating something we really want?

Well, before we find out for sure, let's first look at what's going on with the package. Once that's done we'll take a closer look at the board itself before moving on to the BIOS and then get into the overclocking side of things. Then we'll finally get into the performance and wrap everything up in our final thoughts.

The Package

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The box looks pretty good and we've got a load of labels over it which tells us some of the features that are included. Turning over, we can start to see some pictures of the board and an explanation on some of the features that are present on the board.

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Moving inside, we've got a manual, driver CD, four SATA cables, I/O shield along with a Dirt 3 coupon that you can use to grab the game off Steam by following the instructions on the back.

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Along with these items, we've also got a USB 3.0 header that can be installed in the front of your case, or if you like, the back by simply changing the header. Sapphire have opted for a black solution which is good considering it's the color of most cases these days and with the little Sapphire logo and the blue ports, it's pretty sweet looking. This is the first A75 board we've seen offering us a USB 3.0 header, so it's looking good so far for Sapphire.

The Motherboard

Looking at the board for the first time, you can see that we've got that black and blue combination we've been seeing a lot from companies. It's a good color scheme and we can understand why companies are using it. It seems to probably be a bit more appropriate for someone like Sapphire, though, who does tend to use a lot of blue.

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Starting to move in closer to the board, you can see our expansion slot setup which consists of two PCI-E x1 slots, one PCI-E x4, two legacy PCI slots and a single PCI-E x16.

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The biggest surprise would probably be the inclusion of the Mini PCI-E slot. This is something we seem to be seeing a bit more of. You could use something like a TV Tuner or WiFi card. I don't think at the moment it's something you're really going to make use of, but maybe in time. What is appealing about it is the fact you can have a card that takes very little physical room.

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Moving away from the expansions and onto the bottom of the board, we've got a speaker on the left. Moving across, we've got a clear CMOS button, reset and power buttons and switch that lets you choose which BIOS to use. Moving more along, we've got a USB 3.0 header, two USB 2.0 headers, fan header and our LED debug reader. Once in Windows, though, this tells you the CPU temperature which I absolutely love. It means that once booted it continues to remain useful and if you've got a window you can easily see your CPU temperature.

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Turning the corner, you can see a total of five red SATA ports which all come in as SATA III offering us up to 6 Gbps transfer rates. To the left you can also see our front panel header that sits between our SATA ports and LED debug.

The Motherboard Continued

As we start to move towards the top of the board, there's no real surprises with our four DIMM slots which support up to 1866MHz DDR3. Below that we've also got our main 24-Pin ATX power connector.

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Moving towards the CPU area side of things, you can see we've got our normal 8-Pin CPU power connector located in a fairly typical position between the heatsink and I/O side of things.

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As for the CPU side of things, it's extremely clean here with plenty of room around the socket. You can see to the right we've got some fan headers, but for the most part there's no real big surprises here that stand out.

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Getting over to the I/O side of things, we've got a combo PS/2 port and two USB 2.0 ports. Next to that we've got an eSATA header at the bottom, two more USB 2.0 ports and a Bluetooth header at the top. Next up, we've got some display outputs which include DisplayPort, HDMI and a DVI-D one.

We've got another two USB ports, but these are USB 3.0 controlled natively via the A75 chipset. Above that we've got gigabit networking via the Marvell 88E8059 controller and we've finally got our audio outputs running off the Realtek ALC892 codec.

BIOS

Looking at the BIOS, you can see we've got an American Megatrends one going on, which to be honest, isn't the nicest one to use. Features tend to be a bit limited and it doesn't tend to be the most overclocking friendly BIOS, but hopefully we'll still have some luck with it.

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For the most part everything we want is there, but it's not the prettiest thing to use. I'd love to see Sapphire implement a graphical interface, but we know they're still quite new to the game. None the less, hopefully we'll see them do something in the area one day.

As for the rest of the BIOS, it's not bad and like we said, we've got everything you'd want. Hopefully the options under the performance side of things are enough to give us a decent overclock.

Test System Setup and Overclocking

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASRock, Kingston, Mittoni, Noctua and Corsair.

When it comes to the comparison side of things, we'll be checking out our Sapphire Pure Platinum A75 against the GIGABYTE A75-UD4H, ASUS F1A75-V Pro and ASUS M5A99X EVO which uses our 1100T. As for the rest of the testbed equipment, there's no real changes, so let's get stuck into the overclock side of things now.

The first thing I have to say is what a nightmare this board was the first time I tried to up the RAM speed to 1866MHz DDR. We had this board a good 10 days before release, though, and it was obvious the BIOS we were using wasn't the greatest. Just a day later Sapphire hooked us up with a new BIOS and....my god.....what a simple BIOS update can do.

Since the launch of the A75 platform our boards out of the box have been horrible with memory. A BIOS or two later, though, before the board launches and everything lines up as it should. It seems that a lot of companies ran into the same problem. Sapphire being new to the game still, I didn't expect a lot from them. Well, after the BIOS update, I just felt bad.

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We ended up getting our A8-3850 to 3.625GHz as you can see above, while managing to use the 1866MHz memory divider that brought our RAM in at an even 2000MHz DDR.

With some strong overclocking performance, let's see how the board goes.

Let's get started!

CPU Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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Out of the box you can see the board lines up with our other A75 offerings, which is always a good sign. Overclocked you can see a nice boost in performance and you can see our A8-3850 comes within arms reach of our X6 1100T.

CPU Benchmarks Continued

HyperPi 0.99

Version and / or Patch Used: 0.99

Developer Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br

Product Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br

Download It Here

HyperPi is a front end for SuperPi that allows for multiple concurrent instances of SuperPi to be run on each core recognized by the system. It is very dependent on CPU to memory to HDD speed. The faster these components, the faster it is able to figure out the number Pi to the selected length.

For our testing we use the 32M run. This means that each of the four physical and four logical cores for the i7 and the four physical cores of the i5 is trying to calculate the number Pi out to 32 million decimal places. Each "run" is a comparative to ensure accuracy and any stability or performance issues in the loop mentioned above will cause errors in calculation.

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Under Hyper PI we can see again at stock our board lines up fairly similar with our other platforms including the X6 based one. You can see we manage to shave some good time off our Hyper PI time, though, when we crank up the clock and memory speeds.

AutoGK

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.55

Developer Homepage: http://www.autogk.me.uk/

Product Homepage: http://www.autogk.me.uk/

Download It Here

AutoGK stands for Auto Gordian Knot; it is a suite of transcoding tools that are compiled into an easy to install and use utility. It allows you to transcode non-protected DVDs and other media to Xvid or Divx format. For our testing purposes we use a non-DRM restricted movie that is roughly 2 hours in length. This is transcoded to a single Xvid AVI at 100% quality.

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AutoGK performance is again quite strong when overclocked, shaving almost 15 minutes off the encode time. At stock we again see it line up fairly similar with our other boards.

Storage Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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Checking out storage performance, we can see that the USB 2.0 performance seemed to be down just a little bit. SSD performance on the other hand is up by about 10% which is impressive. No doubt hard drive performance would be the more important of the two.

Memory Benchmarks

Sisoft Sandra

Version and / or Patch Used: 2011

Developer Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.net

Product Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.net

Buy It Here

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Sandra performance is pretty much as we'd expect; we'll get a better idea of how everything looks in AIDA64.

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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You can see under AIDA64 our stock performance continues to line up fairly closely with our other motherboards. Overclocked we again see a good boost in performance with the best gains being seen with a strong write performance boost.

Gaming Benchmarks

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/

Buy It Here

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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Aliens vs. Predator

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.rebellion.co.uk/

Product Homepage: http://www.sega.com/games/aliens-vs-predator/

Aliens vs. Predator is a science fiction first-person shooter video game, developed by Rebellion Developments, the team behind the 1999 original PC game, and published by Sega for Microsoft Windows, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. The game is based on the Alien vs. Predator franchise, a combination of the characters and creatures of the Alien franchise and the Predator franchise. There are three campaigns in the game, one for each race/faction (the Predators, the Aliens and the Colonial Marines), that, while separate in terms of individual plot and gameplay, form one overarching storyline.

Following the storyline of the campaign modes comes the multiplayer aspect of the game. In this Multiplayer section of the game, players face off in various different gametypes in various different ways.

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Getting into some gaming benchmarks, we see what we've seen from our other A75 boards when we overclock. While Alien vs. Predator is relying all on the GPU and the speed of our APU makes little to no difference, the speed under the Performance preset in 3DMark hits a bit of a limitation. You can see the overclock helps boost that Performance score and sees it line up with the higher end X6 1100T platform.

Temperature and Power

Core Temperature

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Core temperature in a little warmer on our Sapphire boards at stock and of course overclocked we do see it jump up. Because we have to rely on companies own software for temperature reading on the A75 platform, we're not sure it's the absolute best way comparing board to board. For the most part, though, the results line up as we'd expect.

Power Draw Tests

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Power draw on the board is quite low and we can see it lines up with the ASUS board which is the lowest board here at idle. At load it comes in a little lower, but 10 - 15w makes very little difference. Overclocked we can see a bit of a boost in power draw, but it's nothing too major. This is indeed one of the best benefits to the Fusion platform.

Final Thoughts

I really like Sapphire and I hate to say it, but I really went into this review with low expectations from them. I mean this in the nicest possible way, but after looking at the P67 motherboard I found myself thinking, sure, Sapphire can make a motherboard, but really they need time with the chipset before they can create something great like the X58 board we looked at.

I was proven so wrong, though. Sure, they're a little later to the party with A75, but we're talking only a few weeks, and really, they were later to the P67 party and still didn't manage to show us something that is as strong as the board we've got here today.

This is an amazing board! You probably find yourself thinking, though, what makes it so amazing? Its overclock is quite in line with some of the other boards you've looked at. Well, yes, that's true when it comes to the APU, but not in the memory department.

We've managed to achieve some crazy results with the memory on this board, but we want to leave that for a quick little separate article where we get a bit more down and dirty with the board. For now, though, let me leave you with the screenshot below.

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Above you can see we've got our G.Skill Flare kit running at 2147MHz DDR with a 7-9-7-24 setup. This is the highest we've seen this kit go at these timings to date, but really, this was only the start of our memory success. We can't tell you anymore yet, but keep an eye out to see just what we could really do with this motherboard.

In the end, Sapphire has put together a really fantastic motherboard here and it's going to be one of the most important for the company we've seen, as it shows people that they're able to produce a fantastic product at launch. Combined with the bundle that includes Dirt 3 and a USB 3.0 header, this is just a stand out motherboard.

The last award I thought I'd be giving a Sapphire motherboard was an Overclocking one, but this comes well deserved. Sapphire has just done a great job here and the motherboard team should be holding their heads high. Let's hope this trend of quality motherboards continues from the company, because let's be honest, we now know they can do it.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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