Sapphire has been ATI's largest partner for a long time now and they've probably been the most popular video card add-in board seller, worldwide, in recent times. It's therefore unsurprising that they make motherboards based on ATI chipsets too.
In fact, Sapphire is a member of ATI's certification program, which means ATI do independent stress and engineering tests to make sure motherboards that bear the Certified by ATI logo meet ATI's strict performance and stability requirements. This should hopefully mean that the motherboard has been manufactured to a high standard of quality. Back at CeBIT, we saw a preview of Sapphire's PI-A9RX480 motherboard, which falls under the Pure Innovation moniker - we were impressed with its looks, and we've been waiting to find out whether it is as good as it looks.
The board doesn't support ATI's CrossFire technology, but does use ATI's latest Xpress 200P chipset. The chipset includes features such as 8-channel High Definition Audio, Gigabit Ethernet, SATA and Firewire. The PI-A9RX480 also comes with additional SATA II support and an interesting colour scheme that reminds us of Strawberries and Cream. Mmmm, lets see if it performs as well as it looks... and tastes (you tasted it!?! - Ed.).
Support for all AMD Athlon 64 socket 939 processors, including FX and X2
ATI RX480 North Bridge and SB450 South Bridge;
4x DDR memory slots with support for up to 4GB of memory at PC3200 in dual channel;
2x ATA133 channels & a single floppy channel;
4x SATA ports with support for RAID 0/1 via the SB450 South Bridge;
2x Silicon Image SATA II ports with support for RAID 0/1;
4 (plus 4)x USB 2.0 ports: 4 on the back I/O panel and 4 via motherboard pins;
1x Gigabit Ethernet port;
1x PCI-Express x16 slot, 2x PCI-Express x1 slots and two PCI expansion slots;
Realtek ALC880 8-channel High Definition audio;
IEEE 1394a Firewire with 2 ports via a blanking plate.
1x grey floppy cable;
1x yellow IDE cable;
RCA S/PDIF in and out on a PCI blanking plate;
1x red SATA cable;
2x 6 pin IEEE 1394a Firewire ports;
Metal I/O shield;
Manual, driver CD and game demo CD containing 4 PC game demos.
At best, the bundle can only be described as basic, as it just gives you the bare minimum of what is required to get up and running. The sheer lack of thought in the bundle surprises us, in all honesty. If you are likely to want to use more than one SATA hard disk and two IDE devices you will have to go out and buy your own cables. Also, the fact that a two port IEEE 1394a Firewire PCI backplate is included but the motherboard only supports the pin-out for a single device, yet there are no additional USB 2.0 brackets for the 4 pin-outs on the motherboard. Strange.