While its graphics cards are clearly among the best available on the AMD front, I’ve never loved Sapphire boards... well, that’s a lie, we got a limited edition Sapphire AMD 690G in white but it was so hard to produce, Sapphire sold out the entire run in the first day. One lucky winner of our Mod of the Month got that one though.
This time, yes this time I was sure things would be different, because Sapphire has finally bitten the bullet and enlisted the help of DFI, who co-developed its enthusiast AMD 790FX motherboard. While you will still go to Sapphire to buy it and for BIOS support, the DFI LANParty UT 790FX-M2R’s heritage runs clearly through its veins – the cooling, the layout, the colours, the BIOS... it even has “LANParty” printed on the PCB under an AMD RD790 sticker.
Just looking at the two and they could be separated at birth – in fact, you can even use DFI 790FX-M2R BIOS' with this quite successfully. A double bonus, seeing as getting any DFI board in the UK at the moment is extremely difficult.
Even so, this is a Sapphire board and I have to stop referring to it as “the DFI”. The strangest thing is that there are only three PCI-Express x16 slots on this motherboard – no fully fledged CrossFireX for you! But do you care? There’s enough space between the slots to actually use a full set of dual height cards now.
Be wary though that there are two versions available – the first one we received (and reviewed) was the non-VOIP version with a better sound codec. However, this was later exchanged for the VOIP version which featured a different audio codec; the only difference in performance being our sound quality analysis. We had expected both to be available in the UK, but just very recently Sapphire told us that that only the VOIP edition is currently available.
The spec sheet and board picture we had initially say we were very keen to see if Sapphire might be onto a winner that give the Tier One industry heavyweights a run for their money.
AMD Phenom, Athlon 64, X2, FX – Socket AM2 and AM2+
AMD 790FX north bridge
AMD SB600 south bridge
Seven-phase digital PWM
Four 240-pin DDR2 DIMM sockets supporting up to 8GB dual channel memory
Three PCI-Express x16 2.0 slots
One PCI-Express x4
Three PCI slots
Bernstein Audio Module with Realtek ALC885 7.1 channel High-Definition audio codec or ALC888T with VOIP card with the VOIP-edition
Marvell 88E8052 and 88E8053 PCI-Express Gigabit Ethernet controllers
One IDE port
Four native SATA ports with RAID 0, 1, 0+1
Silicon Image Sil3132 SATA controller with two ports with RAID 0 and 1
IEEE1394a Firewire from VIA VT6307 with two connections
Onboard power and reset switches
One rounded IDE cable
Four SATA cables
One rounded floppy cable
Bernstein Audio Card (with VOIP card with the VOIP-edition board)
Two Molex to four SATA power cables
Manual, driver CD and RAID driver floppy disk
Rounded cables? A floppy disk with drivers? This is a blast from the past! Unfortunately, the board we received in exchange for my killing the first one didn’t have all the parts, so the photo is missing the Bernstein audio module and a couple of SATA cables. Even so, what you should get is listed above and while it's quite well rounded, it still feels light – it’s missing a couple of SATA cables (four supplied, six ports provided).
Only the VOIP edition has the VOIP card and if you need it; great, but it takes up a PCI slot. I can’t say I’ve ever known anyone to actually want this but feel free to prove me wrong. I don’t really think it’s the ideal board to be sporting this feature either – it’s not exactly digital home compared to an Asus all-bells-and-whistles-WiFi @n for example.
The multi-language manual is also very light – while the board itself is covered in considerable detail, nothing about the BIOS is even mentioned, let alone detailed. I think Sapphire is trying to mix too many things under a single roof and is missing the necessary details; it’s a bit of a jack of all trades, master of none.