The Pure Black X58 is the first motherboard we’ve seen from Sapphire for a very long time. However, its £210 asking price isn't cheap, and it faces serious competition in the form of the Asus Sabertooth X58, which costs nearly £50 less.
Pricing aside, though, the Pure Black already has some major disadvantages. There’s no equivalent of Asus’ EZ Flash, for example, which means you have to resort to creating a bootable USB stick and using the incredibly decrepit AFUDOS tool to update the BIOS. This is far from user-friendly, particularly if you haven’t done it before. The lack of a dedicated BIOS flashing utility is also disappointing given the Pure Black X58’s price and target market.
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The arrangement of expansion slots is similarly disappointing too. While it has four 16x PCI-E slots, only three are PCI-E 2.0 and only the top slot is equipped with 16 lanes. The middle slots have eight lanes each and the fourth slot has just four lanes.
What’s more, the Pure Black supports CrossFireX, but not SLI, which is possibly because Sapphire makes graphics cards with AMD GPUs. This makes it stand out from the crowd, but not in a good way; if you own an Nvidia graphics card, your upgrade options will be limited compared with other X58 motherboards.
Meanwhile, you'll find a PCI slot between the second and third PCI-E slots, which is handy, and while there are no 1x or 4x PCI-E slots, you can still use the 16x slots for PCI-E sound cards and TV tuners.
Thankfully, the board’s layout is generally well designed. All the SATA ports bar one are mounted parallel with the PCB, which will make cable tidying a neat and easy task, and all the ports are placed on the very edge of the PCB. There are seven ports in total – five SATA 3Gbps ports via the Intel ICH10R chipset and two SATA 6Gbps ports provided by a Marvell 9128 controller.
Moving on to the cooling system, the board features two large heatsinks that surround the CPU socket on two sides and are connected using a heatpipe, with another heatsink cooling the Southbridge. Unfortunately, though, the chipset and VRM heatsinks are large and located very close to the CPU socket, so the hold-down plate for our Titan Fenrir cooler wouldn’t fit in its normal orientation. Instead, we had to mount the cooler so that it exhausted air towards the right edge of the motherboard – in most situations, this will mean that hot air is trapped in the top of the case.
Left: The Pure Black X58 includes Bluetooth (above the red ports)
Right: There are Reset, Clear CMOS and Power buttons as well as a POST readout
The Pure Black offers a wide range of ports on its I/O panel, including six USB 2 ports and two USB 3 ports. The single Gigabit Ethernet port is also complemented by FireWire and eSATA ports, plus Bluetooth. On-board sound is provided by an 8-channel Realtek ALC892 sound chip with optical and coaxial S/PDIF outputs.
The PCB also sports Power and Reset buttons, as well as a Clear CMOS button, a diagnostic LED and voltage measuring pads. There are also switches and jumpers that enable you to switch between the Pure Black’s two BIOS chips in case of issues. The Pure Black’s BIOS was easy to use but quite sparse given its price tag, although its overclocking profiles came in handy.
Chipset Intel X58
CPU support LGA1366 Core i7, Core i7 Extreme Edition
Memory support 6 slots: max 24GB DDR3 (2,000MHz)
Expansion slots Three 16x PCI-E 2.0 slots (one 16x, two 8x), one 16x PCI-E 1.1 slot (4x), one PCI slot
Sound Intel HD Audio via Realtek ALC892 with 8-channel support
Networking Marvell 88E8057 Gigabit Ethernet, Atheros AR3011 Bluetooth 2.1
Overclocking CPU clock 266-600MHz; max voltages: CPU 2.3V, RAM 2.5V, Northbridge 1.7V, CPU/NB VID 2.1V
Ports 5x SATA 3Gbps, 2x SATA 6Gbps, PS/2, 10x USB 2, x USB 3, FireWire, LAN, 4x surround audio outputs, line in, mic, optical and coaxial S/PDIF out, powered eSATA 3Gbps