Sapphire has been ATI's biggest partner for a long time now, and is one of the few companies that hasn't branched out into both green and red camps on the graphics front. It has moved on from just making great ATI video cards to producing some very unique cream-coloured motherboards based on ATI's ever-improving core logic.
With the close relationship between itself and ATI, you'd think that Sapphire's motherboards would be the de-facto standard that everyone else should try to attain. It was almost a year ago when I looked at the PI-A9RX480
which is similarly styled, performed pretty well but lacked CrossFire support among other things. We discover whether Sapphire now has the benefit of hindsight and whether it has made an overall better and more usable product, rather than one that just looks good.
- Support for all Socket AM2 AMD Athlon 64/FX/X2 and Sempron processors with Cool 'n' Quiet technology;
- Four DDR2 memory slots supporting up to 16GB of DDR2-800 memory;
- ATI RD580 and SB600 chipset;
- One Gigabit Ethernet socket powered by Marvell's 88E8052 PCI-Express Ethernet controller;
- Two PCI-Express x16 slots with CrossFire support (both ports run with a full 16 lanes), one PCI-Express x1 slot and one PCI expansion slot;
- 7.1 channel Realtek ALC882D High Definition audio with jack sensing and optical & digital RCA S/PDIF Out including Dolby Digital Live support through S/PDIF;
- Four native SATA 3Gbps ports, supporting RAID 0, 1, 0+1, and JBOD;
- Four (two separate controllers) Sil3132 SATA 3Gbps ports supporting RAID 0 and 1;
- Support for eight USB 2.0 ports (four on back I/O panel and four via on-board pins/expansion brackets);
- Two IEEE1394a Firewire ports with one internal header and one external port;
- One ATA133 connector;
- One floppy connector.
- Manuals and, floppy and Driver CDs;
- Digital RCA S/PDIF in and out PCI bracket;
- Two molex to floppy connectors;
- IDE and floppy cables;
- Two SATA cables;
- 6-pin IEEE1394a Firewire PCI bracket;
- Metal I/O shield.
Ok, so it looks like business as usual on the Sapphire front. Nothing has changed in the year since we last checked out the PI-A9RX480 board and the PC-AM2RD580 contents are no different when it comes to providing a complete package. Instead you get enough to get you going. Sapphire does include a PCI bracket with digital RCA S/PDIF (no optical though), which is necessary in order to use the on-board Dolby Digital Live functions.
Apart from that, the IDE cables are generic-looking ribbon cables and the SATA cables don't have clip-locking functionality; they do the job though. There is no overall colour scheme to go with the silver box and cream board, again, but you get lots of software CDs - including the awesome Sapphire Select - along with all the drivers you are likely to need during installation.