Sapphire Pure Black FX990 £250

29th Feb 2012 | 16:00

Sapphire Pure Black FX990

The leader of the AMD 9-series motherboard pack

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

Like:

Impressive performance; Good Bios; Decent feature list;

Dislike:

A bit pricey;

Overview

The latest addition to Sapphire's Pure Black family of motherboards is the Sapphire Pure Black FX990.

As you may have gleaned from the name, it supports AMD's latest high-end FX990 chipset. This is joined on the board by AMD's SB950 Southbridge and an AM3+ socket to support AMD's Bulldozer CPUs.

Sapphire may not be the first company that comes to mind when you're thinking about motherboards, but it has still managed to produce boards with the latest mobo tech at regular intervals over the last year.

So, despite not having the same breadth to its range as its competitors, it has managed to have something for all platforms.

Built to the usual high quality we've come to expect from Sapphire, the well laid out board uses top-end components throughout, including the multi-phased power design using Sapphire's own design Diamond Black chokes and solid capacitors.

The Sapphire Pure Black FX990 also introduces something new on the Bios side of things - Sapphire's new UEFI QBios.

Talking of the Bios, the board comes with dual switchable Bios's (via a two-way switch on the board), which is handy should you fry one with some over-zealous overclocking.

Benchmarks

Sapphire may have been late to the party with the Pure Black FX990, but it's marginally the best performer of all the FX990 motherboards we've tested so far.

Truth be told, the difference is tiny, but it does enable Sapphire's board to sit at the top of the list, for the time being at least.

CPU video encoding performance

Sapphire pure black fx990

CPU rendering performance

Sapphire pure black fx990

Verdict


Just one glance at the Sapphire Pure Black FX990 and you can see that it follows the strict design and layout of other recent Sapphire motherboards.

But there's nothing necessarily wrong with that - if it ain't broke, why fix it?

Dominating the board are the six PCIe slots, spaced to enable three dual-slot graphics cards to be built into a Crossfire X setup. Should you need a bit more grunt to power such an array, there's a four-pin Molex connector soldered to the board just under the final PCIe slot.

If you happen to own a large number of hard drives, as well as a multitude of graphics cards, the Sapphire Pure Black FX990 should be able to satisfy your needs with no less than nine - yes nine - SATA 6Gbps ports.

Of these, eight are edge-mounted at 90 degrees on the side of the board, with the remaining port housed just behind the rear I/O panel.

Sapphire pure black fx990

Performance-wise, the motherboard is impressive.

It's rare for Sapphire boards to be at the forefront of performance pack, but this mobo benches better than any of the other 9-Series AMD boards we've tested.

It's nice and solid in overclocking terms too - we got our test AMD FX-8150 CPU to run at 4.5GHz with some not too aggressive tweaking in the new improved QBios.

And that new QBios is a real improvement over Sapphire's previous UEFI-based Bios. The new version includes support for Sapphire's S_Bios technology for updating and backing up the Bios without resorting to booting from an external device.


As befitting a motherboard aimed at the enthusiast, it has the usual array of power, reset and clear CMOS buttons mounted on the board, which are also joined by the switch for the dual Bios.

We liked

Sapphire's QBios isn't in the same league as, say, the UEFI Bios's on some of the current Asus motherboards (but then nobody else's is either). But it's a marked improvement on its first shot at a UEFI Bios. It's pretty easy to follow and tinker with the settings, although it has to be, since the manual doesn't give any information on it at all.

We disliked

With so many PCI-E slots and nine SATA 6Gb/s ports, the Sapphire Pure Black FX990 was never going to be cheap. But instead of adding loads of extras in the box bundle to ease the pain, the only highlight of the bundle Sapphire provides is a twin port USB 3.0 front panel adaptor for your PC case.

Final verdict

A strong, stable AMD offering from Sapphire, the Pure Black FX990 is definitely one for the multi-GPU crowd or the storage hog.

Sapphire FX0 motherboards PB-A3BRD0
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