Sapphire Pure Element (PE-AM2RS690MH) motherboard on AMD 690G (Socket AM2) chipset
Sapphire, which formerly used to be a completely exclusive ATI partner, following the AMD-ATI acquisition has moved on to being a company that exclusively provides AMD products. Nowadays, the company manufactures AMD-platform motherboards based, naturally, on AMD chipsets. As such, Sapphire's products can be considered somewhat of a reference point for the AMD platform.
In general, there are a number of qualities that define a reference motherboard design. From our viewpoint the board design has to be suited for a large number of PC environments, meaning that it has to be able to fit in a large amount of PC case types, including small OEM partner cases. In addition, the board must be able to be mass-produced at an economic price along with having the ability to work in sub-optimal ventilation conditions.
Let's see how matters stand in the case of this motherboard. Sapphire has released two models based on the AMD 690G chipset, and the higher-end model from Sapphire's "Pure Innovation" mingles on the high-end line, as its traditional white color indicates. We are taking a look at the less expensive motherboard from Sapphire based on the 690G. The motherboard is aimed at a larger market, according to its pricepoint, but it still does sport a number of notable brand features.
The board design is good as long as we disregard the fact that microATX-boards usually have one more expansion slot. Nevertheless, since this additional slot usually means another PCI Express x1 slot, which most users haven't had much need for, we'll consider this design flaw rather insignificant.
The passive chipset cooling solution fulfils its purpose. The effectiveness of the heat sink, since its grills are oriented perpendicular to the processor socket, can be further increased by airflow from a powerful processor fan. Unfortunately, the standard AMD processor fan won't work well for that purpose. The instructional document included with the board mentions a 10/100-megabit network adapter instead of a gigabit one (yet it is the same PCI Express, Realtek RTL-8101E). Therefore, if this characteristic is important for you, pay attention to the actual controller installed on the board you buy.
The processor power connector supplies a three-channel impulse voltage stabilizer using 2 field transistors per channel, 4 capacitors of 2200 microfarad each and 3 - of 1800 microfarad each. The capacitors used are of from an unknown manufacturer. The board dimensions is 245x208 mm ("narrowed" microATX). It is mounted to the chassis using 6-screws. The right edge of the motherboard is unsupported when installed in the case, but the board can be further secured in place using "mushroom"-headed screws through the two holes on the sides.
System monitoring (Fintek F71883FG, from BIOS Setup data):
- Voltage of processor core, memory, northbridge, +3.3, +5, +12 V, +5 V Stand-by and batteries;
- Rotation frequency of the 3 fans;
- Temperature of processor (built-in processor sensor), northbridge and board (by board sensors);
- Smart Fan, with automatic control (for a 4-pin connector fan), there are two parameter options - temperatures corresponding to minimum and maximum rotation frequency.
Ports, connectors and sockets on board surface
- Processor socket (Socket AM2, declared support of all AMD Athlon 64/X2/FX/Sempron processors produced for this socket);
- 4 x DDR2 SDRAM DIMM (up to 8 GB DDR2-400/533/667/800 in dual-channel mode);
- 1 x PCIEx16;
- 2 x PCI;
- Power supply connectors: standard 24-pin ATX 2.2, 8-pin EPS12V for processor power supply (of course, the board is stably operational even with a 4-pin ATX12V connector, and if you content yourself with integrated video support a 20-pin ATX 2.1 power supply connector will quite suffice);
- 1 x FDD;
- 1 x PATA IDE for 2 ATA133 devices (chipset);
- 4 x SATA2 for 4 SATA300 devices (chipset), RAID 0, 1, 0+1;
- 2 x USB headers for 4 additional USB ports;
- 1 x CD/DVD-drive audio-out;
- Block of analog audio-in/out connectors for the computer's front panel;
- 1 x TV-out header;
- 1 x COM header;
- 1 x LPT header;
- 3 x fan connectors with ability to control rotation frequency including one for processor, 4-pin, which has "intelligent" frequency control available in the BIOS.
Board's rear panel (left to right, by blocks)
click to view the board in 3/4 perspective from the rear panel side
- PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports;
- 1 x HDMI, 1 VGA;
- 2 x USB ports;
- 2 x USB ports and 1 x RJ-45 (Gigabit Ethernet);
- Audio Line-In, Front-Out, Mic-In, Rear-Out, Center/Sub-Out, Side-Out.
- Packing: box with traditional Sapphire robot-like character, small-sized, originally designed for Pure Element series;
- Documentation: English language users guide;
- Cables: 1 SATA, 1 ATA66;
- Rear panel plug for corresponding connectors;
- CD: drivers, utilities from outside developers for hard drive data backup, restoring deleted files, scanning for harmful software (spyware).
Unfortunately, the utility for updating the BIOS and system drivers from the manufacturer's web-site is not provided.
Trademark technologies and features
- BIOS backup chip;
- POST-codes diagnostics indicator.
- Audio based on "chipset" HD Audio support and Realtek ALC861 codec provides ability to connect 7.1 audio systems to front audio-in/out sockets and CD-In;
- Network: Gigabit Ethernet with 10/100/1000 Mbit/s support based on Realtek RTL-8111B PCIE-controller.
We have evaluated the quality of theintegrated audio in 16-bit 44-KHz mode using RightMark Audio Analyzer 5.5 testing suite and ESI Juli@ sound card:
|Frequency response (40 Hz to 15 KHz), dB:
||+0.13, -0.18||Very good|
|Noise level, dB (A):
|Dynamic range, dB (A):
|Harmonic distortion, %:
|Intermodulation distortion + noise, %:
|Interosculation of channels, dB:
|Intermodulation at 10 KHz, %:
Overall rating: Good. The modest results in the channel interosculation test somewhat mars the image of the integrated audio. However, the problem may rely in the integrated coded, which is the ALC861 codec. According to the specifications of the board, it can come with the more expensive ALC880E codec, which might end up with some better test results.
|Based on jumpers and switches
||CMOS reset jumper
|2 "+5 V Standby" jumpers||Control wake up from USB and PS2-devices for both rear panel ports and USB-ports on strips
|Through BIOS based on Award BIOS v6.00PG
||Ability to turn special CPU functions off
|Setting memory timings
||1T/2T Memory Timing, CAS Latency, RAS to CAS Delay, Row Precharge Time, Min RAS Active Time, Row to Row Delay, Async Latency, Row Cycle Time, Write Recovery Time
|Memory clock rate selection
||Auto, 400, 533, 667, 800 (actually sets multiplier relative to HTT frequency)
|HT bus operational settings
||frequency (Auto, 200, 400, 600, 800, 1000 MHz), as well as width (8 or 16 bit) and additional settings for characteristics of electric signals sent over the bus
|Setting frequency of peripheral buses
||restricting number of available PCI Express x16 lines to x1, x2, x4, x8, x12
|Manual distribution of interrupts by slots
|Adjusting FSB frequency
||200-440 MHz in a 1 MHz increments
|Adjusting CPU multiplier
||from x4.5, in x0.5 increments
|Adjusting CPU voltage
||0.800-1.500 V in 0.025 V increments and, in addition, -17-+29% in variable increments
|Adjusting memory voltage
||1,85-2.15 V in 0.10 V increments
|Adjusting chipset northbridge voltage
||1.25, 1.30 V
The motherboard BIOS version we use for testing in this article is the 04/27/07 version supplied by the manufacturer. The aforementioned BIOS capabilities are available in the specified version of the BIOS. Nonstandard settings are not tested for operability.
The CPU overclocking potential in the BIOS is not bad at all; it includes an option to increase core voltage. The only potential problem that we can see is the relatively small range of memory voltage settings that can be selected. This might potentially adversely affect the overclocking results, especially if the consumer uses modules that are expensive and from a high-frequency series with high voltages being required for proper operation.
In order to evaluate the overclocking capabilities of a motherboard and its BIOS, we overclock our testbed CPU to the highest frequency possible that also allows for stable operation. Applying this test procedure, we are able to effectively use all of the test board's supported abilities, including increasing processor core voltage, and if necessary, correcting multipliers and adjusting system and peripheral bus frequencies. However, if lowering Hyper-Transport frequency, for example, doesn't improve overclocking performance, the default multiplier is kept the same. RAM is set (by using multiplier correction) to the standard frequency for the modules being used, unless the manufacturer specifies a method to improving memory overclocking, in which case its effectiveness is explored. In order to evaluate the overclocked system's stability, we load Windows XP and run performance tests built into WinRAR (Tools menu - Benchmark and hardware test) for 10 minutes. It is important to realized that overclocking performance varies by motherboard and is, to some extent, an individual characteristic of each board specific board. For this reason, it is impossible for us, and any other review, to determine the overclocking potential of any board with megahertz precision. The practical goal of our test is to find out if the CPU's high overclocking potential is hindered by the board and to evaluate the board's behavior in non-standard BIOS modes. This test also assesses the board's ability to automatically revert to correct frequencies in the case of system hang-ups, excessive overclocking, etc.
||Clock rate, MHz
||FSB frequency, MHz
||Core voltage (according to BIOS system monitoring), V
||HT bus frequency (multiplier), MHz
|Athlon 64 X2 4000+ (Windsor, 2.0 GHz)
The overclocking results are worthy of praise, especially considering the fact that we are examining a microATX board that is clearly not intended for overclocking enthusiasts. The absence of an "automatic reset to default parameters" is the only disappointment we have regarding the overclocking side of this board. In case of a hang-up, users need to shut the computer down and manually reset the CMOS with a jumper.
- Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4000+
- RAM: 2 Kingston KHX7200D2K2/1G (DDR2-800, 5-5-5-15-2T) modules of 1 GB each
- Hard drive: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 (SATA, 7200 rpm)
- Video adapter: ATI Radeon X1900XTX, 512 MB GDDR3
- PSU: Chieftec CFT-560-A12C
- OS: Windows XP SP2
A previously tested Sapphire board based on the ATI Radeon Xpress 1150 chipset, which has exactly the same name, the Sapphire Pure Element , and only differs in terms of the parts used, has been used for comparison in this test.
|Sapphire Pure Element (PE-AM2RS485M)
||Sapphire Pure Element (PE-AM2RS690MH)
||Sapphire Pure Element (PE-AM2RS485M)
||Sapphire Pure Element (PE-AM2RS690MH)
|Data compression using 7-Zip, min:sec
|MPEG4 (XviD) encoding, min:sec
|Unreal Tournament 2004 (Low@640x480), fps
|Unreal Tournament 2004 (High@1024x768), fps
|FarCry (Medium@800x600), fps
|DOOM III (Medium@800x600), fps
The performance difference between the two boards in the game tests using integrated graphics is the result of the different graphics cores for the given chipsets. Other than that, both boards are approximately on par with each other.
Overall, the board leaves a good impression and is a quality product with a thought-out design. Despite the market position of the board being on par with other microATX-boards with integrated graphics, this board has the ability to interest not only assemblers of office or media centers PCs, but also those who want to build a personal computer for demanding tasks. In particular, we are pleased with the overclocking capability of the board, the presence of a BIOS backup chip and the POST-codes diagnostic screen.
This model on manufacturer's web-site.
Board was provided for testing by the manufacturer
Dmitriy Laptev (firstname.lastname@example.org)
August 9, 2007
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