Sapphire Pure 890GX review

An advanced motherboard with the latest features, but is it too advanced for its own good?

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  • AMD's fastest integrated graphics
  • Good chipset cooling


  • Limited OC and core unlocking options
  • Under performing SATA interface

The number of PC component manufacturers appears to be on the wane. The whys and wherefores are not entirely clear but probably have something to do with the recent financial crisis. That and the general process of consolidation, which most maturing industries experience.

Less choice is never a good thing, so we're fully in favour of having as many players on the scene, even if some are rather, well, occasional, such as Sapphire.

The outfit behind some of our favourite ATI Radeon-based graphics cards, Sapphire offers a modest collection of both Intel and AMD compatible boards. For now, it offers a single AMD 8 Series model, the PURE CrossFireX 890GX.

Courtesy of the 890GX chipset, it theoretically offers the best of both worlds. On the one hand, if you want to keep things simple, cheap or quiet, you can go integrated with the onboard Radeon HD 4290 graphics engine.

It's about as good as integrated graphics gets thanks to DX10.1 support and 128MB of SidePort graphics memory. Admittedly, it's pretty miserable for gaming.

Hardware acceleration

But it does have the same 2D video feature set as a discrete Radeon board courtesy of the UVD 2.0 engine. In other words, you get full hardware acceleration of all the important video codecs and formats, including Blu-ray and Flash 10.

Likewise, video connectivity with the onboard graphics is pretty comprehensive with DVI, HDMI and VGA. On the other hand, you also get support for high-end features, such as CrossFireX multi-GPU graphics.

The 890GX northbridge only has 24 PCI-e 2.0 lanes so it can't manage the full 2x 16 lane mega bandwidth Monty. But eight 2.0- spec lanes per card has always proven sufficient. And anyway, how many people actually run CrossFire rigs?

Of more relevance are the six SATA 6Gbps ports, Gigabit Ethernet and efficient looking heat-pipe cooling for the northbridge and MOSFETs. Put it altogether and you have what looks like a well-balanced package, right up to the point where you fire it up.

The first thing you'll notice is the slightly stingy BIOS. There are no auto-overclocking utility or core-unlocking features. More of a problem is the lack of memory dividers which makes big bus overclocks tricky. Consequently, our overclocking results are probably memory rather than northbridge limited.

Making matters worse, the SATA ports aren't delivering on their 6Gbps promise. A maximum sequential read speed of 283MB/s is clearly SATA 3Gbps territory.

Very likely, these problems will be polished out in an upcoming BIOS revision. But as things stand, it's tough to recommend the Pure 890GX CrossFireX.

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Tech Specs

Product TypeDesktop Motherboard
Chipset ManufacturerAMD
Chipset Model890GX
Multi GPU SupportedCrossFireX, CrossFire
Onboard VideoOn-board Video Chipset
Number of PCI Express x16 Slots2
Memory TechnologyDDR3 SDRAM
Processor SocketSocket AM3 PGA-941
Brand NameSapphire
Form FactorATX
Processor SupportedPhenom II
Total Processor Supported1
Maximum Memory16 GB
64-bit ProcessingYes
Number of Memory Slots4
Number of PCI Slots1
Graphics Controller ManufacturerATI
Graphics Controller ModelRadeon HD4290
Graphics Controller Memory128 MB
Audio Channels7.1
Gigabit EthernetYes
Number of IDE Interfaces1
Number of SATA Interfaces6
HyperTransport Speed2600 MHz
RAID SupportedYes
Number of Total Expansion Slots5
Network (RJ-45)Yes
Total Number of USB Ports4
PS/2 PortYes
Number of PS/2 Ports1
PCI Express StandardPCI Express 2.0
Total Number of PCI Express Slots3
Processor TechnologyHyperTransport Technology, Cool'n'Quiet Technology
Width305 mm
Depth245 mm
ManufacturerSapphire, Inc
Product ModelPC-AM3RS890G
Product NamePC-AM3RS890G Desktop Motherboard
Controller TypeSerial ATA/600, Ultra ATA/133 (ATA-7), Ultra ATA/100 (ATA-6), Ultra ATA/66 (ATA-5), Ultra ATA/33 (ATA-4)
Manufacturer Part Number520320040R
Manufacturer Website Address