Sapphire Pure Black X79N review

Sapphire hitting the top end of Intel's motherboard chipsets

Sapphire Pure Black X79N
Sapphire's top-end take on the X79 platform

Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.

The real eye-catching element of the Sapphire Pure Black X79N, once you get it out of the box, is the sheer number of PCIe lanes this thing sports.

With six PCIe x16 slots stretching out into the motherboard horizon, it's ready and able to take all the interface cards you care to throw at it.

To control them, Sapphire not only uses the lanes built into the CPU, it also employs the services of an Nvidia SF200 chip to supply enough extra PCIe lanes support everything. Inevitably, though, even that extra chip can't offer full x16 functionality to all six slots, so they're split up.

Right, deep breath, here we go…

Slots 1 (full x16 speed) and 2 (x8) use lanes provided by the CPU and are to the Generation 3 specification, while slots 3 - 6 are looked after by the Nvidia chip and are Gen 2.5 ready.

The speeds for these Nvidia controlled slots are as follows; slot 3 and 5 are both x16/x8, while slots 4 and 6 are x8 speed only.

Sapphire pure black x79n


Well, what this all means is that because of that extra Nvidia silicon, you can run a three-card CrossFireX setup at full x16 speed. But despite that existing Nvidia silicon, there's no SLI loving for its graphics cards.

That probably shouldn't come as much of a surprise from such an AMD-centric brand, but we have seen SLI from Sapphire before...

As much as the graphical interfaces are important, a good enthusiast's motherboard stands or dies by how good the overclocking options are in the Bios, and how easy it is to use.

The good news is that Sapphire's new UEFI-based QBios does the job rather well. It may not be in the Asus Bios territory, yet but not many Bios's are.

Sapphire also uses a dual Bios chip setup on the board, so if you should be a bit over-keen while overclocking, or are unfortunate enough to pick up a virus, then by using the board-mounted switch you can swap over Bios in a trice.

We liked

Sapphire has only been producing Intel boards for around 12 months, since it launched the Pure Black X58, but with every board it seems to be making progress.

The Sapphire Pure Black X79N is certainly no exception, with a good choice of overclocking settings in the BIOS and plenty of hardware options on the board.

Whether you will use them all is a different matter, but at least they're there.

We disliked

OK, if we were being picky then the fact there are only four DIMM slots (some competitors' motherboards offer eight) might be a cause for concern, as might be the lack of SLI support in the graphics side of things.

Final verdict

The Sapphire Pure Black X79N is a well featured motherboard supporting Intel's latest high-end chipset technology.

The TechRadar hive mind. The Megazord. The Voltron. When our powers combine, we become 'TECHRADAR TEAM'. You'll usually see this author name when the entire team has collaborated on a project or an article, whether that's a run-down ranking of our favorite Marvel films, or a round-up of all the coolest things we've collectively seen at annual tech shows like CES and MWC. We are one.