- Category: Motherboards
- Published: Wednesday, 24 August 2011 19:12
- Written by garfi3ld
It has only been a few weeks since AMD introduced their Llano APU and things are finally starting to come together. Today Sapphire is joining the mix with an addition from their Pure line, the Pure Platinum A75. Sapphire has had a big push to become a name to be reckoned with in the motherboard market and their Pure line has thus far done a good job. Paired up with an AMD A8-3800, today we will be taking a look at both Sapphires new board and the A-Series platform as a whole.
Product Name: Sapphire Pure Platinum A75 & AMD A8-3800
Review Sample Provided by: Sapphire
Pictures by: Wes
AMD A75 (Hudson-D3)
Dual channel, total 4 DIMMs 32 GB, DDR3 1866 Mhz
DVI, 1920x1600 @60Hz
HDMI, 1.4a 1920x1080, 1080i @60Hz
DO 1.1a 2560x1600 @60
Supports Microsoft DirectX 11, UVD3
Hardware Decode Acceleration for H.264, VC-1, and MPEG-2
5 ports SATA 6G, AHCI; one at rear for E-SATA support
Single 10/100/1000 LAN
1 PCI-E x16 slot, 1 PCI-E x4, 2 PCI-E x1, 1 mini-PCI-E x1, 2 PCI 2.3 slots.
4 USB 3.0 ports (2 on rear) and 8 USB 2.0 ports (4 on rear)
7.1 HD Audio
E-SATA (rear I/O)
Integrated Bluetooth module
DVI, HDMI and DP output
12” x 9.6”
I/O shield, CD, Manual, 4 SATA cables, USB 3.0 front panel bezel
AMD A-Series APU Desktop SKU Information
AMD Radeon Graphics Brand
AMD Turbo CORE
AMD Radeon HD 6550D
AMD Radeon HD 6530D
Render Back Ends
CPU Clock Speed
GPU Peak Compute
AMD A Series APU (Llano)
The A-Series platform from AMD launched almost a month ago, along with the A55 and A75 chipsets. This platform is all about combining components and eliminating the middle man. Rather than having controllers located on both the north and south bridge of the motherboard, AMD has engineered a single controller on the north bridge known as the Fusion Controller Hub (FCH). The FCH provides 16 lanes of generation 2 PCIe, which is commonly used as either a single x16 lane or split into two x8 lanes to support dual video cards. An additional controller is provided by AMD's new accelerated processing unit (APU) which will earn another four lanes featuring any combination of PCIe slots (4 x1, 2 x2, or 1 x4). The FCH also allows for SATA 3.0 connections as well as support for up to four USB 3.0 ports.
Chipsets available for the A-Series platform are currently the A55 and the A75. The main difference between the two is that the A55 does not support USB 3.0 or SATA 6Gb/s, whereas the A75 does. The A55 reinvests the four USB ports the A75 uses for 3.0 back into 2.0 allowing for up to 14 USB 2.0 ports, and features up to six SATA 3Gb/s ports, as opposed to A75's six native SATA 6Gb/s.
AMD has 'fused' together the central processing unit and the integrated graphics processing unit onto a single dye (called the previously mentioned APU) to enhance efficiency while reducing costs. This dye features dual- and quad-core options of the "Stars" architecture, the 32nm cores utilized in the former Athlon II family, as well as the ability to rival mainstream dedicated video card performance with up to 400 Radeon cores. All models feature DirectX 11 support as well as 3D and Unified Video Decoder engine enhancements that allow games and media to be played without requiring the power of a discrete GPU. This includes support for H.264, VC-1, MPEG2, WMV, DivX, MVC, and Adobe Flash playback. In addition, the A-Series platform will allow the APU to be combined with select dedicated graphic card series to provide additive graphics performance.
The APU is currently available in four models: the A6-3600 and A6-3650, and the A8-3800 and A8-3850. While all four feature an ascending CPU clock rating respectively, the xx50's from both the A6 and A8 lines feature a higher wattage of 100W over their xx00 counterparts at 65W. Both of the A8's feature a faster GPU clock of 600 MHz over the A6's 443MHz, but the lower option from both lines (the xx00 model numbers) feature AMD Turbo CORE. All models support Blu-ray 3D, AMD Virtualization, UVD3 multimedia, and OpenCL Acceleration.
The A75 comes in a package that is very similar to the X58 we reviewed with the launch of Sandy Bridge back in January. The design features the circuit-laced ribbon with a crest of the motherboard’s model name, with Sapphire’s ‘Pure’ family name resting on top. The background plays true to the ‘Platinum’ portion of the product name, the majority of which a reflective material sure to catch more than a few eyes on the retail shelf. A specification and feature listing occupy the side of the box while the back will give consumers a more graphic-based explanation of what the Pure Platinum A75 has to offer.
The containing box foreshadows Sapphire’s recent shift to an all-black PCB with the same single color masking the cardboard. Inside, accessories lay on top separated into compartments with cardboard inserts and wrapped individually in plastic bags. Buried underneath is the A75 board housed securely in an anti-static bag.
Included on the accessories level of the packaging you will find the PCI cover, four black SATA cables, a few mounting screws, and a USB 3.0 adapter with two ports, as well as a PCI bracket for internal mounting. Along with the paperwork you should also find the complimentary copy of DiRT 3, as well as the installation DVD (complete with drivers and overclocking utilities) and a quick installation manual.
Standing back and admiring the Pure Platinum A75 you can see a lot of similarities from Sapphires other Pure boards. The black PCB with black and blue trim will look good in just about every build, or at least that is what Sapphire is hoping for.
Down in the bottom right corner you have the diagnostic LED that also doubles as showing the current CPU (excuse me, APU) temperature. It is interesting that Sapphire has it labeled as the 'CPU' temperature, I’m sure someone at AMD will be unhappy with that one considering the push to make sure the Fusion line is described as an 'APU'. Also in that corner you have a three pin fan connection, two USB 2.0 headers, and a nicely labeled and color-coded front panel header.
Moving up the board slightly you have the board's SATA connections. With the A75 chipset being AMD’s flagship A-Series board they made sure that it supports SATA 6 natively. That means that all of the Sapphire Pure A75’s six SATA connections are all SATA 6. Of course there are only five pictured, the last port is on the rear I/O panel.
Up next to the ram slots you have the 24 Pin power connection
Speaking of RAM slots, you have four slots supporting dual channel DDR3 up to 1866 Mhz. Of course they stick with the black and blue theme. If you are only running two sticks you will be using the black slots leaving the blue to be seen.
Here is the heart of the beast, the “APU Socket”. If you were to look really close you would see a total of 905 pin connections. And yes I did say PIN connections, for those of you who are used to Intel CPU’s AMD still uses the good old fashion pin setup. You always have to be extra careful not to bend any pins, we actually had three bent pins with ours when we received it. Nothing an extra gentle touch can’t fix, but it’s not for the timid.
Back down at the bottom to the left of the USB 2.0 ports you have one internal USB 3.0 header, the BIOS battery, and another 3 pin fan header.
Going further to the left you have a collection of buttons and a switch. The switch allows you to swap to a backup BIOS on the off chance that you have problems. It’s a small switch and it wouldn’t be easy to reach in a case, but it’s nice to know that it’s there if you need it. You also have a small red button to reset the CMOS in case your overclocking gets a little out of hand. The power and reset buttons are much larger and when the motherboard is receiving power they also glow a nice eye catching red. I don’t think that these buttons come in handy for a lot of users but for someone using a test bench they are a godsend.
The front panel audio connection is tucked away against the PCI slots and to the left of the x4 PCI express slot. That may make running a front panel connection a little difficult if you need to use that slot.
If you haven’t already noticed, the Pure Platinum A75 has more than just a few fan connections. You can find two more up above the APU socket. One is a four pin PWM header for your CPU fan and the second is a 3 pin for your power supply fan if it requires one. In all this board has 5 fan headers, you should have no problem keeping it cool!
There is nothing special about the 8 pin CPU power connection. It is tucked in behind the I/O panel and is a little hard to get to with the heatsink next to it.
A strange but welcome sight on a full sized motherboard is the mini-PCI Express slot slipped in just under the PCIe x16 slot.
A full breakdown of the Pure Platinum A75’s slots.
With the integrated graphics card in the APU it’s no surprise to see a selection of video connections on the rear I/O panel of the A75. For video alone you have Dual link DVI, display port, and HDMI. For audio you have a standard 6 port cluster. You have four USB 2.0 connections and two USB 3.0 connections to hook all of your devices up too. Speaking of USB, the power eSATA port also doubles as a USB 2.0 port if you just have to have one more. There is a legacy PS2 connection along with a Bluetooth receiver to cover all of your mouse/keyboard connection options. Last but not least you also have one 10/100/1000 Ethernet port above the USB 3.0 ports.
Booting up the A75 PURE Platinum I could have been more excited when I saw the American Megatends logo pop up. Although their BIOS’s do just about everything the competition does the layout is always a little more difficult to navigate. For the A75 they have broken everything up into seven tabs. The Main and Save & Exit tabs are basic and don’t need much explanation. This is where you can set your system time, view the BIOS version, and save and exit. In-between is everything of importance with Performance, Advanced, Chipset, Boot, and Security tabs.
The Performance tab is where most of the action is, your CPU Ratio and the clock speed are both on this page along with tabs for the memory configuration and voltage. Both options have very little in the way of features ether. In fact although the performance tab does have what you need to do a basic overclock, anyone looking to edge out the most out of their APU may be a little disappointed.
The Advanced tab is where you will find most of the other configuration pages including all of your onboard devices, USB, IDE, ect. all tucked away here. I never really understood the Advanced tab on a BIOS, in my opinion anyone who is mucking around in the BIOS should have some PC knowledge, and if they don’t I doubt that packing everything important into a tab labeled "advanced" would stop someone without any knowledge from going in and making changes that they shouldn't make.
When AMD introduced Fusion and the APU design I was a little curious how some of the manufactures would handle the loss of the Northbridge. The reason for my concern is that most manufactures use their heatsinks to stand out from each other. Without them some motherboards (visually) would just blend into each other. The cooling on the Pure Platinum A75 consists of a heatsink to the left of the APU socket and a heatsink to the right of the PCI slots. The bottom heatsink covered up the Southbridge or FCH (Fusion Controller Hub). Up to the left of the FM1 socket you have the VRM heatsink. This is an interesting design and a design that is new to Sapphire motherboards. From the top it is fairly boring, but a look from the side shows a unique fin design to keep the voltage regulator modules cool.
Our Test Rig
AMD A8-3800 Series APU
Patriot Sector 7 Ram
Mushkin Callisto Deluxe SSD
CoolIT Vantage Water Cooling
Sapphire included their TRIXX software with the PURE Platinum A75. This software is simple when compared software included with other motherboards. But typically we complain about some of those motherboards including too much or over complicated software. Sapphires TRIXX utility is for overclocking and monitoring, nothing else.
In the top left corner you have the version number (188.8.131.52 in this case) and then a breakdown of the motherboard, CPU (in this case APU), and the frequency and multiplier of the CPU/APU. The TRIXX software has everything all on one page and breaks everything down by Frequency, Voltages, and Monitoring. It may be a very simple piece of software but you do have the ability to adjust any voltage needed. Actual overclocking options like memory settings, or even overclocking of the GPU side of the APU are still limited to the BIOS. I hope sapphire expands that in the future. I would also love to see an option for inexperienced users to be able to set a base overclock. This isn’t something that I would use personally, but there are a lot of enthusiasts who don’t get into overclocking but would enjoy a small bump in performance.
The software also includes a windows gadget that can run in the corner of your screen to help you keep an eye on everything at all times. Everything is broken down into three categories and are color coded to match. Temperatures, Fans, and Voltages. In the case of our test bench the fans are running directly off of the PSU so you only see the CPU fan speed. I really like how all of the temperatures show both Fahrenheit and Celsius, it’s helpful to see what the temperature compares to in room temperature along with the standard Celsius.
Our Testing Procedures
Here is a full listing of each benchmark we used during our testing. We have detailed everything needed to duplicate our tests. If you have any questions please use the contact us page to contact us and we would be happy to answer them. Your results could vary depending on PC configuration, drivers, and windows condition.
Aida64 – Formally Everest ADIA64 is a full benchmark suite. For CPU benchmarking we run CPU Queen, CPU PhotoWorxx, CPU ZLib, CPU AES, CPU Hash, FPU VP8, FPU Julia, FPU Mandel, and FPU SinJulia.
Breakdowns on each benchmark from AIDA64
CPU Queen – “This simple integer benchmark focuses on the branch prediction capabilities and the misprediction penalties of the CPU. It finds the solutions for the classic "Queens problem" on a 10 by 10 sized chessboard. At the same clock speed theoretically the processor with the shorter pipeline and smaller misprediction penalties will attain higher benchmark scores. For example -- with HyperThreading disabled -- the Intel Northwood core processors get higher scores than the Intel Prescott core based ones due to the 20-step vs 31-step long pipeline. CPU Queen test uses integer MMX, SSE2 and SSSE3 optimizations.”
CPU PhotoWorxx - It performs the following tasks on a very large RGB image:
-Rotate 90 degrees CW
-Rotate 90 degrees CCW
-Fill the image with random colored pixels
-Color to black & white conversion
This benchmark stresses the integer arithmetic and multiplication execution units of the CPU and also the memory subsystem. Due to the fact that this test performs high memory read/write traffic, it cannot effectively scale in situations where more than 2 processing threads used. For example, on a 8-way Pentium III Xeon system the 8 processing threads will be "fighting" over the memory, creating a serious bottleneck that would lead to as low scores as a 2-way or 4-way similar processor based system could achieve. CPU PhotoWorxx test uses only the basic x86 instructions, and it is HyperThreading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core (CMP) aware.
CPU ZLib - This integer benchmark measures combined CPU and memory subsystem performance through the public ZLib compression library. CPU ZLib test uses only the basic x86 instructions, and it is HyperThreading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core (CMP) aware.
CPU AES - This benchmark measures CPU performance using AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) data encryption. In cryptography AES is a symmetric-key encryption standard. AES is used in several compression tools today, like 7z, RAR, WinZip, and also in disk encryption solutions like BitLocker, FileVault (Mac OS X), TrueCrypt.
CPU AES test uses only the basic x86 instructions, and it's hardware accelerated on VIA PadLock Security Engine capable VIA C3, VIA C7, VIA Nano and VIA QuadCore processors; and on Intel AES-NI instruction set extension capable processors. The test is HyperThreading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core (CMP) aware.
CPU Hash - This benchmark measures CPU performance using the SHA1 hashing algorithm defined in the Federal Information Processing Standards Publication 180-3. The code behind this benchmark method is written in Assembly, and it is optimized for every popular AMD, Intel and VIA processor core variants by utilizing the appropriate MMX, MMX+/SSE, SSE2, SSSE3, AVX or XOP instruction set extension. CPU Hash benchmark is hardware accelerated on VIA PadLock Security Engine capable VIA C7, VIA Nano and VIA QuadCore processors.
FPU VP8 Benchmark -This benchmark measures video compression performance using the Google VP8 (WebM) video codec Version 0.9.5 (http://www.webmproject.org). FPU VP8 test encodes 1280x720 pixel ("HD ready") resolution video frames in 1-pass mode at 8192 kbps bitrate with best quality settings. The content of the frames are generated by the FPU Julia fractal module. The code behind this benchmark method utilizes the appropriate MMX, SSE2 or SSSE3 instruction set extension, and it is HyperThreading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core (CMP) aware.
FPU Julia Benchmark - This benchmark measures the single precision (also known as 32-bit) floating-point performance through the computation of several frames of the popular "Julia" fractal. The code behind this benchmark method is written in Assembly, and it is extremely optimized for every popular AMD, Intel and VIA processor core variants by utilizing the appropriate x87, 3DNow!, 3DNow!+, SSE, AVX or FMA4 instruction set extension. FPU Julia test is HyperThreading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core (CMP) aware.
FPU Mandel Benchmark - This benchmark measures the double precision (also known as 64-bit) floating-point performance through the computation of several frames of the popular "Mandelbrot" fractal. The code behind this benchmark method is written in Assembly, and it is extremely optimized for every popular AMD, Intel and VIA processor core variants by utilizing the appropriate x87, SSE2, AVX or FMA4 instruction set extension. FPU Mandel test is HyperThreading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core (CMP) aware.
FPU SinJulia Benchmark - This benchmark measures the extended precision (also known as 80-bit) floating-point performance through the computation of a single frame of a modified "Julia" fractal. The code behind this benchmark method is written in Assembly, and it is extremely optimized for every popular AMD, Intel and VIA processor core variants by utilizing trigonometric and exponential x87 instructions. FPU SinJulia is HyperThreading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core (CMP) aware.
Cinebench- CINEBENCH is a real-world cross platform test suite that evaluates your computer's performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. The test procedure consists of two main components - the graphics card performance test and the CPU performance test.
Main Processor Performance (CPU)
The test scenario uses all of your system's processing power to render a photorealistic 3D scene (from the viral "No Keyframes" animation by AixSponza). This scene makes use of various algorithms to stress all available processor cores.
In fact, CINEBENCH can measure systems with up to 64 processor threads. ThIS test scene contains approximately 2,000 objects which in turn contain more than 300,000 polygons in total, and uses sharp and blurred reflections, area lights, shadows, procedural shaders, antialiasing, and much more. The result is displayed in points (pts). The higher the number, the faster your processor.
Graphics Card Performance (OpenGL)
This procedure uses a complex 3D scene depicting a car chase (by renderbaron) which measures the performance of your graphics card in OpenGL mode. The performance depends on various factors, such as the GPU processor on your hardware, but also on the drivers used. The graphics card has to display a huge amount of geometry (nearly 1 million polygons) and textures, as well as a variety of effects, such as environments, bump maps, transparency, lighting and more to evaluate the performance across different disciplines and give a good average overview of the capabilities of your graphics hardware. The result given is measured in frames per second (fps). The higher the number, the faster your graphics card.
Floating Point Math
Find Prime Numbers
Physics String Sorting
Sandra - We use Sandra’s software specifically for their Arithmetic testing on the CPU. Whetstone testing is great to see how well a CPU can handle floating-point arithmetic. We also do Dhrystone that is similar but for integer and string operations.
Designed by the guys behind PCWorld, Worldbench is a benchmark designed to use applications and utility’s that everyone uses day to day and benchmark their performance. This gives the most accurate REAL world results, something that no other benchmark does. Being fully automated, WorldBench 6's application tests are scripted to run consecutively, and those results are automatically combined and compared against a baseline system. Popular applications like Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop and Mozilla Firefox are each used as they would be in real-world situations to comprise the final WorldBench score.
WPrime – Perfect for testing the multithreading of multiple core CPU’s. “wPrime uses a recursive call of Newton's method for estimating functions, with f(x)=x2-k, where k is the number we're sqrting, until Sgn(f(x)/f'(x)) does not equal that of the previous iteration, starting with an estimation of k/2. It then uses an iterative calling of the estimation method a set amount of times to increase the accuracy of the results. It then confirms that n(k)2=k to ensure the calculation was correct. It repeats this for all numbers from 1 to the requested maximum.”
X264 HD – X264 HD is a CPU encoding benchmark. Using the x264 codec this test encodes a video file and times its performance.
We run the entire collection of Futuremark’s PC and 3D benchmarks. Although they are synthetic, they do run consistent benchmarks on both in game performance and PC performance. Their new PCMark 7 does an amazing job of testing real world programs including web page loading speed and other activities nearly everyone does on their PC daily.
3DMark Vantage Performance
3DMark Vantage High
3DMark Vantage 2011 Performance
3DMark Vantage 2011 Extreme
Audio Testing is done with RightMark Audio Analyzer to test the integrated audio. The software outputs sound that is wired to go back into the microphone input. The signal received back it compared to the original to check the signal loss.
Overall Synthetic Benchmarks
It’s always a debate as to how accurate are synthetic benchmarks are compared to the performance you will see when using your GPU/CPU. The reason we continue to use them isn’t because of how they compare to real world results, it’s how consistent they can be. I could run through a map in any game 100 times and never get the same result twice, sometimes seeing large differences between results. If you look down at the ground to much or up at the sky you can change the results considerably. Synthetic benchmarks never deviate or miss a beat in their testing. They may not be a perfect representation of what you will see in real life but you be able to see a difference in performance, even in cases where the differences are very small. For our Synthetic benchmarking we use Futurmarks 3DMark and PCMark catalog using both last year’s version and the most recent.
Our scores in 3DMark Vantage show a small gap between the i3-2100 and the A8-3800 with the i3 slightly ahead. This is mirrored in both our testing in High and performance settings.
In 3DMark 2011 we saw similar results with the gap between the A8 and i3 being a little more pronounced.
Our PCMark Vantage results have a few gaps in them due to the lack of SLI support and also because of a difference in SSD’s used on the two test benches. In the other results we saw the A8 pull ahead of all the Sandy Bridge offers in music performance and came close in the productivity testing. Other results show similar performance to the i3-2100 other than an abysmal showing in the memory benchmark.
The same problem we had with PCMark Vantage was also an issue with PCMark 7. Storage and Entertainment scores do not match up with what to expect because of differing equipment. All of the other tests put the A8-3800 on par with the i3-2100.
CPU Specific Benchmarks
To put the A8-3800 to the test on the CPU performance side of things I ran it through our typical CPU tests and put it up against all three of the Sandy Bridge CPU’s we recently wrote about. Although the i5 and i7 cost considerably more in some cases, it’s still good to know how the A8-3800 compares.
Our AIDA64 benchmarks cover a lot of different performance aspects but if you look closely you can see that the performance was near the i3-2100 in most cases. There are a few things like CPU AES and CPU Zlib that show a noticeable boost over the i3. In this case the Zlib testing is just showing a boost in performance from having two more cores, but the AES performance shows good encryption performance.
Our Cinebench testing had to be trimmed down. You may notice the lack of OpenGL, our Sandy Bridge testing was done on an SLI GTX580 configuration but the Pure Platinum isn’t capable of SLI. Any numbers there would make no difference. Single core CPU and CPU tests are still there though. The Single core testing was brutally slow in comparison to the Sandy Bridge CPU’s but when running on all four cores the A8-3800 outperformed even the i5-2500 considerably.
Passmark CPU benchmarks had String Sorting, SSE, Compression, and Encryption performing similar to the I3-2100 once again. Surprisingly the A8-3800 excelled at finding prime numbers, floating point math, and integer math, in most cases out performing even the i7-2600 by a considerable amount. When it was all averaged out the AMD A8-3800 came in just under the i5-2500, not bad considering the price.
Our Sandra benchmarks are limited to three classic CPU benchmarks, Whetstone, Dhrystone, and Aggregate Arithmetic. Each show the A8-3600 coming in just under the i3-2100.
We use Worldbench for a more realistic benchmark without losing the predictability of a synthetic benchmark. Using real applications you can get an idea of how a CPU is going to perform in programs you will ACUALLY use. Surprisingly the A8-3800 didn’t do as well as we expected. Autodesk 3D and office show similar performance to the i3-2100, but other benchmarks didn’t fare as well. VideoWave Movie Creator wouldn’t run without crashing no matter how many times we retested, because of that the results are not included.
After seeing the performance in Passmark I wasn’t surprised by the A8-3800’s performance in wPrime. 1024M performance was even better than the i5-2500. 32M had the i5 and A8 at almost a tie with the i5 winning out slightly.
You could easily substitute the A8-3800 for the i3-2100 in our X264 HD testing. They once again had very similar numbers. Even still the A8 did edge out a lead on the i3-2100 no matter how small. The i5 and i7 were worlds ahead still though.
One of the coolest parts about the Llano platform is its ability to Crossfire with select AMD discreet video cards. Knowing what card you should buy is a little confusing. The chart below explains what your new configuration is called when you pair the 6550 of the A8 or the 6530 of the A6 with one of the three cards that are compatible. In our case for benchmarking we are using the HD6650 with the A8’s 6670 giving us the HD 6690D2. This is using asymmetric crossfireX meaning there isn’t a crossfire cable being used, not that you would have anything to connect it too.
Starting the testing off with our Futuremark 3DMark Vantage and 3DMark 2011 testing we could see a considerable jump going from the onboard to the asymmetric crossfireX. Every single benchmark shows an improvement of almost 3 times the performance.
Similar to the performance we saw on our synthetic benchmarks running with double to almost three times the performance of the onboard alone. Each of our gaming tests are designed to push even the most powerful video cards on the market with all of the in game settings turned up. Surprisingly even at those settings a few of the games would be playable, although only to some people. Taking the detail down to a medium would be more than enough to get a full 60 FPS out of almost all of the games. Not bad for onboard paired with a low end video card.
Audio testing for us in the past has been about real world performance. Of course that’s just another way of saying subjective. From now on our motherboard audio testing will be using RightMark Audio Analyzer to test the onboard sound card’s performance. Of course being the first time we have used this we don’t have anything else to compare it too. Going back to our subjective testing I found the audio performance of the Pure Platinum to be up to pair with past motherboard we have tested short of the Gigabyte Assassin with its built in Creative sound card. Expect to see the Pure Platinum’s audio performance using the Rightmark Audio Analyzer to be in future reviews if you would like to see a less subjective comparison.
AMD brought the A-Series APU’s to the table without a black edition at launch and without any indication of one in the future; it’s easy to see that overclocking on the A-Series wasn’t the main focus. When overclocking an A-Series APU you also have to keep in mind that increasing the bus speed will affect other components like your SATA controller, USB, and PCIe. My expectations with digging into the Sapphire Pure A75’s BIOS weren’t very high, and as I mentioned in the BIOS section. I was a little surprised by the overclocking options once I did get in there. You have voltage and memory settings on their own pages and then you are left with two options, your CPU ratio and Host Clock speed or Bus speed. In our situation I spent most of the time playing with the multiplier keeping the Core speed close to its stock 100 to prevent upsetting any other components while overclocking. The Cool-It water cooling did a great job keeping everything cool while testing.
The multiplier was limited to x47, but starting low I started with x35. After a smooth boot and no issues I jumped to x40 giving us a clock speed of just over 4Ghz, again without any issues. Pushing to see what the limit was I went right for the top multiplier of x47. Booting to a clock speed of 4.75 was surprisingly quick. To compare the difference between stock and 4.75 Ghz I ran wPrime through both its tests (You can see the results below). Another feature on the A75 that stood out while overclocking was the use of the diagnostic LED on the bottom of the motherboard to also show CPU temperature. Even while benchmarking I didn’t see anything beyond 53 degrees, not bad for such an overclock.
As you can see we saw a noticeable gain on even the lowest of overclocks, even more impressive was how easy it was to do. The BIOS may be limited on what options you have to adjust but just a little direction almost anyone should be able to edge out a noticeable improvement over their stock CPU. Running at 4.75 Ghz our numbers were still a ways to go to get to the performance we saw from the i7-2600, but it was still worlds better than the i5-2500. Going in expecting very little AMD still left more than enough room for overclocking for those who are willing to do it.
Overall and FV
After taking a look at both AMD’s A-Series APU and Sapphire’s PURE Platinum A75 motherboard I have a newfound excitement with both AMD’s mainstream offers and what they will bring to the table with their performance line-up. Sapphire's motherboard was packed with features like the built-in Bluetooth, multiple BIOS’s, power and reset buttons, and even a diagnostic LED that shows your current CPU temperature. We did run into a few issues with the boards USB, but being an early production motherboard it’s not too surprising. Only time will tell how the board will stand quality wise, but I can say Sapphire did a good job putting together a nice feature list that should make for a great PC for mid-range build.
Sapphire packed the PURE Platinum A75 with a wide range of features including an 8-phase VRM to power everything when cracking the APU up to its limit. The mini PCI express slot is an interesting pick considering the ATX form factor but should make it easy to install a wireless card or SSD without taking up any other space on the motherboard. The Native SATA 6 on ALL ports was also very refreshing to see, I hope that we see this more in the future. Along with everything else it was also nice to see the accessories included with the board. Sapphire packed in a two port USB 3.0 hub for your 3.5 inch drive bay on the front. For those without USB 3.0 on their cases this will help take advantage of its high speeds without having to buy a new case. Lastly, adding to the overall value of the board was the included copy of Dirt 3.
AMD's A-Series APU the A8-3800 surprised me with its performance, even though it was un-successful at outperforming most of Intel’s offerings. AMD has their entire lineup priced near Intel’s i3 series making even their APU's a good choice when looking at budget builds. If you are looking for a performance build you should be looking at their 6 core offerings like the 1100T or you could wait for bulldozer to be introduced. What was even more impressive was the A8-3800's overclocking capabilities. I was able to bump it up to 4.75 GHz without adjusting anything other than the multiplier on a seal water cooling setup. AMD has left a lot still on the table with the A8-3800, this may be to leave room for future CPU's or just as a gift to those who are willing to dig in and take it. Either way it’s nice to know it’s there.