Over the last couple of years, we've evaluated quite a number of socket 939 motherboards for AMD Athlon 64 processors. The vast majority of these motherboards were based on NVIDIA's very popular nForce 3/4 chipsets, although a smattering were based on chipsets from SiS or VIA as well. In November of last year though, ATI also chimed in with a reference board based on their Radeon Xpress 200 chipset. In our initial coverage of that motherboard, we found it to be a worthy competitor to the nForce in the performance and overclocking departments, but thought the nForce 4 still had an edge in features and availability.
Since then, however, the only other Radeon Xpress based motherboard we've tested was another ATI reference board. It turned out that the only other Radeon Xpress 200 powered motherboard to pass through the HotHardware lab was the foundation of our CrossFire test system. It's not that the Radeon Xpress 200 chipset hasn't been widely adopted, it's just that to date most Radeon Xpress chipset based motherboards are budget, micro-ATX offerings with integrated graphics. Not exactly the type of enthusiast class products the hardcore among you crave. All that changes today though, thanks to one of ATI's most ardent partners, Sapphire. They recently sent us their swank Pure Innovation PI-A9RX480 motherboard, and you guessed, this board is based on the Radeon Xpress 200 chipset. According to Sapphire, this motherboard is geared towards PC enthusiasts and hardcore gamers looking to squeeze every last bit of performance from their CPU and Graphics card. Let's find out if Sapphire has delivered the goods, shall we?
On the outside, the Sapphire Pure Innovation PI-A9RX480's packaging touts an impressive list of features, and the clear see-thru window gives potential buyers a glimpse of the rather unique looking lurking within. Once the packaged is opened and the mobo is removed though, some users are bound to be left feeling a bit flat.
The PI-A9RX480 ships with one of the more spartan accessory bundles we've come across recently. Included with the motherboard, there were the obligatory User's Manual and driver CD, along with a case badge, and a second CD that contained some basic backup and privacy / security related applications. On the hardware front, Sapphire included a custom-fitted I/O shield, case brackets with audio and Firewire connectors, and only three cables. One SATA cable, one 80-Wire IDE cable, and one floppy cable. The essentials are there, but Sapphire's bundle isn't as complete as what companies like Asus, MSI, or Gigabyte are currently offering.