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Review: Sapphire Pure Platinum A85XT (PT-F2A85X)

by Tarinder Sandhu on 22 November 2012, 09:00 3.5

Tags: Sapphire, AMD (NYSE:AMD)

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Readers contemplating purchasing a second-generation AMD 'Trinity' A-series APU processor will also need to lay out further cash on a motherboard. Just like the range of chips themselves, the FM2-supporting boards are available in multiple chipset flavours and price points. Though we've presented it before, it's still worth understanding the key differences between FM2 chipsets.

AMD FM2 Chipset
APU support
All models
Max DDR3 support
AMD Dual Graphics
Overclocking support
CrossFire support
Yes (2 x 8)
6 x 3Gb/s
6 x 6Gb/s
8 x 6Gb/s
USB 3.0
4 ports
4 ports
Street price (from)

Those who want the best-in-class performance and features will veer towards motherboards sporting the premium A85X chipset. Making a play for the finest FM2 board around is the Sapphire Pure Platinum A85XT, priced at around £100.

Presented in a full-ATX form factor and looking a little garish with its mix of red, blue and black slots and ports, Sapphire slaps a large heatsink over the hot-running VRM components lining one side of the CPU socket. Immediately this is a board that screams 'overclock me.'

The firm, however, plays it safe by stating that the four DIMM slots support dual-channel DDR3 memory at merely 1,600MHz-plus speeds - other motherboard manufacturers make bold claims of DDR3-2,400MHz-beating frequencies on their FM2 offerings.

Seven of the eight chipset-supported SATA 6Gbps ports are clearly visible down one side. Just a little to the left, we like that Sapphire includes easy-to-connect front-panel headers and a debug LCD screen for simple troubleshooting if the board doesn't boot correctly. Cooling is decent, too, with five fan-headers dotted around in sensible locations. Bear in mind that only one of them supports advanced fan control through PWM settings.

The remaining SATA port is usually sandwiched in the rear I/O section and repurposed as an eSATA. Sapphire, instead, implements a different kind of connectivity by specifying a PCIe-riding mSATA slot that's located between the board's two longer, blue-coloured graphics-card slots. The A85X chipset supports two-way CrossFire by enabling a manufacturer to split these two mechanical x16 slots into a couple of electrical x8.

Five further expansion slots are split into two PCIe x1, two PCIc and a single PCIe x4 situated above the top-most x16, and we believe this to be an optimum layout for a mainstream board. Keeping the enthusiast theme going, the A85XT has onboard power, reset and clear-CMOS buttons and a flickable switch that loads one of the two BIOSes.

The rear section is about as busy as it gets. Two USB 3.0 ports are augmented by a couple more available through the onboard header located just below the CMOS battery, and Sapphire provides the necessary PCI fly-bracket in the bundle. AMD makes big noises about the video-related flexibility of FM2 chips, supporting four independent controllers, and Sapphire throws in the full DVI, DisplayPort, HDMI and VGA quartet. Audio and Gigabit LAN are both provided by Realtek.

Sapphire's greatest departure from the motherboard rulebook is in evidence with the Atheros-powered Bluetooth connector, often seen on ASUS motherboards, but Sapphire doesn't have the same level of software support - ASUS' BT Go!, for example - to make this into a really interesting addition.

The Pure Platinum A85XT is a decent board for the most part, with a sensible smattering of features and decent layout, but the biggest problem we can foresee is in convincing users to part with twice the cash when compared to a well-featured mATX offering, albeit one using a lesser chipset.