The rear I/O panel is pretty sparse but features two PS/2 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, a 6-pin IEEE1394a Firewire port, Gigabit Ethernet socket and six 3.5mm jacks for 7.1 surround sound. The lack of legacy connectors may concern some, but we think that it is a good thing - those that don't need parallel or serial ports will be pleased to see that they're not included.
Unfortunately, S/PDIF has been demoted to a PCI bracket. There's also a lack of a secondary Ethernet connector which is so common elsewhere on high end boards. Added to the fact you only get a single PCI and PCI-Express x1 (if you can find something (affordable) for the latter), and
you get no extra PCI brackets for the internal USB 2.0 pins: four is your lot. So without potential extra expense, it doesn't really go the same distance that other manufacturers do.
Sapphire uses a modified Phoenix Award BIOS on the PC-AM2RD580 mobo. We used version 2K060826
, available from Sapphire's website. It is dated August 31st 2006.
- Voltage adjustments: CPU (0.827 to 1.979V in 0.025V increments), Memory (VDIMM from 1.514V to 2.804V in 0.05V increments and DRAM VTT PWM from 0.807V to 1.149V in 0.02V increments), HT, Northbridge, Southbridge and PCI-Express from 1.143V to 1.504 in 0.05V increments;
- Frequency Control: CPU (200-440MHz in 1Mhz increments), Memory (400/533/667/800MHz), LDT (8/16-bit, 1-5x multi), and PCI-Express (100-200MHz in 1MHz increments);
- Memory Timings:CAS Latency, tRL, tRP, tRTP, tRAS, tWR, tRC, tRRD, tRWT, tWRWR, tRDRD, tREF, DIMM Refresh rate.
There's a good deal there to keep more than most people happy with strong and varied voltage options across the board, enabling tweaking of all major chipsets. On top of what is already listed you get independent power adjustment for each PCI-Express x16 slot, as well as chunk (payload) size sending and lane width to really play with and see how to get that little bit more out of your system. With a higher payload you can get more throughput but at the expense of possible corruption or instability.
You get the usual HyperTransport width/size etc adjustments as well as interestingly PWM (pulse width modulation) control along with the typical voltage control options. The combination of the two gives you the actual
voltage of what you're trying to use but varying the two to give the same output can offer different effects in board stability. It's a clever, but could be somewhat confusing if you're a novice. Memory timings in the BIOS are comprehensive, but there is no command rate adjustment. A 1T command rate isn't officially supported by AMD on socket AM2, but many motherboard manfuacturers have unlocked command rate adjustments and the boards are stable when running with it set to 1T.
The BIOS could also do with some cleaning up and streamlining - a few items are a bit here, there and everywhere
. The emphasis is including as much as the engineers can get at, but at the expense of time spent on ergonomics. For example, all the voltage adjustments could be put together so the end user doesn't have to scroll down and up through several other options every time they want to tweak the voltages delivered to particular parts of the board.
With that said though, kudos to Sapphire for including a reasonably comprehensive manual detailing what exactly each BIOS setting does. There's an entire page dedicated to detailing LDT control and the memory timings are quite detailed in a semi-layman's fashion. It's not entirely consistent though: I couldn't find anything on DRAM Drive Strength N/P. In that respect, if the manual doesn't have what you're after, then it's probably best not to fiddle.