Sapphire P67 Pure Black Hydra Motherboard Review



Product: Sapphire P67 Pure Black Hydra Motherboard
Company: Sapphire
Author: James Prior
Editor: Charles Oliver
Date: June 6th, 2011

Summary & Conclusions

The Sapphire P67 Pure Black Hydra certainly hits all the right checkboxes for a fully featured, high performance desktop or workstation mainboard. Lacking only 802.11n, it has all the connectivity and I/O options you could want, with a design for long life and enthusiast performance settings. The board is priced very nicely at around $200USD, which is very competitive with the graphics options it offers.

Sapphire P67 Pure Black

The only weakness we could find is not being able to quite drive our CPU to 5GHz, as the loadline calibration just wouldn't hold the vCore up and the droop caused crashes. While hardly a black-ball it does indicate that perhaps ultimate overclockers looking for the very best their CPU can give should look at other options a little. For the rest of us, the whole package of hardware features, design, software and compatibility is a winner and a solid choice for the heart of your gaming rig. For triple graphics board users, the Cougar Point (P67 and Z68) boards are all lacking on PCI-Express bandwidth, so it might be trade-off of CPU performance against GPU headroom when contemplating switching from an older platform, as the replacement for Intel's X58-based i7 and AMD's new FX series come out later this year.

The benchmarks show that Sandy Bridge is the new king, giving AMD's mighty Radeon HD 6990 even longer legs for prodigious performance. It almost feels like Intel deliberately didn't release all the potential inside the chip, instead opting to manage their product line performance to the 95W TDP and price point they want. Will there be 2700, 2800 or 2900 monikered processors released between now and the replacement Ivy Bridge architecture, due in Q2 2012? Probably, where it makes sense and doesn't step on the enthusiast workstation and entry level server line, Sandy Bridge-EX using socket 2011. If AMD's Bulldozer based FX-series are more competitive than recently rumored, Intel likely already has the answer up their sleeve.

The Hydra chip adds immensely to the graphics options available but it is not a replacement for SLI. It's not as simple as 'drop in any two GPUs and they work, you need to study the driver operation manual and release notes for the HydraLogix driver to see what's going to work and what's going to fall back to single GPU, so if you're one of the guys that has a hate-on for multi-GPU you're not going to be happy with Hydra at all. The downsides are no OpenGL support, and now you've got up to 3 drivers to keep updated with every release, which will typically leave you waiting for HydraLogix to be updated, although they promise support for the any WHQL certified driver from AMD and NVIDIA. The payoff of the time investment is broader multi-GPU compatibility and longer useful life of GPU's for a better return on investment, with a handy bump in performance or added features.

Core i7 2600K / Sapphire P67 / Noctua NH-C14

The Sapphire P67 Pure Black Hydra offers a wealth of features and performance at an affordable price, belying its premium nature. Strong overclocking capabilities and a modern new EFI BIOS with very granular controls are a plus, although we'd like better memory timing settings and XMP profile support. Updating the additional SATA-3 controller to something with SSD caching or enough PCI-Express lanes to drive two ports would be a bonus as well. Feature-wise, Only the recent release of the new Z68 chipset eclipses the P67 boards. With a wealth of features not found on many other P67 implementations and its comparatively low price, we award the Sapphire P67 Pure Black P67 4 1/2 stars.