Sapphire Pure Platinum Z77K Motherboard Review

Kitguru has reviewed a handful of Z77 motherboards in previous weeks, and today we take a look at the new Pure Platinum Z77K from Sapphire. They face stiff competition in this sector from the likes of Asus, ASRock and MSI. But is the Pure Platinum Z77K worth a purchase?
Over the last year we have watched Sapphire make a serious effort to win the hearts and minds of the enthusiast audience, not only with a range of graphics cards, but with a steady release of motherboards.
We have reviewed their Pure Black Z79N, the Pure Black 990FX and the Pure Platinum Z68 in the last year. I am actually typing this review from a system I built in January last year using the Pure Black X58 attached to three screens.
Many people will dismiss Sapphire as a ‘new player’ to the motherboard market however in 2010 the eVGA mainboard team joined their ranks and have been working hard to create a series of world class products since then. Their motherboards have certainly proven extremely reliable over the years, however I will be the first to say that their bios configurations have needed some work.

Today we aim to test the Platinum Z77K in a variety of synthetic and real world tests and we will also overclock it to see if it can compete with other Z77 motherboards from ASUS and ASRock.

We received one of the first samples, direct from Sapphire. As such there is no final box artwork.

A small white label on the box highlights the product name – Sapphire Pure Platinum Z77K, for the third generation Intel platform.

Sapphire include a back plate, a user manual, 6 x SATA 3Gb/s cables and a lovely, Sapphire branded 3.5 inch USB 3.0 tray. We also received a pre-release software/driver disc.

The Sapphire Pure Platinum Z77K is built around a dark brown PCB which I really like. Sapphire class this as black but it is actually a dark brown under intense lighting. The slots are all coloured blue and black. It is a standard ATX size, measuring 12″ x 9.6″. Sapphire use solid capacitors throughout and multi phase PWM voltage regulation circuitry with Diamond Black chokes for both the processor and memory.
Voltage test pads have been included at the edge of the board for monitoring critical voltages of the CPU and memory.

The CPU socket has plenty of space around it for the fitting of oversized heatsinks. There are two large heatsinks nearby which cool the VRM’s and these are joined by a heatpipe. These coolers have featured in various guises on high end Sapphire graphics cards. There are several fan headers in this area, and a CPU power connector.

The Pure Platinum Z77K Motherboard can support up to 32GB of memory via the four slots. The board can officially support 240-pin DDR3 800/1066/1333/1600+ non-ECC ,un-buffered memory.

The board has support for 2 x PCI Express x1 slots, 1 x PCI Express 2.0 x4 slots, PCI Express 3.0 x16/x8 slots, PCI Express 3.0 x8/x4 slots and a PCI Express 3.0 x4 slot. It has full Crossfire support, but Sapphire do not support SLi configurations as they are AMD’s largest partner. Four graphics cards to be used in CrossFireX.

The Z77 chipset is passively cooled. There are six SATA ports on the board with support for Raid 0, 1 , 5 and 10. The red ports are SATA 3.0 6Gb/s capable and the four black ports are SATA 2.0 3Gb/s capable. Two SATA 3.0 ports will be enough for most people but high end enthusiast users may be expecting four.

Along the bottom from left to right, is a Molex connector which can deliver extra power to the Pure Platinum Z77K. We didn’t need to use this, but Sapphire recommend it for enhanced stability when using multiple graphics cards in a Crossfire configuration. There is another chassis fan header nearby, with a CMOS reset button.

Next to this is a reset and power button and a BIOS selector. The Sapphire board has a dual bios system in case of failure. Next to this is another fan header and a USB 3.0 connector. The front panel connector is above the LED diagnostic readout. It is a clean, fully featured layout and well positioned.

The rear panel I/O features:
  • 6 x USB 2.0 port
  • 2 x USB 3.0 port
  • 1 x HDMI port
  • 1 x DisplayPort 1.1a
  • 1 x SPDIF Optical Out
  • 1 x Single Link DVI
  • PS/2 KB/MS combo port
  • 1 x VGA (DB-15)
  • Dual RJ- 45 Gigabit LAN with ESD
It is worth pointing out that Sapphire have included a secondary Killer E2200 Gigabit LAN port which will appeal to the gaming audience.
On this page we present some super high resolution images of the product taken with the 24.5MP Nikon D3X camera and 24-70mm ED lens. These will take much longer to open due to the dimensions, especially on slower connections. If you use these pictures on another site or publication, please credit Kitguru.net as the owner/source. You can right click and ‘save as’ to your computer to view later.







Sapphire are using their QBIOS interface, which is an American Megatrends implementation. I like the lower section of this interface as it gives a real time view of temperatures, voltages and speeds.

The ‘Performance’ tab gives access to the CPU, Memory and Voltage panels for overclocking. We will look at this shortly.

The ‘Advanced’ Tab allows the user control over the various aspects of the hardware, including monitoring temperatures and voltages.

The ‘Chipset’ tab details the onboard graphics capabilities, when partnered up with a suitable processor.

The ‘Boot’ tab allows control over the onboard drive priority and status.

The ‘Security’ tab can be used to protect the settings, if the system is to be used in a social environment. The ‘Exit’ tab can be used to ‘load’ and ‘save’ configurations. This panel also includes the S_BIOS which allows the user to update and back up the BIOS from within the BIOS – there is no need to boot from an external disk.

The ‘Performance’ tab gives an overview of the installed processor. In this case the latest Core i7 3770k. Unlike the ASUS boards we tested recently which configure the Core i7 3770k to a ratio limit of 39 in all states (3900mhz), the Sapphire board defaults to 39 with 1 or 2 cores active, dropping to 38 with 3 cores active, and 37 when all four cores are active. We can override this, but for the purposes of testing, we need to leave this at the default state.

We had some problems with high speed memory and could not get 2,400mhz ram from Corsair, G.Skill or Kingston to run at the native speeds. Even G.Skill 2133mhz memory which we had at hand wouldn’t run above 1,600mhz. We have experienced similar concerns with previous Sapphire boards, although they normally update the bios a few weeks after launch with fixes for memory support.
Sapphire may mention limited speeds (up to 1600mhz) in their literature for the product, however the bios seems to cater to the fastest memory available today, right up to 2666mhz. Sadly we were unable to get a post with memory faster than 1,600mhz.
We ended up using the ultra compatible AMD Performance Edition Memory, which we reviewed here.

Above, 8GB of Kingston 2,400mhz memory installed. The XMP Profile detects the correct speeds and timings, however the system fails to post, heading automatically into recovery mode on third post.

We already know that this Core i7 3770k sample can run at 4.6ghz @ 1.25 volts. Thankfully this latest bios from Sapphire includes the option to directly select core voltage, as shown above. Previously we were forced to deal with the tricky ‘offset mode’.

We configured the Ratio to 46/46/46/46 in all states, which translates into a 4.6ghz final clock speed.

Above, we ensured that CPU loadline was configured to 100%.

Overclocking the board was simple enough and we achieved stability at 4.6ghz without much effort. One thing we need to point out however is that the board will slightly under volt the processor.
We show an example above, when we configured the system at 1.37 volts (above left) and the actual voltage to the processor was 1.33 volts. We know that stability at 4.8ghz would be flaky, so we manually increased this to 1.39. This translated to a real figure around 1.36 volts. If you buy this board and overclock, this is worth bearing in mind.
We managed to push the Core i7 3770k to 4.8ghz, although it required 1.35 volts. In the real world this means the user will need at least a Corsair H100 all in one liquid cooler for long term 24/7 operation. We backed down by 200mhz to 4.6ghz (requiring 1.25 volts) and we had a nicely overclocked, cool running system.
These results are identical to the ASUS and ASRock Z77 motherboards we reviewed earlier this week and is a great achievement for Sapphire. If they can update the bios soon to fix high speed memory support, we have no concerns in recommending this board to the demanding overclocking enthusiast.

Default validation is available here.

Validation at 4.6ghz is available here.
Today we will show results from the Core i7 3770k at reference clock speeds and a few tests when we overclocked to 4.6ghz. We will compare against a variety of processors and systems we have tested in recent months.
Main Test System:



Processor: Intel Core i7 3770k
Motherboard: Sapphire Pure Platinum Z77K
Cooler: Arctic Cooling Freezer 13
Memory: 8GB AMD Performance Edition Memory @ 1,600mhz

Graphics Card: AMD HD7950
Power Supply: ADATA 1200W.
Optical Drive: Asus BluRay Drive.
Chassis: Cooler Master Cosmos 2.
Monitors: Dell U3011, 3x Ilyama ProLite E2472HDD.
Boot Drive: Kingston SSDNow V+200 90GB.
Storage Drive: Patriot 240GB Wildfire.
Processor: Intel Core i7 3930K
Motherboard: Asus P9X79 WS WorkStation
Cooler: Corsair H100
Memory
: 8GB Corsair Dominator GT8 2400mhz memory
Graphics Card
: AMD HD7770 CrossfireX
Power Supply
: ADATA 1200W
Optical Drive
: Asus BluRay Drive
Chassis
: Cooler Master Cosmos 2
Boot Drive: Crucial C300 128GB SSD
Secondary Drive: Patriot 240GB Pyro SE
Intel i7 3960X EE
Motherboard
: Asus Rampage IV Extreme
Cooler
: Antec H20 920
Memory
: 8GB Corsair Dominator GT 2400mhz memory
Power Supply
: Enermax Platimax 1200W
Optical Drive
: Asus BluRay Drive
Chassis
: Lian Li PC-A77FR Aluminium Red Full Tower Case
Boot Drive: Patriot WildFire 120GB
Secondary Drive: 1TB Samsung
Intel i7 3820
Motherboard
: ASRock Extreme4-M
Cooler: Intel reference cooler
Memory: 8GB Corsair GTX8 @ 2133mhz
Power Supply: ADATA 1200W
Chassis: Lian Li PC60
Boot Drive: Crucial C300
Secondary Drive: Patriot Pyro SE 240GB
AMD FX 8150 Black Edition
Processor: AMD FX 8150 Black Edition
Motherboard: Gigabyte 990FXA-UD7
Cooler: Noctua NH D14
Memory: G-SKill Ripjaws 1600mhz 8GB (2x 4GB)
Power Supply: ADATA 1200W
Chassis: SilverStone Raven 3
Boot Drive: Intel 40GB SSD
Secondary Drive: Patriot 120GB WildFire
Intel Core i7 990X
Processor
: Intel Core i7 990x
Cooler: Corsair H100
Motherboard: Gigabyte G1 Assassin
Memory: Kingston HyperX 6GB
Drives: Crucial RealSSD C300 256GB
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200
Chassis: Antec Twelve Hundred
Intel Core i7 2700k
Processor
: Intel Core i7 2700k
Cooling: ThermalTake Frio OCK
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z68AP-D3 Z68 Motherboard
Chassis: Silverstone Raven 3.
Power Supply: Corsair 850W.
Memory: Corsair 1600mhz memory
Storage: Intel 80GB SSD (boot) / Patriot Wildfire 120GB SSD.
Intel Core i7 2600k
Processor: Intel Core i7 2600k
Motherboard: ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen 3
Cooler: Intel XTS-100H
Memory: ADATA 1600mhz DDR3 8GB (2x4GB)
Power Supply: Thermaltake Toughpower 850W
Boot Drive: Intel 510 SSD 250GB
Intel Core i5 2500k
Processor: Intel Core i7 2500k
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z68AP-D3 Z68 Motherboard
Cooler: Arctic Cooling Freezer Xtreme Rev.2 CPU Cooler
Memory: Corsair 1600mhz memory 8GB (2x4GB)
Power Supply: Corsair 850W.
Boot Drive: Patriot Pyro 120GB SSD.
AMD Phenom II X6 1100T
Processor: AMD Phenom II X6 1100T
Motherboard: Gigabyte 990FXA-UD7
Cooler: Noctua NH D14
Memory: G-SKill Ripjaws 1600mhz 8GB (2x 4GB)
Power Supply: ADATA 1200W
Chassis: SilverStone Raven 3
Boot Drive: Intel 40GB SSD
Secondary Drive: Patriot 120GB WildFire
Gaming System Comparison System:
Processor
: Core i7 970 @ 3.9ghz
Graphics: Asus GTX680
Cooling: Coolit Vantage
Motherboard: MSI X58A-GD65
Chassis: Thermaltake Level 10 GT
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200
Memory: 6GB ADATA @ 2133mhz 9-10-9-32
Storage: Kingston SSDNow V+ 512GB Gen 2 SSD (Storage) / Crucial RealSSD C300 256GB (OS boot)
Some game descriptions are edited with courtesy from Wikipedia.
PCMark 7 includes 7 PC tests for Windows 7, combining more than 25 individual workloads covering storage, computation, image and video manipulation, web browsing and gaming. Specifically designed to cover the full range of PC hardware from netbooks and tablets to notebooks and desktops, PCMark 7 offers complete PC performance testing for Windows 7 for home and business use.


The overall score from the Sapphire system is strong, at 5,227 points. The Solid State Drive and HD7950 help to maintain a balanced set of scores in all areas.
Futuremark released 3DMark Vantage, on April 28, 2008. It is a benchmark based upon DirectX 10, and therefore will only run under Windows Vista (Service Pack 1 is stated as a requirement) and Windows 7. This is the first edition where the feature-restricted, free of charge version could not be used any number of times. 1280×1024 resolution was used with performance settings.


The overall score is very balanced with the Intel Core i7 3770k and the AMD HD7950 scoring over 26,000 points.
3DMark 11 is designed for testing DirectX 11 hardware running on Windows 7 and Windows Vista the benchmark includes six all new benchmark tests that make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.
After running the tests 3DMark gives your system a score with larger numbers indicating better performance. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.
If you want to learn more about this benchmark, or to buy it yourself, head over to this page.


When overclocked to 4.6ghz, the Core i7 3770k scores 11,138 points in the Physics test. At reference speeds the Physics score drops to 9,687 points.
Unigine provides an interesting way to test hardware. It can be easily adapted to various projects due to its elaborated software design and flexible toolset. A lot of their customers claim that they have never seen such extremely-effective code, which is so easy to understand.
Heaven Benchmark is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on advanced Unigine engine from Unigine Corp. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. Interactive mode provides emerging experience of exploring the intricate world of steampunk.
Efficient and well-architected framework makes Unigine highly scalable:
  • Multiple API (DirectX 9 / DirectX 10 / DirectX 11 / OpenGL) render
  • Cross-platform: MS Windows (XP, Vista, Windows 7) / Linux
  • Full support of 32bit and 64bit systems
  • Multicore CPU support
  • Little / big endian support (ready for game consoles)
  • Powerful C++ API
  • Comprehensive performance profiling system
  • Flexible XML-based data structures
We use the following settings: 1920×1080 resolution. Anti Aliasing off. Anisotrophy 4, Tessellation normal. Shaders High. Stereo 3D disabled. API: Direct X 11.


The system, with AMD HD7950, averages 65.5 frames per second. A strong score and indicative of a high performance system. More on this later when we get around to the real world game tests.
HQV Benchmark 2.0 is an updated version of the original tool and it consists of various video clips and test patterns which are designed to evalute motion correction, de-interlacing, decoding, noise reduction, detail enhancement and film cadence detection.
There are two versions of the program, standard definition on DVD and high definition on Bluray. As our audience will be concentrating on HD content so will we.
This has a total of 39 video tests which is increased from 23 in the original and the scoring is also up from a total of 130 to 210. As hardware and software gets more complicated, the software has been tuned to make sure we can thoroughly maximise our analysis.
Read our initial analysis over here

AMD HD7950
Dial
4
Dial with static pattern 5
Gray Bars 5
Violin 5
Stadium 2:2 5
Stadium 3:2 5
Horizontal Text Scroll 5
Vertical Text Scroll 5
Transition to 3:2 Lock 5
Transition to 2:2 Lock 0
2:2:2:4 24 FPS DVCAM Video
5
2:3:3:2 24 FPS DVCam Video
5
3:2:3:2:2 24 FOS Vari-Speed
5
5:5 FPS Animation
5
6:4 12 FPS Animation
5
8:7 8 FPS Animation
5
Interlace Chroma Problem (ICP)
5
Chroma Upsampling Error (CUE)
5
Random Noise: Sailboat
5
Random Noise: Flower
5
Random Noise: Sunrise
5
Random Noise: Harbour Night
5
Scrolling Text
5
Roller Coaster
5
Ferris Wheel
5
Bridge Traffic
5
Text Pattern/ Scrolling Text
5
Roller Coaster
5
Ferris Wheel
5
Bridge Traffic
5
Luminance Frequency Bands
5
Chrominance Frequency Bands
5
Vanishing Text 5
Resolution Enhancement
15
Theme Park
5
Driftwood 5
Ferris Wheel
5
Skin Tones
7
Total 196
A score of 196 points is class leading right now, the ideal solution for high definition media playback on a big screen.
SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility. It should provide most of the information (including undocumented) you need to know about your hardware, software and other devices whether hardware or software.
Sandra is a (girl’s) name of Greek origin that means “defender”, “helper of mankind”. We think that’s quite fitting.
It works along the lines of other Windows utilities, however it tries to go beyond them and show you more of what’s really going on. Giving the user the ability to draw comparisons at both a high and low-level. You can get information about the CPU, chipset, video adapter, ports, printers, sound card, memory, network, Windows internals, AGP, PCI, PCI-X, PCIe (PCI Express), database, USB, USB2, 1394/Firewire, etc.
Native ports for all major operating systems are available:
  • Windows XP, 2003/R2, Vista, 7, 2008/R2 (x86)
  • Windows XP, 2003/R2, Vista, 7, 2008/R2 (x64)
  • Windows 2003/R2, 2008/R2* (IA64)
  • Windows Mobile 5.x (ARM CE 5.01)
  • Windows Mobile 6.x (ARM CE 5.02)
All major technologies are supported and taken advantage of:
  • SMP – Multi-Processor
  • MC – Multi-Core
  • SMT/HT – Hyper-Threading
  • MMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, SSSE3, SSE 4.1, SSE 4.2, AVX, FMA – Multi-Media instructions
  • GPGPU, DirectX, OpenGL – Graphics
  • NUMA – Non-Uniform Memory Access
  • AMD64/EM64T/x64 – 64-bit extensions to x86
  • IA64 – Intel* Itanium 64-bit






The memory bandwidth from the 1,600mhz rated memory somewhat affects the Sandra results, especially when compared against previous results when partnered up with 2,400mhz rated modules. Overall however the performance is strong when paired up with the Core i7 3770k processor.
CINEBENCH R11.5 64 Bit 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. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.
CINEBENCH is the perfect tool to compare CPU and graphics performance across various systems and platforms (Windows and Mac OS X). And best of all: It’s completely free.


When all four cores are loaded, the Sapphire board by default drops the core speed to 3,700mhz. The Asus Z77 boards we reviewed in the last week run at 3,900mhz, even with all four cores loaded @ 100%. This explains the slightly lower scores when running at ‘out of the box’ speeds via this Sapphire board. It would be easy enough to adjust the ratio in the bios- all to 39.
This is a clever move from ASUS really. When overclocked to 4.6ghz, the scores are identical to the Asus Z77 products.
Crystalmark is a useful benchmark to measure theoretical performance levels of hard drives and SSD’s. We are using V3.0 x64.

The Patriot Wildfire drive performs well on the Sapphire Pure Platinum Z77K motherboard, scoring 492 MB/s and 484 MB/s in the sequential read and write test respectively.

ATTO shows a perfect performance score, peaking at 556 MB/s sequential read and 516 MB/s sequential write.
V2011 is the first release of 3DStudio Max to fully support the Windows 7 operating system. This is a professional level tool that many people use for work purposes and our test will show any possible differences between board design today.
Autodesk 3ds Max Design 2011 software offers compelling new techniques to help bring designs to life by aggregating data, iterating ideas, and presenting the results.
Streamlined, more intelligent data exchange workflows and innovative new modeling and visualization tools help significantly increase designers’ creativity and productivity, enabling them to better explore, validate, and communicate the stories behind their designs.
Major new features:
  • Slate: A node based material editor.
  • Quicksilver: Hardware renderer with multithreaded rendering engine that utilizes both CPU and GPU.
  • Extended Graphite Modeling Toolset
  • 3ds Max Composite: A HDRI-capable compositor based on Autodesk Toxik.
  • Viewport Canvas toolset for 3D and 2D texture painting directly in the viewport
  • Object Painting: use 3D geometry as ‘brushes’ on other geometry
  • Character Animation Toolkit (CAT): now integrated as part of the base package
  • Autodesk Material Library: Over 1200 new photometrically accurate shaders
  • Additional file format support: includes native support for Sketchup, Inventor
  • FBX file linking
  • Save to Previous Release (2010)
We created a new 8200×3200 scene and recorded the time for the hardware to finalise the render.

The Core i7 3770k delivers strong performance in the 3D rendering tests, taking 6 minutes and 38 seconds to complete the task at reference clock speeds. Overclocking to 4.6ghz helps improve the time by 30 seconds. Huge gains from overclocking.
CyberLink MediaEspresso 6 is the successor to CyberLink MediaShow Espresso 5.5. With its further optimized CPU/GPU-acceleration, MediaEspresso is an even faster way to convert not only your video but also your music and image files between a wide range of popular formats.
Now you can easily playback and display your favourite movies, songs and photos not just on your mobile phone, iPad, PSP, Xbox, or Youtube and Facebook channels but also on the newly launched iPhone 4. Compile, convert and enjoy images and songs on any of your computing devices and enhance your videos with CyberLink’s built-in TrueTheater Technology.
New and Improved Features
  • Ultra Fast Media Conversion – With support from the Intel Core i-Series processor family, ATI Stream & NVIDIA CUDA, MediaEspresso’s Batch-Conversion function enables multiple files to be transcoded simultaneously.
  • Smart Detect Technology – MediaEspresso 6 automatically detects the type of portable device connected to the PC and selects the best multimedia profile to begin the conversion without the need for user’s intervention.
  • Direct Sync to Portable Devices – Video, audio and image files can be transferred in a few easy steps to mobile phones including those from Acer, BlackBerry, HTC, Samsung, LG, Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, and Palm, as well as Sony Walkman and PSP devices.
  • Enhanced Video Quality – CyberLink TrueTheater Denoise and Lighting enables the enhancement of video quality through optical noise filters and automatic brightness adjustment.
  • Video, Music and Image File Conversion – Convert not only videos to popular formats such as AVI, MPEG, MKV, H.264/AVC, and FLV at the click of a button, but also images such as JPEG and PNG and music files like WMA, MP3 and M4A.
  • Online Sharing – Conversion to video formats used by popular social networking websites and a direct upload feature means posting videos to Facebook and YouTube has never been easier.
For our testing today we are converting a 3.3GB 720p MKV file (2h:12mins) to Apple Mp4 format for playback on a portable device. This is a common procedure for many people and will give a good indication of system power. We are using the newest version which has been optimised for Sandybridge processors.

We enabled hardware acceleration from the AMD HD7950 graphics card today.


The 3770K is a powerful processor when it comes to handling video and 3D encoding duties. At 4.6ghz it tops our chart, supported on a hardware level by the HD7950 graphics card.

With AMD hardware acceleration enabled, the 3770k demands an average of around 20 % time. This means the system is in a good state to multitask without a penalty.
Handbrake is a fantastic free program which we wanted to include to confirm findings with Media Espresso, earlier in the review. HandBrake is an open-source, GPL-licensed, multiplatform, multithreaded video transcoder, available for MacOS X, Linux and Windows.
We used the latest V 0.9.5 for testing today across all platforms. We encoded an DVD.MPG file.

Overall time is 5 minutes and 24 seconds, around 4 seconds faster than the 2700k. When overclocked to 4.6ghz, the time improves to 4 minutes and 53 seconds.
F1 2011 is the newest Direct X 11 racing game from industry pioneers CodeMasters. The 2011 Formula One season is the 62nd FIA Formula One season. The original calendar consisted of twenty rounds, including the inaugural running of the Indian Grand Prix before the cancellation of the Bahrain Grand Prix. Pirelli returns to the sport as tyre supplier for all teams, taking over from Bridgestone. Red Bull Racing are the reigning Constructor’s Champions. Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel is the defending Drivers’ Champion, one of five World Champions appearing on the grid.


The system averages 72 frames per second, which drops to 63 frames per second during the more intensive areas of the benchmark.
Aliens V Predator has proved to be a big seller since the release and Sega have taken the franchise into new territory after taking it from Sierra. AVP is a Direct X 11 supported title and delivers not only advanced shadow rendering but high quality tessellation for the cards on test today.
To test the cards we used a 1080p resolution with DX11, Texture Quality Very High, MSAA Samples 1, 16 af, ambient occulsion on, shadow complexity high, motion blur on. We use this with most of our graphics card testing so cards are comparable throughout reviews.

This is an intensive Direct X 11 test however the Sapphire system delivered an average frame rate result of 82 frames per second.
Lost Planet 2 is a third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the sequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition, taking place ten years after the events of the first game, on the same fictional planet. We don’t really enjoy playing this game, but the engine is a great Direct X 11 test of modern hardware.


This engine can bring a lesser rig to its knees, however this system has no problems powering through this demanding Direct X 11 engine. 66 frames per second at these settings is very impressive indeed.
According to EA, Battlefield 3 garnered 3 million pre-orders by the day of its release. It is unknown at present whether these figures are worldwide or just for the US. The pre-order total makes it “the biggest first-person shooter launch in EA history”, according to the publisher. The engine is beautiful on the PC and very demanding of the partnering hardware.


The system performs well, averaging 75 frames per second and dropping to 66 frames per second in the more intensive sections. A perfectly smooth gaming experience with high image quality settings.
Mass Effect 3 is an action role-playing game developed by BioWare and published by Electronic Arts. The game’s endings have been controversial with many fans. Criticisms include the lack of variation in the endings in view of the player’s choices over the previous two games, as well as a general lack of closure and perceived plot holes.


The system averages 53 frames per second at these settings, and it maintains perfectly smooth frame rates throughout the testing.
We have reviewed a handful of Z77 boards to date, and as we mentioned at the start of the review Sapphire are facing tough competition from long standing industry leaders such as Asus and Asrock.
The Sapphire Pure Platinum Z77K is undoubtedly a quality board, finished to the highest standards utilising solid capacitors and multi-phase PWM voltage regulation circuitry with Diamond Black chokes.
We also like the fact that Sapphire have adapted and implemented their graphics card cooling solutions across to the motherboard designs.
We had no problems overclocking the Z77K, easily achieving 4.6ghz with the Core i7 3770k with minimal effort. The Sapphire Z77k does slightly undervolt the processor as highlighted earlier in the review, but it is straightforward to compensate for this in the bios. Sapphire are certainly making ground in regards to their bios implementations and we are confident that they will continue to improve throughout 2012 and into 2013.
We have noticed when Sapphire launch a new motherboard that sometimes the early bios revisions can exhibit post issues when dealing with high speed memory from specific manufacturers. We had problems with 2,133mhz and 2,400mhz memory from G.Skill, Kingston and Corsair and had to ignore XMP profiles, down-clocking manually to 1,600mhz. When this happened in the past with another Sapphire motherboard, they released a BIOS update several weeks later which addressed the problem. While we can’t test a future bios in the pipeline, we do feel that this issue will be resolved in the coming weeks.
Additionally Sapphire could perhaps contemplate adding ‘pre overclock’ settings for specific processors, in a similar fashion as ASUS and ASrock. This has proven popular with the inexperienced enthusiast audience who don’t want to risk killing their hardware with ill informed settings.
Another minor niggle we could mention, would be the fact that they Sapphire only included a pair of SATA 3.0 connectors on the motherboard. This might not be an issue for some, but we would imagine that a small portion of the potential audience may have three or even four high performance Solid State drives.
The Pure Platinum Z77K has impressed me during the last week of stress testing. It exhibits the same stability we have enjoyed with other Sapphire motherboards tested in previous months and we can certainly offer our recommendation if reliability is a primary concern. We managed to overclock the Core i7 3770k to 4.6ghz with a £20 Arctic Cooling Freezer 13 and didn’t encounter a single issue. Our chip can be pushed to 4.8ghz, but it would need a high end cooler such as the Corsair H100 for safe thermal performance.
Pros:
  • Built to last.
  • Overclocks well.
Cons:
  • Early bios exhibits memory issues above 1,600mhz.
  • No SLI support.
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