Sapphire Pure Black P67 Hydra review

Motherboard supporting both AMD and Nvidia graphics
Photo of Sapphire Pure Black P67 Hydra
£190. inc VAT

It’s been a while since Sapphire ventured into the motherboard market, but with the launch of AMD’s Fusion and Intel’s Sandy Bridge technology the company has decided to re-launch its motherboard line. Using AMD’s technology is a no-brainer, as after all they are AMD’s biggest manufacturing partner in the graphics card sector – but the real surprise is the Intel based boards: first the X58-based Pure Black X58, and now the Pure Black P67 Hydra.

Second time lucky
Unfortunately for them – and every other company using Intel’s Sandy Bridge chipset – Sapphire was caught out by the fiasco with the SATA 3Gbit/s performance degradation problems of the original B2 version of Intel’s Sandy Bridge chipsets. From Sapphire’s point of view, it was the last thing they needed when stepping back into the shark-infested waters of the motherboard market. The version of the Pure P67 Hydra being reviewed here is, thankfully, one of the new silicon B3-stepping boards.

Core specification
As its name might suggest, the motherboard is built on a black ATX format PCB, with the major slots finished in either blue or black. There’s plenty of room around the LGA1155 CPU socket for a third-party CPU cooler should you be thinking about doing some serious overclocking – something that’s aided by the high-performance, passively-cooled MOSFETs, Sapphire’s own Diamond Black chokes and quality solid Japanese capacitors used in the 6+2+3 phase power circuitry.

Also keeping the overclockers happy are dual switchable BIOS chips, board-mounted power, reset and ‘clear CMOS’ buttons and – just for good measure – board-mounted voltage measuring points.

The standard P67specification provides for six SATA ports, which are usually split between two SATA 6Gbit/s and four SATA 3Gbit/s ports, but manufacturers are free to add more ports via third-party controller(s) if they want, which in this case Sapphire has done: a Marvell 88SE9128 chip, providing support for another pair of SATA 6Gbit/s ports.

The first things you’ll notice about the Pure Black P67 are the four PCI-E graphics slots andslimline passive heatsink that sits between the first and second slot. Sitting under this heatsink is a Lucid HydraLogic LT24102 graphics controller.

Slots aplenty
Although there are four PCI-E x16 slots, only the top one nearest the CPU runs at full x16 speed, the two under it only run at x8, while the fourth slot (coloured grey) runs at just x4. Natively the board supports CrossFireX – but by using the Lucid chip, you can mix and match AMD and Nividia graphics together if you wish, or run two Nvidia cards in a SLI setup. Sapphire has been clever in using the Lucid chip as it gets around the awkwardness of a AMD motherboard manufacturer trying to get a SLI licence from Nvidia. Should you need more grunt to power any multi-card setups you may come up with, there is a 4-pin Molex connector edge-mounted on the board just under the lowest PCI-E slot.

For other expansion purposes there are a couple of PCI slots, but because the P67 chipset doesn’t support PCI out of the box, these are controlled by a third-party controller.

Outputs and inputs
Apart from the unusual addition to the rear I/O panel of the antenna for integrated 2.1 Bluetooth wireless connections, the rest of the ports are pretty standard for a Sandy Bridge motherboard: PS/2 combo port, eight USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports, FireWire, six audio ports plus separate digital co-ax and S/P-DIF ports for the eight-channel Realtek ALC892 codec, LAN and e-SATA

Overall
Sapphire’s Pure Black P67 Hydra is a good all-rounder, and although the power design might not be as bullet-proof as some of its competitors, we were still able to get a 2600k to 4.6GHz with just a moderately sized third-party cooler. And although the specifications list a 1,600MHz memory limitation, the board will surpass this without too many problems – and thanks to the dual BIOS chips, you have a get-out clause should anything go badly wrong. On the flip side, the Hydra technology seems still to be a work in progress. Although you can use AMD and Nvidia cards in the same board, the performance is still lacking and more work is needed in the driver department.

Company: Sapphire

Contact: 07915 057990

Positives
  • Good feature set; decent performance.
Negative
  • Pricey; Lucid technology still needs some work.

Verdict

The jury is still out on the Lucid technology at the moment but apart from that, the Pure Black P67 Hydra is a strong performing, well-built P67 board with a good list of features - if a little pricey.