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

Cougar Point Chipset

Cougar Point is the codename given to the chipset that forms the Platform Controller Hub (PCH) used for Sandy Bridge platforms. The PCH is manufactured using Intel's 65nm process, and is packaged as a FCBGA for mounting directly on to the mainboard, with a listed TDP of 6.1W. Prices range from around $30 to $70, depending on variant and volume ordered. Currently there are 15 products available from Intel using the Cougar Point chipset, for entry level workstation/servers, desktop, and mobility. The desktop products are denoted Q65, Q67, H61, H67, P67 and Z68, all with Express on the end, and cover options for entry level, mainstream, performance and enthusiast products.

The different P/H/Q designations indicate differences in feature and implementation, but fundamentally serve to offer options for supporting the CPUs iGPU, how many display outputs, how many PCI-Express ports are supported, legacy PCI bus support, number of SATA ports and the respective RAID options, and which advanced technologies like virtualization, trustiest execution and active management are enabled. Cougar Point platform controller hubs feature up to 14 USB 2.0 ports and 6 SATA ports, two of which are SATA-3 (6 Gbit/s). Intel Rapid Storage Technology (RST) allows the creation of various RAID arrays including 0,1,5,10 and Matrix raid, where multiple RAID instances can be created on the same disks (i.e. a 3 disk RAID 5 of 1TB and a 2 disk RAID 0 of 1TB on three 1.5TB disks). Intel Rapid Restore Technology (RRT) allows for read only mounting of volumes for touchless file access for data recovery, as well as automatic rebuild and restore of logical volumes.

Q65 / Q67 Express

Q65 and the more recently launched Q67 based mainboards allow Intel GMA graphics to be used and are dual display capable. The mainboard manufacturer may change the specifications depending on their target market, which is primarily OEM's for prebuilt desktops. The built in features will be accentuated with business components like Intel network chips, HD audio, and a few PCI-Express expansion slots along with the full six SATA slots and four memory slots.

Intel Desktop Board

H61 / H67 Express

H61 and H67 based mainboards are the cheapest, and as such targeted towards mini-ITX and micro-ATX form factors for use in home theater (HTPC), small form factor (SFF) and general purpose desktops. H61 is the value offering and will offer four SATA ports (two SATA-2 (3 Gbit/s), two SATA-3 (6 Gbit/s)) and no RST option, and drops Clear Video technology support. H67 offers the full six SATA ports and Clear Video, plus support for overclocking the graphics core. Manufacturers will highly customize the boards with USB 3, IEE-1394 and eSATA controllers, as well as fancy heat sinks, plus consumer HD Audio and home theater connectivity such as HDMI and optical audio outputs. As Sandy Bridge supports hardware decoding of Blu-ray 3D, HDMI 1.4a will likely be offered alongside DVI. The form factor will dictate the number of memory and expansion slots available.

P67 / Z68 Express

P67 and Z68 are the performance and enthusiast offerings. P67 was introduced at the beginning of Cougar Point and Sandy Bridge availability, while Z68 was only introduced very recently. These are the most fully featured with multiple PCI-Express graphics slots, additional I/O controllers (such as USB 3.0, FireWire, eSATA, and additional networking options). The most significant change from P67 to Z68 is the ability to use the integrated graphics, thus unlocking QuickSync for video transcoding. The storage capabilities are also updated, adding SSD caching technology for users to build their own hybrid storage solutions without buying a hybrid drive like Seagate's Momentus XT. P67 and Z68 boards will have more a robust power design, with manufacturers adding power phases, including voltage load line calibration for better overclocking, and fancy VRM coolers.

Intel Desktop Board