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

Test Setup & Methods

For performance testing of the Sapphire P67 Pure Black Hydra and Core i7 2600K, we used the following test system configuration:

Comparison Platforms

We will be comparing the results to two other systems, one AMD and one Intel, detailed below. For our CPU performance and application testing we will use stock clocked Core i7 920 and Phenom II X6 1100T, as well as overclocked to 4GHz.

AMD Test System
Intel Test System

Introducing Noctua's NH-C14 CPU Cooler

Cooling our Core i7 2600K today is Noctua's NH-C14 heatsink and fan. This is a slightly different cooler than the dual-tower monster cooler we reviewed back in the spring, which we gave high marks for its excellent cooling capabilities and robust engineering. The C14 is a different style of heatsink, with six longer heatpipes in a C configuration. Noctua include two 140mm fans for mounting above and below the single aluminum fin array. Be sure to check back for Rage3D's indepth review of Noctua's NH-C14 HSF.

Noctua NH-C14

Graphics Performance Testing

For graphics performance testing we used AMD's Radeon HD 6990 in O/C BIOS mode, with Catalyst 11.4 Mjolnir I drivers. For gaming tests we set Texture Filtering Quality to High and disabled AMD optimized tessellation profiles.

AMD Vision Engine Center

You can read more about the Core i7 920 here and the Phenom II X6 1100T here.

Lucid HydraLogix multi-GPU Support

Lucid HydraLogix

Lucid's HydraLogix chip adds generic multi-GPU compatibility to the Sapphire P67 Pure Black. NVIDIA chargers manufacturers a per-board licensing cost, which grants them the right to use SLI certification branding and for the NVIDIA Forceware drivers to enable SLI operation. Sapphire has instead elected to use Lucid's HydraLogix chip, to provide heterogeneous multi-GPU mode support. The chip is located between the first two PCI-Express Graphics slots, and is equipped with an aluminum heatsink. Most modern GPUs are dual slot coolers, so it won't get any meaningful airflow in most cases.

Lucid HydraLogix

HydraLogix operates in three modes, A-mode, N-mode and X-mode. A-mode is for multiple AMD GPU's, that are not supported by CrossfireX. If you have, say, a HD 5850 and a HD 5870, this is supported under AMD's standard CrossfireX compatibility matrix, so you don't need HydraLogix installed. However, what about a HD 5850 and a HD 6870, or a HD 6950 and a HD 5870? Yep, that'll work with HydraLogix, and it's called A-mode. NVIDIA's SLI compatibility matrix is more strict, so despite the GTX 570 and GTX 580 being the same die (GF110) you can't multi-GPU them - until you use HydraLogix, which runs now in N-mode. X-mode is for GPU's from either camp. HydraLogix has a compatibility matrix for best performance, and basically indicates to use similar class GPU's with each other. For triple GPU support it's recommended to use indentical GPU's, and dual-GPU boards are not supported at all.

HD 6970 & GTX 570
GTX 580 & GTX 570

HydraLogix is software based, so scaling and performance is dependent on how updated HydraLogix's driver is. If your game, GPUs or drivers aren't supported yet, then you'll be reverting to single GPU mode. Additionally, if you don't have a display connected to the second GPU, chances are the Control Panel for that GPU won't open, meaning you can't configure it easily. Third party tools can help solve that problem, but add more software into the stack for you to keep updated and track of.

GTX 580 & GTX 570
GTX 580 & GTX 570

For those willing to experiment and perhaps hoping to extend the life of last year's GPU purchase, Hydra can be a real boon. Not ready to give up that HD 5870 yet? Jump into A-Mode and combine it with a HD 6950 1GB. Stickers still fresh on your GTX 480? Double up with a GTX 570 for N-mode. Feeling lucky, punk? X-mode it is, just try to pick GPU's with similar performance envelopes for best results. FRAPS and HydraLogix don't co-exist nicely at the moment, making benchmarking difficult. In our testing, using the specified compatible drivers as listed in HydraLogix driver notes - Cat 11.3 and Forceware 266.58 - was the only way to get it working and a stable system. In both A-mode and N-mode, the normal multi-GPU enhancements you would expect are unavailble - you can't enable 16xAA in Vision Engine Control Center, and 96xCSAA isn't available in the NVIDIA control panel either.

NVIDIA Control Panel