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Last month we reviewed the Abit AX78, which is based on the AMD 770 chipset. At the time we coupled this with a B2 stepping Phenom 9600 processor - the one with the TLB Erratum - and we were left thoroughly underwhelmed by the whole experience. The integrated graphics in AMD 780G are very good indeed but the other chipsets in the 700 family have been let down by the poor performance of Phenom. So, when Sapphire sent us its new PC2-AM2RX780, which also uses the 770 chipset, it felt like the perfect opportunity to use the new B3 Phenom - the one without the TLB erratum-not-error - and give 770 a second chance.
Before we get into the testing, though, let's take a look around this Sapphire board. It's a passively cooled board with small coolers on the AMD 770 Northbridge and SB600 Southbridge. There are two PCI Express slots for CrossFire with a controller chip made by ICS located between the two slots. The 770 chipset supplies a total of 16 lanes of PCI Express 2.0 for graphics duties which Sapphire has divided evenly between the two slots. If you use a single graphics card and want the full 16 lanes to go the primary slot you can plug a switch card that is included in the package into the second slot.
Other than that the layout is quite conventional. There are two PCI Express x1 slots between the graphics slots so at least one will be available even if you use double slot cards. There are two PCI slots below the second graphics slot so you can be sure there will be at least one available for your sound/RAID/PhysX card.
The four DDR2 slots are located close to the CPU socket and there was only the tiniest gap between the CPU cooler and the two modules of Corsair that we used in testing. The cooler in question was a mid-sized unit from Asus so you may well find that a hefty cooler will block the nearest memory slot.
The single IDE connector is next to the main power block with the four SATA connectors in a line down the edge of the board and the floppy connector down in the corner. Life might be just a little easier if the connectors were laid down but we have no real complaints in this department. The eight-pin ATX 12V connector is located between the I/O panel and the tall passive coolers on the power regulation hardware where it is reasonably accessible. It looks as though there is space to have placed it on the top edge of the board which would have been better, though.
Other minor gripes include the headers across the foot of the boards as they are all uncoloured and unlabelled. It's not strictly necessary to label USB headers, although it helps when you're connecting up case-mounted ports that use individual connectors, but it's definitely a pain in the parts when front panel headers are anonymous. This Sapphire doesn't have micro buttons for Power and Reset and there are no LEDs to give any indication about onboard activity so this may be one board to avoid if you plan on overclocking.