Closer Look at Sapphire IPC-AM3DD785G Mainboard
Compact Socket AM3 mainboards were something improbable up till now. We just did not know about any solutions like that. There were Socket AM2 mini-ITX mainboards only, but in very limited quantities, too. Now it looks like the situation is going to change as Sapphire, one of AMD’s key manufacturing partners, has gotten into producing small mainboards for desktop Athlon II and Phenom II processors.
Although a mini-ITX mainboard with Socket AM3 is going to be a clear winner, Sapphire does not categorize it as a solution for home users. The company regards it as an industrial mainboard. Fortunately, this positioning does not imply any compromises in terms of design or specs, so the Sapphire IPC-AM3DD785G is just perfect for nettops and small HTPCs. We are not sure about its availability, but hope that everyone who likes it will be able to get it.
One glance at a photo of the mainboard is enough to realize how much effort has been invested into it by the developer. It certainly was not easy to fit all the necessary components onto the PCB as its central part is occupied by the CPU socket and cooler retention mechanism. Sapphire team has coped with the task well, however. They even put a full-featured 4-channel CPU voltage regulator for CPUs with up to 125W TDP. So, notwithstanding its compact size of 170x170 millimeters, IPC-AM3DD785G does not impose any limitations on your CPU choice. It is compatible with all modern Athlon II and Phenom II series processors.
Featuring Socket AM3, the mainboard also has two slots for DDR3 SDRAM modules. These slots are placed very close to the CPU socket, so you may have some problems with certain coolers. For example, our Scythe Shuriken barely fits onto the IPC-AM3DD785G, its heat pipes pressing against the DIMMs. Many high-performance coolers of the tower design, like the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme, will not be compatible with this mainboard at all.
The miniature mainboard from Sapphire is based on the AMD 785G chipset and features integrated Radeon HD 4200 graphics core.
This core is DirectX 10.1 compatible and offers good performance (for an integrated GPU). It also supports hardware decoding of HD video in popular formats, allowing to use AMD 785G in multimedia centers with rather slow CPUs. Moreover, if you are not entirely satisfied with the functionality and potential of Radeon HD 4200, the IPC-AM3DD785G offers a PCIe x16 slot for an external graphics card.
AMD 785G is paired with an AMD SB710 South Bridge here. Although it is a junior chip among AMD’s South Bridges, the SB710 is sufficiently functional for a mini-ITX mainboard. Thanks to it, Sapphire IPC-AM3DD785G can offer four SATA-300 ports, one PATA-133 port for storage devices, and ten USB 2.0 ports, six of which are laid out on the mainboard back panel. Also there are three analog audio-jacks (provided by a six-channel VIA VT1708S codec) and an RJ-45 connector (supported by a Gigabit Ethernet controller from Atheros).
Monitors can be connected to the mainboard’s analog D-Sub or digital HDMI port. There is no DVI but an HDMI-DVI adapter is included into the box. There is no digital SPDIF output at the back panel, either. It is offered as an onboard pin-connector only.
The North and South Bridges are placed close to each other on the PCB and share a single heatsink that covers them both. The heatsink is rather small and gets very hot at work. The user manual recommends you to pay attention to it and make sure your system case is ventilated properly. Sapphire even includes an additional 40mm fan into the box as a kind of a hint.
Summing everything up, the design of Sapphire IPC-AM3DD785G leaves a highly positive impression. There are no problems in its BIOS Setup, either. The only issue we can find with it is the scarcity of settings. The BIOS only offers such basic options as turning the integrated controllers on/off, choosing the boot device order, or setting up the system date and time. There are no options for overclocking or downclocking the CPU or graphics core. You cannot change the clock rates or voltages of the components. There are even no options to set the frequency and timings for system memory.
On the other hand, the BIOS supports Q-Fan technology for the mainboard to control the speed of the CPU cooler fan. You can specify the key parameters of that technology manually.
Winding up the description of the mini-ITX mainboard from Sapphire, we would like to show you its full specifications list: