CeBIT 2005: «Facing the north, with the heart turned towards the east»
In our first CeBIT 2005 coverage, we tried to introduce our readers with new products by ASUS and GIGABYTE. It's now turn to talk about other Taiwanese manufacturers and numerous products based on the developments from western «computer trendsetters».
We certainly did not promise to cover all the companies (even those familiar to us) because the expo is huge and we were simply unable to walk it round completely. Nevertheless, most of the novelties couldn't be hidden from our watchful eye.
At the expo stand of the company, we found three new motherboards for Intel processors:
AW8 built on the Glenwood core with the well-known OTES cooling system:
BL8 built on the Lakeport core, of the BTX format:
NI8 SLI, whose features hardly need any special comments.
But Intel is not all what motherboard manufacturers are interested in. Abit also offers solutions for AMD processors:
Fatality AN8 – a motherboard for gamers and whatever computer maniacs. Due to the enterprise skills of the world's known gamer and marketing efforts of Abit, the Fatal1ty brand has already gained popularity among the consumers. The champion's laurels also didn't leave us - Ferra.ru representatives - cold, so we took a ceremonial picture of it together.
At video solutions, Abit decided not to invent the wheel and presented standard cards of the reference design on the base of X850XT and X800XL.
We were especially curious about the two front panels which are part of the package bundle of motherboards equipped with the Abit Guru system.
This lovely little box looking like a cheap Chinese alarm-clock is not as simple as it seems.
Among its features, there is not only graphic display of the system's health status, but a notification of mail delivery, as well as the PC power-on/power-off feature.
This novelty could have been called commonplace if it were not for the small red button hidden under the cover bearing a scaring pictogram. Those who stand for the environmental purity may stay calm, and the amateurs of "in-depth tuning" can triumph. Now, to clear the BIOS settings after another session of torturing the motherboard, it suffices to throw off the lid on the front panel, press the button, and - that's it.
Let's say thank-you to Abit for the care taken and proceed with our walk round the Asian part of the German expo.
As is known, a purchase manager by a large distributor is the most desired guest at the manufacturer's expo stand. However, most adequate Asian companies also welcome mass media representatives wholeheartedly.
Asrock's expo stand proved our first disappointment: no interesting novelties coupled with the not friendly personnel. Having left our name cards as we should, we go on further.
A few years ago, that company had a not very successful debut on the Russian market with their first boards for the revolutionary K7 (AMD Athlon). Nevertheless, after a long calm no storm has come up anyway. Today, Biostar's produce is poorly presented in Russia, which is to no purpose as it turned out later.
This marvelous barebone with a motherboard built on Nforce4 is not only interesting for its stylish design, but the unique form-factor as well. Unlike most of its brethren, IDEQ 330P offers a handy tip-up panel providing full access to the inner space. The unique motherboard layout and the CPU cooling system based on heat-pipes deserves praises.
Biostar pleased us with new motherboard models as well.
CRU19-A7 – a SLI solution for Pentium4
I945P-A7 and I945G-M7 motherboards based on Intel's most recent chipset. As the name suggests, the latter product offers integrated graphic core.
We do hope Biostar will take a worthy place ob our market. Meanwhile, we are moving on, alphabetically.
The company name suggests its specialization - 3D graphic accelerators.
As you can see, there is nothing revolutionary - again those good old acquaintances: GeForce FX6800 of Ultra and GT versions, and Radeon X800XL. On the last photo, there is an edge of another product built on ATI's chip nearby which is well known to our readers from previous publications. All in all, let's leave copying the reference design to «3D experts», and we are going on to the world of whistling and quietly rustling blades.
Masters of cooling pleased us no only with interesting products, but a welcoming Russian-speaking manager at the expo stand.
BTX products are not available on sale yet, but housing and fans are ready to start their way to the consumer.
Water-based cooling systems take a special place in the company's product line.
Heat-pipe cooling systems are also rather popular.
CoolerMaster's pride – a showcase of products for modding.
And, where will we go without Intel's favorite - the digital home? Even CoolerMaster had to make a few media centers. The design is far from perfection, but it is a notable progress for a company traditionally specializing in cooling.
Let's wish success to the glorious workers of propeller and heat pipe and move on to the white sails and ... the jolly Roger.
This small American company of a rollicking name is well-known for its expensive but rather fast and reliable memory modules.
Recently, Corsair has started production of USB storage devices and flash memory cards.
However, the most relevant product to date is XMS XPERT - RAM modules with a LED alphanumerical display.
While visiting expo stands we often came across these products in the demo PCs of various companies whose logos were brightly shining on the creeping line of Corsair modules.
The fancier of light - DFI - has long been producing boards having connectors and slots shining with acid colors. This abstruse marketing strategy is called LAN Party. These boards are aimed at either assemblage of computers when external light sources are missing or for amusement of underage blockheads used to disco color music. In the overshadow part of its expo stand, DFI demonstrated its two quite expensive novelties that offer support for SLI for AMD and Intel processors.
Having emerged to the light again, we found something even more curious - the long-awaited DFI 855GME motherboard. Our regular readers must have guessed that we mean a desktop solution for Pentium M mobile processors.
At this serious note, we are leaving the phosphorescent expo stand of DFI and moving on to the net Taiwanese produce.
This company is glorious for its art of interbreeding "a grass-snake with a hedgehog". Still at the dawn of transition from SDRAM to DDR, Elitegroup produced a unique motherboard with support (albeit not simultaneous) for both memory types. We'd better keep silence about the operability and quality of the product - the history has sunk into oblivion. However, the Taiwanese "cross-breeders" decided not to stop at the achieved and went on further. On the new PF88 board, there two sworn competitors came up against each other: a Pentium4 and Athlon64.
Anyway, we should give credit to to political correctness of engineers at Elitegroup: the motherboard's main socket is LGA775. The "hostile" processor can be installed on a separate board with the north bridge in a special expansion slot. Of course, like in the previous case, dealing with two processors simultaneously won't work. Apart from exotic PF88, Elitegroup has presented a quite ordinary PF22 Extreme built on the new i955X chipset.
At the company expo stand, we also found notebook PC, but that is a different story, so we can safely move on.
This company proved rather fertile because apart from the traditional motherboards it managed to present products entirely new for itself - a line of video cards on the base of ATI graphic processors.
Of the relatively expensive cards, only X700Pro and X800XL are available, but in the nearest future Epox is planning to expand its product line. Unlike most Asian products, Epox produce is shipped in one-color boxes which we found quite aesthetic.
At Epox, we also found a new motherboard: 9NPA+ SLI on the base of the Nforce 4.
Failing the cards with support for SLI, the board is demonstrated at the stand as a unit with two video adapters made by Gainward whose expo stand will be covered after introducing Foxconn products.
The company is like an iceberg, because only the smaller part of its business is known to the wide audience. This world's largest OEM has been supplying the major players of the computer market with its produce. Until the recent times, Foxconn remained a mystery and only recently these products under the company's trademark started emerging on the Russian market. The atmosphere of mystery shrouds even the company's expo stand: we simply were not allowed to take pictures of some products. Part of them are perhaps aimed at OEM partners.
Motherboard for Athlon 64 with support for SLI has not been a rarity for a long time. But in the Foxconn line it is a novelty.
The expo stand with motherboards is proudly embellishing the "secret room".
The mysterious boxes with the WinFast inscription cause persistent associations with LeadTek
LCD monitor without «identifying characters». We are now not surprised by the emergence of this type of products in the assortment of Foxconn.
The spice of the show is a marvelous barebone dubbed E-BOT GAMER displayed for public inspection. It may be renamed for the Russian market.
Despite the rumor distributed by The Inquirer, Gainward continues producing video adapters. The brightest part of the expo stand are the Siamese twins Ultra/2600PCX based on GeForce6800 Ultra. The box of Gainward's traditional design contains 2 graphic cards of 256 MB DDR3 memory (timing 1.6 ns).
And here is the amusing blunder: the card based on GeForce 6600 was proudly raised near the box for a 6800 Ultra.
Those who are familiar with the video topic and other IT specialists will immediately detect the fraud, but what to do for unsophisticated users? But let's not look aside and better go on with our tour around the stands.
Don't make haste looking for the name GeCube in the expo catalog because it's absolutely impossible to find it there. The company that is presenting products under this trademark is called simply Infotek. At the last year's Computex, we fell victim of that ignorance and we were nearly late for a meeting with one of GeCube's «employees in charge» - Carlos Yu.
Right off the bat, we start inspecting new produce.
X850XT is ATI's fastest graphic adapter to date The cooling system is made using heat pipes.
X800XL – less noisy and hot, but quite suitable for modern games.
As you can see, this card also has heat pipes. GeCube has also a few models with passive cooling.
Infotek's new direction of activities is HDD-based media players.
A miniature HDD like that is inside each of the presented devices. For now, GeCube has presented merely 20-GB payers but in future it plans to increase the disk capacity at least twice as much.
Leaving the hospitable expo stand by Infotek, we noticed the new design of boxes in which GeCube video cards are assumed to be shipped.
The eyes of the red-haired girl with a plasma gun are cold with ecumenical weariness. She nearly bursts into tears. Having cynically giggled at the artist's caprice, we went on further, to the expo stand of the glorious Geil.
This manufacturing company known for its high-quality memory modules failed to please us with its super fast modules.
On the other hand, we found its new business direction – iBall miniature video players – quite amusing.
Unfortunately, this outstanding device does not support MPEG4, so the hackneyed copying of films to the player will not suffice. To view a video, a special software that converts a DivX file into its own unique format is needed. Nevertheless, the concept of a miniature vide player is good enough and promising.
Having parted with Geil, we are moving to the expo stand of HIS.
Widely known among the narrow circles of video accelerator manufacturers, HIS offers a number of powerful solutions based on ATI chips.
X850XT offers a unique iceQ 2 cooling system which allows somehow raising the frequencies of the video chip and memory.
Note the design distinctions of IceQ2 from the standard cooling system of X850XT.
HIS has another nice novelty – X800XL based on the AGP interface.
On the reverse side of the card, you can easily see a large IC which is a PCIEX-AGP bridge.
However, the most interesting product by HIS is a TV tuner with the PCI-Express interface. This is the first and the only (let alone video cards) of devices found at CeBIT which can be inserted into the PCI-E slots.
This tuner is able handling both the analogous and digital TV signal. According to a HIS representative, this device is still under final polishing and will be available for tests in no earlier than a month after the expo is over. At this optimistic note, we let the expo stand of HIS to visit Jetway.
The amiable Chinese who met us cordially at the stand would have showed us new motherboards, but - alas - there was nothing interesting Jetway could offer.
So as not to offend the hospitable host and liven up the atmosphere of the visit, we took a few pictures of some barebones whose design we found curious.
Upon a close look, we found a couple of MP3 players of quite standard look.
Atlantic Computers is one of the few official supplier of Jetway produce onto the Russian market. Those who found the above products interesting is welcome over here (www.atlantic.ru), and we are going on with our tour over the Asian part of CeBIT.
The first emergence of Kingmax on the Russian market is dated by year 2002. Since then, this inexpensive and good-quality brand has taken a worthy place at the stores of Moscow-based distributors and resellers.
The main spice of Kingmax is colored memory modules with colored chips. According to the lovely lady representative of the company, the produce is in increased demand among the buyers. The colored chips are available in a number of makes: red, green, and blue. PCB colors are as varied.
Of course, we couldn't help asking the question about availability of the DDR2 667 memory, and got a positive reply.
It is now high time we turned to the "video" topic and visited LeadTek expo stand which we mentioned earlier.
This company stands out with its exceptional loyalty to NVIDIA, so among the novelties there were only GeForce-based products displayed.
The A400 Ultra model offers a substantial overclocking capability and thus a powerful cooling system.
But it was not the video cards which attracted a special interest, but the X-Eye personal display made as special glasses.
Unfortunately, the picture quality is far from perfection since the resolution of the displays does not exceed 640x480. Nevertheless, with X-EYE you can watch films and even work a little in the Windows standard interface. The ~300$ for the device, in our view, is a bit too high. We were not able to find an X-EYE device in Russia which is most likely caused by the lack of wide demand for a produce like that. Meanwhile, it's time we moved on.
The next stop is at MSI.
An ever competitor to Asus and Gigabyte, MSI built up an impressive expo structure in Hall 23.
There are two MSI motherboards with support for SLI in the company's product line: K8N Master2 for Athlon 64, and P4N Diamond for Pentium 4 Prescott.
Quite an interesting novelty which formerly ran with merely the Diamond series motherboards and is currently available to all - a combined wireless PC54G-BT network adapter. In simple terms, it is WI-FI and Bluetooth all-in-one.
All in all, MSI is so confident in the quality of its products that suggests that all who wish may operate motherboards in drying cabinets at a temperature no less than 70 C.
And for those who are annoyed by the "soft rustling" of the blades of cooling propellers the company has prepared a nice surprise in the form of a completely fan-free PC.
The powerful system with two video cards is cooled by a comprehensive system made by Zalman. We'll be talking about the produce of the company a bit later, but now we are going on with our tour around the expo.
OCZ, another memory manufacturer, has not demonstrated anything fundamentally new at CeBIT. The dullish expo stand was embellished by merely a small "iconostasis" with citations from media reviews and a hastily assembled system with an OCZian PSU. This product stands out with the possibility to manually adjust voltages on various outputs with a LED indication of the system health status, and a green backlight for the propeller.
A bit disappointed, we went to visit Sapphire.
Sapphire, a company that comes from the country of Jacky Chang, is positioning itself as a manufacturer of high-quality products for enthusiasts and overclockers. Its products are not cheap, but due to effective marketing support they sell well all around the world.
Fortunately, at the company's expo stand we found our old acquaintance, an employee of the Russian representation office, Konstantin Martynenko, who told us about the novelties and plans of Sapphire.
Sapphire's flagship video adapter – X850XT Platinum Edition with the PCI-Express interface
The old acquaintance X700PRO Toxic is also aimed at the new bus.
The company is building special hopes for the unique motherboard for Athlon XP processors designed specially by ATI engineers as an order from Sapphire.
According to Konstantin, this product is a debut of Sapphire in the sphere of manufacturing expensive motherboards aimed at overclockers. The high price matches the expanded capabilities for BIOS tuning and a special system for cooling VRM modules. Besides, there is a visual diagnostics system onboard made as a digital indicator and power switches made as buttons.
The cost of the product will be over the $200 mark, but for such a special system this is not an obstacle because exclusive products are normally aimed at a narrow circle of connoisseurs willing to incur substantial costs. We wish a success to Sapphire and move on.
The famous manufacturer of violet-colored motherboards met us with a complete lack of new models built on new chipsets. The depressing look was smoothed over by a cheerful Canadian manager who introduced us to intriguing barebones.
The image-making EQ3901 models were hanging on the stand wall like flower pots. But they were not attractive in anything but the eye-catching look.
We were attracted by the strict black-colored housing of EQ3501.
This model is interesting for not only the remote control and a huge indicator on the front panel but also for that EQ3501 can be easily equipped with any platform offered by Soltek. Therefore, you can get several machines based on various processors within a single form-factor.
Well, we do hope that soon Soltek will please us with new motherboards, but now we are proceeding with our tour round the Asian pavilions of CeBIT.
Like LeadTek, this company is a great friend of Nvidia, so video cards based on GeForce - 6800 Ultra and 6800 GT were the only high-performance solutions of Sparkle's assortment.
Of interest was the new Calibre trademark presented by the company at CeBIT.
For now, merely two products based on GeForce – 6600 and 6600GT - are available, but according to the representative of Sparkle, the company is planning an aggressive promotion of the new brand. The friendly managers warmly parted with us and promised to send out samples of Calibre produce for tests. Waiting.
This company is well-known on the Russian market for not only high-quality products but also for their high prices. Today, Thermaltake is winning well-deserved laurels and not standing still, the company offers new products.
The company's produce assortment is so huge that it is almost impossible to concentrate on something specific. Nevertheless, our eyes were caught by a number of curious things.
The multiplatform cooler dubbed "Beetle" very much resembles the product of ASUS which we already mentioned in the previous report.
Cooling systems for BTX are currently being manufactured by any, even the laziest, manufacturer. But where will you get such one?
The series of Eclipse housings is interesting for not only the smart design but also the weird compartment for storing CDs on the front door. We found the system inconvenient since a disk can be easily dropped while loading/ejecting it.
The AquaBay water-based cooling system allows not only monitoring the level of the cooling liquid but also to keep track of the water flow speed through a special window.
The bar on a round pedestal is not an element of the acoustic system but a radiator of another water-based cooling system. Only a great connoisseurs can afford to install it at home. Actually, "tastes differ". Having enjoyed the lapping of water and the noise from propellers, we are moving on to "unlimited technologies".
On the Russian market, the TUL company, which stands for Technology Unlimited, is known for its PowerColor trademark. New video cards were presented at CeBIT under this brand.
X850XT Platinum Edition and X800XL with the PCI-Express interface.
A new model with passive cooling for a similar bus.
The TUL mark is presented by the TUL Xpress 200P series motherboard on the base of recently announced Radeon Xpress 200 chipset by ATI Technology. At parting, we didn't miss the chance of taking a picture of this lovely lady (in fact, a very serious leader of one of its departments) whose name is Erika.
The last expo stand in our excursion is one by Zalman from Korea known for its expensive but highly effective cooling solutions. The Koreans brought in a number of intriguing novelties to CeBIT 2005.
The reduced version of the TNN500 monster dubbed TNN300 will be quite suitable for placing at a flat or a small office. The tradeoff for the silence is high: the approximate price for a fan-free housing is about 600$.
CNPS 8000A – multiplatform coolers with 14 heat pipes.
A kit of coolers for CPU and VGA under the Fata1ity trademark. Once again, you are amazed by the enterprise skills of Jonathan Wendell (or his manager) who was able to get just another sponsor.
Our excursion around the Asian part of CeBIT has come to an and. Parting with the hospitable hosts at expo stands with a bit of grief, we hope for new meetings, on the other part of the planet next time. From 31 May to 04 June, Computex 2005 will be held on which we will surely present another coverage.