X-bit labs CeBIT 2006 Coverage: Day 4

This time we have massive amount of information and also massive amount of hot shoots with models standing at the booths. We expose the world’s fastest graphics card from XFX as well as reveal the company’s first HDMI graphics card , check out DDR3 chipset from SiS along with its market prospects, we take a look at HIS’ new cooling system as well as reveal plans of Foxconn to target enthusiasts. In addition, we offer you to take a look at Club3D’s liquid-cooled Radeon X1900 XTX as well as FIC’s Mac mini competitor that will be sold under Intel Viiv brand.

by Anton Shilov
03/14/2006 | 12:14 PM

XFX Plays Hard… and Hot

XFX is a part of Pine Technologies, a manufacturer and developer of hardware for personal computers. XFX is not only a maker of graphics cards, but a company that concentrates its efforts on gamers and computer enthusiasts demanding the highest performance possible as well as accessories needed by them. The motto of XFX for the CeBIT 2006 is “Play Hard”, which should attract attention of professional gamers, who do play hard.

 

At CeBIT 2006 XFX is showcasing its graphics cards, some of which are pretty unique. Given that Pine can produce up to 500 thousand of graphics cards a month, XFX has a lot of chances to sort out the fastest units, mark them appropriately, and address performance-demanding users. Historically Gainward was the company who sold the pre-overclocked NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards, recently EVGA started to offer similar kinds of products, but, in fact, when it comes to the highest performing NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GTX with 512MB of memory, XFX is the company that sells the fastest one.

    

XFX GeForce 7900 GTX 512MB XXX Edition comes with 700MHz core clock-speed, up 50MHz compared to reference design, and 1800MHz memory frequency, up 200MHz versus typical boards based on the same chip. Such a graphics card should be faster compared to any other GeForce 7900 GTX on the market, something that makes XFX distinctive.

Additionally, XFX supplies NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GT-based graphics cards with clock-speeds increased to 590MHz/1600MHz as compared to reference clocks of 560MHz/1400MHz for core/memory, respectively.

Nevertheless, high-end graphics boards is not the only advantage that XFX has. The company also displays the world’s first branded NVIDIA GeForce board with HDMI output and HDCP support. In fact, Sony used to be the first one to manufacture GeForce 6200-series graphics card with HDMI several months ago, but the company only supplied its products as a part of its multimedia center PCs. XFX is going to sell its GeForce 7300-series GPU-based graphics card with HDMI output into retail market within the following weeks, which may attract video enthusiasts to the company’s product line.

SiS Preps DDR3 Chipset in 2006

Silicon Integrated Systems has been designing chipsets for decades now and has always been a provider of core-logic solutions for mainstream and low-cost PCs. But the company is also known for its attempts to enter the market of very high-end chipsets that target performance-conscious enthusiasts: the firm developed its R659 chipset about three years ago in an attempt to use Rambus memory for lighting fast gaming systems.

Nowadays RDRAM is essentially dead for desktops, but there are more promising technologies. DDR3, for example. According to SiS, the new SiS665 chipset for Intel processors that is currently supposed to come out in Q4 this year will support DDR3 memory, the DRAM type of the pretty distant future.

So far no details are known regarding the chipset and supported speed-bins of the DDR3. Moreover, after talking to memory module makers, we discovered that in spite of some estimations, nobody is planning to release DDR3 earlier than in 2008, two years from now. It is unclear whether SiS actually hopes that at least one memory and module maker starts to produce DDR3 DIMMs, but we do know that in the past expectations regarding of support of unpopular/not broadly available memory did not turn into success.

In addition to SiS there is another chipset designer, ATI Technologies (whose technology chief is also the chairman of JEDEC), plans to unveil a core-logic that supports DDR3 in 2006.

It is unknown whether the idea to use DDR3 memory already in 2006 will turn into something valuable, but so far the main pusher of new technologies, Intel Corp. plans to produce a chipset that can work with DDR3 only in 2008.

HIS Improves ICE Cooling

HIS is renowned for its graphics cards with utterly quiet cooling solutions from Arctic Cooling. The company has been producing such products for several years now and users who desire to purchase something that does not create too much noise, but still provides decent cooling, know that HIS has a suitable product for them.

At CeBIT show HIS unveiled its new cooling system for high-end graphics cards called IceQ 3. The IceQ concept is not new: it features a high-quality fan located on the backside of the graphics card and exhausting heat outside the computer case. IceQ is a dual-slot cooling system, so, in addition to a quality fans, graphics cards get a well-built radiator that cools down both chip and memory.

While the IceQ 3 is generally similar to its predecessors, it obtained a heat-pipe that should ensure even better cooling and, consequently, higher overclocking potential. According to the company, the new IceQ 3 can have up to 10C degrees advantage over typical Radeon X1900 XTX cooling, an impressive difference.

Graphics cards featuring the new IceQ 3 cooling solution will be available for sale within the following weeks. Pricing is yet to be confirmed.

Foxconn Leaps Forward

Foxconn used to be a solely OEM manufacturer, but several years ago the company decided to address the channel market as well, simply because there was simply no more space for growth in the OEM business. Being not very aggressive in terms of advertising just two CeBITs ago, the producer ended up having much larger booth than Asustek Computer this year and showing products that attract close attention of all audiences.

Foxconn announced that it would add a family of graphics cards into its product lineup in 2006, a major step for the company and also a threat for smaller makers. The company is currently negotiating with graphics chips designers ATI Technologies and Nvidia Corp. in regards the supplies and is expected to announce its selection later this spring.

Yet another achievement of the company is demonstration of a mainboard with all-digital power supply circuitry for microprocessor. Foxconn says this will ensure more stable and higher-quality power supply for the CPU, which seems logical: power supply circuitries are becoming more and more complex these days and usage of digital components should ease the situation for mainboard makers a bit.

Foxconn is known for its cooling systems for OEMs, however, at this time the company showed off its lineup of coolers designed for channel market in general and computer enthusiasts in particular. It is important to point out, however, that the coolers from Foxconn will be much more affordable compared to devices by companies like Zalman and CoolerMaster while still be capable of offering similar performance.

The new cooling solutions for CPUs resemble those from companies like Zalman: they feature very thin copper fins and heat-pipes. While there are not a lot of technical details about those coolers, the special thing about them is the way that heat-pipes are attached to the fins: the company said that there is a special type of soldering with some unusual chemicals involved.

FIC Offers Viiv Mac Mini Rival

It has been quiet at FIC for a while now as a result of the company’s switch of the business model. Originally, FIC used to be a manufacturer of mainboards, but the competition on the motherboard market is so intense that the firm decided to make the whole systems instead: while this adds complexity when it comes to having components from other parties (e.g., microprocessors or memory), it provides some more opportunities to differentiate itself for the others. Unfortunately, so far FIC did not get significant traction in the market of systems and it still does a lot of OEM products these days. Nevertheless, FIC still has some amazing systems to show off at the world’s largest computer fair.

Small form-factor systems from companies like Shuttle have been pretty popular for years now, but with the introduction of Apple’s Mac mini ultra small form-factor received huge publicity, which is why AOpen and Shuttle currently try to penetrate that market as well. In an attempt to attract attention of multimedia fans and offer a rival to products like Mac mini, FIC has introduced its GE2, a stylish ultra small form-factor system which will sell under Intel Viiv moniker.

FIC’s GE2 resembles Mac mini quite significantly: it is based on Intel 945GM chipset with built-in graphics core and dual-channel DDR2 667MHz memory support. The system can be equipped with dual-core Intel Core Duo processors that should ensure world-class performance. Also, the FIC GE2 comes with built-in 802.11a/b/g wireless network controller as well as other necessary communication features.

Even though the GE2 seems to be pretty powerful, the main idea behind the computer is s its design. It is very stylish, sleek, small and attractive, it can easily become a part of the living room or a workplace for a person who demands style. Unfortunately, it will hardly be suitable for occasional gamers, as integrated graphics core is not really powerful. But nevertheless, the motto of the GE2 is the style, not the performance or features.

Club3D Cools It with Water

We reported a day ago that Sapphire was the only one to cool-down the Radeon X1900 XTX with a liquid-cooling solution. We were wrong: there is also Club3D, which has been testing water-cooling since the CeBIT 2004, who is going to sell Radeon X1900-series liquid-cooling-ready graphics cards sometime soon.


Club3D will supply a water-block capable of cooling down Radeon X1800- and X1900-series graphics cards along with selected products, but will not provide the water pump itself, which, on the one hand, adds some flexibility to experienced users, but, on the other hand, appends more complexity to novices, therefore, latest Sapphire Blizzard’s concept “liquid-cooling for dummies” does not work here.

Club3D’s liquid-cooling design also has one more advantage for computer enthusiasts: it can be used not only with graphics cards based on the Radeon X1800- or X1900-family design, but with graphics boards featuring next-generation ATI chips as well, according to the company. In order to more precisely attach the heat-spreader to the GPU, it has some kind of mechanism that allows a couple of millimeters fluctuation, something which is dramatically necessary given the differences in the height of memory and graphics chips.

Pricing of the liquid-cooling-ready Club3D Radeon X1800- and X1900-series graphics cards with is not yet set.