by Anton Shilov
03/15/2006 | 01:08 PM
No matter what the CPU or GPU designers say about performance per watt, power requirements of contemporary computers are rising. Introduction of quad-SLI concept just prooves that once again: four graphics cards will consume much more power compared to a single one and it is pretty clear that the trend towards energy hungry PCs will continue in the high-end. As a result of that, leading PSU vendors plan to introduce unbelievably powerful 1000W (1kW) power supply units.
According to what was said during the CeBIT show, users should expect 1kW power supplies as soon as by the middle of this year from companies like Cooler Master, Enermax, OCZ and Hiper. It is interesting to note that OCZ is also working on 1100W PSUs.
We do not know exact specifications of those power supplies unfortunately since developers are pretty vague about them as well, probably because they need to work with CPU and GPU designers to find out requirements of next-generation hardware to ensure that their one kilowatt power supplies are future-proof.
We have to admit that multi-GPU technologies are perfect for the high-end market and those who demand tomorrow’s performance today. There are some issues associated with dual graphics cards setups: we need to cool-down graphics cards properly while keeping noise levels at low levels, something which is not easy to do in some cases.
For enthusiasts who use two graphics cards and want to have efficient cooling with additional overlocking potential and relatively low noise levels, companies like Cooler
Master and Thermaltake have developed special cooling solutions that are easy to install and that are not too bulky.
The concept of Thermaltake’s and CoolerMaster’s liqud-cooling solutions for dual-GPU setups resemble the well-known TideWater: the pump and the liquid tank are located compactly in a special case that can be installed into any spare add-in card slot just like a typical board. The water-blocks are compatible with contemporary GeForce and Radeon graphics cards, which is pretty convenient for the end users.
The new Thermaltake TideWater Plus for dual graphics cards system features the same adjustable fan (1700rpm and 3000rpm modes) and water pump that is used in the TideWater, but comes with two water-blocks instead of one. The price of the novelty should be something around $150.
Cooler Master’s Aquagate Viva is a bit more flexible and advanced compared to Thermlatake’s TideWater Plus. It comes with two fans both of which can be detached and also has places for two more fans to ensure even better cooling performance.
In addition, Aquagate Viva features a special alarm device which beeps whenever water tubes are not installed properly or are bend or stretched in a dangerous way. It remains to be seen whether such alarm device will really help to improve reliability of liquid-cooling solutions, especially keeping in mind that it actually adds more links of water pipes, which means additional risk of spillage.
We do not know when the Aquate Viva reach stores and what the price will be like. Moreover, we would expect Cooler Master to add more special features to it, e.g., fan-speed controllers.
MSI Geminium Go graphics adapter based on the MXM modules with mobile GPUs on them has already been officially unveiled, but the company has decided that it is better to redesign it before it will be ready for the mass market. At CeBIT 2006 MSI demonstrated a prototype of the new design.
The whole concept of the Geminium Go remained the same: there are two slots for MXM modules, but they are now located on different sides of the board, not next to each other as previously. This helps to make the card much smaller, which means that even small form-factor systems will be able to use multi-GPU SLI technology (provided that they are based on appropriate chipsets).
Currently MSI is working with channel partners to find out whether there is a market for the Geminium Go and standalone MXM modules. If the company decides that it makes sense to produce and sell a lineup of MXM modules, the Geminium Go will become a real product, not just a concept.
As said before, high-performance PSUs are not a luxury, but something really necessary for performance-demanding users. To address those who plan to build ultra-high end computer, Hiper, a well-known maker of power supply units and various other accessories introduced at CeBIT its new 730W PSU: HPU-4x730 with Omnigrid II technology.
As the name implies, the HPU-4x730 was designed for systems with several consumers of 12V rails: it features 4 independent 12V rails and two dedicated PCI Express power connectors. HPU-4x730 also provides P4 and P8 connectors for users with motherboard that requires P8 connection.
Like many high-end PSUs these days, Hiper’s HPU-4x730 features modular connectors, which allows users to detach unnecessary cables easily. But unlike the others, the new product from Hiper comes in stainless steel case, not aluminum box.
The 730W power supply unit from Hiper will be available next month, according to the maker. Unfortunately, pricing is not yet completely clear.
EVGA has been around for years now, but being concentrated on the U.S. market, the company was not really well-known across the world. But recently the firm decided to enter the European market as well, which reflected in increase of the product shipments, in March the company will supply already 150 thousand graphics cards, and in broadening of product portfolio.
Shortly EVGA will address the market of professionals who use multi-monitor setups with its graphics cards that features two GeForce 6200-series chips on it. The chips are certainly not in the SLI mode, but this product is not about performance in 3D games, but about providing users with up to 4 monitor capability along with some latest features like PureVideo while still maintaining compatibility with PCI bus.
Even the latest Quadro NVS graphics card uses GeForce4 MX-series processors that not only do not comply to DirectX 9 speds, but even do not feature DirectX 8 functionality. For the sake of truth, it is necessary to note that ATI’s FireMV products also do not sport decent 3D feature-set. While this does not seem to be a problem now, when Windows Vista operating systems comes out, the outdated hardware will not be able to use the maximal functionality of Vista’s interface, as it requires support for DirectX 9 pixel shaders.
Not complying with next-generation operating system is certainly not a problem for large enterprises, who never upgrade operating systems along, but some smaller companies may be interested in multi-monitor configurations along with Vista support in future. This is the market that the EVGA’s dual-chip GeForce 6200 graphics card targets.
Historically Nvidia did not allow its partners among graphics cards suppliers a lot flexibility in terms of designing their products differently compared to reference designs. However, the competition on the market is so fierce right now that Nvidia lets its partners to differentiate themselves somehow. The outcome is that we have more and more interesting and even unique products coming.
One of the very attractive graphics cards that were demonstrated at CeBIT were Galaxy’s GeForce 7600 GT with passive cooling as well as GeForce 7900 GT and GeForce 7300-series graphics cards with a cooling systems from Zalman. Both are designed to offer maximum performance while still being very quiet.
The Galaxy’s GeForce 7600 GT’s passive cooler features pretty simple design: it has two heat-pipes and many very thin fins made of aluminum. As a result of not using copper, the cooler itself is very lightweight. It remains to be seen whether it still cools down the GeForce 7600 GT chip with enough efficiency by itself, or an additional low-speed fan can be recommended, but we do know that in the past mainstream GPUs could easily be cooled-down using passive coolers.
The GeForce 7900 GT is expected to have performance similar to the GeForce 7800 GTX, but at much lower cost and thermals. Still, the GeForce 7900 GT with Zalman VF900 cooler from Galaxy is the only one at the show.
Zalman VF900 is a successor of the VF-series coolers for graphics cards, but it has a tangible advantage over the previous incarnations: it features heat-pipes that transfer heat from the base plate to upper side of the radiator’s fins, which should ensure very high efficiency. The VF900 and, consequently, Galaxy GeForce 7900 GT graphics card comes with 90mm fan which speed can be adjusted in the range between 1350 – 2400rpm using fan mate 2 device.
Those, who do not want to have necessary the highest performance, but still efficient cooling and some overclocking potential, may find GeForce 7300-series graphics cards with Zalman coolers attractive. However, the market for graphics cards that are supposed to be affordable, but come with rather expensive cooling systems from Zalman, is relatively limited.
Galaxy is a Hong-Kong, China-based graphics cards supplier that is not particularly well-known outside Europe or Asia, but with this kind of interesting products the company may face demand for its graphics cards from other parts of the world as well.