X-bit labs CeBIT 2006 Coverage: Day 6

On the sixth day of our CeBIT 2006 coverage we visit booth of Cooler Master to check out the world’s biggest CPU cooler as well as suitcase-like computer case for travelers, we take a look at stylish notebooks from Asustek, we observe MSI’s conceptual plans to use solar energy for electronic gadgets, listen to music using Sapphire’s MP3 player with up 35 hours battery life and take a look at Foxconn’s systems for the living room.

by Anton Shilov
03/16/2006 | 08:20 AM

Sapphire Unveils Hot MP3 Player with Up to 35 Hours of Battery Life

Sapphire Technologies has been well-known for its graphics cards and mainboards, but recently the company decided to also enter flash-based products business, e.g., flash drives and MP3 players. Unfortunately, the company has not gained much traction in those markets, as digital music players are associated mostly with brands like Apple, iRiver or Creative and retailers do not tend to shelf space to other brands. But the company does not give up and its latest Ivory player does have some interesting features to offer.

 

The main advantage of the Ivory is extremely long playback time: it is up to 35 hours (iPod shuffle has 14-hour playback time), which should be enough for a small journey. There are some other things that make Sapphire’s MP3 player pretty special: karaoke and electronic books support, built-in microphone, 12 equalizer settings, tetris game, fast 2.5 hours charge time through USB (iPod shuffle should be charged for 4 hours) and pretty sleek design.

In order to cut down power consumption as much as possible, Sapphire had to use one-colour LCD screen with blue lighting instead of a colour display found on some other players.

There are also some disadvantages that the Ivory has: it has only 512MB of memory, not a lot for a frequent music listener and a person who would like to use the player for a long time. Its menu is not the most easy to use compared to some other players, even though this does not seem to be a significant drawback: at the end of the day, Apple’s shuffle does not have any menu at all.

  

The price of the Sapphire Ivory 512MB with bundled ear-bud headphones should be something like ?69 ($83), which is even more affordable compared to the price of the iPod shuffle 512MB in some countries (?79), or a bit more expensive compared to the iPod shuffle in the U.S. ($69), but at this price you’ll get advantages like screen, long playback time, built-in microphone, etc.

Whether or not the Ivory turns into successful product fully depends on the popularity of the iPod shuffle, as people are so excited about the iPod in general that they buy shuffle without considering the obvious shortcomings that it has.

Cooler Master Shows Off World’s Biggest Cooler

As a result of continuous increasing in CPU power consumption, cooling down the hot chips becomes pretty complex task, as users of premium components tend to demand better performance and quieter operation at the same time, which makes the life of cooling system designers pretty hard.

In an attempt to create an ultimate cooler, developers from Cooler Master have designed the RR-CCH-Anui-GP which is so large that it can carry on two 12cm fans and feature 6 copper heat-pipes. The cooler is compatible with both LGA775 and Socket 939, but it is uncertain whether it will also be able to cool-down Socket AM2 processors at this point. The new model should find home in enthusiast-class PCs that feature overclocked processors with thermal dissipation of 150W and beyond.

The big advantage this master of coolers has over its competitors is its ability to cool-down not only the CPU itself, but also microprocessor power supply circuitry along with graphics card with the airflows that its two large fans create. Usually, big fans work at pretty low speeds, hence, the new cooler is not expected to be too loud.

Given that the RR-CCH-Anui-GP is made of aluminum and features copper base plate, its weight is not too extreme, even though it is definitely not a light-weight cooler.

Leather Collection from Asustek

Asustek Computer has experienced tremendous growth in the last decade. The company had revenue of $228 million back in the year 1995 and in 2006 the maker projects to have $15 billion in earnings. There are several reasons why Asustek has been enjoying incredible growth every year, including overall computer market growth, continued investment in manufacturing capacities and, of course, high quality of its products.

Notebook business currently accounts for 31% of Asustek’s revenue and is currently the largest business of the company. Certainly, a very significant part of those machines is produced for other companies, however, Asus is working very hard to address the high-end markets with its own-brand notebooks, trying to offer very attractive design and rich feature-set.

In fact, Asusdesign team established back in 2001 is a very important division within the company, which implies that the manufacturer is very serious in its attempts of getting to the market of products which main value is design. We do know that companies like Nokia and Motorola can charge much more for their phones compared to companies like LG or Siemens-BenQ because of their design and reliability, hence, having stylish outlook is crucially important for revenues and profit margins.

The ongoing trend is that notebooks tend to become fashionable accessories, rather than tools for business. We already tested Asus S5200N laptop several years ago and found it very stylish, but at this CeBIT show Asus introduced a lineup of notebooks in with leather on their enclosures, something which is only available from a couple of companies around the world.

  

At CeBIT 2006 Asus unveiled its S6 Leather and W6 Leather machines, both of which are pretty compact. What is spectacular about the Leather series from Asus is that the company provides other accessories similar by design along with the notebooks.

  

The W6 Leather flavour comes with 13.3” screen and weighs only around 1.86 kilograms. The laptop is based on the Intel 915GM core-logic, supports DDR2 memory and Intel Pentium M “Dothan” processors with 533MHz processor system bus and 2MB cache.

  

The S6 Leather is a totally new product from Asustek and we do not know much details about it yet, but what we do know is that it will have ultra low-voltage Intel Core processors, new Intel 945GM-series chipset, about 12” screen, up to 100GB HDD, wireless LAN capability, SD card reader and so on. The case of the laptop will be made of aluminum, which is pretty nice as well. The style does not come at low price, though: the rumoured cost for this laptop is about $3000.

Suitcase-Like Computer Case from Cooler Master Exposed

Another interesting product that Cooler Master demonstrated at the CeBIT show is its Ammo 533 computer case, which more resembles a trunk for your luggage, rather than a case for your computer. The product is designed for LAN party gamers who need to carry their PCs from one place to another pretty often, but it definitely can be appealing to other types of users as well.

Cooler Master Ammo 533 features design made specially for carrying: it has a special handle and several enclosures on the sides that prevent it from accidental damages. It also has stainless steel barebone that is designed to be very sturdy. Besides, the case comes with tool-free mechanical design, which should ensure that gamers will be able to service their computers in the field without having a lot of issues.

The Ammo 533 case is pretty expandable: it can be loaded with up to five 5.25” drives, it has two additional USB 2.0 connectors and one FireWire connector on the front panel and has several places for additional fans. Therefore, the case should suit a gamer, who has passion for technology and would like to have a full-featured PC even on the road.

The computer case weighs 10 kilograms without power supply, which is pretty a lot, so, you will not be able to transport your PC really easily, as the total weight should be around 25 kilograms when fully loaded. On the other hand, transporting Ammo 533 is a lot more convenient compared to other cases, as it has a handle.

Foxconn Goes to Living Room

Foxconn is a very big and significant partner of Intel Corp., which is why the company usually follows all the initiatives of the chip giant. During the CeBIT 2006 exhibition Foxconn unveiled its Intel Viiv computer platform incarnation designed for entertainment and living rooms.

The Entertainment PC from Foxconn does not yet have a distinctive brand-name, but it is likely that the product will hit the market sometime this year. The system is based on Intel G965 chipset with built-in graphics core, supports Intel dual-core processors with 1066MHz processor system bus (Intel Pentium D and Conroe ), dual-channel DDR2 800MHz memory, Intel high-definition audio and so on. It is important to note that the computer can be equipped with full-size graphics cards.

  

The design of Foxconn’s Entertainment PC resembles that of consumer electronics, besides, the system has a set of appropriate outputs and will be equipped with a TV-tuner in its final version.

Living room PC concept is not something completely new, it has been around for years now. But this year we would expect this kind of solutions to finally gain popularity based on the fact that giants like Intel, Microsoft and Foxconn are pushing the idea of having a PC in the living room pretty intensively.

MSI Feeds Notebooks, MP3 Players with Solar Power

All portable electronic devices have limited battery life, but some have it a bit longer, some – a bit shorter. While 35 hours of battery life for the Sapphire Ivory player is definitely spectacular, how about having a laptop or a music player with endless battery life? MSI has got something that may be interesting to you!

At CeBIT 2006 show MSI unveiled prototype of a notebook with solar power cells as well as its Mega 540 player that utilizes solar power to play music.

Unfortunately, the notebook is in the early stage of development right now and we have no idea when it is going to be available and what kind of components it will use. Judging by the design, the laptop can hardly be expected to launch shortly from now.

But the MP3 player that the company showcased is already nearly here: it works and works pretty fine. Charging of the battery which is enough to playback music only takes seconds, even considering that the player uses hard disk drive and colour screen!

Regrettably, we do not know when the product will be available and what the price will look like. But based on the virtually finalized design of the gadget and the fact that MSI demos its live, we would expect that the Mega 540 player with solar cell is a something to be released commercially in the short-term. It remains to be seen, however, whether solar cell is actually as good for MP3 players as it is for other devices, such as pocket calculators.