CeBIT 2007 Coverage: Part 2

The CeBIT show goes on and today we can share some information about the new technologies and products that are showcased here. Today we took a look at Nvidia’s DirectX 10 offering for mobile computers, we also saw at the world’s first 2000W (2kW) power supply, OCZ’s 1400MHz (1.40GHz) memory, Samsung's external Blu-ray disk drive and some other interesting devices that are coming to the market.

by Anton Shilov
03/20/2007 | 09:41 AM

DirectX 10 for Everywhere: Gigabyte Demos GeForce Go 8400

Nvidia does not want its partners to showcase its DirectX 10 lineup, as it still has plenty of DirectX 9 offerings to sell. Still, the company is more than ready with its GeForce 8-series graphics boards: yesterday we already showed you GeForce 8600-series and GeForce 8500-/8400-series graphics cards from MSI and today we managed to find several notebooks from Gigabyte which have GeForce Go 8400 inside, the world’s first mobile DirectX 10 graphics adapter.

 

Gigabyte displays three notebooks with “Nvidia’s newest graphics chipset” installed, demonstrating its ability to have new products on the market as soon as possible. The laptops display just a typical screensaver with Gigabyte advertisements, but not Nvidia’s DirectX 10 demos due to obvious reasons. Nevertheless, demonstration is a proof that the chip is ready: it works for hours a day without crashes and it is clear that it can be launched commercially any day, stealing more market share from AMD’s graphics product group.

While it is known that Nvidia and its partners plan to unveil the GeForce 8400-/8500-/8600-series graphics cards for desktops on the 17th of April, the launch date of the GeForce Go 8-series remains unclear, as notebook suppliers have to ensure that the new graphics processing units (GPUs) work without issues with their chassis, cooling systems and other components.

Blue for Everywhere: Samsung Demos External Blu-Ray Disc Player

High definition video and games are here: there are plenty of full-HD televisions and monitors and a number of new games support 1920x1200 or even 2560x1600 resolution. Even so, the amount of affordable Blu-ray (BD) or HD DVD players and optical drives for personal computers is negligible: the war of formats is paying off and optical drive makers do not desire to unveil really broad ranges of blue-laser products.

Another issue with the availability of BD and HD DVD optical drives is that computer makers are reluctant to put them inside their systems due to concern about demand from end-users at the current price points and necessity to hold additional inventory. Given that both Blu-ray and HD DVD drives are still pretty expensive to manufacture, the time, when either of them will find a place inside mainstream computers, does not seem to be close.

One of the ways to popularize high definition video formats on the PC is to create more or less affordable external optical disc drives, as a lot more people would get an additional drive rather than a new PC and not all end-users are experienced enough to open up their computers and install an internal optical drive. But a dilemma with external drives is that they tend to be even more expensive than internal ones.

At CeBIT 2007 Samsung Electronics demonstrated its SE-B046 external Blu-ray disc drive that can be used for both playback and recording. The device itself looks pretty stylish, but its apparent drawback is its size: it is nearly two times larger compared to an internal 5.25” drive, which means that it cannot be taken into a travel to enjoy high definition movies while in a hotel.

Currently it is unknown when Samsung plans to release the SE-B046 and at what price-point, but some sources suggest that the first product to actually come to the market will be SE-B024 with lower speeds. Clearly, today there are no external Blu-ray disc recorders on the market, hence, there is no direct competitors for the product. However, Samsung will evidently face competition from Microsoft’s Xbox 360 HD DVD player, which works on personal computers without problems, as well as HP’s external HD DVD ROM; even though neither can record HD DVDs, both BD and HD DVD media is very expensive at the moment and demand for recording feature is unlikely to be high.

The Endless Power: 2kW Power Supply Coming Close

For typical personal computer three hundred watts of power is more than enough. But hardcore computer enthusiasts and users of the latest hardware tend to want more advanced power supply units (PSUs). While the actual need of power is much less than manufacturers offer, they continue to ramp up the power of their PSUs.

Topower, a leading maker of power supply units, showcased its 2000W (2kW) PSU at CeBIT show in Hannover. 2kW is so big that it cannot be installed into a typical computer case and Topower decided to release it as an external PSU, probably with the aim to ship several hundreds of units worldwide to extreme overclockers and companies who may need 2kW PSUs for testing purposes and do not care about computer visual design and look.

The price of the unit is something that spokespeople for the company are not talking about, however, they are sure that the manufacturer will release the part at the end of April.

Fast and Furious: Corsair and OCZ Show Off 1.30GHz, 1.40GHz DDR2

While DDR3 is near, it is not yet available and the there are performance enthusiasts, who are always on the leading edge, who want to have tomorrow’s performance today. For them OCZ is preparing 1.40GHz DDR2 memory modules, which are supposed to be faster compared to DDR3 at 1333MHz.

OCZ’s technology chief Michael Schuette said last year that 1200MHz was the limit for DDR2, but now the company can ships even 1400MHz memory, as actual DRAM devices have evolved and so have memory module suppliers’ abilities to pick up the fastest ones.

It is evident that far not all processors and chipsets can handle 1.40GHz memory, hence, currently OCZ is considering whether to certify only certain mainboards for work with the modules, like it did in the past with several of its memory sticks and motherboards from Asustek Computer and Digital Flower Industries (DFI).

 

At present DDR2 is used by the vast majority of new computers and it is obvious that it will continue to evolve, just like the DDR evolved after the DDR2 was unveiled. Therefore, 1.40GHz clock-speed is, most likely, not the highest speed-bin of DDR2 and there is a good chance that we will see even faster memory modules with some tweaks from chipset designers to allow speeds above 1.30GHz.

In fact, Corsair Memory is already showcasing its 1250MHz Dominator memory modules running at around 1.30GHz with Nvidia’s nForce 680i-based mainboard from Asustek. Since 1.33GHz DDR3 is a couple of quarters away, we will almost surely see another DRAM clock-speed race between Corsair, OCZ and other leading suppliers of high-speed memory.

Size Matters: Albatron Has mini-ITX for AM2 CPUs on Display

There is always a tradeoff between performance, size, power consumption and other aspects of personal computers. If you need to have really high performance, it means that you have to use a large computer, which is usually noisy and which consumes a lot of power. But Albatron seems to have solved the problem at least partly.

The company, which market presence is not really visible these days, has unveiled a mini-ITX mainboard for AM2 form-factor microprocessors based on AMD 690 core-logic at CeBIT 2007 show.

Albatron KI690-AM2 has everything which is needed to make a proper personal computer, even a home theater one. The motherboard is loaded with HDMI, 7.1-channel audio, Gigabit Ethernet and integrated DirectX 9 graphics core (Radeon X700 technology-based). The only concern is that to build a PC on the KI690-AM2, end-users (or system integrators) have to use SO-DIMMs, which were originally designed for notebooks and which are more expensive than typical memory modules. On the other hand, this is one of a few mini-ITX mainboards on the market for AM2 processors and if someone wants to have a relatively high-performance small form-factor PC, more expensive memory is a luxury that he or she is has to afford.

Even though the mainboard can support various AM2 form-factor processors, sizes of mini-ITX computer cases are so small that a chip with maximum 65W thermal design power should be recommended for use along with it. But given that there are AMD Athlon 64 5200+ processors with 65W TDP these days, even performance-hungry users should be satisfied with the PC, which is as large as a box of CDs or DVDs.

DirectX 10 for Free: MSI Displays Nvidia’s DX10 Chipset for Intel Processors

It is known that Nvidia’s executives announced intention to enter the market of chipsets with integrated graphics cores that support processors by Intel Corp. several months ago. But since the market of chipsets for Intel’s chips is the venue for cut-throat fights between different chipset designers, analysts tend to think that the world’s largest developer of discrete graphics processors will tend to announce the low-cost Intel solution at the latest time possible so that not to lower its gross margins. While it is definitely unknown when Nvidia makes the announcement, but the company already seems to have a chipset with DirectX 10 graphics core for Intel’s chips.

MSI’s P6NGM mainboard is the only motherboard on the display at CeBIT based on Nvidia’s nForce chipset for Intel’s processors with DirectX 10 graphics core. Even though the mainboard is supposed to be an affordable one, it still has rather powerful capabilities. It supports forthcoming Intel Core 2 Duo processors with 1333MHz processor system bus, it can be equipped with two 800MHz DDR2 memory modules, it has four Serial ATA connectors, it features a PCI Express x16 slot for graphics cards, it has 7.1 audio and even an HDMI connector.

While the price of the product is unknown, Nvidia’s next-generation DirectX 10 chipset for Intel processors looks so attractive that it can easily pose competition to AMD’s 690 core-logic in terms of multimedia features. Intel’s Core 2 processors in general have higher performance compared to AMD’s Athlon 64 X2 chips and AMD’s 690 chipset still does not support DirectX 10 graphics features and HD video acceleration, something that the customers would like to have these days.

Since MSI’s P6NGM comes in micro-ATX form-factor, it can be used as a base for a home-theater personal computer and given that it is ready for full-HD video playback, it may become one of the greatest options for multimedia enthusiasts.