CeBIT 2007 Coverage: Part 3

Today we are visiting booths of Corsair to have a look at unique 1111MHz 4GB memory kit and the company’s new flash sticks that are bullet-proof at least, we also check out a water-cooler for ATI R600 graphics card from Thermaltake, meet MSI’s mainboard with Creative X-Fi onboard, take a look at sound cards from Asus as well as glance at the world’s largest televisions with 108” and 205” diagonal size.

by Anton Shilov
03/21/2007 | 05:45 AM

I Need Speed: Corsair Offers 4GB Memory Kit at 1111MHz

It’s not a secret that memory volume of a personal computer (PC) affects end-user’s productivity much more than any other component of the computer, as it is pretty difficult to keep attention on the working process while operating system loads data from HDD most of the time stopping your workflow. But there are situations when performance of memory itself is also critical, for instance, in games.

 

Unfortunately, there is always a trade-off between the volume of memory and its clock-speed, as high-capacity chips as well as large numbers of chips are harder to set up working at a high clock-speed. But Corsair Memory has managed to find a way out and is gearing up to unveil 1111MHz 4GB memory kit that consists of two 2GB memory modules.


System running Corsair two Twin2X2048-8888C4DF memory modules.
Click to enlarge

Despite of pretty high frequency and capacity, the modules can function at 1066MHz with CL4 4-4-12 latency settings at 2.5V (they are labeled as PC2-8888, or 1111MHz, but the company has not provided latency settings for that clock-speed).


Specifications of the system with 4GB of 1066MHz/1111MHz memory.
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The solution still requires active cooling, which adds noise, but the fans for Dominator memory modules are not very loud, so there should hardly be any complains about the noise levels.

Size is Everything: Sharp Shows Off 108” LCD TV, 205” TV Unveiled

When LG Electronics and Panasonic introduced their 103” plasma panels in early 2006 it was more than impressive, as plasma has much better quality compared to projectors and the size of two and a half meters with 1080p resolution would for sure satisfy consumers seeking for extreme sizes and quality. But time goes on and this year Sharp and TecnoVision introduced even larger televisions.

At CeBIT 2007 Sharp Electronics demonstrated its Aquos 108” LCD TV, which is several inches larger compared to Panasonic’s 103” plasma TV available today.


108" Sharp Aquos LCD TV. Click to enlarge

Even though technical specifications of the new television are not officially proclaimed, representatives for Sharp believe that the TV will have even better contrast ratio than plasma screens. Pansonic’s 103” plasma television has contrast ratio of 4000:1, while Sharp’s 52” offering currently features 3000:1 contrast ratio, meaning that at this moment Sharp has a lot of space for improvement. Still, already now image quality of 108” LCD is very sharp and very bright, which may result in the absolutely best TV on the market when it is out.

The ultra-large Aquos is projected to ship towards the middle of the year, however, its pricing, just like specifications, remain unknown. The 108” Aquos TV is aimed at customers seeking for very high-end devices made with no limits in mind, e.g., Arabian sheikhs or other very rich persons.

TecnoVision is a producer of giant LED screens from Italy who installed large screens for the World Cup 2006 in different cities across the globe. It is not a surprise that a company focused on creating huge screens for stadiums can produce a television with 205”, or about five meters, in diagonal.


205" TecnoVision Luxio LED TV. Click to enlarge

The firm is also pretty tight-lipped over specifications of its Luxio-branded 150”, 175” 205”, but the alarming facts are that the company only claims about compatibility with “HD Ready” requirements of EICTA (minimum resolution requirement is 720p, not 1080p) without disclosing the actual maximum resolution and demonstration of the screen using a cartoon (cartoons do not need high resolutions and other superior features of contemporary televisions). No information about pricing or availability was released during the show.

WateR600fall: Thermaltake Displays Water-Block for ATI R600

While some sources close to ATI Technologies back in mid-2006 were sure that the company would demonstrate the whole DirectX 10 lineup at CeBIT 2007, even the high-end water-marked R600-based graphics cards were shown behind the closed doors, whereas the RV610 and RV630 were nowhere to be seen.

So while some companies are demonstrating a new demo with Ruby, the others were able to show an improved cooling system for the product expected to be released this spring.


Thermaltake water-blocks for ATI R600 (above) and Nvidia G80 (below).
Click to enlarge

Thermaltake, the company which has been offering easy-to-use liquid cooling systems for graphics cards running ATI Radeon or Nvidia GeForce graphics chips for nearly two years now, plans to release its TMG AT L.C.S. 4 cooler for the R600 as soon as the appropriate graphics cards hit the market.


Backside of Thermaltake's water-block for ATI/AMD R600.
Click to enlarge

Representatives for the company are tight-lipped about thermal performance of the cooler, the water-block itself does not look much different when compared to L.C.S. 4 for Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX graphics boards, therefore, we can expect that the R600 will have more or less similar power consumption with the G80.

The Last Survivor: Corsair Has Bullet-Proof USB Flash Sticks

Flash memory cards are very useful for transferring data while traveling without a notebook: they are small and they can store a lot of information. But due to their sizes they easily get lost inside bags and can be broken by other things. In an attempt to prevent flash cards from physical influence of other items or inappropriate treatment, Corsair unveiled its Flash Voyager memory sticks in rubber enclosure several years ago and updated the family with Flash Voyager GT, which has higher speed, several weeks ago.

Even though the Flash Voyager is definitely rugged enough to survive in tough circumstances, there are probably situations when even its rubber protection would fail, for instance, in case of usage on a construction site. Specifically for markets that require extreme reliability, Corsair has announced the new Survivor-series flash memory sticks that basically have double metal casing, something which is not usually present on USB sticks. Stainless steel enclosure of Corsair Survivor is so thick that it is very hard to break it, while rubber parts of the casing are supposed to prevent water from getting inside the USB stick.


Corsair Survivor 8GB USB memory stick. Click to enlarge

The capacity of Survivor memory modules is up to 8GB and with this capacity it can function at the same speeds as Flash Voyager GT (read speed up to 34MB/s, write speed up to 28MB/s).

Back to the Future: Asustek Wants Audio Cards to Return

Back in the mid-1990s an audio card was as desired as a high-performance graphics card today, as it enhanced computer experience very significantly. Nowadays the absolute majority of the market uses built-in audio solutions, which are of pretty high quality nowadays, whereas the market of discrete sound cards has been declining for several years now.


Asus Xonar D2 audio card for PCI bus. Click to enlarge

But Asustek Computer, the world’s No.1 producer of mainboards that all have integrated audio capabilities, thinks there is still a market for high-quality sound cards for gamers. At CeBIT the company introduced two new 7.1-channel audio cards: the Xonar D2 (for PCI) and the Xonar D2X (for PCI Express x1), which are based on the chip labelled as “Asus HD audio processing unit AV200”.


Asus Xonar D2X audio card for PCI Express x1 bus. Click to enlarge

Asus promises to support a number of advanced technologies, with its Xonar, including such as Dolby Pro Logic IIx, Dolby Virtual Speaker, Dolby Digital Live, DTS Connect, DTS Interactive, DTS Neo: PC and so on. According to Asustek, the Xonar D2-series will feature impressive 118dB playback and 115dB recording sound to noise ratio, which indicates that the company uses pretty high-quality components with the new audio boards.


Asus Xonar D2 audio card for PCI bus without metal enclosure. Click to enlarge

Since Asustek does not design audio processors, it is pretty logical to assume that the company purchases its 192KHz/24-bit audio chips from third-party developer, such as Analog Devices, C-Media, Via Technologies and so on. The chip on the Xonar D2 is marked as ML86G.06 0651-GS, while the one used by Razer’s Barracuda AC-1 audio card is marked as ML86G.02, which means that the actual chips (based on the specs, it may be C-Media Oxygen HD CMI8788 or something from Analog Devices/SoundMax [which is doubtful, as SoundMax supports Sensaura3D a technology not declared by Asus]) used on both audio card come from the same developer.

Asus wants to compete against Creative Technology’s X-Fi offerings with its Xonar D2-series. However, given that Creative X-Fi will soon be available as an integrated audio chip on mainboards (see our next section for details), while the market of discrete sound cards is continuing to shrink, market prospects of new standalone boards from Asus, Razer and others are uncertain. Clearly, some customers will get them, but reaching the mainstream market may be tricky.

It should be kept in mind that to experience a modern high-end audio card, end-users need to have advanced speaker systems as well, which are not really affordable. Given that a proper audio card costs $200 and a quality speaker system is priced at $300+, a more or less sophisticated PC sound system ends up at over $500+, a price-point for a high-end graphics card that increases experience much better than audio.

The Victim of Integration: MSI Installs Creative X-Fi onto a Mainboard

While Asustek is trying to enter the market of discrete audio cards, MicroStar International is far more pragmatic and its way to enable high-quality audio is to integrate Creative Technology’s X-Fi onto its high-end motherboards. During the CeBIT 2007 show the company demonstrated one of such offerings: MSI P6N Diamond.

The P6N Diamond mainboard itself is a very advanced offering based on Nvidia nForce 680i core-logic (a combination of C55XE and MCP55XE chips). Unlike most mainboards powered by Nvidia’s flagship chipset for Intel Core 2 Duo/Quad processors, the P6N Diamond has four PCI Express x16 slots, allowing to install up to four graphics cards. Besides, MSI declares support for processors with 1333MHz processor system bus, dual-channel 1200MHz DDR2 memory, eSATA (unfortunately, the port is located on the backside of the mainboard, which is not really convenient), a discrete Serial ATA controller with RAID capabilities, an array of its own Core Cell technologies and so on.


MSI P6N Diamond mainboard. Click to enlarge

The Creative X-Fi Extreme Audio chip onboard does not support the latest EAX 5.0 (since only audio cards with dedicated memory buffer do), but features 24-Bit/96kHz 7.1-channel audio, DTS Surround and Dolby Digital EX. Clearly, the Extreme Audio is aimed at multimedia rather than gaming, but since a lot of people know how advanced the top-of-the-range Creative X-Fi audio cards are, MSI P6N Diamond will receive a lot of attention.

Due to availability of features which are not needed by the vast majority of end-users (two GbE controllers, four PCI Express x16 slots, discrete Serial ATA controller, etc.), the P6N Diamond will hardly become extremely widespread and popular. However, as all the other high-end mainboards, it shows some interesting technologies that may be found on motherboards for the mass market.

The good thing is that Creative Technology decided to allow mainboard makers to install X-Fi chips onto platforms. It would be even better if Creative sold more advanced, EAX 5.0-supporting, X-Fi chips to mainboard makers, as they provide better gaming experience and would have popularized usage of sophisticated EAX 5.0 audio effects by game developers due to broad installed base.