CeBIT 2007 Coverage: Part X

In this last and final episode of our CeBIT 2007 coverage we have some new hardware to show next to models who were at the manufacturers’ booths during the trade-show. We take a look at Nvidia nForce 680i LT SLI-based mainboard, share some information about dual-chip GeForce 8800 GTS graphics cards, take a look at several stylish computer cases and a new “made to kill” mouse from Razer as well as unveil some more interesting products and technologies.

by Anton Shilov
03/26/2007 | 09:56 PM

Despite of several warning signs, CeBIT 2007 turned out to be quite successful. According to Deutsche Messe, the organizer of the exhibition, the show was visited by 480 thousand of attendees (with 106 thousand coming from abroad), up 10% from 2006, and 6153 exhibitors from 77 different countries.

 

The increase in the number of visitors is remarkable, as the exhibition is focused more and more on business to business model.

But despite of the increase in the number of attendees, there are strong rumours that several large companies, including Asustek Computer, Gigabyte Technology, Samsung Electronics and some others are not going to participate next year. While some say that such rumours have been circulating for years, this year LG Electronics and Nvidia Corp. cancelled their presence and some smaller players also were not at CeBIT.

There are several reasons for cancellations like that: some companies want to meet new business partners, whereas the others want to attract their target audiences. No doubt that some meet new allies and the others can show their products to customers likely to buy them, but one group they all have to face is teenagers looking for freebies, which decreases value of CeBIT for exhibitors. Certainly, the youth should be attracted to the technology, but probably without beer, cigarettes, hot-dogs and inspiring them to cry louder to get a free piece of equipment. The trade show must still be a show, but the show must be done by exhibitors, not raving attendees.

Still, despite of the drawbacks, CeBIT is a lot of fun with a lot of interesting products and technologies and this article should definitely persuade our readers in this.

No Limits in Mind: XFX Displays Nvidia nForce 680i LT SLI

Rushed to the market in November, 2006, the Nvidia nForce 680i SLI became the world’s most expensive desktop chipset ever supporting a plethora of features desired by computer enthusiasts. Questionable stability (which eventually lead Nvidia to disable its LinkBoost technology) and not-so-extreme overclocking potential have reduced the demand towards products based on the core-logic, which made Nvidia to quietly introduce a cut-down version of the chipset that will be sold at discounted price, but will lack certain features.

At the show in Hannover , XFX, a leading supplier of graphics cards and gear for gamers, showcased its mainboard which will retail for something like $199 based on Nvidia nForce 680i LT SLI chipset.

The nForce 680i LT SLI core-logic uses similar components as its more advanced brother: a combination of C55XE and MCP55XE chips, but does not feature third PCI Express x16 slot, 1200MHz memory support and some advanced overclocking capabilities that are not really in demand even by performance enthusiasts.

The feature-set of the Nvidia nForce 680i LT SLI still seems to be fine for a computer enthusiast:

It remains to be seen whether the nForce 680i LT SLI will become popular at $199 price-point, as Nvidia also ships nForce 650i SLI at $130 - $150 and performance between the two should not be significantly different.

Dressed to Kill: Razer Unveils Mouse with Third-Generation IR Sensor

Back in the days the importance of mouse performance for successful gaming was considered as greatly exaggerated, which was actually true: nobody needs a mouse with 2000dpi optical sensor to play Quake III Arena in 800x600 resolution. But nowadays gamers use large screens with 2560x1600 resolution and performance of pointing device clearly affects comfort even in Windows. 

  

In order to satisfy demands of gamers and power users, Razer has unveiled its DeathAdder mouse, which uses the so-called infrared sensor and can boast with 1800dpi sensor resolution as well as improved accuracy thanks to 1000Hz UltraPolling technology and 1ms response time. Razer believes that its new mouse is 2.25 times faster compared to typical 800dpi optical pointing device.

The DeathAdder, just like all the previous-generation mice from Razer, is a wired device with rubber coating and very comfortable form. It remains to be seen whether the DeathAdder is better compared to Logitech’s wireless G7, but one of the things that Razer fans will definitely love is the form of the DeathAdder, which has not evolved much from Copperhead mouse.

Besides keyboards and mice Razer also showcased its Barracuda HP-1 gaming headphones also designed specifically for gamers.

When Enough is Enough: Hiper Unveils 830W PSU

A lot of power supply units (PSUs) manufacturers nowadays tend to create PSUs with unbelievable number of watts: if last year 1000W units were exotic, this year they were all around the show with some companies demonstrating 1100W, 1300W or even 2000W products. But are those monsters really needed by the market?

Maximum power consumption of Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB that we were able to measure is 131.5W, which means that even if someone manages to plug four of such graphics cards into one system, their total power consumption will be 526W. Microprocessors’ thermal design power does not exceed 130W, whereas a mainboard with memory installed should not consume more than 30W. Hard disk drives have power consumption of 10W – 12W, while optical drives need to have about 25W of power to work.

A system with four Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX graphics cards, one high-performance processor, three hard disk drives, two optical drives and a mainboard with 4GB of memory will not consume more than 760W. So, even if a unique system with four GeForce 8 graphics cards does not consume 1000W of power, does it make any sense to create such PSUs now?

Specialists from Hiper believe that the time of 1kW power supply units has not come. According to the company, it makes much more sense to produce high-quality 700W – 800W PSUs rather than to advertise extreme units which are not really needed even by die-hard computer enthusiasts and which require robust cooling (which means they are pretty noisy).

At CeBIT 2007 Hiper unveiled its 830W power supply unit which comes with built-in USB hub as well as a “mobile phone charger socket”.  While it is disputable whether anybody needs additional USB ports and cell phone charger on PSU for a PC, a nice thing about Hiper HPU-5M830 is that it has 8-pin PCI Express connectors for next-generation graphics cards.

Style Comes First: Cooler Master Shows Off Limited Edition Stacker

Cooler Master CM Stacker 830 computer case has been available on the market for many years now and turned out to be pretty popular among computer enthusiasts and high-performance system makers. Given that configuration of the Stacker 830 is more than suitable for today’s high-end machines, Cooler Master started to improve outlook of those boxes to inspire additional interest towards them.

Late in last year Cooler Master already unveiled a green Stacker 830 with Nvidia’s new logotypes on it in a bid to appeal to enthusiasts who were assembling new rigs based on the GeForce 8800 GTX/GTS as well as nForce 680i SLI. This March the maker of computer cases and coolers decided to present a new sky-blue Stacker 830 with some tribal drawings on it.

Representatives for the manufacturer said that the sky-blue Stacker 830 will be available in limited quantities only, so, those who want both unique style and exceptional quality should probably order one as soon as possible.

Flexible Cooling: Thermaltake Displays Flexible Cooler for Notebooks

Cooling devices for notebooks have been around for several years now and some find them pretty useful, as modern processors along with graphics chips dissipate quite a lot of heat. Nevertheless, coolers for notebooks cannot be taken on a trip, as they are quite large and heavy, something, which makes them much less valuable for road warriors. But Thermaltake has invented a new cooling device for notebooks that is easier to carry and that does not use a lot of precious space in a bag.

 

The iXoft thermal pad from Thermaltake uses so-called heat shift technology which consists of phase change material (Sodium Sulfate Decahydrate, Na2SO4.10H2O) that exhibits cold and solid property when not in use then transforms into liquid form when dissipating heat away from the heat source. Upon contact with heat source, such as a computer notebook, iXoft quickly absorbs heat away from the source and accelerates thermal dissipation by distributing heat across all available surfaces on iXoft and into surrounding through natural convection.

  

The iXoft weighs just about 640 gramms and can be folded without any problems. While it will hardly be able to efficiently cool down a desktop replacement mobile computer with high-end central processing and graphics processing units, the iXoft should be enough for taking the heat away from mainstream notebooks.

Besides the iXoft and other cooling solutions, Thermaltake demonstrated several stylish computer cases at CeBIT 2007, emphasizing the importance of eye-catching design for computers these days.

Hot Memories: Memory Corp. Shows Off 150X Secure Digital Cards

Secure Digital memory cards have quickly become very popular among manufacturers of digital cameras and even mobile phones, as with relatively small form-factor such flash cards can hold up to 2GB or even 32GB (SD HC standard) of data. But besides capacity SD cards differ from each other with speed.

Some stores which sell photo accessories downplay the speed of flash memory cards and advertise only capacities, which is not quite fair, as some cameras require high-speed SD cards to record videos smoothly or to make numerous large photos one after another. Besides, downloading several hundreds of 4MB photos from a 66x Secure Digital card may take up a lot of time, as 10MB/s transfer rate is pretty slow.

 

The vast majority of SD cards on the market support 80x or 133x speeds (with 12MB/s and 19.9MB/s read speeds), but it seems that there are faster options too: at CeBIT 2007 Memory Corp. company showcased its 150x Secure Digital cards with 22.5MB/s read speed, which should make downloading of many large files from an SD card even more comfortable

Besides leading performance, Memory Corp. also bundles photo rescue and multimedia management software with its memory cards, which can be pretty useful, as situations with accidental deletion of photos from a memory card are relatively often.

CineWalker: TakeMS Brings Cinema to the Palm Top

Whenever a new digital media player with some interesting features is released, the media immediately calls it “iPod killer”, be it a new player from Microsoft, or a new offering from an unknown Chinese vendor. In the vast majority of cases Apple’s market share remains unaffected by the release of a yet another “killer” device.

Most definitely, CineWalker from takeMS company is not a killer for the iPod, but it may be good substitute for iPod shuffle, as at the same price-point with iPod shuffle it has a colour screen and video support. Even though the CineWalker is not as slim and neat as iPod nano and cannot offer capacities of the full-sized iPod, it may be a nice option to consider by those who want to have a portable media center at a very affordable price-point.

 

The CineWalker from takeMS features 2.5” screen with 320x240 resolution that can display up to 260K colours, 128MB of integrated memory and a slot for Secure Digital memory cards for further expansion. The device can playback music (MP3, WMA, WAV files), view images, playback videos (MP4, ASF files), record voice and even play some basic games (Snake, Tetris). The CineWalker player may be useful for those who do not listen to music all the time, but need a player for infrequent use, for instance, during short-haul air flights (the battery inside will hardly survive a long trip).

Currently CineWalker is available for about ?89, the price-point of Apple iPod shuffle, in some countries in Europe. Given its feature-set, the solution from takeMS may be an interesting alternative for those who do not need a player for everyday use, but would like to have a mobile multimedia center at a low price-point.

Two Is Always Better than One: Galaxy Readies Dual-GeForce 8800 GTS Masterpiece

Originally a maker of affordable graphics cards, Galaxy Technology has been reinventing itself as a manufacturer of high-performance offerings for several years now. At CeBIT 2007 trade-show Galaxy could show off several unique offerings that are not available from other manufacturers and also reveled plans to make dual-GPU GeForce 8800 GTS graphics cards.

Currently Galaxy is the only company who sells PCI Express x1 graphics card based on Nvidia GeForce graphics processor, allowing to upgrade a system with no PCI Express x16 slot available. Even though performance of the GeForce 7300 GT will hardly satisfy a demanding gamer, the graphics board may still be the fastest one for PCIe x1, as options from Matrox Graphics or HIS (Radeon X1300-series) have even slower performance in 3D.

Galaxy is also the only company who ships GeForce 7900 GS graphics card with HDMI connector. Even though any graphics card with DVI may support HDMI using a special adapter, it is still much more convenient to plug a TV or any other device without using additional converters and adapters.

In a bid to offer its customers truly unique products, Galaxy unveiled Masterpiece-series graphics cards last year. The Masterpiece boards are fully developed by the company’s own engineers and are not made according to Nvidia’s reference design. Currently there are three models in the Masterpiece family: dual-GPU GeForce 7600 GT, dual-GPU GeForce 7900 GS and dual-GPU GeForce 7900 GT.

Since Nvidia itself promoted its dual-chip GeForce 7950 GX2 last year, the Masterpiece-series from Galaxy did not become popular, as it had nothing unique to offer and those dual-chip boards could only function with mainboards based on Nvidia nForce4-/5-/6-series chipsets. This year Galaxy wants to unveil dual-GPU GeForce 8800 GTS graphics card and since we have never heard of dual-chip GeForce 8800 GTS solutions from Nvidia, Galaxy may find itself being the producer of the world’s highest-performance graphics card.

Unfortunately, there are no details about dual-GPU GeForce 8800 GTS available at the moment, but representatives for Galaxy claim that the GPUs will retain 320-bit memory bus and will still have 96 unified shader processors. The product is projected to be released by mid-2007.

Total Transfer: Abit Reveals Wireless Audio Device

Once used to be the overclockers’ No.1 brand, Abit now has to try to tap into to market of gamers and consumers to stay in the business, as extreme overclockers tend to use motherboards from Asustek Computer of even DFI.

At the trade fair in Hannover, Abit demonstrated a new consumer oriented product that lets to transfer audio from a computer to any audio equipment device using WLAN. While the idea is hardly a new one, the company thinks that it has the right combination of features and technology, as its AirPace can not only transmit music using Wi-Fi, but can also control the playback process, something that previous-generation devices of this kind lacked.

Abit AirPace requires the company’s PCI Express x1 wireless network controller to be installed in a PC along with special software (shipped with AirPace) that streams music using Wi-Fi networks. End-users then can connect the AirPace to any piece of audio equipment and control the playback using a special remote.

The AirPace allows to playback music collection from a PC on stereo system in a living room, which may be useful for many. However, the price of Abit AirPace and PCIe x1 network controller should be affordable enough, as if end-users have to invest several hundreds of dollars into wireless audio streaming, it may be more reasonable to get a DVD player with MP3 playback and record DVDs with audio files whenever you want to listen to music in the living room.

Frozen: Arctic Cooling Freezer Extreme and Some More

Even though both Advanced Micro Devices and Intel Corp. fight for low power consumption and heat dissipation of their microprocessors, high-performance chips still require rather powerful coolers. Therefore, introduction of new cooling solutions attracts a lot of attention, as all manufacturers tend to make quieter solutions with better specifications.

At CeBIT 2007 Arctic Cooling, the company which is best known for its coolers for graphics cards, unveiled a prototype of Freezer Extreme cooling device for central processing units. The cooler, which is to be available in June, 2007, sports eight heatpipes and over 200 fins, which should allow the device to cool-down even high-end microprocessors with overclocking and with only one 120mm fan, meaning that the solution should be extremely quiet.

In addition to the cooler Arctic Cooling demonstrated a computer case prototype with power supply unit located under the hard disk drive and optical drive bays, which makes the case a little smaller, however, adds additional thermal stress to HDDs.

XXX for the Masses: XFX Demos GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB XXX Edition

Pre-overclocked graphics cards are not totally new to the market: a lot of companies these days need to alter clock-speeds of graphics boards to differentiate themselves from the rivals. It is still a surprise to see a pre-overclocked graphics card that has been on the market for about a month time.

 

XFX, along with some other makers of graphics boards, demonstrated at the trade show in Hannover, Germany its pre-overclocked GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB graphics adapter, which boasts with DirectX 10 support along with boosted performance of the graphics processing engine and memory.

Currently XFX is among a few suppliers of graphics cards that has three versions of the GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB: an ordinary one (GPU: 500MHz, memory: 1600MHz), the Extreme version (GPU: 560MHz, memory: 1700MHz) and the XXX version (GPU: 580MHz, memory: 1800MHz). The XFX GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB has so seriously boosted clock-speeds that it may be the fastest GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB in the world, but it remains to be seen how performance of such solution looks like compared to the GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB and the 8800 GTX 768MB.