by Anton Shilov
03/11/2008 | 06:00 PM
Mobile personal computers, which were used only by road warriors just about a decade ago, have reached the mass market by now and many end-users demand trendy and stylish notebooks to attract attention. You can put on Swarovski crystals or even diamonds, but you will not become unique, or you can create enclosures made of bamboo and create truly unique solutions.
Asustek computer presented a lineup of concept bamboo notebooks as well as a desktop PC and monitor at CeBIT 2008. The devices do catch eye and may once find themselves produced in mass quantities, if there is interest among consumers. Among the devices showcases, besides purely concept bamboo notebook, were S6 and U6 laptops, LS201 display as well as Essentio 5110 small form-factor desktop, all of which are available in plastic right now.
Asustek U6 notebook with bamboo cover
Several Asian cultures, including that of the Andaman Islands, believe that humanity emerged from a bamboo stem. In the Philippine creation myth, legend tells that the first man and the first woman each emerged from split bamboo stems on an island created after the battle of the elemental forces (Sky and Ocean). In the Chinese culture, this unique character symbolizes a serene wisdom that takes the soul through a journey of aesthetic realms. In Malaysian legends a similar story includes a man who dreams of a beautiful woman while sleeping under a bamboo plant; he wakes up and breaks the bamboo stem, discovering the woman inside. The Japanese folktale “Tale of the Bamboo Cutter” (Taketori Monogatari) tells of a princess from the Moon emerging from a shining bamboo section. Hawaiian bamboo (‘ohe) is a “kinolau” or body form of the Polynesian creator god Kāne Milohai.
Asustek Essentio 5110 in bamboo computer case
In nature, bamboo carries a touch of spiritual warmth with its unique tactile surface and its refreshing fragrance. Touching Asustek’s bamboo devices does feel good, but it is not completely clear how bamboo will look if the notebook is actively used for a long time: scratches created when the laptop in the bag may not be critical, but scratches created with clasp of watch may look rather unpleasantly.
Besides demonstrating its latest memory modules, OCZ Technology also showcased notebooks sold under Hypersonic brand-name at CeBIT 2008. Certain notebooks caught our attention not only because of trendy design, but primarily because of their potential performance: with the help of four processing engines and two graphics cores new Hypersonic notebooks are probably among the fastest in the industry.
Hypersonic Aviator EQ7-series laptops
One of the machines that attracts a lot of attention is Hypersonic Aviator EQ7-U1 laptop, which features Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 processor, two Nvidia GeForce 8700M GT 512MB graphics processing units, 4GB dual-channel DDR2 PC2-6400 (800MHz) memory, two 250GB hard drives, 17” screen with 1920x1200 resolution as well as other necessary devices and ports.
Another interesting product is Hypersonic EQ7 notebook, which sports Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 microprocessor, two Nvidia GeForce 8800M GTX 512MB graphics processing units, 4GB dual-channel DDR2 PC2-6400 (800MHz) memory, two 250GB hard drives, 17” screen with 1920x1200 resolution as well as other necessary devices and ports.
Hypersonic Aviator EQ7 laptop
Both Hypersonic Aviator laptops are using similar chassis, which means that components of one could easily suit another, which means that the manufacturer can build a machine with a quad-core processor, two GeForce 8800M GTX graphics processors, an SSD and a large hard disk drive, if a customer demands one. Pricing of such notebook is likely to be excessive, but that is how much desktop performance in backpack costs.
The wide lineup of Asustek Computer’s mainboards designed for gamers and performance enthusiasts clearly shows that such customers do like products from this maker and gladly buy its motherboards. At this year’s CeBIT the company demonstrated its Pinot Noir motherboard that is likely to become one of the top-of-the-range solutions in the Republic of Gamers family.
Asus Pinot Noir is currently a prototype mainboard belonging to ROG series and due out in the next few months. The mainboard supports various Intel Core 2 microprocessors with up to 1600MHz processor system bus, DDR3 memory as well as all the latest interfaces, such as PCI Express 2.0, Serial ATA-300 and so on. Asus Pinot Noir is based on Intel X48 core-logic, but unlike the rest motherboards featuring this chipset it has three PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots for graphics adapters.
The forthcoming Asus Pinot Noir mainboard has liquid-based cooling solution for core-logic and microprocessor voltage regulator module (CPU) with 8-phase pulse-width modulation. Logically, the motherboard itself is completely black, whereas the cooling system is painted with red.
Asus Pinot Noir mainboard
Given the sizes of onboard cooling systems, certain high-end air-based microprocessor coolers may face compatibility issues with the mainboard. But either Asus engineers imply that liquid-based cooling system for central processing units (CPUs) is a must on Pinot Noir mainboard, or the company plans to recommend certain coolers for installation on its premium solution.
One of the unique features Asus Pinot Noir has is golden capacitor onboard. The capacitor can store enough energy to continue rotating cooling fans after the system was turned off in order to eliminate possible issues caused by overheating.
Golden capacitor on Asus Pinot Noir mainboard
Pricing of Asus Pinot Noir is unknown at present, but it is unlikely to be even in the range of $250, considering nearly completely different design compared to Rampage Formula, another advanced Intel X48-based product by Asustek, as well as plethora of advanced features.
Scythe, a leading maker of various cooling systems, has demonstrated its forthcoming products and solutions at CeBIT 2008. Among the highlights, there are new cooling systems, but there are some products that one could hardly expect from Scythe.
Scythe Ninja 2 cooler for microprocessors
When it comes to coolers, size matters as much as technology, materials and shape: small coolers can hardly be efficient without speedy fan, which causes noise and if we are talking about passive cooling of a CPU with 100W thermal design power, then the size is very important. Scythe demonstrated two monster size cooling systems for various central processing units: Ninja 2 as well as Orochi, both sport uncountable number of heatpipes as well as loads of aluminum fins. Neither of the cooling systems is very heavy.
Scythe Orochi cooler for microprocessors
Scythe Ninja 2 and Scythe Orochi are projected to emerge on the market sometime in mid-2008; the former will cost about the same amount of money as the Ninja coolers available now, pricing of the latter is unknown.
Scythe Kama Bay AMP amplifier for 3.5" bay
Apart from cooling systems for CPUs and graphics cards, Scythe also showcased amplifiers for 3.5” bay as well as a power supply unit (PSU) that it will also sell later this year. The first PSU from Scythe will be just a normal 1000W power supply, hardly considerably different compared to competitors on the market. Nevertheless, going forward the company may present something truly unexpected.
Scythe 1000W power supply unit
This year Foxconn is chasing Asustek on the market of mainboards for enthusiasts by offering truly unique solutions for those, who demand incomparable performance. Besides its Quantum Force F1 solution, the company also unveiled BlackOps, Dreadnought and Destroyer mainboards with very interesting features.
Foxconn BlackOps mainboard
All three Quantum Force mainboards by Foxconn are intended for extreme enthusiasts and feature 4-in-1 Quantum Cooler for memory controller hub/north bridge of the chipset as well as CPU VRM that supports several ways of cooling down the MCH/NB: passive air-cooling, active air cooling, liquid-cooling or liquid nitrogen/dry ice cooling. Foxconn bundles all the accessories required for the aforementioned ways of cooling, including extension tower for LN2 and dry ice, which is rather unbelievable.
Foxconn Destroyer mainboard
Apart from 4-in-1 Quantum Cooler, the mainboards feature Quantum BIOS, which allows to precisely tune all the aspects of operation, which promises to achieve unprecedented overclocking results. Like all modern high-end motherboards, the new Quantum Force platforms sport 8-phase PWM.
Foxconn Dreadnought mainboard
Foxconn Quatum Force BlackOps is based on Intel X48, the Dreadnought is powered by Nvidia nForce 790i Ultra SLI, Destroyer for AMD processors uses Nvidia nForce 790a SLI core-logic.
Prices and availability timeframes for the new mainboards remain under wraps.
For years makers of personal computer hardware have being trying to enter the market of consumer electronics. To some degree they have succeeded in that: the very first HD DVD players from Toshiba were based on Intel Pentium 4 microprocessors and chipsets. However, in general consumer electronics is still made by companies like Samsung, Sony or Sharp, but not by Asustek Computer or Shuttle.
Microstar International unveiled its Diva home theater personal computer (HTPC) at CeBIT 2008 that not only features HDMI output with HDCP and high-definition capable graphics core, but also comes with audio amplifier built in. Moreover, Omaura, a consumer electronics supplier from the USA, already uses MSI’s MS-7411 mainboard to power its latest Blu-ray disc HTPC called Omaura TF.
MSI Diva HTPC
MSI’s Diva is based on mobile AMD 780G and SB700 core-logic and supports AMD Athlon 64/Athlon 64 X2 or AMD Sempron microprocessors. The system features ATI Radeon HD 3400-series DirectX 10.1 compliant integrated graphics core that supports universal video decoder for H.264 or VC1 1080p video, features 4 DIMM slots for DDR2 memory, 3 PCI x1 slots for add-in cards, one PCI Express 2.0 for graphics card as well as a PCI Express 2.0 x4 slot that is occupied by DAE-3 amplifier from D2 Audio. The Diva chassis support digital and analogue video and audio outputs, but come without any optical drive by default: the actual reseller may either install DVD drive, Blu-ray disc drive or universal Blu-ray/HD DVD optical disc drive.
The manufacturer uses MS-6465 mainboard inside Diva, hence, it is not exactly the same as Omaura TF, however, both motherboards have much in common.
MSI did not demonstrate remote control for Diva and if it is absent from the package, it will take some time to find one that has drivers for Microsoft Windows Vista. In addition, MSI did not disclose whether it plans to bundle high-definition video player software, something which is absolutely necessary to watch BD/HD DVD movies, with its HTPC device.
MSI Diva HTPC with MSI 6465 mainboard
In fact, this is a good time for computer hardware companies to enter the market with more audio/video-centric devices: the vast majority of Blu-ray disc players are very slow for interactive BD-J-based features, as a result, Sony PlayStation 3 and personal computers are effectively the best players for Blu-ray movies. Unfortunately, neither of hardware companies have channels to sell consumer electronics products. This is changing, as CE stores start to sell notebooks from Asus or MSI, but it is definitely a very slow process.