CeBIT 2008 Coverage: Part X

In our final article dedicated to CeBIT 2008 we take a look at unique “Turbo” notebooks from MSI; check out OCZ’s Neural Impulse Actuator; examine various cooling systems and power supply units along with gear for gamers made by different companies and also inspect graphics cards with voltage increase capability. Traditionally, we’ve got beauties from the booths standing next to hardware beauties in this article.

by Anton Shilov
03/15/2008 | 05:33 PM

This year CeBIT changed its format a little bit: instead of focusing on personal technology and consumers, this year’s show was provided much more opportunities for business-to-business services and companies. Moreover, Deutsche Messe shrunk the duration of the show to six days and ensured that the first four days of the show are business days, which means that the pavilions were not crowded by consumers, unlike in previous years.

 

Rumours about intentions of certain large companies – such as Asustek Computer, Gigabyte Technology and Samsung Electronics – not to attend the show also proved to be incorrect. Nonetheless, the number of exhibitors actually decreased: last year there were 6153 exhibitors from 77 different countries, whereas this year 5845 exhibitors from 77 countries showed up at the world’s largest computer trade fair.

Thanks to format change and some other factors, attendance was up 3% over the previous year, totaling 495 thousand with over 100 thousand coming from abroad.

But apart from the crowds of youngsters looking for freebies, there are more challenges that not only CeBIT, but all the other trade-shows too have to face. In the extremely competitive market environment many companies tend to unveil new products at the time they can physically release them, not at large exhibitions. As a consequence, trade fairs are no longer new technology Meccas for technology enthusiasts, which reduces their media coverage and interest among technology companies.

The Magic of Turbo: MSI Shows Off Turbo-Charged Notebooks

Have you ever wanted to have a notebook that would have a long battery time, but would also deliver exceptional performance when plugged to a power outlet? Well, MicroStar International has something to offer: its GX600-08 laptop with Turbo button fulfills both demands.

When MSI GX600-08 is operating on Turbo Battery Mode, the MSI Turbo Battery Technology will automatically lower microprocessor’s clock-speed and power consumption, stop or lower speed of devices that are not used (based on application activity). Besides, the system will halt electricity supply to various peripheral ports. As a result, MSI claims, end-user gets longer battery life.

   

When MSI GX600-08 is in AC Mode, pressing the “Turbo” buttonm above the keyboard enables MSI’s exclusive Turbo Drive Engine technology that simultaneously increases the clock-speed of the CPU by 20% and speeds up processor system bus as well to achieve higher performance.

MicroStar International GX600-08 laptops are based on mobile Intel Core 2 Duo microprocessors and Intel PM965 core-logic set. Actual specification may vary, but the best configuration includes 15.4” screen with 1680x1050 resolution, 320GB hard disk drive, 4GB of DDR2 memory, Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT graphics adapter with 512MB memory, DVD/HD DVD optical drive and so on. The laptops feature Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium operating system.

Notebooks by Taiwan-based makers have never been popular among consumers due to various reasons, among which is the lack of advertising. But with interesting capabilities like performance enhancements or battery time increase, many end-users may pay their attention to laptops by MSI.

Basic Instincts: Neural Impulse Actuator in Action

After becoming a public company OCZ Technology has been growing really rapidly. This year the company’s exposition at CeBIT was not focused on memory modules, but a wide product array was demonstrated. After the IPO, OCZ truly became a technology, not just a memory company.

OCZ Technology Group showed off latest power supply units by PC Power and Cooling, Hypersonic Aviator notebooks, OCZ flash and random access memory products, cooling solutions and gaming gear. The most impressive demo was, of course, NIA, or Neural Impulse Actuator.

In fact, OCZ demonstrated NIA for the first time at CeBIT 2007 promising to start shipments of the device as early as in late 2007. Unfortunately, the company has not succeeded in finalizing the device last year and Neural Impulse Actuator reached mass production only a few days ago. But the delay was reasonable: the NIA has evolved dramatically.

 

The NIA is not a replacement for a mouse but rather a pioneering new peripheral designed to provide an immersive experience for gamers. The NIA is the first commercially available BCI (brain-computer interface) specifically for PC gamers.

The commands are easily assigned with the NIA’s user-friendly software and are calibrated based on the individual’s physiology and personal preferences. Each of the Actuator’s signals can be assigned to a specific keystroke on the keyboard or a mouse button; consequentially, gamers can run, jump, and fire faster all without “lifting a finger.” Because the NIA converts EEG (electroencephalograph) signals into specified keystrokes, the device can be used with any software. Upon proper configuration, the NIA will allow users to control PC games without the use of a keyboard and minimal use of a mouse.

The final version of the NIA uses a sleek, metal housing, a USB 2.0 interface, a streamlined headband with carbon interface sensors, and user-friendly software. Unfortunately, exact pricing of NIA is not known.

Cooler Master Presents New Computer Cases, Coolers, PSUs…

  

Cooler Master is very well known among enthusiasts for its high-quality computer cases, coolers, power supply units and so on. No need to say that the company had a lot of new products to show at CeBIT 2008 and also reveal unique computer cases by CSX, a division of Cooler Master that mods its chassis.

 

One of the definite highlights that Cooler Master brought to the show was the company’s new Cosmos S computer case featuring a new racing design, a touch-sensitive panel, and a gamut of user-friendly features. The new computer chassis are extremely mod-friendly, which CSX showed at CeBIT 2008 by demonstrating numerous modified Cosmos S boxes.

  

Modded computer cases by Cooler Master are available today from CSX at the price of about $1000 per box in the USA.

 

 Additionally, Cooler Master presented numerous new cooling systems along with power supply units.

Due to obvious reasons, it is nearly impossible for companies to differentiate themselves when it comes to PSUs, however, nearly all manufacturers try to present the most efficient CPU coolers, an intention that is reflected with designs of modern cooling solutions, which can resemble everything, but not a traditional cooler.

My Baby Shot Me Down: Razer Demos 4000dpi Mouse

Razer, a leading designer of gaming gear such as mice and keyboards, has unleashed its new Lachesis mouse that sports unprecedented precision of laser sensor. The question is whether anybody actually needs this kind of precision.

Razer Lachesis mouse sports 4000dpi (dots per inch) third-generation laser sensor with 1ms response time and 1000Hz polling (in fact, USB only supports 125Hz polling). Additional features include 32KB of onboard memory to store gaming profiles, on-the-fly sensitivity adjustment and so on.

 

While 4000dpi is truly impressive resolution, the actual factors that influence accuracy of in-game actions are performance of graphics sub-system as well as central processing units. Without smooth framerate, no mouse can improve shooting precision of a gamer. Moreover, 1000Hz polling is higher than the polling of USB bus, which means that the figure has little to do with practice…

Razer Lachesis costs about $80, which is not a low price for a mouse, but for that amount of money gamers receive a mouse with truly comfortable shape and made using high-quality materials.

In addition to its mice, Razer also demonstrated its mouse pads as well as keyboards, all designed specifically for gamers.

Be Quiet!: And Play Loud with Revoltec!

 Be Quiet! and Revoltec brands have been around for several years now, but not a lot of end-users, apart from gamers and computer enthusiasts, know these two names. But in fact the two companies offer pretty wide array of different products.

 

Be Quiet! is focused on development and marketing of high-quality computer power supply units (PSUs). There are two product lineups that the company offers: Straight Power (350W – 700W) and Dark Power Pro (450W – 1000W) that are aimed at slightly different market segments.

 

The ultimate goal of Be Quiet! power supplies is to remain quiet even under high load. In order to achieve that, all the PSUs feature thermal monitoring and come with reduced fan speed. Even though low speed of fans may mean lower life expectancy, Be Quiet provides three-year limited warranty, which should be enough for the vast majority of customers, especially in certain European counties, where nobody has heard of lifetime warranties.

 

Revoltec is concentrated on delivery of various equipment for gamers and its product lineup is quite impressive: the company provides keyboards, mice, computer cases, cooling devices and even storage solutions!

 

At CeBIT 2008 Revoltec demonstrated many members of its product family, all of which featured something rarely available on competing devices. For example, Revoltec Fightboard keyboard comes with special keys that can replace conventional W, A, S, D, Q, E keys; precision of Revoltec Fightmouse can be adjusted in real time, whereas the firm’s Fightpad allows very fast access to the most important game control elements.

  

To put a long story short, Be Quiet! and Revoltec tend to offer one-stop source for all the needs of a gamer.

Little More: Enermax Presents 82 Plus Power Supply Units

Power supply units (PSUs) with higher than 80% (80 Plus) efficiency are widely available today and can hardly be considered as a breakthrough. Enermax, a well-know maker of PSUs, computer cases, fans and other devices, at CeBIT introduces two new lineups of PSUs – Modu 82+ (425W, 525W, and 625W) and Pro 82+ (385W, 425W, 525W, 625W) – with higher than 82% efficiency. In addition, the company presented some other impressive products.

Efficiency is a key factor in modern systems. Programs as “80 Plus” are focused on improving the efficiency of a computer’s power consumption. Today’s average desktop PC wastes over half of the power delivered to it, and the wasted electricity unnecessarily increases the cost to power computers as well as the emissions of greenhouse gases. 

Enemax claims that its new PSUs are setting a new benchmarks for the PC PSU industry by being the first to reaching 82-88% efficiency at 20%, 50%, or 100% load in the desktop class.

 

These new series are also some of the quietest units in the world thanks to two new patented technologies: SpeedGuard and AirGuard. SpeedGuard allows the PSU fan to operate only at 400rpm to 500rpm when the power supplies are under 50% load. It lowers the total noise profile by up to nearly undistinguishable 5dBA in low loads. AirGuard is a mechanical design, which bends the housing around the air-inlet to the fan and it helps to reduce the total noise level by up to 2dBA.

Besides being one of the first that comply with Intel’s ATX12V v2.3 standards, Modu 82+ and Pro 82+ offer the strongest +12V rails in their class, according to the maker. Both series are rated at 40°C with triple +12V rails that can provide up to 25A on each. In addition, the Modu 82+ series comes with 12-pin modular sockets that present endless combinations and possibilities for future CPU and graphic connector needs.

One of the things that attracted our attention at Enermax’s booth was a 4-way ATI CrossFireX system running without any issues using an Enermax Modu 82+ 625W (EMD625AWT) PSU.

Besides, Enermax demonstrated its latest keyboards and computer cases at the show. 

Cool All Your Life: Thermaltake Displays New Cases, Coolers

Apart from unveiling its rather extreme Freon-based cooling system, Thermaltake also demonstrated its latest air coolers, power supply units as well as computer cases at CeBIT 2008.

 

 

Among the highlights of Thermaltake’s exposition definitely were Xaser II and Armor MX computer cases, both of which are ready for installation of liquid-based cooling systems and large side fans, which is a clear indicator that Thermaltake expects microprocessors and graphics cards to become even more hot and power-hungry despite of declaration regarding energy efficiency and green computing.

Another pointer which indicates that Thermaltake has no illusions about decrease of enthusiast PC power consumption is demonstration of a 2000W power supply unit that powered two separate systems with no issues. Obviously, even 1000W is overkill for virtually all personal computers available, but some hardcore enthusiasts may demand something like 2kW just in order to be able to boast with such a device among friends…

For more pragmatic and traditional end-users, Thermaltake demonstrated advanced air cooling systems for microprocessors and graphics cards. Given that large heatsinks and fans can cool down even the hottest components without any problems, many of potential buyers may get interested in the latest products by Thermaltake. 

With Laser Precision: Roccat Enters the Scene

Roccat Studios is a new name on the market of gear for gamers and little is known about the company itself. But that is no surprising: the company has three products to offer and none of them is available on the market right now.

 

What we do know about the Roccat (which seems to be shy to post actual information about itself onto its web-site) from its spokesperson is that the company was founded by people who used to work for different companies which also make devices for gamers. Therefore, the concept “for gamers by gamers” seems to be employed here as well.

At CeBIT 2008 Roccat revealed three of its products due to be available shortly: Kone mouse, Valo keyboard and Semse mousepad. All the products are tailored for speficically for gamers and video games, therefore, office users will hardly find Roccat devices relevant for themselves. But when it comes to gaming, Roccat’s products do impress in one or another way.

Roccat Kone gaming mouse boasts with 3000dpi resolution, 1ms response time, 1000Hz polling rate combined with ability to store macros inside the mouse itself thanks to built-in 96KB memory as well as 80486-class microprocessor inside (which Roccat calls Turbocore 40MHz).

Roccat Valo keyboard also comes with built-in 2MB memory to store macros, but that is not the only feature of the device. The Valo features integrated audio core, a LED screen as well as backlight for easy use in dark environments. With many additional keys for macros and other needs, this keyboard should suit gamers truly well.

 

The company promises that its Kone mouse will emerge on the market in April 2008, but makes no comments about the availability timeframes of the Valo keyboard. Pricing of the products was also not announced.

"Lost" is Found: Zotac Set to Bundle “Lost” Video Game with Graphics Cards

Zotac is definitely a new name in the world of graphics cards, however, the company itself is definitely not formed by novices, but by industry professionals. In fact, Zotac is a part of PC Partner Group and the brand-name under which Nvidia GeForce-based graphics cards are sold.

Being a new name, Zotac has to work hard in order to promote its brand-name and establish loyal customer base, something that is not easy considering present market conditions.

In an attempt to attract attention to its products, Zotac announced at CeBIT 2008 that many of its graphics cards will come with a free copy of Lost video game released by Ubisoft early in March 2008.

After trying the Lost video game we cannot say that it has impressive graphics effects or is very interesting to play. In fact, watching the TV show in high-definition is considerably more impressive than playing Ubisoft’s title. Nevertheless, the bundled Lost video game will inevitable attract attention of the masses to Zotac brand, which is exactly what the company needs. 

Legalize!: Galaxy Legalizes Hardware Voltmodding of Graphics Cards

It is not a secret that increasing voltage on any chips harms their life expectance. Still, it is known that developers of graphics processing units’ sell their chips allowing their customers to overclock them and increase their voltage by a certain degree nowadays. Hence, some suppliers of graphics cards take advantage of it. 

X-bit labs has already reported about Gigabyte’s graphics cards that can boost voltage of onboard GPUs using specially developed software. But Galaxy Technology made one step further: it now offers graphics cards with a special jumper that switches GPU power supply voltage.

At this time Galaxy can offer a relatively narrow lineup of graphics cards with built-in voltmodding capability, but it is highly likely that the number of such products will grow eventually, as the company shows definite intention to address the market of hardware enthusiasts.

Right now Galaxy offers to increase GPU voltage supply from 1.25V to 1.5V on its Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT-based graphics cards in order to boost their clock-speeds without problems eventually, but later on the company may offer other graphics solutions with hardware voltmodding capability.

 

Besides, Galaxy demonstrated its mainboards at CeBIT 2008 and also said that it hardly sells any Nvidia GeForce reference design graphics cards, but has competence to develop its own designs, a rare capability and willingness in today’s graphics business.

XFX Begins Selling Additional Accessories for Graphics Cards

XFX, a brand of Pine Technologies, did not have high-profile presence at this CeBIT show, unlike in previous years, but it did demonstrate some interesting products that may even be considered as unique.

Many end-users and reviewers have been complaining about the lack of certain cables and converters inside graphics cards’ boxes. In case there is no cable bundled, consumers need to go to a store and acquire one, which is hardly comfortable. Moreover, some of the cables may not be available, which means that not all capabilities of a graphics adapter can be utilized at all.

XFX has found a very logical solution: the company plans to start selling special kits with necessary converters and cables for those, who need them. Such kits should be available from the same source as graphics cards, which should ensure they are easy to get.

In fact, it is somewhat regrettable that the company which sells its graphics cards at a premium price since they operate at clock-speeds higher than normal cannot supply enough cables and converters with the product itself, but plans to sell additional accessories separately.

Obviously, XFX continues to bring Nvidia GeForce- and Nvidia nForce-based products onto the market. At CeBIT 2008 the company showcased its GeForce 9600 GT along with nForce 780i SLI. 

4x48: MSI Demonstrates Intel X48 Mainboard with Four Slots for Graphics Cards

MicroStar International showcased the world’s first and only Intel X48-based mainboard with four PCI Express x16 slots for graphics cards. In addition, the company demonstrated DDR2-supporting Intel X48-based platform, also a rather unique solution.

Intel X48, as well as Intel P45, are definitely among the most highly-anticipated platforms of a lot of users due to numerous reasons:

- These are the last and final high-end platforms for Intel Netburst and Intel Core 2 microprocessors.
- These chipsets provide virtually the highest performance when combined with existing chips.
- Intel P45 and X48 support PCI Express 2.0.
- Intel P45 and X48 support high-speed processor system bus as well as DDR2/DDR3 memory. 

Unfortunately, there is no upgrade path for Intel’s P45 and X48, but this means that the platforms will be supported for a long time, moreover, performance of Intel Core 2 Duo, Quad and Extreme microprocessors should be enough for loads of users for many years to come.

For enthusiasts, Intel X48 will be a short-living product as some rumours point to Intel Bloomfield availability in Q3 2008, which means a brand new platform. But those enthusiasts who want to be kings of the hill will hardly care about it and will switch from Asus Pinot Noir or MSI X48 Platinum to newer mainboards quickly and without any questions asked.

 

MSI’s X48 Platinum is currently the only ATX-standard mainboard that features four PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots onboard. Unfortunately, only graphics cards with single-slot cooling system may be installed into a system featuring MSI X48 Platinum, which means that hardly any overclocking will be possible. Nevertheless, considering the fact that there are dual-chip graphics cards – ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 and Nvidia GeForce 9800 GX2 – available, hardly a lot of people need four PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots. Nevertheless, it is better to have four slots rather than not: certain future hardware may require PCIe 2.0 x16 slot for operation and if there are already three graphics boards in the system, the lack of the fourth PCIe x16 will cause a problem.