Computex 2005 Coverage. Part I

I am reporting about the most interesting products and technologies demonstrated at Computex Taipei. Fresh news from the show floor, funny incidents, new names in the hardware industry and more in a series of article I am going to be offering you these days.

by Anna Filatova
06/01/2005 | 05:59 PM

 

Computex 2005 has started. Busy as always, crowded as always, and as always full of expectations. This year, Computex is celebrating its 25th anniversary. I believe that the opening ceremony was very colorful and festive. The moment I realized it is the anniversary date, I was sorry I missed it. Anyway, the show started, so, welcome to the latest and greatest news from Computex Tapei 2005.

DDR2 Memory Taking Off?

DDR2 SDRAM has been out there in the market for quite a while now. However, as we have seen it hasn’t really taken off yet. The volume for DDR2 DIMM modules is not there yet, although some memory manufacturers have already noticed the positive change in this segment. OCZ Technologies, claims that they experience a pretty noticeable growth in the sales volumes for DDR2 memory modules. If they used to sell no modules at all I the past quarter, then these months, the DDR2 sales are approaching 5-7% of their overall sales volume, which is quite an achievement I should say. Ryan Petersen from OCZ sounded very excited about the growing DDR2 memory module sales anticipating that by the end of the year, this memory type will really take off.

Kingston, doesn’t rush with rolling out huge volumes of DDR2 memory modules into the market. They claim that they do not see enough demand for DDR2 in the market yet to concentrate their effort on this memory type. Right now DDR400 is still of the biggest interest to Kingston customers, that is why the company continues focusing on shipping DDR400 SDRAM. Besides, Kingston calls themselves “a conservative company” as far as adoption of new technologies is concerned. While all other competitors are moving their new products to the market quite rapidly, Kingston takes its time to do all the testing of the product they are planning to supply. Absolute quality guarantees have always been the top priority issue for the company, so no wonder Kinston is still working on some testing of the new DDR2 modules.

Besides the extensive testing of the memory modules, Kingston also pays special attention to the selection of components for their products. The company uses only brand name memory chips from such big names as Elpida, Samsung, Infineon, and for the Asian market they also use Hynix memory chips. All the products – mobile, desktop or server – have life-time warranty and feature specific marking distinguishing Kingston’s generic memory (KVR letters in the beginning of the product marking) from the products customized for Kingston’s partners (these modules have their own unique part numbers).

Memory Products: More than Just DIMMs

Besides the DIMM modules, a lot of attention of the memory manufacturers now goes to the flash memory solutions. You may have already read in our News that OCZ is going to start offering Flash products any time soon, Flash memory has become a significant part of business for Transcend, PQI, Kingtston and other manufacturers. And there were quite a few interesting products demonstrated at the show that I would like to draw your attention to.

First of all, Kingston is now offering an “unbreakable” USB 2.0 flash drive with hardware password protection.

It means that if you take the flash IC from the drive, it will not work in another drive. Every flash IC is encrypted, which ensures the safety of the data. Besides, Kingston addressed one of the major issues with the USB flash drives: the issues with low MTBF resulting with the frequent plugging-in and pulling-out of the device. They improved the connector reliability and are offering 5-year warranty of these products. Well, keeping in mind that my USB flash drives die almost every 3-4 months for this particular reason, maybe I should think of getting myself a Kingston one :)

Another big market which is hungry for new flash memory solutions is the ever growing handhelds and portables market, including cell-phones, of course. We have already pointed out in our previous reports from CES, E3 and CeBIT that this market is picking up really quickly, and that almost all manufacturers and developers pay special attention to it now that the niches haven’t all been taken yet. Kingston was showing a few interesting solutions there too.

In particular, they claim that they are currently offering the fastest Ultimate SD card working at x133 speed (23MB/s read rate and 20MB/s write rate), which is topping their SD card family including the regular SD cards and more advanced Elite Pro SD cards working at x50 speed. In fact, it looks like the read speed record is going to be broken any time now, as from what I hear OCZ Technology is going to roll out a products offering 25MB/s data read rate.

Another product developed for the needs of the cell phone makers is the Kingston MMC card with the dual-voltage support. This MultiMediaCardmobile card is designed specifically for Nokia cell phones and supports operational voltages of 1.8V and 3.3V.

Some news also comes from the Compact Flash cards market. The high-capacity CF solutions have always been demanded by professional photographers, but now it looks like the European Union found one more useful application for them. The European GPS navigation systems use CF cards to store dedicated maps for different countries. This is one of the fields where Kingston targets its 4GB solutions now.

Zalman Challenges Internal Water Cooling Systems with a New Ultra Quiet CPU Cooler

There was something really exciting I found at the Zalman booth this time. The guys designed a new cooler offering much higher cooling efficiency with minimum airflow resistance. Let me tell you more about this baby, because this is something that will bring traditional air cooling to a totally new level, I assume.

  

Of course, the primary remarkable thing about the CNPS 9500 cooler is the heatsink design and heatpipe technology used. The heatpipe technology was first introduced in space satellites, because the heat coming from the Sun was so high that there was a desperate need for a quick way of transferring it from the critical satellite knots. This is when heatpipe technology was first out into action. It is not surprising anymore that many space technologies and high-end solutions are now finding their way in our everyday life. New Zalman cooler is just another example. They used innovative patented heatpipe bending construction, which provides the heat transfer capacity of up to six pipes with only three actual pipes involved. Besides the unusual curved shape, the heatpipes have also acquired a few internal peculiarities. The heatpipes are made of pure copper and the internal heatpipe surface has the structure of a porous sponge with powdered copper baked to it. This way there is very little water required inside the heatpipes for efficient heat transfer.

Another patented design idea used by Zalman is the placement of the heatsink fins onto a curved surface. This has never been done before. If you look at any other coolers out there their heatsink fins are always fastened to the flat heatsink footing, and not to a curved heatpipe.

Aerodynamic “tunnel” design of the heatsink with funky curved fins is intended to ensure maximum contact with the dense part of the airflow. Besides, the fins are extremely thin, only 0.2mm, which makes this cooler very light, and significantly reduces the airflow resistance. Of course, this also tells on the cost of the product, because much less copper is used for the heatsink production with ultra-thin fins like that. The cooler really feels very light, only 498g, and is not bulky even when installed into a system.

Besides, another important factor is the level of generated noise. According to Zalman, this is a very quiet cooling solution equipped with 92mm quiet fan, which rotation speed can vary between 1,350-2,600rpm depending on the thermal conditions inside the system. This fan is claimed to be generating approximately 18-28dB of noise, which is significantly lower than most air cooling solutions do. I wish I could check it out myself, but with all the noise around the show floor, I could hardly hear myself, not to mention the cooler :)

We cannot wait to get our hand on this baby to see what it is really worth, but the test data presented by Zalman so far look very promising. The new CNPS 9500 proved about 10% more efficient than the internal water cooling system equipped with a 120mm fan providing about 7oC better cooling of the CPU. Take a look:

With the easy mounting, high efficiency, quiet operation and attractive price, this baby can become a real competitor to water coolers, not to mention the numerous air coolers from Zalman’s competitors. The cooler is expected to start selling in the end of June already. They will start with small quantities first to see if there are any issues with the production process, and if everything goes smoothly the shipments should be in full swing in mid July. The price of this solution has not been finalized yet, but it will lie somewhere between $75 and $80.

You may already know that Zalman partners with ABIT and Creative Labs in the Fatal1ty brand offering solutions for extreme gamers. They certainly will be offering a CNPS 9500 cooler modification for gamers. This cooler will not be as quiet because its fan will be rotating at higher speed, is most likely to have read LEDs and red colored heatsink to match the Fatal1ty brand color. Of course, its price will also be higher, but that should not be the issue for the real hardware gamers :)

Zalman: Cooling Apart…

The new super cooler was not the only thing Zalman was showing this time. They are still working on the system case design for gamers.

 

The case you see at the photo above is just a prototype, which may never go into production. It still needs a lot of work. Zalman is planning to design a very light easy-to-carry solution, which will offer wide extendibility options. Besides they are trying to design it as a sturdy but very light structure by using triangular formations with empty space, which will not only make the system lighter, but will also improve ventilation.

Another thing Zalman has been working on lately is the improved model of their Reserator water cooling system. The new solution is called Reserator Plus and it has a few notable enhancements compared with the previous models (you can actually read more about this cooling system in our review called Aesthetic Water Cooling Solutions: Zalman Reserator 1, ZM-WB2 Gold and ZM-GWB1).

The new Reserator Plus model will have the following improvements compared with the predecessor:

  1. Quick coupling. This feature will allow connecting and disconnecting the hose from the system without fearing to cause any coolant leakage. A few drops on the desk is the most trouble you can ever have. Just push the button with your finger and pull the hose. You can clip it back in just the same easy way.


  2. Zalman will be supplying its Plus system with concentrated anti-corrosion coolant. Just dissolve it with water according to the instructions on the bottle and you get yourself enough cooling liquid.


  3. The system will now include an optional North Bridge block and the CPU cooling block will be much smaller.

  4. The VGA cooling block will be redesigned to ensure better cooling efficiency for the GPU.

 

AMD “Activates the Magic Moment”. Official Beginning of Dual-Core CPUs Shipments.

AMD press conference at Computex 2005 was devoted to the official launch ceremony of the AMD Athlon 64 X2 dual-core processor family. In particular, as we have already reported in our News earlier today, they announced the availability of processors for the beginning of commercial shipments, which means that the users will be able to buy the actual products juts a few weeks later.

Henri Richard, AMD Executive Vice President, who was one of the key speakers at the ceremony, said that AMD owes its success to customer-centric innovation strategy. The main idea behind this customer-centric strategy is that they are driving technologies that are important and relevant to their partners and customers. According to AMD statistics, AMD64 technology has already been adopted by more than 200 computer manufacturers and more than 300 software developers. And today AMD officially announced the availability of four dual-core processor from their latest Athlon 64 X2 family: Athlon 64 X2 CPUs with the performance ratings of 4200+, 4400+. 4600+ and 4800+.

In his speech Dirk Meyer, President and Chief Operating Officer of AMD microprocessor sector talked a little bit about what brought AMD to where they are now. He said that they were not happy with the idea of just driving clock speed through the roof. This mere approach didn’t compel with the acceptable power consumption and thermal dissipation rates. From summer 1999 AMD pursued a different track. As a result, they managed to get where they are now: 64-bit extensions and direct connect architecture were developed and computer environments were recognized by multi-tasking applications.

AMD64 technology arrived in the year 2003. After that AMD added multi-core support and brought it to life with the Opteron release last April, which proved just perfectly fit for multi-tasking environments. As everybody should see from their own experience by now, users are introducing a lot of multi-tasking scenarios, so the dual-core technology will be just in the right place here. It is true that right now the gaming environment doesn’t benefit that much yet, because games are not built for multi-threaded algorithms, therefore AMD does not intend to throw all their effort into the dual-core at once. They will continue increasing the single-core performance of their Athlon 64 processors simultaneously with the dual-core CPU family development. As you may see, AMD is currently offering only expensive dual-core solutions and there is no dual-core alternative to Intel’s 250-dollar dual-core Pentium D right now. This is not an accidental omission, but a part of AMD’s global strategy: this price category will still be covered by the single-core Athlon 64 processors, which will provide sufficient performance for the needs of the users in this price group.

Besides, AMD was also stressing another advantage of their dual-core architecture saying that their partners and customers do not have to drive incremental investment into transferring to the dual-core: all you actually need is a CPU and a BIOS update for the mainboard.

Rob Enderle, the WW analyst invited to highlight the advantages of the AMD dual-core technology from the user prospective mentioned that it is expected to change the way people use computers at home and at work. For example, you will no longer have to disable the anti-virus software during gameplay, because with the second core in your system these processes will be running simultaneously without eating up your gaming performance. So, theoretically, you can save yourself a lot of time and trouble in and get proper virus protection at all times, which in the global prospective saves the users from billions of dollars worth of damage.

After the general presentations AMD invited all their chipset partners to the stage to share the “magic moment” with them. Here I have to be a little bit humorous probably, because the whole set-up was really a lot of fun. Everybody who came up to the stage had to go through a ceremony of “touching the crystal ball”, which would start glowing with the company name once you put your hand on top of it. The first one honored with this opportunity was ATI. After that the NVIDIA head of the chipset division was invited. Having touched the crystal ball, he walked straight to the other end of the stage from ATI.

ServerWorks, SiS, and ULi followed next. Then it was VIA’s turn. The guy stalled for a second at the crystal ball stand, glanced in ATI’s direction, then bin NVIDIA’s direction (making the decision which way to go, probably) and moved towards NVIDIA representative. A hand-shake followed :)

Once everybody were on the stage, the AMD officials were invited to “activate the magic moment” by putting their hands on top of the crystal ball with Star Wars sound track playing in the background. This is how the commercial shipments of AMD dual-core processors have started.

The Q&A following the ceremony was carried out in AMD’s typical manner: no definite answers and a clear message that they have enough processors to satisfy the demand and there is no need to worry. Well, with the magic crystal ball they don’t have any causes for concern, I believe :)