Computex 2002 Coverage - IntroductionIntroduction
After three action-packed days, things have finally started to quieten down here at Computex. Our first three days were filled with press conferences, meetings, parties and then a good 4-5 hours each day has been spent on preparing our daily coverage. Most of this year's Computex announcements have been made by now and for the last two days of the show, Cameron and I will be wandering the show floor in search of some new and interesting products to show you.Today we visited Intel, Lian-Li, DFI, ABIT, Kingmax and nVidia, and boy do we have some interesting things to show you. We have information on the upcoming nForce II chipset, nVidia's next generation architecture - the NV30, Lian-Li's new aluminium case range and pictures of the first working ClawHammer sample.
Computex 2002 Coverage - AbitABIT
ABIT have been one of our favourite motherboard manufacturers for some time now. This is because they continue to produce high performing, feature packed motherboards that include the most overclocking features we have seen from any motherboard manufacturer to date. Abit had quite a few new products on display at Computex, including the latest in their MAX series as well as some new audio products and their range of GeForce4 graphics cards. The first thing I noticed was their AMD 8151 ClawHammer board which has been simply called "K8". This is obviously an early sample, however, it features ATA133, AGP 8x, DDR333, 4 PCI slots, 1 ACR slot, 3 USB 2.0 ports and onboard 2-channel audio.
The first motherboard in ABIT's MAX series of legacy free motherboards was the AT7, based on the VIA KT333 chipset for AMD processors. ABIT have recently released their Intel-based MAX motherboard based on the i845E chipset, the IT7. It features 4-channel ATA133 RAID, four PCI slots, ten USB 2.0 ports, three IEEE1394a ports, a 10/100 Ethernet port and 6-channel integrated audio.
There are two flavours of the IT7. The first is the one mentioned above and the second is the IT7-S, featuring SerialATA. The IT7-S includes all of the same features as the regular IT7, however, the ATA133 RAID controller has ben replaced by a SerialATA controller.
If you purchase an ABIT MAX board, you are given the option of having ABIT's MediaXP drive bay panel included. It features a CompactFlash/SecureDigital/Memory Stick card reader as well as an IEEE1394 port, two USB 2.0 ports, MIC In/Line Out, SPDIF output and BlueTooth. What's even better is that the unit also comes with its own remote control for use in applications such as WinDVD and Power Point presentations.
ABIT also had their Crush18D (also known as nForce II) board on displayed, called the NV7II-8X. It features AGP 8x, six USB 2.0 ports, three IEEE1394 ports, one 10/100 Ethernet port and 6-channel integrated audio.
ABIT had an interesting demo setup at their stand featuring their new Siluro Theatre SP70 speaker system. The system was hooked up to an XBox running demo loops of various XBox games and from what we the demos we saw at their booth, the sound quality was very impressive. Although these speakers are packaged in XBox style enclosures, they can be used in the PC as well as the XBox through an SPDIF output.
Computex 2002 Coverage - DFIDFI
Ever since former ABIT employee Scott Thirwell moved over to DFI, their vocus has almost moved completely from the OEM market to the enthusiast market. All of their recent motherboards feature plenty of BIOS overclocking adjustments and their board layout and package contents have become much more enthusiast-friendly.DFI were lucky enough to have the first and only working ClawHammer sample we have seen so far at Computex. All of the others were non-working mechanical samples brought in just for the show. Unfortunately, we could not persuade DFI into letting us "borrow" the CPU for benchmarking, so we took a picture instead.
DFI had both 850E and SiS648 Pentium 4 motherboards on display at their booth. The SiS648 board (NS80) features AGP 8x, 6-channel audio, 10/100 LAN and six USB 2.0 ports, while the slightly plainer 850E board (NT72) features 1066 RDRAM support, 10/100 LAN, AC97 audio, AGP 4x and ATA100 support.
Like most of the motherboard manufacturers at Computex, DFI had an AMD 8151 based ClawHammer motherboard on display, called the HA80. It features both ATA133 and SerialATA, IEEE1394 ports, 6-channel audio and DDR333 support.
As well as an AMD chipset based ClawHammer board, DFI had their VIA K8HT ClawHammer motherboard on display as well, called the HK80. The board includes all of the same features as the HA80, so it will be very interesting to see which chipset is the better of the two.
DFI also had a Serial ATA hard drive on display at their stand. This is the same model as the drives we have seen at the other motherboard manufacturer's booths and as you can see from the images below, the drive has been manufactured by Fujitsu. Now that SerialATA boards have been released, it won't be long before hard drive manufacturers follow suit with SerialATA hard drives.
Computex 2002 Coverage - KingmaxKingmax
Kingmax, one of the most popular memory manufacturers in Australia and also one of the top memory manufacturers in the world had a small stand at this year's Computex. They were showcasing their DDR333/DDR400 TinyBGA solutions as well as their Micro-DIMM products and Compact Flash/Secure Digital card solutions.Towards the front of their stand, Kingmax had identical DDR333 and DDR400 demo systems running on Pentium 4 2GHz processors. The purpose of these demos were to show you the performance difference between DDR333 and DDR400. The difference between the two is actually quite significant on a Pentium 4 based system because its 400MHz/533MHz front side bus can easily take advantage of DDR400's extra bandwidth. However, on an AMD Athlon/Duron system the performance difference is negligible because the memory is being held back by the Athlon's 266MHz front side bus.
In the near future Kingmax DDR400 modules will be hitting the market in both 256MB and 512MB flavours. Kingmax have some interesting changes planned for their future memory modules that we can't tell you about just yet, however, it will definitely be something to look out for.
Computex 2002 Coverage - IntelIntel
As surprising as it may be, Intel did not really have many interesting products on display at this year's Computex. Their stand consisted of a range of OEM PCs running Intel processors, a bunch of notebooks, some i845G/i845E motherboards and Intel-based PDAs. Their stand did not feature anything in the way of sneak peaks at their upcoming Springdale chipset or the Prescott processor. It is also worth noting that their stand was the only one to have armed security guards standing outside the front. ;) Intel were displaying two walls full of motherboards based on their recently released i845E and i845G/GL chipsets. Both of the chipsets perform quite similar to their predecessor, the i845D, however, they add official support for Intel's new 533MHz bus Pentium 4. In the case of the i845G/GL chipsets, onboard graphics is also provided through Intel's "Extreme Graphics" chip. As mentioned in our earlier coverage and i845G reviews, Intel's Extreme Graphics is a great solution for those looking for a cheap, integrated motherboard, however, it cannot run current games at even close to decent framerates, so gamers will probably want to steer clear of i845G/GL boards. Unfortunately, this has been the case with all integrated graphics solutions to date and I look forward to the day where we will see at least GeForce 2 Ultra performance out of an onboard graphics solution.
One thing I was very impressed with was how small notebook PCs have gotten in recent years. As mentioned in our coverage of Day 2, Intel-based notebooks have been much smaller than AMD notebooks in the past because AMD have been using their SocketA packaging which makes the notebook quite a bit larger and heavier than it needs to be. However, they will soon be moving to a uPGA packaging which will allow manufacturers to produce much smaller and lighter AMD-based notebooks. To show you just how small notebooks are getting these days, I took a picture of three of the notebooks showcased at nVidia's stand.
Intel had various Intel-based OEM PCs on display, including models from Alienware, Dell, Legend, etc. I have taken a couple of pictures of the ones I thought looked the coolest, as there were just too many for me to cover them all (about 25).
Cameron and I found it quite amusing when we were playing with one of the PCs on display and received the Blue Screen of Death pictured below. As you can see, we managed to take the picture right before one of Intel's staff came to see what the problem was.
Computex 2002 Coverage - Lian-LiLian-Li
Lian-Li had their whole range of desktop and server solutions on display at their stand. They also had a variety of new models to show us with some cool additions such as dual window mods, coloured front bezel doors and basically just differently shaped front panels. However, most of the internal design has remained the same throughout the whole range. We only took pictures of the new models on display as i'm sure many of you have heard a lot about the older models plenty of times in the past. Lian-Li just got the new models shipped to them this week so they did not have any model names or specification sheets available for us at this time. At the moment there is not much to say about each case that you can't see from the pictures, so here are some images of their new models.
Another interesting feature on some of the new models is that the window panel is designed in such a way that you can either have the window looking straight into your case, or just have a sheet of aluminium covering the window and your system internals from view. This is quite hard to explain in text, but hopefully the following picture gives you a better idea of what i'm talking about.
Computex 2002 Coverage - nVidianVidia
Yesterday we attended a meeting with the director of public relations at nVidia, Derek Perez. Derek let us in on some interesting information about nForce II (AKA: Crush18D) and also showed us some of their new products at the nVidia suite. The meeting was held shortly after we had prepared our day 3 coverage, so we decided to leave our report on the meeting for today's coverage. When nVidia announced the original nForce chipset last year, the media went absolutely ecstatic posting rumours of possible specifications and performance. By the time it actually hit stores, many of us were expecting the nForce to be a VIA KT266A killer, however, it didn't turn out that way. This is because the original nForce was priced much higher than the KT266A and performance was not high enough to justify purchasing it over VIA's solution. Nvidia are looking to rectify the problems people had with the original nForce with their upcoming nForce II (Crush18D). The nForce II features the Crush18 IGP, DDR400 support, AGP 8x, HyperTransport, IEEE1394 and USB 2.0. There will be two versions of the nForce II, one with an integrated GeForce4 MX and another without. Nvidia had quite a few nForce II boards on display at their suite, which shows that they have full support from the majority of motherboard manufacturers.
Nvidia also had an XBox setup for us to play around with, because as you know, it uses an nVidia graphics solution. The game that was running on the system was Spiderman, which really showed us the true capabilities of the nVidia graphics chipset.
After the nForce II is released, nVidia plan to release a complete AGP 8x GeForce4 Ti range that will be around the same speeds as the current GeForce4 Ti cards. They also plan to introduce a whole new architecture for the third quarter, currently codenamed NV30. Derek Perez told us that we can look forward to film-like image quality with the NV30 and if this is true, there are certainly gonna be some exciting times ahead on the gaming front.
Computex 2002 Coverage - ConclusionConclusion
That concludes our coverage of Computex Day 4. As far as nVidia is concerned, it will be certainly very interesting to see how well the nForce II fairs in the already competitive SocketA chipset market. The NV30 will also be something to look out for towards the end of this year which is said to bring film-like gaming to the PC. DDR400 and SerialATA will be the next big thing on most future motherboards, and when AMD's ClawHammer is finally released, prepare for another heated CPU war with AMD and Intel.Well, it's time for Cameron and I to head off to ABIT's editor's night at their headquarters where we will have a chance to chat with ABIT engineers as well as frag our fellow editors in ABIT's mini LAN party. We'll certainly be taking our camera over and will report back, with pictures, in tomorrow's coverage.