Day 4 and 5 live coverage from the floor
Day 4 and 5 live coverage from the floor
Computex here in Taipei, Taiwan has come to an end for another year - buyers and industry members have flown home, the area around Taipei is looking normal again and the Taiwanese manufacturers are getting back to their normal day to day routines. Personally things will quiet down a little now but there are really no real quiet times when it comes to running a computer website.
We've had a tremendous response from our Computex coverage, once again. At times our server was sending out up to 120Mbit/s of data and during the entire week our coverage articles were visited by more than 250,000 people.
We aren't finished quite yet, though. We still have our Day 4 and 5 coverage from the show floor. We didn't actually attend the show on Day 5 since its "public day" and the halls on the final day are usually over-crowed, most people from the industry tend to avoid this day anyway.
We even have a little coverage from Day 3 (Wednesday) where we attended the third annual Firing Squad Invitational Tournament event. During this event, sponsors and other companies are invited to come along and bring a system to compete against other companies in a number of different award categories.
On Day 4, our official last day physically being at the show, we saw a number of different things including DFI's new AM2 motherboard based on the nForce 590 SLI chipset, VIA Technology, back to Gigabyte again to check out the latest version of their I-RAM, XFX and their surprisingly lack of hardware on display and finally Galaxy to check out some of their high-end dual GeForce graphics cards.
VIA water and dust proof PC and more
VIA Tech shows off water and dust proof PC and more
After we eventually made it to the large VIA booth in Hall 2, we found they had some interesting new products to show, especially in the area where they excel - small sized computers.
Probably the most interesting attraction at the VIA booth was their completely water and dust proof computer. VIA had a demonstration setup where one of their Visson systems was running while having plenty of water drip onto it. Initially we wondered what the point of this but Charlie Chang from VIA quickly pointed out the usage models of this type of system.
For one, it is designed to be the type of system you can use outdoors. Imagine if you are the owner of an expensive high-class restaurant and you want to setup a computer display a dynamic menu. Since its dust proof, many companies come to Visson (part of the VIA group) about the idea about creating a system which will work in dusty factories, such as saw mills, and not collect dust inside the system which would eventually lead to over-heating and eventual failure or less lifetime of the computer.
Next up we saw a bunch of new VIA EPIA ultra small form factor Mini-ITX motherboards. They had plenty on display but the one most interesting to us was the EPIA EX, which should be ready in two or three months.
The EPIA Mini-ITX EX series is designed solely for the home theater PC user. It comes with the VIA CX700 north and south bridge on one single chip and also has a VIA C7 processor on the motherboard as well. You also get single slot DDR-2 support and a single PCI slot for expansion possibilities, such as a TV Tuner card - although with PCI now dying and PCI Express taking over, it would have been nicer to see the newer slot included on the board.
On the I/O panel you are given a whole bunch of different connections, perfect for your HTPC. From top to bottom you have optical and digital coaxial audio out, DVI display output from the VIA UniChrome Pro graphics engine, s-video, network and two USB 2.0 ports, component video output for high-end display devices such as plasma screens and regular coaxial for video and stereo audio output. The only thing really missing is a HDMI port and with this included on the board, it could truly be one super hot contender in the consumer HTPC market. If there was a demand for this feature in the future, VIA would probably add it.
While this platform is not a powerhouse when it comes to performance, it doesn't need to be. It would be perfect for someone looking to build their own HTPC from ground up.
And finally from VIA we take a look at their upcoming PT900 chipset which includes support for not only the current range of Intel processors but also the upcoming Conroe series which is due out sometime in the next three months.
The motherboard VIA was showing was clearly an early reference sample although everything seemed to be working fine. We didn't see any PT900 based motherboards from other Taiwanese companies whilst walking around the show floor but then again we weren't looking too hard for them either.
It would be very nice to see VIA come back strong in the chipset market, as they used to be back in the days of the KT series of chipsets but we'll have to wait and see what VIA can do with it all.
Very confident XFX at Computex 2006
So confident, XFX see no need to show any hardware!
OK - so, they showed one graphics card on their relatively large sized booth, a GeForce 7950GX2 to be exact.
During Computex this year XFX was promoting their "Play Hard" marketing campaign. Since its World Cup time, XFX naturally had a little football area setup with a couple soccer balls and a hoop setup to throw some hoops. Upon entering the booth, we were quickly given a fitness check-up (pulse rate) by one of their Brazilian booth babes. The verdict was simple: "You're fine... drink more beer and buy more XFX graphics cards!". We're all good, phew!
We were waiting for someone to take a shower in the change room at the XFX booth but nothing ended up happening.
The whole idea behind the marketing is to extend the message to buyers that with an XFX graphics card, you can play hard and win in the latest computer games.
Gigabyte introduce newest I-RAM
Gigabyte introduce newest I-RAM product
On Day 4 at Computex we made a stop back to the Gigabyte also in Hall 2 where we spotted the latest version of their I-RAM product.
Briefly, I-RAM is a new product from Gigabyte which is designed for super quick I/O through solid state storage (in this case, DDR SDRAM). For a more in-depth look at Gigabyte's previous design of I-RAM, we suggest you read our review (here) from late last year.
From what we can tell and what we were told, the actual I-RAM PCI cards haven't changed all that much - maybe just a couple tweaks here and there to improve performance. Like the previous model, the card slots into a PCI slot. While you might think a PCI slot doesn't provide enough performance (bandwidth), the slot is only used to power the card - no data is actually transferred here, just through the SATA cable. However, it would have been nice to see PCI Express versions of the I-RAM since this is now becoming the expansion slot of choice. Although Gigabyte did say PCI Express versions will be ready soon, which is good news.
What's interesting about the latest version is the new I-RAM drive bay. Working just the same as a regular I-RAM PCI card but all the parts are enclosed inside the CD-ROM sized drive bay unit. On the front of the unit you are able to turn the "drive" on and off, monitor reading and writing of data and also included is a very handy battery power indication meter. As the memory used is read only, if a battery wasn't used, every time you powered down your system, you would instantly loose all of your data.
Last year when Gigabyte launched I-RAM, they were criticized for not supporting enough memory. Now it seems as if you can bind more than one I-RAM PCI card together but we're not sure on the exact details as yet. For instance, on the show floor Gigabyte were showing a live demo with a total of about 15GB of data.
We were able to run some HDD benchmarks using PCMark05 which was setup on the Gigabyte system. In the next couple weeks we'll try to visit the Gigabyte HQ here in Taiwan to run some of our own benchmarks in a more controlled environment.
We'll be sure to keep you posted on updates!
Galaxy dual 7900GT and 7600GT
Galaxy shows "Dual Core" dual 7900GT and 7600GT cards
One of our last stops for the show was at the Galaxy booth in Hall 1. The Hong Kong based graphics card maker was showing off a bunch of graphics cards but the most exciting by far were their "Dual Core" dual GeForce 7900GT and 7600GT graphics cards.
Galaxy aren't entirely sure when the graphics cards will be ready to buy in shops but all we got was, "soon". Unfortunately it looks like SLI is not possible with these cards since there is no SLI bridge adapter on either although with some special driver tweaking you might be able to get the 7600GT firing away in SLI mode.
It was a shame we couldn't see the dual 7900GT in action, which may well suggest the card we saw is a "dummy sample" (meaning it isn't working yet) or they just choose not to demo a system. However, if you've got a high profile product like this on display and it's working properly, wouldn't you want to show it off as much as possible? Maybe they are just still working on drivers as well but we should find out soon enough as we wait for a sample to hit our labs for testing.
We aren't sure what type of cooler the dual 7900GT will require but as you can imagine, it will need some beefy type of setup to dissipate all the heat generated by both GPU's.
Firing Squad Invitational Tournament
Firing Squad Invitational Tournament
Our good friends from the Firing Squad in North America, Dan and Lyle, held their third annual Invitational Tournament at Computex this year. This event is quite interesting in that Taiwanese manufacturers are invited and are asked to build their best system using only parts which they produce and compete for awards against other companies - they also fight each other!
OK, so they don't physically punch each other but they battled it out in Battlefield 2 and won copies of games from EA Games. Media from around the world helped judge which was the best PC in a range of different categories including "Most Overclocked", "Best Visuals", "Best Overall Performance", "Best 3D Performance" and so on.
There were plenty of high quality systems and products on display from companies such as OCZ, Gigabyte, Sapphire, DFI, ABIT, Shuttle, Cooler Master, ThermalTake and the list goes on.
Here are a bunch of photos from the event...
For a run down of which company won what during the event, check out this page at Firing Squad.
Good job guys - it was definitely a nice break from the usual rushing around during Computex!
DFI nForce 590 SLI AM2 motherboard
DFI's new LANPARTY UT NF590 SLI AM2 board displayed
Computex 2006 marks DFI's 25th anniversary in the computer industry and they were displaying their full range of Intel and AMD based motherboards but by far the most interesting for us was their brand new LANPARTY UT NF590 SLI motherboard. This motherboard is based on nVidia's nForce 5 series chipset for AM2 processors and included a whole stack of cool features.
They've gone all out when it goes to expansion possibilities. You've got 8 SATA 2.0 ports, a total of 7 PCI and PCI Express ports and plenty of other enthusiast friendly features to make even the most avid overclocker grin.
During the Firing Squad event we talked about on the previous page, DFI were also proud about the fact that they took out the "Most Overclocked" award. Below we have Andrew and Jarry (creator of the LANPARTY serious) showing off their award medal with a lot of pride.
That officially concludes our Computex 2006 coverage - we'll be back, bigger than ever, next year at the show!
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