|Dell and Microsoft|
Like giant, transformable robots, once a year a contingent of editors from HotHardware change form and morph from our typical, reserved, hardware-loving selves into fast walking, fast talking scoop hunters throwing hip-checks and stiff-arms on the insanely busy show floor at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.
As many of you are no doubt aware, CES is held at the gigantic, 3.2 million square foot Las Vegas Convention center, but numerous other exhibits spill out into adjacent hotels and resorts. The sheer number of things on display, and the busy means of transit between them, necessitates the aggressive transformation. If you want to catch a glimpse of the hottest in upcoming consumer electronics and speak to a company representative one-on-one, and a gaggle of camera toting casual geeks are in your way, sometimes you’ve just got to throw an elbow or two to shorten the line. We didn’t make the rules.
We realize, however, that traveling to CES simply isn’t in the cards for many of you. And we wouldn’t want any of our loyal readers locked-up and charged with assault for all of the necessary turbulence anyway. So with that in mind, we snapped of a multitude of pictures and spoke with a myriad of people to put together this year’s CES Photo Report. We’ve got news and information from over 20 PC-centric companies on tap, so strap in and enjoy the ride – sans the hip-checks of course.
One of the first stops on our jaunt through CES was Dell’s booth and related suite at a nearby hotel. Dell’s booth was chock full of the company’s high-end displays, like the recently released UltraSharp 3008WFP 30-inch LCD and the sleek Crystal. A number of high-end Alienware notebooks and desktops were on display as well, including the custom painted number pictured here.
Some of the most interesting things Dell had on display weren’t meant for public consumption, however; at least not yet. Behind closed doors we were shown some concept products that may (or may not) go into production. We saw a wireless keyboard styled after the new Crystal LCD, a home entertainment station of sorts that married audio and video into a single, futuristic looking console, and a tri-LCD setup that could be twisted into a number of different configurations thanks to its hinged arms. As hard as we tried, we weren’t allowed to take any pictures of these unannounced products, but we’ll be sure to keep you posted if more information is made available in the future.
Microsoft’s CES display is always an interesting place to catch a glimpse of current cutting edge PC technology and upcoming products. This year, Microsoft’s booth was loaded with ultra-mobile devices and Smart Phones based on the Windows Mobile OS, Zunes and their related accessories, and machines built around Windows Vista and Vista Home Server.
A large portion of the booth was also dedicated to Games for Windows. In that section, AMD’s Spider Platform was on display, complete with a pair of Radeons running in a CrossFire configuration, as was an NVIDIA-powered 3-way SLI rig. A number of upcoming games were also being demoed, including Conflict: Denied Ops, Space Siege, Frontline: Fuel of War, and Age of Conan. We played Conflict: Denied Ops and really dug the graphics and control scheme. And Space Siege looked great too – think of it as Dungeon Siege meets Buck Rodgers, with great graphics and physics.
|HP, Shuttle, Coolermaster|
Now that HP and Voodoo have joined forces, and the Blackbird 002 gaming system has been such a success, the Hewlett Packard booth at CES was as much geared towards gaming as it was towards the digital home and business-class systems.
The hardware enthusiasts among you will be interested in the various Voodoo OMEN rigs and Blackbird 002s on display, as well as the huge racing simulator. Show attendees could sit down and enjoy a race against friends or fellow attendees in a simulator complete with a large LCD and a drag-car inspired bucket seat. The Voodoo OMENs on display featured the company’s traditional super-clean wiring along with SLI and CrossFire graphics configurations. And the latest gold-plated OMEN was also being shown off outfitted with a pair of water-cooled GeForces and Corsair Dominator memory. Not too much to report on the Blackbird 002 front, other than the fact that HP has introduced more hardware options on their configurator website.
Shuttle had a small booth at CES and a related suite at a nearby hotel to showcase their wares. Of course there were a multitude of XPCs on display, including the flamed-out SDXi and another with information regarding a Shuttle-sponsored mod contest. Shuttle’s big news at the show, however, revolved around the newly announced kPC. The Shuttle kPC uses a custom Mini ITX chassis that is outfitted with and Intel 945G-chipset based motherboard, a Celeron 420 processor, a 60 to 80GB hard drive, 512MB of DDR2 RAM, and a 100 watt PSU. The whole package has an MSRP of only $199. And for the DIY-types, Shuttle plans to sell the kPC sans CPU, RAM, and storage for only $99.
In our opinion, Coolermaster had an exceptional CES. Not because of their booth – which was excellent in its own right – but because virtually every company that was showing off PC components used a Coolermaster Cosmos case to put it in. The Cosmos was simply all over the place.
Coolermaster’s booth was loaded with Cosmos cases as well, but alongside Coolermaster’s standard offerings the company showed off a new line of custom cases that are the result of collaboration between Coolermaster and Smooth Creations (the company that paints Shuttle’s SDXi). The CSX cases as they are known feature high quality finishes is a wide range of styles, from flame jobs to reflective diamond patterns. They’re going to be expensive, but CSX cases will certainly be top-of-the-line.
We should also note that Gigabyte partnered with Coolermaster for the game systems on display in the booth. All of the machines on display featured Gigabyte motherboards, including the company’s upcoming X48-based mobo, which we’ll be evaluating in the coming weeks.
|Logitech, Thermaltake, Silverstone|
Logitech’s big news at CES centered around a trio of hot products, the Squeezebox Duet, the Harmony One, and the diNovo Mini. The Squeezebox Duet is an evolution of the original Squeezebox that features a new, small receiver and a remote complete with a color LCD. The original Squeezebox was highly regarded when it was released, so this new model should also garner a bit of attention.
The Harmony One is the latest in Logitech’s line of high-end universal, programmable remote controls. What separates the Harmony One from its peers is a new color touch-screen and more user friendly layout designed after studying the usage patterns of previous Harmony remotes. Finally, we have the diNovo Mini. The diNovo Mini is palm-sized wireless keyboard with an integrated dual-purpose click-pad. The click-pad can be used like a mouse or as a directional pad to navigate menus and make selections. The diNovo Mini is sure to find its way into a multitude of HTPC configurations in the not too distant future.
Thermaltake’s booth was loaded with the company’s cooling devices, cases, power supplies and PC accessories. We spied a couple of high-end gaming rigs in Thermaltake’s booth, including the Quad-CrossFire powered system pictured here. Also on display were orb-style CPU coolers that featured LEDs that could spell out various PC health data on their fan blades, home theater enclosures, and hard drive enclosures for various sized drives. One of the more interesting devices was be used as a bay for standard 2.5” and 3.5” hard drives. Plug the bay into a USB port, and drives can be dropped in like removable cartridges.
Silverstone’s booth was also loaded up with a plethora of power supplies, cases, and accessories. In addition to Silverstone’s popular Temjin series of cases, the company showed off some models in the Kublai Series and the latest additions to the HTPC-targeted Lascala series as well. A few high-capacity power supplies were on display too, including the dual-460-watt redundant PSU pictured above. Silverstone also unveiled the Sabertooth gaming mouse. The Sabertooth has a carbon-fiber shell and a 3200-dpi maximum resolution that can be adjusted on the fly in 100-dpi increments.
|Zalman, Creative, Crucial|
Zalman’s booth at CES was full of the company’s various CPU and GPU cooling solutions, power supplies, and PC accessories. On display were most of the products in the company’s current portfolio including the ZM1000-HP 1-kilowatt power supply, quiet or completely silent passive GPU coolers in the ZM and VF series, and CNPS CPU coolers. Also being shown off was the Zalman ZM-M190 2D / 3D Trimon Convertible LCD monitor.
Similar to last year, Creative Lab's booth was fairly tame as far as new PC-technology was concerned. Pro-gamer Jonathon "Fatal1ty" Wendel was once again perched in front of a couple of systems kicking the stuffing out of show-goers who wanted to take a chance and try to Frag the great "Fatal1ty" in various FPS games, but the products on display consisted mostly of Creative's existing X-Fi line of sound cards, speakers, and portable media players like the tiny model pictured here.
Crucial’s booth was full of memory-related products, including the full line of Lexar-branded flash media and its associated accessories. On the PC side, Crucial was showcasing their entire line-up of memory, including the high-end Ballistix series. DDR3 and DDR2 models are pictured here, including the Tracer series which features activity LEDs similar to Corsair’s Pro-branded products. Props to those of you who notice the mistake in the three-stick memory display.
|Corsair and Seagate|
Corsair had a wide array of products on display in their suite at CES. Their big product announcement at the show was the release of the 32GB Flash Voyager and Flash Survivor USB drives, but there were some other interesting products to see as well. Corsair was happy to show off their Macintosh-compatible memory products, as well as the whole array of Padlock flash drives. Corsair, however, also showed off a brand new 1-kilowatt power supply they have in the works. Final pricing and specs aren’t available, but as you can see in the picture, Corsair’s 1KW PSU will have a modular cable design. When it’s released in the coming weeks, be sure to check back here at HotHardware for the full story.
There was a lot going on in Seagate’s booth on the show floor this year. In addition to their internal hard drives, Seagate was also showcasing a number of new or conceptual products the company is working on. One interesting product is the result of collaboration with the folks at Sentry. The SentrySafe is well, a safe, that can house a hard drive and keep it protected in the event of a disaster. We were told the SentrySafe could protect the hard drive inside from extreme temperatures, and could even survive hours within a direct flame.
Another interesting product was dubbed D.A.V.E., short for Digital Audio Video Experience. D.A.V.E. consists of small, wireless storage transceivers that can interface with a base device of some sort (think a PC, a car head unit, etc). Seagate talked about a myriad of possible usage scenarios for the product, like for example, taking the D.A.V.E. pod from a car directly into your home for easy access to its entire stored media. You can also see the actual tiny hard drives used in the D.A.V.E. units in one of the pictures above (upper right) – they are members of Seagate’s Lyrion series of drives.
|OCZ and Samsung|
OCZ has been very busy this past year diversifying the company’s product offerings. For those that are unaware, OCZ Technology Group now owns PC Power & Cooling and Hypersonic. As such, the company was showcasing products from all of their divisions.
Like Corsair, OCZ also announced the availability of 32GB flash drives and was showing off a wide array of memory products, including a 2.5” solid state hard drive. The model we say was an IDE variant, but a faster SATAII model was also planned. The PC Power & Cooling group showed off a number of new power supplies, including an 860 watt Turbo-Cool model with adjustable power rails and a 1KW model that features support for NVIDIA’s ESA. The ESA module is visible in the third picture down on the left.
The Hypersonic team was proud to show off a number of high-end gaming rigs and notebooks. The Hypersonic Aero notebook was particularly prominent because OCZ was proud of its price / performance proposition.
OCZ also showed off the latest iteration of their Neural Impulse Actuator technology. The Neural Impulse Actuator is a type of input device that senses alpha and beta brain waves in addition to fine muscle movements in the face. The software to configure the device is pictured above and has evolved considerably in the last year. It’s not quite ready for prime time, but OCZ expects the NIA to be available sometime soon for somewhere in the neighborhood of $300.
Samsung had multiple displays throughout the Consumer Electronics Show, but it was upstairs in an off the beaten path showroom that some of the most exciting and forward-looking products were showcased, at least from a computer geek's perspective.
As for the PC specific products on display, Samsung had a couple of HD DVD drives in addition to a brand new 22X DVD-Burner, a drive which the company claims is the fastest DVD-Burner available. Samsung also had some GDDR5 memory samples on display along with accompanying documentation that explained the progression of the company’s graphics memory and the advances introduced with each iteration. A number of solid state drives and flash memory related technologies were on display too.
What some of you may not know is that Samsung is the second largest semiconductor manufacturer in the world, behind only Intel. To show their manufacturing prowess, Samsung also showcased some dice and wafers produced using next-generation 30nm technology. On display were a 64Gb NAND flash memory chip produced at 30nm and a 30um this wafer that was thin enough to be somewhat flexible. Very cool stuff indeed.
|Asus (with recap) and EVGA|
Asus focused much of their attention on mobile technology at this year’s CES. We saw a number of new notebooks and mobile devices on display in Asus’ booth along with the traditional assortment of motherboards and other PC accessories.
The latest Lamborghini notebook, the VX3 was being showcased, as was the new G70. The G70 is a DTR-class notebook that features NVIDIA’s SLI technology, a 17” WUXGA screen, dual-SATA hard drives, a Blu-Ray or HD DVD drive, and a built in 1.3MP webcam. The G70 had a brushed aluminum finish that looked great in person – the picture doesn’t do it justice. Another interesting feature of the G70 is a small built in screen above the keyboard that can be used to displaying a multitude of different things, like PC Health status, media being played, etc.
While in Asus’ booth we also had a chance to play with the company’s upcoming R700 GPS and handful of smartphones. The R700’s interface still needed some work, but the device’s form factor and screen were very nice.
Of course, the Asus booth was rife with EeePCs, which now come in multiple colors, and a slew of accessories designed for the diminutive PC. A bevy of motherboards were on display too, like the upcoming X48-based Rampage Formula, the NVIDIA nForce 780a based M3N-HT Deluxe, and the X38-based P5E64 WS Professional.
The Asus G1Sn notebook you're seeing here is equipped with an NVIDIA GeForce 9500M GS mobile graphics processor. According to the system properties, the 9500M GS has a GPU code name of G84 and in this particular configuration, it is coupled to 512MB of frame buffer memory. Based on the naming convention, we would speculate that this is a mid-range mobile GPU - and we expect it to perform as such - but with features similar to that of the upcoming GeForce 9 series of graphics processors, and with the potential for a Hybrid Power implementation when used with future nForce mobile chipsets.
We saw some very cool stuff in EVGA’s suite at CES, some of which we cannot tell you about just yet. For now, let’s just say EVGA plans to offer a number of graphics related products for the PC that don’t slide into an expansion slot.
One of the hot products EVGA was showcasing was a dual-slot GeForce 8800 GT card. EVGA cited reports that single-slot GeForce 8800 GT cards were running hotter than some customers would have liked, so the company decided to introduce the product you see pictured here.
EVGA also showed off some new motherboards. But what makes these different than their traditional offerings is that EVGA now has a team of in-house designers producing proprietary EVGA motherboards (the team comes from a former enthusiast-friendly motherboard manufacturer who shall remain nameless. Hint: The name also starts with an E). They will continue to offer reference motherboards based on NVIDIA’s chipsets, but the 780i SLI pictured here is an all-EVGA design. Notice the hybrid air / water cooling system, connector placement, and clear-CMOS switch.
|Intel (with recap)|
Intel placed a strong focus on mobile products in their booth at CES. A number of UMPCs and MIDs (mobile internet devices) were on display that all featured Intel processor technology.
One of the fun displays consisted of an old Toshiba notebook powered by a 486 processor that sat alongside a brand new Centrino based machine; my how far we have come. Like last year, Intel also placed a strong focus on HD video and showcased a number of products for the CE and PC markets gears and HD creation, playback, and storage.
The system on the left is a custom Alienware rig based on the Skulltrail platform that features a liquid-cooling system and a pair of GeForce 8800 Ultras running in SLI mode. The dual Core 2 Extreme X9775 processors in the system were running at 4GHz (10 x 400MHz), and according to the BIOS hardware monitor, the chips hummed along at a relatively cool 40 degrees while idling. The system's specifics can be seen in the CPU-Z screenshot above.
|Lenovo (with recap)|
A Recap From HotHardware's News Page: Ever since Lenovo took over IBM's mobile division, the company has produced a steady stream of ThinkPad-branded notebooks, that fit essentially the same mold. ThinkPads have been highly regarded almost as the defacto notebook of choice for corporate or professional types, but they didn't always appeal to mass market, mainstream consumers or enthusiasts. At this year's CES however, Lenovo showed off a trio of notebooks designed to do just that.
Of the three new Lenovo products we saw, the U110 was probably the most stylish. The unit comes in two colors; what we would call a sort of candy apple red and also in black. There's a super-swank embossed finish on the machine, with a matching red, lighted display above the keyboard area and even similar cut trimmings for vent grills on the backside of the unit. The unit's screen has a glossy glass finish that looked crisp and clean. The U110 weighs in at a svelt 2.3 pounds and is .7 inches thin; tiny and tasty to be sure.
The Y510 is Lenovo's new utility player with a 15.4" widescreen LCD and a really nice textured "linen-like" top cover finish that is virtually fingerprint proof. Then came the real showstopper for us, the attractive demostration lady that was showing off the unit to us, placed her pretty face in front of the system's integrated web cam and the system then logged her on in what was the first face recognition system demonstration we've seen on a production model notebook to date. One word - impressive. The Y510 is built with a Core 2 Duo T5550 processor at 1.83GHz and integrated Intel Media Accelerator X3100 graphics, along with a 250GB 5400RPM hard drive and 2GB of PC2-5300 DDR667 memory. The unit weighs 7.9lbs and has a battery life of approximately 4 hours.
Finally, the bad boy of the bunch is Lenovo's Y710 desktop replacement model. Built on an Intel Core 2 Duo T9300 2.5GHz processor with ATI Mobility radeon HD2600 graphics (256MB), this system should have a fair degree of gaming horsepower under its hood. The machine also sports a 500GB 5400 RPM hard drive. The system has a "halo" lighting system adorning the top cover and Lenovo logo and also has a section of its keyboard area designated as its "Game Zone". The Lenovo Y710's Game Zone has four over-sized directional buttons, four user-customizable option buttons and a small display that shows system information such as CPU speed, date and time. Game Zone also has a performance control switch that allows users the ability to automatically overclock the CPU or activate a quiet mode with energy savings. Lastly, as you'll see in the middle shot above, the Y710 comes with a 5.1 speaker system including a subwoofer located on the underbelly of the machine. Baby's got game and beats, or so it would seem.
|NVIDIA (with recap)|
A Recap From HotHardware's Article Section: NVIDIA is the sort of company that can and will capitalize on opportunities quickly, whether it be market or product related, or something as simple as logistics. As such, in traditional fashion, with the huge insurgance of press and media swooping down on the never-ending sensory overload that is the city of Las Vegas and the CES show, NVIDIA took the opportunity to arrange an editor's day just prior to the opening day of CES. With a venue like this and a captive audience to boot it's a proverbial no-brainer and so we convened at the New York-New York hotel and casino for an update from virtually every product group at NVIDIA.
If you've been spending some time here at HotHardware, you'll recall our coverage of AMD's Hybrid CrossFire technology for the mainstream desktop segment and the benefits of combining on-board IGP graphics with a discrete card. Of course NVIDIA also has an answer for this, as you'd expect and we'll step through the salient points and highlights of Hybrid SLI for you in the pages ahead.
In addition, the company is also announcing the new nForce 700a series of chipsets for the AMD platform. It too brings with it an offering of new features and functionality that NVIDIA is disclosing today and we learned a bit about some of NVIDIA's patented PCI Express Switching IP in the process as well.
Like AMD's Hybrid CrossFire, NVIDIA's Hybrid SLI technology gives users the abilty to pair an IGP, or mGPU (motherboard GPU), with a discreet graphics card, or cards, for two new mdoes of operation. NVIDIA calls these new modes Hybrid Power and GeForce Boost.
At first, a new control panel icon in the system tray will give user's the ability to configure Hybrid SLI for other modes of operation. Because a Hybrid SLI system will have multiple GPUs installed, it's also possible to run multiple displays. The new control panel icon and final set of tools will be available in an upcoming driver release.
As we've mentioned, a key component to Hybrid SLI technology is a core logic chipset with a compatible mGPU. To that end, NVIDIA has developed a line of nForce chipsets for the AMD platform that feature an integrated graphics processor.
The flagship model in the nForce 700a series of chipsets is the 780a SLI. The 780a SLI features two video outputs (one digital, one analog) and an mGPU with similar functionality to a GeForce 8400 series discreet graphics card. This mGPU is Windows Vista Premium certified and DX10 capable. It also features NVIDIA's PureVideo HD engine for full CPU offload of all HD video codecs. The 700a series of MCPs (norhtbridge), will be manufatured at 65nm, and are mostly single-chip designs.
As we noted earlier, with this product launch NVIDIA has also disclosed details regarding NVIDIA patented technology that is built into their NF200 PCI Express Switch chip. Essentially, what NVIDIA has done is build a couple of fast paths inside the switch device, dedicated to optimizing mulit-GPU SLI transaction performance both back to the root CPU complex and peer-to-peer between GPUs. This is critical because there is a single Gen2 X16 PCIe link between the NF200 chip and the 780a MCP.
Specifically, there are two functional blocks as you'll not in the above diagram, denoted as "Broadcast" and "PWShort". The Broadcast block specifically provides a broadcast send mode for the root complex down to all GPUs in the system. This allows efficient transfer of data in one group transaction. PWShort, (which stands for Posted Write Short), is a dedicated cut-through mode for peer-to-peer commuinications between the GPUs, without the need to tap on upstream bandwidth to the CPU complex.
|AMD / ATI (with recap)|
A Recap From HotHardware's News Page: While making our way through various exhibits at CES, Dave and I got a chance to get hands on time with AMD's upcoming ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 graphics card. As we mentioned in our initial coverage of the ATI Radeon HD 3800 series back in November, the 3870 X2 is a dual-GPU powered card that leverages ATI's CrossFire technology. Here's an up close and personal look at the card...
We can't disclose any specifications just yet, but can say that the 3870 X2 has a pair of R670 GPUs on single PCB coupled together via a PCI Express fanout switch from PLX. Frame Buffer memory configurations are likely to be similar to existing Radeon HD 3870 cards - per GPU - but representatives from ATI informed us that board parters are likely to design cards with up to 2GB frame buffers. As for power and performance, once again, we can't give specifics for now. However, think less power than a 2900 XT with performance on par or better than a Radeon HD 3870 CrossFire configuration.
Like last year, the PC and its related peripherals took somewhat of a backseat to the high-end consumer electronics that were on display at CES, but if you knew where to look there was definitely some great technology to see.