of gamers annually trek to Los Angeles for one of the largest entertainment
industry tradeshows in the world. Luckily, I live 15 minutes away, making the
journey an easy one. A combination of PC and console games, along with a
smattering of hardware, populates the exhibits that span the entirety of the Los
Angeles Convention Center. Although the convention focuses on the gaming
industry, several of the most influential hardware vendors were also present to
demonstrate their technology paired with the latest software. Intel and AMD
were there showcasing their processors. ATI, Matrox, 3DLabs and NVIDIA were all
demonstrating their latest graphics technology. Altec Lansing had a new line of
speakers for enthusiastic console gamers. There was certainly enough hardware
to keep this enthusiast busy for a couple of days.
We?ll start off with Intel,
whose booth was curiously tucked in a well-hidden hallway. With no big
announcements to make, Intel had no real need to command a large presence on the
show floor. Regardless, Pentium 4 processors powered a large percentage of the
demo machines found on the show floor. We were able to confirm that Intel is
still on track for 3GHz by the end of this year. If AMD is able to execute with
their next-generation architecture, the competition between Intel and AMD will
undoubtedly heat up once again.
Instead of a booth or room in
the convention center, AMD rented a trailer on the Promised Lot. There were a
couple of demo machines running in the trailer ? two Hammer systems and an
Athlon XP 2200+, based on the upcoming Thoroughbred core. As a quick refresher,
the new core is a .13-micron die shrink with no other performance enhancements.
Therefore, the 2200+ can be expected to scale in line with the Palomino-based
2100+ before it. Intel has clearly clenched the performance crown, but AMD is
banking on the Hammer to compete aggressively against the Pentium 4. One of
AMD?s Hammer machines was running a 64-bit version of Internet Explorer
(obviously, with a 64-bit version of Windows). The other was running Electronic
Arts' Medal of Honor. It was good to see the Hammer running something a
little more strenuous than just an OS.
ATI garnered a huge victory
during the show. Their next-generation hardware (presumably R300) powered
the Doom III demo on the floor. Other than that, their conference room was all
about the mobile RADEON 7500, Gamecube, and of course, the 128MB RADEON 8500
desktop board. Expect to hear more from ATI in the near future, as they execute
on their promise to be much more supportive of end-users. Unfortunately, ATI
was not yet ready to discuss any details of the much-anticipated R300 featured
in the Doom III demonstration. On the bright side, ATI is nearly ready to
release the component output for use with current RADEON products.
Potential ?comeback kid? Matrox,
was present in both the Intel and AMD booths, not to mention their own. The
upcoming Parhelia-512 powered several three-screen displays in Surround Gaming
demonstrations of Unreal Tournament 2003 and Flight Simulator 2002. At first,
the multi-monitor gaming feature was a little disorienting, as I tried to adjust
to the larger field of view. After a while, I was able to accustom myself to
the three screens. However, I would definitely say that surround gaming is
much better suited for the steady pace of Flight Simulator, than hectic
first-person shooters. Although I wasn?t allowed to photograph the actual
hardware, I was able to discern that the Parhelia boards are pretty thick
(8-layers?) without any traces from the BGA memory modules present on the
surface of the board. In order to achieve better signal integrity, it looks
like Matrox paid special attention to shielding the board from interference.
Parhelia boards should initially be in the neighborhood of $400, but there also
appears to be plans for a lower cost variant.
Anyone with a GeForce4 Ti 4600
would have found NVIDIA?s conference room pretty boring. The only real topic
for discussion was the newly released GeForce4 Ti 4200, which will compete with
the RADEON 8500 from ATI (and ensure sales of the GeForce4 MX 460 will most
likely never take off). Like ATI, NVIDIA was focused on their GeForce4 Go,
Xbox, and of course, the GeForce4 Ti family.
After damaging their
relationship with NVIDIA, Guillemot has resourcefully turned to ATI for graphics
processors. Guillemot was showcasing an entire line of boards based on the
RADEON 8500 and RADEON 7500 products. Given their past proclivity for tweaked
hardware, plans were also discussed for even faster versions of the 128MB RADEON
We also snapped a shot of a PC
packaged in what seemed to be a stereo component box. Coupled with an All in
Wonder RADEON 8500, it might make an interesting addition to a home theater
We peeked into 3DLabs? private
stall to see a P10 demonstration, but wasn?t able to stick around long enough to
get the full bore introduction. Also, I noticed Analog Devices showing off
their SoundMax technology that can be found on many of Intel?s reference
motherboards. Finally, Altec Lansing gave me the rundown on a new line of
well-priced speakers for console enthusiasts who tire of TV audio. By the
end of the show I felt like an F1 car in desperate need of a tire change.
Marching up and down the show floor was physically exhausting, but it was
definitely rewarding to see the host of DirectX 8 games that will finally put
some stress on the latest wave of graphics hardware. Start saving your pennies,
folks, this Christmas is going to be an exciting time to be a gamer.
Are you talkin' ta me? Get into the
HotHardware Conference Room!