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ASUS at Computex 2008

Date: June 12, 2008
Author(s): Rob Williams

One of the dominating companies at Computex was ASUS, and because of the sheer amount of products on display, we’ve decided to dedicate an article to the most interesting ones. Included inside is a look at their new motherboards, audio cards, Eee PC accessories and much more.

Introduction, Vento Products, Motherboards

We attend the Consumers Electronics Show each year in Las Vegas, Nevada, because it’s by far the largest technology showcase on these shores. However, an arguably even more important event takes place each June in Taipei, Taiwan: Computex.

Why Computex is important is because it showcases products from companies that have active sales in that market, and believe it or not, many of the products in your computer were likely developed and produced in Taiwan. Sometimes, it’s good to go straight to the source.

One such company that resides in Taiwan is ASUS, and because they had so much to show off, I decided to dedicate an entire article to what they had on display. It’s clear to me that ASUS’ R&D department never sleeps, because the amount of new products on display just since CES is rather staggering.

As you have probably noticed from our front page, one of the biggest announcements during the show was for ASUS’ 10" Eee PC. I’ve been quoted by ASUS directly that they will not go beyond that size, so let’s see if it holds true. For specific Eee PC coverage, please refer to Greg’s article.

No Shortage of Vento

The first thing that grabbed my attention was the sheer amount of Vento-branded products in their display. Vento, to me in the past, represented their bubbly red Vento chassis, but the name is finding its place on numerous other products, including power supplies, a wide-range of chassis’ and even peripherals.

Given how many companies are now producing power supplies, you’d almost guess that it was an untapped market. That’s certainly not the case, obviously, but if there is one company to dive in and actually deliver worthwhile products, it’s ASUS. We can just hope their models will satisfy even the hardcore-est of the hardcore power supply enthusiasts.

The same thing could be said about hard drive enclosures, but that didn’t stop their offerings from receiving a Taiwan Excellence 2008 award. I do admit, I like the clean design and cool colors.

Their first Vento-branded chassis was only to be the beginning of big things to come. On the top shelf were numerous different Vento chassis’, all with very different styling. I didn’t crack one open, so I’m not sure what they do that others do, if they do indeed have innovative features. None of the cases shown struck my fancy, but your opinions may vary.

We first learned about ASUS’ foray into the gaming PC market a few months ago, but at Computex they had showed off completed designs. These machines are pre-built, meaning the chassis will not be available separately – at least at this point in time.

I’d assume that the same retail channels that currently offer ASUS notebooks would begin to pick up on these… or at least the higher-end retailers. The machines on display featured a high-end QX9650 Quad-Core and dual (or quad, I can’t recall) GPUs. One thing that did strike me, was the fact that the machines include not one, but TWO 1000W power supplies.

Overkill? Without question. Certainly good if you care about the appearance of your e-peen, however.

The company had countless motherboards on display, for both AMD and Intel platforms. The first stop was a look at their Intel offerings, which, not surprisingly, were mostly focusing on the new P45 chipset from Intel.

In my P5Q Deluxe review from a few weeks ago, I mentioned that there would initially be four P45 offerings from ASUS, but here there were seven or eight. Regardless of what you are looking for in a motherboard, there should be one here for you.

All of the current and upcoming AMD boards on display offer support for the new 140W Phenom processors… even the mATX model. This will come as a relief to those wanting to pack some AMD Quad-Core action into a small PC.

The Republic of Gamers’ boards are always ones to be drooled over, and the Rampage Extreme is no different. It’s decked out in most all regards, and offers a robust cooler that’s modeled after a Ferrari engine. Hard to not like that.

It’s not everyday that an mATX motherboard catches my eye, but the M3A78-EM did. You can see the reason below. Alongside the many USB and e-SATA ports are four different video outputs including HDMI, DVI, VGA and even DisplayPort. Though not many people will be able to take advantage of all four at any given time, having the option between any is nice.

Since ATI’s and NVIDIA’s upcoming offerings are still under embargo, no company showed off their new models. So all of the cards on display were based on previous architectures that we’ve reviewed in the past. One common theme I noticed though, was that almost every video card manufacturer had designed unique 9600 GT coolers, and ASUS was no exception.

The ‘Black Pearl’ edition of the EN9600GT features a pure black PCB and low-profile heatsink with leaf-blower fan. The 9600 GT is easily one of the best cards on the market for the price-point and this is equally easily one of my favorites.

Audio Cards, Eee PC Accessories, Left Overs

When ASUS released their first audio card last year, which we quickly reviewed, people were skeptical. Could some company come along and release a new sound card that was actually impressive, and competitive? If you take a look at that article and also our recent DX look, you could see that the answer is a resounding ‘yes’.

I had the great pleasure of being able to talk to ASUS’ audio team at Computex for near an hour, and I’m impressed to see what is on the horizon. I’m no audiophile, I’ll admit, but the quality of their cards cannot be denied, and I religiously use my Xonar D2X paired with good headphones on a regular basis. It’s the ultimate aural orgasm.

So with the Xonar D2, D2X and DX out, what’s next? How about the world’s first HDMI audio card? You might be wondering how this works, and so did I. This is to be installed as a normal sound card, alongside a video card. It does not transmit video.

One small HDMI cable will run from the card to your GPU, which can be done with a DVI-to-HDMI adapter if your GPU doesn’t include an HDMI port. From there, you can run another HDMI cable from the video card (can also be done via DVI/HDCP) to the display. This will enable higher quality audio than what on-board audio cards or GPU HDMI outputs will offer.

Unlike all (from what I’m told) PC solutions on the market, which can only output to 48kHz, using this card will offer a full 192kHz frequency… something to be appreciated if you have a proper setup.

It doesn’t end there, however. Also on display were multiple solutions for true audiophiles and those with specific needs. There is even production cards… one that can accept a 1/4" microphone jack. I’ll let the pictures explain themselves.

Audio aside, ASUS had numerous other products on display, such as CPU coolers, updated and new notebooks and many Eee PC accessories.

This cooler caught my eye, primarily because it’s rare to see one adorned with a pearl white guard. I am not sure what the emblem represents, but despite being shaped like a butterfly… I kind of want one.

During my Computex trip, I solely used ASUS’ U6 notebook, and overall, I have to say I’m quite impressed. I’ll leave all the comments for the review soon, though. Updated models were on display, including one which incorporates bamboo into the design, which looks absolutely fantastic.

Wood doesn’t seem like it would be a great choice for implementation into a notebook, but it’s pulled off well here. The wood was incredibly smooth, and from what I understand, will not wear out over time.

While the U6 is a modest 12", the brand-new G70 is a staggering 17"… as it should be though, for gamers. I am unsure of the components used in here, but I believe the GPU was a GoForce 9600 GT, with other comparable components used.

I was quoted that this beast of an offering should retail for under $2,000, so all we can do is wait for a final SRP and also the specs list to judge how well desired this one should be.

For Eee PC enthusiasts, you’d be pleased to know that numerous accessories are on the way, and to say they are unique would be an understatement. On display we saw a handwriting pad, a home security starter kit, a mouse the size of your finger, motion joysticks (thing Nintendo Wii) and also a Skype phone. More were on display, but I found these to be the most interesting.

Lastly, the new Eee Box was also on display, which is essentially the Eee PC in a desktop form. This thing looks quite hopeful. It’s small (smalled than a Nintendo Wii from what I could tell), offers a fair amount of connectivity and is supposed to come in at a very good price.

The Eee Box will of course not be for performance hounds, but the fact that you could actually hide your entire PC behind your monitor or in a cabinet is a very attractive option. Using wireless peripherals may defeat the purpose of an affordable PC, but the option is there for those who want it.

So as you can see, ASUS had a lot on display. Not only were the products abundant, but they were intriguing. I am most interested in their upcoming audio lineup, personally. This is a company that came virtually out of nowhere with an audio lineup and are now creating solutions not seen from the other guys (such as the pure HDMI card).

We of course will not be taking a look at every product seen in this article in the future, but there will be a definite few, so stay tuned as we will evaluate their true value.

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