Motherboard manufacturer merger mayhem

Subject: General Tech | September 28, 2012 - 02:00 PM |
Tagged: purchase, merger, asus, asrock

The news from DigiTimes yesterday that Haswell will take even more features away from the motherboard and place them on the CPU signalled a problem for second and third tier manufacturers was worrying.  With less and less features being available for motherboard manufacturers to use to distinguish their products the market becomes less profitable for those boards which can't afford the additional costs incurred by including Thunderbolt or other high end features.  That could well spell the end of several current motherboard manufacturers.

If that wasn't enough to worry you about the possibility of having less choice in system parts in the future, how about the news coming out of SemiAccurate that ASUS is looking to purchase ASRock's motherboard business.  If that was to occur ASUS would own a huge portion of the first tier of motherboards and swamp Gigabyte with the volume they could produce.  At the same time they could leverage ASRock's lower cost motherboard business and compete with the second tier motherboard manufacturers.  With the competition being so fierce and the added features being so limited, at least for Intel boards, the third tier would not have a snowballs chance in the market and would collapse except for a few custom boards for niche markets.   Not the best news for enthusiasts or cost conscious consumers.

asusrock.png

"Currently word has it that an offer has been made for Asrock, and Pegatron is essentially fine with the terms. This would take the #1 and #3 mobo makers and combine them, leaving the industry with one massive behemoth, one solid player, and a lot of minnows struggling to make waves. As of now, there is a first tier of Asus and Gigabyte, then Asrock, MSI, and ECS at less than half of that volume, plus a few niche players in the motherboard market."

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Source: SemiAccurate

Do these pixels look funny to you?

Subject: General Tech | September 27, 2012 - 04:44 PM |
Tagged: win8, resolution, asus, Zenbook Prime, win7, disappoint

The Tech Report were excited by the arrival of the new ASUS Zenbook Prime with its 1920x1080 13.3" IPS display but when they they used it under Win7 they ran into some problems.  As the text at this resolution is absolutely tiny on a 13.3" screen it is zoomed to 125% which is about right for text on the desktop, the third party applications however did not necessarily look right and when they fired up IE9 it got much worse, as you can see below.  As there is a new almost finished version of Windows 8 available, which touts its ability to handle high pixel per inch screens, they loaded that OS onto the Zenbook in the hopes of improving the look of the web.  Read their disappointing results from using Win8 and IE10 on small screen with a big resolution.

win7-iescaling-1.png

"We've taken Windows 8 for a spin on Asus' new Zenbook Prime in order to get a feel for the new OS's PPI scaling capabilities. As we found, Windows 8's suitability for systems with high-PPI screens may have been exaggerated."

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The ASUS P8Z77-V Deluxe is all dressed

Subject: Motherboards | September 21, 2012 - 05:34 PM |
Tagged: asus, p8z77-V deluxe

The ASUS P8Z77-V Deluxe has a 20-phase power design, more heatsinks than an assault mech and a long list of features including a pair of PCIe 16x slots for CrossFireX and SLI, LucidLogix Virtu MVP, Quick Sync video, Smart Response Technology, Smart Connect Technology and many other extras.  You do pay a premium for such a long list as the board is $280 on NewEgg, those who want this much motherboard are going to have to spend a bit more than someone happy with a basic Z77 implementation.  [H]ard|OCP put the board to the test most important to many enthusiasts, overclocking an i7 3770K to 4.84GHz with some careful adjustments to the voltages provided to the components.  It pulled in a Gold Award but [H] recommends only the experienced pick up this board as there are available settings in the UEFI BIOS which could seriously damage your equipment if you aren't very familiar with the specifications of your CPU and memory.

H_98z77vdel.jpg

"The ASUS P8Z77-V Deluxe comes from an outstanding pedigree as virtually every board in the ASUS P8xxx series has been excellent. Is this another tremendously worthy entry in the lineup or does this one shy away from its heritage? Read on to learn about our experiences with the P8Z77-V Deluxe."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Fastest isn't necessarily best when it comes to GTX 660s

Subject: Graphics Cards | September 20, 2012 - 04:35 PM |
Tagged: overclock, gtx 660, DirectCU II, asus

As promised [H]ard|OCP has spent some time overclocking the ASUS GTX 660 DirectCU II card and have come back with their results.  The highest GPU clock they managed was a reported 1170MHz Boost clock in GPU Tweak but which was 1215MHz in actual in-game performance.  While that was the high speed record it did not provide the best performance as the frequency often dipped much lower because of the heat produced, [H]'s sweet spot was actually a 1100MHz Boost clock, in-game a much more steady 1152MHz though it did still dip occasionally.  They also upped the memory, but again because of the heat produced by the overclock they could not raise voltage without negative consequences.  Check the whole review here.

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"We put our new ASUS GeForce GTX 660 through the ringer of overclocking and make real world gaming comparisons. If you are thinking the new GTX 660 (GK106) GPU will be a good overclocker like its bigger brother GK104, you may be in for a surprise that puts the new GTX 660 in a new light."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

ASUS Vivo Tab, Vivo Tab RT, and Taichi Tablet Pricing Leaked

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 19, 2012 - 07:30 AM |
Tagged: windows rt, vivo tab rt, vivo tab, taichi, tablet, pricing, asus

Earlier this month we detailed two ASUS tablets that were on display at IFA 2012. The important specification that was unknown at the time was pricing, however. Specifically, pricing information has been leaked on not only the two ASUS Vivo tablets, but a third tablet that we reported on in June: the ASUS Taichi convertible tablet.

ZDNet claims to have gotten a hold of the final pricing for the three tablets, by means of a leaked slide(s) that represent the company's holiday roadmap. The leaked slide can be seen below. 

Asus Tablet Pricing.jpg

The two upcoming Vivo-series tablets are the Vivo Tab and Vivo Tab RT, which will run the x86 and ARM versions of Windows 8 respectively.

The Vivo Tab will run an Atom CPU, 2GB RAM, 64GB internal storage, front/rear cameras (8MP/2MP), and sport a 10.1" Super IPS+ display (1366x768 resolution). It is rated at 8.7mm thick and weighing 675 grams. According to the leaked slide, the Vivo Tab will be priced at $799 for the base model, and the accompanying keyboard dock will cost an additional $199.

On the other hand, specifications for the Vivo Tab RT include a NVIDIA Tegra 3 SoC, 2GB of RAM, 32GB internal storage, 11.6" Super IPS+ display (1366x768), 8MP/2MP front and rear camera. It weighs 520 grams and is 8.3mm thick. This tablet has a starting price of $599 for the tablet itself, and the keyboard dock costs $199 extra.

Note that this ARM-powered tablet will come with the preview/RTM version of Microsoft Office 2013 at launch (which I have been using since the Customer Preview came out, and generally like it). Once office goes gold, Windows RT tablets will receive a free update to the final version. However, with the Windows RT version, you do not have access to features like macro support in excel (which kind of defeats the purpose of using this a business machine, but at least it's 'free').

Comparison of ASUS' Transformer-style tablets
  ASUS Vivo Tab ASUS Vivo Tab RT ASUS Transformer Prime ASUS Transformer Infinity
Processor/SoC Intel Atom NVIDIA Tegra 3 NVIDIA Tegra 3 NVIDIA Tegra 3
RAM 2GB 2GB 1GB 1GB
Internal Memory 64GB 32GB 32GB 64GB
Display 10.1" Super IPS+ @ 1366x768 11.6" Super IPS+ @ 1366x768 10.1" IPS @ 1280x800 10.1" Super IPS+ @ 1920x1200
Camera(s) 8MP rear, 2MP front 8MP rear, 2MP front 8MP rear, 1.2MP front 8MP rear, 2MP front
Size 8.7mm thick 8.3mm thick 10.4" x 7.1" x .3" 10.4" x 7.1" x .3" (8.5mm thick)
Weight 675g 520g 589.67g 598g

A comparison of the Vivo Tab and Vivo RT compared to ASUS' Android-powered alternatives.

Further, the ASUS Taichi is not only a tablet, but one with dual screens that is actually billed as an ultrabook -- and with a (rumored) price to match! For $1299, you get an ultrabook with two 1920x1080 multi-touch displays on the front and bad "lid" of the laptop. Specifications include an Intel Ivy Bridge processor, 4GB of RAM, SSD, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, dual cameras, and USB 3.0 support. Even better, both displays on the Taichi can be used at the same time to share the computer with a friend sitting across from you (unclear how the software handles this though I don't think both users get individual desktops).

What that means is that if you want a Windows 8 tablet from ASUS with a keyboard dock, you are looking at a minimum of $798 for the ARM-powered Vivo Tab RT, $998 for the Vivo Tab, and $1299 for the ASUS Taichi. Now, the Taichi's pricing I can forgive, because it is marketed and positioned as an ultrabook. The two Vivo Tabs do seem overpriced for what you are getting once you factor in the additional cost fo the keyboard dock. If the dock was included in the $599 and $799 (base tablet) prices, I think those prices would be fair – but they do not. Even comparing to the company's Android tablets, it is difficult for me to justify the 'x86 and Microsoft taxes' that are likely responsible for the increased cost. As an example, you can find the 32GB Transformer Prime and keyboard dock for a total of $616.94 on Amazon right now. Is the (approx.) additional $180 really worth it just to run Windows 8 – and the ARM version at that (so no traditional desktop apps). For many people, I think not and I think Microsoft and the many tablet OEMs that are going to try to push Windows 8 tablets/notebooks this holiday season are going to need to re-evaluate the market if they want these devices to sell well.

Micrsoft's Surface tablet is expected to be around the $500 mark as well...

After using Windows 8 RTM on my main desktop, I'm not sold on metro but it's not terrible and it's actually a decent UI when navigating around with a touchscreen (I've also tried it on a convertible tablet). I do think that Windows 8 tablets are a good thing, and if positioned at the right price, Microsoft and the OEMs could sell a lot of these just on the merits of being able to say that this computer/tablet/notebook/et al is running 'Microsoft' and/or 'Windows' on the box and displays (at retail) which consumers are familiar with and comfortable paying for (the brand name).

The crux of it is pricing though, because if there is a 10" tablet for $800 next to a 10" for $600, and the only discernable difference is what is on the screen (the OS, and especially since Win 8 isn't all that reminiscent of Windows' desktop), I have to believe that the majority of consumers are going to go for the cheaper model (likely running Android).

[And that's not really touching on the $1000 Vivo Tab+dock that is running an Atom processor of all things... that is most definitely ultrabook territory and for that price you should be getting at least a Sandy Bridge CPU, and better chassis. If I was in that situation of choosing just between ASUS' devices (with a touchscreen), I would probably just save up the extra cash for the Taichi and get a 'real' ultrabook (internal specs-wise), or go for something like the Transformer Pad Infinity which wouldn't run Windows but would at least have a much better display and be a bit more portable.]

But what do you think? Are the rumored prices reasonable? Would you buy a Windows 8 tablet over an Android tablet even if the Microsoft-powered device is significantly more expensive?

Source: ZDNet

Play with ASUS' Vulcan ANC headset and you'll never hear the neighbours complain

Subject: General Tech | September 18, 2012 - 06:27 PM |
Tagged: audio, gaming headset, noise cancellation, asus, Vulcan ANC

No matter how loud you have the ASUS Vulcan ANC headset you will never hear anyone around you complain thanks to the active noise cancellation feature.  While it does mean you will occasionally need to feed the headset some batteries as well as keep them plugged into the 3.5mm audio out on your computer.  However doing so will mean you can game in peace without worrying about background noise disturbing your concentration.  At $120 they are not inexpensive, however Neoseeker found the sound quality more than acceptable and were even happier with the noise cancellation performance.

NS_ASUSANC.jpg

"As you may have already guessed, the ANC stands for Active Noise Cancelling. That's correct, the ASUS Vulcan ANC is the first active noise cancelling headphones made specifically for gamers. If you've got a loud computer, or a roommate that won't stop talking, simply put on your Vulcan ANC headset and turn the noise cancelling on! The removable mic adds versatility and does let the pro gamer headset come across as a headphone more geared toward audiophiles."

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Source: Neoseeker

ASUS Hosting Skills Challenge Contest, Prizes Include ASUS hardware and Newegg Gift Cards

Subject: General Tech | September 14, 2012 - 06:48 PM |
Tagged: Z77, Sabertooth, hardware, contest, asus, 660ti

Today ASUS kicked off a new PC building contest where they are offering up hardware and gift cards to winners. Called the ASUS Skills Challenge, the hardware company is challenging enthusiasts to time themselves building a computer, and the three fastest times will get Newegg cards and hardware grab bags. In addition, the PC builder that puts their computer together faster than JJ from ASUS will win a grand prize.

Asus Skills Challenge_1.jpg

Prizes for the Skill Challenge include:

Grand Prize:

  • The enthusiast that builds their PC faster than JJ wins a grand prize that includes all of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes as well as a "top of the line" ASUS grab bag.

The fastest build time of all entrants, 1st place prize:

  • ASUS Sabertooth Z77 Motherboard, ASUS GTX 660Ti, and a $500 Newegg gift card. 

The second fastest build time, 2nd place prize:

  • ASUS grab bag and a $250 Newegg gift card.

The third fastest build time, 3rd place prize:

  • ASUS grab bag and a $100 Newegg gift card.

Alternatively, ASUS is offering up a random prize draw as well for those that want a chance to win without entering the speed building contest. In the random prize draw, one entrant will be chosen, and ASUS will award the winner with a $100 Newegg gift card and an ASUS grab bag.

The contest begins today and will end on October 14th, 2012 at 5:00 PM PDT. To enter, you will need to "Like" this ASUS Skills Challenge contest page, and then provide the company with your name, birthday, and email. If you are doing the building challenge, you will further need to provide an unedited video of yourself assembling a PC with a timer of some sort in the foreground. 

Basic contest rules are that you be at least 18 years old, and live within the United States or Canada. If you do not use Facebook, you can also enter the contest on this webpage. The winner list will be posted on the app on (or before) October 19, 2012.

You can find the official rules on the contest page. Best of luck in winning some ASUS hardware!

Source: ASUS

Podcast #217 - Corsair AX1200i Power Supply, Video Games as Art, Wireless Charging and more!

Subject: General Tech | September 6, 2012 - 01:26 PM |
Tagged: wireless charging, VIVO, thunderbolt, podcast, k90, k60, corsair, black mesa, ax1200i, asus

PC Perspective Podcast #217 - 09/06/2012

Join us this week as we talk about the Corsair AX1200i Power Supply, Video Games as Art, Wireless Charging and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom, Allyn Malvantano and Scott Michaud

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!

A big thanks goes to our friends at ALXTech.net for hosting our PC Perspective gaming server!  Find out how you can get a game server for just $0.65/slot by visiting http://alxtech.net/pcper/!!

Program length: 1:24:36

Program Schedule:

  1. Week in Reviews:
    1. 0:01:55 Corsair AX1200i Power Supply review
    2. 0:09:00 Lucid Virtu MVP for mobile
    3. 0:19:25 Corsair K60 and K90 Keyboard review
    4. 0:28:50 Video Games Do Not Want to be Art?
  2. 0:38:20 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!
  3. News items of interest:
    1. 0:39:20 Wireless charging is close!
    2. 0:44:13 Western Digital 2TB Thunderbolt MyBook
    3. 0:47:20 Arctic MC101 Trinity based HTPC
    4. 0:48:50 ASUS shows Vivo tablets at IFA
    5. 0:53:30 Ultrabook with 2560x1440 display from Samsung
    6. 0:56:10 Lower Power IVB coming soon
    7. 0:57:30 The ASUS Eee PC line is gone...
    8. 1:02:30 ASUS launches "Powered by ASUS" systems
  4. Closing:
    1. 1:08:00 Hardware / Software Pick of the Week
      1. Ryan: Apple iPad HDMI adapter
      2. Jeremy: Almost as long to develop as Duke Nukem but way cheaper and so much better
      3. Josh: $155 for people with patience...
      4. Allyn: Storage Testbed! Z77, baby.
      5. Scott: Wacom Cintiq 22HD (video)
      6. Also -- Arctic Silver 5 -- does it expire?
  1. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  2. http://pcper.com/podcast
  3. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  4. Closing/outro

ASUS Debuts "Powered by ASUS" Systems Through Award-winning System Integrators

Subject: Systems | September 5, 2012 - 06:18 PM |
Tagged: asus

ASUS has just launched a new prorgam with popular system builders like Puget Systems and CyberPower to give enthusiasts the ability to order a system built around ASUS parts, not just for the branding but also for the theoretical compatibility between the components.  Since ASUS makes such a wide variety of components these systems will include motherboards, graphics cards and sound cards on the interior as well as gaming headsets, monitors and even routers will all be sold as a package by these boutique outlets.  You can also expect to see some savings on these parts compared to retail as well as the customizations you would expect from high end system builders.  The PR is below and you can head straight to the new Powered By ASUS site here.

PBA2.png

Fremont, California (September 5, 2012) - Working closely with its custom system integration partners, ASUS today formally launched its Powered by ASUS (PBA) program in North America. Powered by ASUS brings consumers familiar with the performance, design and reliability of ASUS components together with trusted system integrators. This program creates a new category of build-to-order PCs offering unique configurations that are stability tested and performance optimized with class leading ASUS components.

Timothy Lin, Director of Product Management at ASUS summed up the reasoning behind the new program by explaining “There are a lot of hardware enthusiasts and ASUS fans out there that do not build their own PCs, but want additional performance and features typically not available in off-the-shelf systems. Recognizing this opportunity we worked closely with the system integrators in developing the Powered by ASUS program. This unique program offers consumers the ability to custom configure a system utilizing a wide variety of high-quality ASUS components.”

System integrators that participate in the Powered by ASUS program offer custom configurations utilizing multiple ASUS components. The expansive list of available ASUS components includes motherboards, graphics cards, sound cards, optical disc drives, headsets, wireless routers, USB wireless adapters and monitors. ASUS encourages system integrators to utilize various hardware combinations based on their customers’ needs. This program highlights not only the benefits of using multiple ASUS components together in one system, but also the capabilities and expertise of each authorized system builder.

Strong Support From Partners
North American custom system integrators expressed strong support for the Powered by ASUS program:

“ASUS has created a unique program that showcases their commitment to the industry by offering consumers more choices. Combining the ASUS brand promise with its wide range of products, the Powered by ASUS program can change the way consumers seek custom PCs. We applaud ASUS for moving the industry forward!” – Tim Chen, General Manager, iBUYPOWER

“We are honored to be a launch partner of the Powered by ASUS program. It allows us to offer configurations that are focused on design and innovation that make sense and provide lasting performance. It represents an important milestone in custom PCs and should encourage more consumer considerations.” – Eric Cheung, CEO, CyberPower

“ASUS motherboards have been our default choices for many years thanks to their superb engineering and rock solid reliability. The Powered by ASUS program takes our commitment to building cutting-edge PCs one step further by allowing consumers to experience more ASUS product innovations. We are excited to be a launch partner of PBA.” – Kelt Reeves, President, Falcon Northwest

“Our hand crafted systems would not be top shelf without ASUS motherboards found behind the rest of our carefully selected hardware. Even before our inception we've recognized the commitment ASUS has made to the industry to provide truly innovative, stable and performance dominant hardware. It is an honor to be a launch partner with the Powered by ASUS program, and we applaud ASUS for seeking to share an ecosystem of innovative products through its customer experience driven partners. – Adrian Hunter, CEO, Geekbox Computers

Launch Partners
To celebrate the launch of Powered by ASUS, during the month of September customers that purchase qualifying systems from authorized system builders will receive a complimentary, award-winning Xonar DSX sound card built into their system - a $59.99 USD value.

PBA.png

To learn more about Powered by ASUS, go to http://pba.asus.com. System configurations and ASUS components available are subject to change at any time.

Source: ASUS

ASUS kills the Eee PC and shrinks the Atom market

Subject: General Tech | September 4, 2012 - 02:43 PM |
Tagged: asus, acer, Intel, atom, eee pc

2012 has been a very tough year to be a manufacture of mobile products and not too easy on the designers either.  We started off with the Ultraboook form factor, specifically the challenge to make parts which could allow the ultrathin design to be functional in the real world while still aiming for that $1000 price point.  The prices of SSDs have come down and the processors have also marginally dropped in price but the materials required to make a sturdy chassis of exceptional thinness have not. 

Then Microsoft decided to make things interesting with their Surface tablet, which is a wonderful platform to show off Windows 8 on but not the best way to maintain a relationship with mobile manufacturers.  Regardless of the price that Microsoft chooses to release the Surface at, each Surface sale represents a lost sale for another mobile manufacturer.  Acer, for one has had no problems voicing their complaints about a software company muscling into hardware territory.

Today we heard from DigiTimes that ASUS is dropping their Eee PC line, along with Intel's Atom processor and Acer is dropping netbooks altogether.  While part of the problem with the Intel's Atom is that it has always had a hard time providing users with the computing experience they desire, dropping the entire form factor implies more problems that simply performance.  Manufacturers could build netbooks with AMD's Trinity or even NVIDIA's Tegra depending on the agreements in place with Intel, however the two top tier mobile manufactures have straight out dropped the form factor, with only MSI staying in the market.  While the netbook may have only been of use to a certain younger crowd with limited money and expectations there were certain Eee PC models designed for the desktop which made decent low powered internet access machines which are also going the way of the dinosaur which may be missed a little by a larger audience. 

The effective death of the netbook will have an effect on manufacturers like Pegatron and some sections of Intel, the real question is whether the end user will even notice or if they were already only considering a 13" laptop or Ultrabook.

 

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"Intel may be forced to adjust its roadmap for PC-use Atom processors as the top-2 netbook vendors – Asustek Computer and Acer – both plan to stop manufacturing related products, according to sources from notebook players.

Asustek is already set to halt its Eee PC product line and officially phase out from the IT industry after completely digesting any remaining inventory. As for Acer, so far, the company has not yet made any plans to open new netbook projects, indicating that the vendor may also plan to step out of the market."

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Source: DigiTimes