ASUS Avalon concept PC merges desktops and DIY with cable-free mindset

Subject: Graphics Cards, Motherboards, Systems, Shows and Expos | May 30, 2016 - 08:04 AM |
Tagged: crazy people, concept, computex 2016, computex, avalon, asus

If you expected Computex to be bland and stale this year, ASUS has something that is going to change your mind. During the company's Republic of Gamers press conference, it revealed a concept PC design it has been working on dubbed Avalon. The goal of this project was to improve on the fundamental design of the PC; something that hasn't changed for decades. ASUS wanted to show that you could build a platform that would allow DIY machines to be "more modular, easier to build, and more tightly integrated."

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The result is a proof of concept design that looks more like a high end turntable than a PC. In reality, you are looking at a machine that has been totally redesigned, from the power supply to motherboard and case integration to cooling considerations and more. ASUS has posted a great story that goes into a lot of detail on Avalon, and it's clear this is a project the team has been working on for some time.

The brainchild of Jonathan Chu, the Avalon concept takes a notebook-like approach to desktop design. The motherboard is designed in conjunction with the chassis to enable more seamless cooperation between the two.

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The first example of changes to Avalon is something as simple as the front panel connectors on a case. Connecting them to your motherboard is the same today, basically, as it has ever been. But if you are the manufacturer or designer of both the chassis and the motherboard itself, it is trivial to have the buttons, lights and even additional capabilities built into a specific location on the PCB that matches with access points on the case. 

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Re-thinking the rear IO panel was another target: making it modular and connected to the system via PCI Express means you can swap connectivity options based on the user's needs. Multiple Gigabit NICs a requirement? Done. Maximum USB capability? Sure. Even better, by making the back panel IO a connected device, it can host storage and sound controllers on its own, allowing for improved audio solutions and flexible data configurations. 

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ASUS even worked in a prototype power supply that is based on the SFX form factor but that uses a server-style edge connector, removing wires from the equation. It then becomes the motherboard's responsibility to distribute power through the other components; which again is easy to work through if you are designing these things in tandem. Installing or swapping a power supply becomes as simple as pulling out a drive tray.

This is all made possible by an internal structure that looks like this:

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Rethinking how a motherboard is built, how it connects to the outside world and to other components, means that ASUS was able to adjust and change just about everything. The only area that remains the same is for the discrete graphics card. These tend to draw too much power to use any kind of edge connector (though the ASUS story linked above says they are working on a solution) and thus you see short run cables from a break out on the motherboard to the standard ROG graphics card.

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The ASUS EdgeUp story has some more images and details and I would encourage you to check it out if you find this topic compelling; I know I do. There are no prices, no release dates, no plans for sampling yet. ASUS has built a prototype that is "right on the edge of what’s possible" and they are looking for feedback from the community to see what direction they should go next.

Will the DIY PC in 2020 be a completely different thing than we build today? It seems ASUS is asking the same question.

Source: ASUS EdgeUp

CES 2016: In Win Displays Revised 805 Enclosure Concept

Subject: Cases and Cooling | January 8, 2016 - 07:15 PM |
Tagged: tempered glass, In Win 805, in win, enclosure, concept, CES 2016, CES, cases

In Win was showing a concept for a new version of their 805 chassis at their booth on the CES 2016 show floor, and this version adds a special front panel with an infinite LED effect from its dual-mirror construction.

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In addition to the cool front panel effect the 805 concept is compatible with RGB headers on certain motherboards (such as the ASUS ROG board used in the booth display), which control case lighting effects. The system on display was cycling color along with the ASUS ROG logo on the motherboard, and created a unique effect – especially given the front panel design, which really needs to be seen in person to maximize the effect.

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Internally we are looking at the same enclosure as the existing 805, a fantastic looking design with tempered glass side panels, and here are the specifications of that enclosure (which launched back in August of 2015):

  • Case Size: Mid Tower
  • Material: Aluminum and 3 mm tempered glass
  • Internal drive bays    3.5"/2.5" x2 + 2.5" x2 (up to 4 drives total)
  • Motherboard: ATX / Micro-ATX /Mini-ITX  (max 12” x 10.5”)
  • Expansion slots: 8
  • Power supply: ATX 12V, PSII Size and EPS up to 220mm
  • Front I/O: USB 3.1 TYPE-C x1, USB 3.0 x1, USB 2.0 x2, HD Audio
  • GPU support: Up to 320mm (164 mm height)
  • Cooling support:
  • CPU heatsink up to 156mm
  • Front 120/140mm Fan x2
  • Rear 120mm Fan x1 (Included)
  • Bottom 120mm Fan x2 (HDD cage removed)
  • Liquid cooling support:
  • Front: 120/140/240/280mm Radiator (Height up to 60mm)
  • Rear: 120mm Radiator (Height up to 35mm)
  • Dimension (HxWxD)    476 x 205 x 455 mm (18.7”x 8” x 18”)

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In Win is looking for feedback with this concept of a new 805 design, and the current 805 (minus the infinite LED front panel) is available for $169 (Newegg) here in the US.

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: In Win

Lenovo Tech World: Magic View Smartwatch and Smart Cast Smartphone concepts shown

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | May 27, 2015 - 10:55 PM |
Tagged: wearable, tech world, smartwatch, smartphone, smart cast, magic view, lenovo tech world, Lenovo, concept

Today at the Lenovo Tech World keynote presentation, Lenovo CTO Peter Hortensius took the opportunity to show some of the far reaching concepts for smartphones and smartwatches.

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The Magic View smartwatch is a stylish, round smartwatch reminiscent of the Moto 360 that seems from the concept renderings to be based around Android Wear. However, the uniqueness comes from what Lenovo is claiming makes it the only smartwatch with two screens.

Optical reflection is used inside of a portion of the strap in order to project a second “virtual interactive display” more than 20 times larger than the integrated display. This is made possible through Lenovo-designed silicon aimed at miniaturizing the components for this type of projection while maintaining the same performance.

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Lenovo claims this secondary screen will be useful for things like maps, as well as photo and video viewing, but it be remains to be seen if users would favor a virtual display like this over simply using their existing smartphone display. Privacy is also a big part of what Lenovo is pitching with the Magic View. Since users must place the lens portion next to their eye, other people in the same area cannot look over their shoulders and view potientially sensitive information.

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The Lenovo Smart Cast concept plays on a similar idea as the Magic View. Through the use of a build in laser projector, as well as specialized sensors, Lenovo aims at allowing users to project a large virtual touch screen onto tabletop surfaces.

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With the use of infrared sensors, users can touch the surface underneath the projection and interact just as if it were a physical display. Lenovo points towards this being useful for such applications as virtual keyboards in productivity apps, or even for media control of projected movies and light gaming such as Fruit Ninja.

The projected display is also independent of the smartphone display, allowing things such as two separate views for video chatting applications.

 

It remains to be seen if these concepts will ever actually make it into production devices, and if those devices will ever hit North America, but it's always interesting to see what R&D divisions of large companies like Lenovo are up to.

Source: Lenovo

Computex: ASUS Shows Off Two Beastly Concept Motherboards

Subject: Motherboards | June 6, 2012 - 08:12 PM |
Tagged: zeus, wolverine, power phase, motherboard, dual gpu, concept, computex, asus

ASUS has a history of showing off crazy high-end concept motherboards that are not likely to come to market but may help influence future motherboard products by getting the creative sparks of innovation flowing in engineers’ minds.

At this year’s Computex 2012, Asus showed off two concept motherboards that it is calling Zeus and Wolverine. While Zeus tackles Thunderbolt and integrated GPUs, Wolverine approaches the problem of getting clean power to the CPU by pushing the limits of the number of power phases that can be integrated into ATX-sized motherboards.

Zeus

You will notice on the Zeus motherboard that the bottom of the board holds a bank of two 8 pin and two six pin power connectors. The two eight pin connectors are labeled VGA 1 and VGA 2 while the two six pin connectors are labeled VGA 3 and VGA 4 respectively. At first this seems like a regular X79 chipset (socket 2011) based motherboard with giant heatsinks for overclockers. After doing a double take (at least I did), you will notice that the board has no PCI-E connectors!

ASUS Zeus Motherboard.JPG

Source: AnandTech

Instead, the board has a large heatsink, and under that heatsink are two GPUs in CrossFire configuration. Tech Power Up believes that the GPUs being used are two AMD 7800 “Pitcairn” series mobile graphics cards in CrossFire configuration. While the desktop variants are fairly low power, they would need active cooling or a larger heatsink, which I think is what lead them to consider that ASUS may be using mobile-class cards. Reportedly, ASUS did not create this board to suggest GPU integration, but to show off dual Thunderbolt ports on an X79 motherboard.

Connectivity on the board includes a socket 2011 CPU, eight DDR3 DIMM slots, ten SATA connectors, (and on the rear IO panel) a WiFi radio, eight USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt ports, Gigabit LAN, 7.1 channel analog audio output, optical audio output, HDMI output, DisplayPort output, and two eSATA ports.

As far as the dual GPU integration goes, however... I don’t expect we’ll be seeing a move in the industry like this any time soon, at least not on high-end Enthusiast boards (though I could see an argument for small form factor (SFF) budget gaming systems from OEMs). Dedicated graphics card technology moves at such a rapid pace compared to motherboards that it is just not feasible to market a feature like this to enthusiasts. While they may keep the same motherboard for years, those same users will likely upgrade their graphics cards at least once to stay current. Further, with the cost of these high-end motherboards already approaching exorbitant, adding integrated GPUs that don’t mesh well with the purpose of a high end system pushes the cost higher and demand to a point that these boards just don’t seem realistic.

Wolverine

While Zeus was more of a powerhouse with a twist (albeit one that isn’t really feasible to market), the other motherboard – Wolverine – is a “because we can” board but one that could have an impact on the industry today. ASUS has taken its Digi+ digital power to the extreme by packing as many power phases as it could into an ATX form factor motherboard. In total, they managed to place 40 power phases onto the PCB – notice how the CPU socket had to be shifted to the right to make room!

ASUS Wolverine Motherboard.JPG

Source: AnandTech

Other features on the board include eight SATA connectors, four DIMM slots, three PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots, LGA 1155 socket, and three PCI 3.0 x1 slots. On the rear the board features four USB 2.0 ports, six USB 3.0 ports, a WiFi radio, Gigabit LAN, BIOS buttons, optical audio output, 7.1 channel analog audio output, and what looks like two eSATA ports.

Granted, I’m not suggesting that we will be seeing motherboards coming out with 40+ power phases anytime soon. I can see this influencing future designs, however. Even heavy overclockers (water and air cooling levels) don’t really /need/ 40 power phases but we could start seeing vendors put out boards with half of that and still have it be a big improvement.

What do you think of the two new ASUS concept motherboards? You can see more images of the boards over at AnandTech's gallery. Do you think they are on the right track? If not what areas do you think motherboard manufacturers need to improve?

Source: AnandTech