Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/8148/computex-2014-the-asus-booth-tour
Computex 2014: The ASUS Booth Tourby Ian Cutress on June 11, 2014 11:45 AM EST
After two jam-packed press conferences this year, the ASUS booth was brimming with visitors all week every time I walked past. We were given the full tour of the product range, which covered ASUS’ major segments such as motherboards, notebooks, displays, tablets and graphics cards, but also some of the more business end of their product range, such as server products, business solutions and models designed for education. I picked out the key elements (from several dozen it would seem) to show how much work goes into a single event and a number of product launches.
The ASUS booth this year, as in every year I have come to Computex, is substantially larger than those around it, usually on the scale of an Intel with a similar number of visitors. The front facing part of the experience starts with all things mobile, such as notebooks and tablets which the public and press can touch and interact with.
Indeed, many of the press were there, ready to shoot hands-on videos.
In the corner of the booth was the Republic of Gamer’s section, an often popular section perhaps even more so this year with the large number of ROG announcements, such as the G20/GR8 systems, ARES III with waterblock, PB278Q Monitor, Formula/Impact motherboards and GX500 notebook.
Behind the ROG section was the TUF series:
As well as the channel series:
As we cover more server motherboard content here at AnandTech, it was important to get a look at the Server motherboard section:
ASUS also had its new Strix range of graphics cards up on display:
ASUS had a smaller audio presence this year, having had sound rooms in the past to experience the different products on show. Nevertheless, their new Mosaic Streaming DAC was on display in the Smart Audio section:
The displays section last year, due to the rise of 32” 4K/UHD panels and the launch of Haswell, had two 4K systems being powered from a single Z87 motherboard. This year was more purely about the displays, including the PB278Q, PA328Q and a 32” curved LED:
More back out to the main booth floor was the Zenbook stand, with last year’s main model, the UX301, on display with the freshly announced NX500.
Also the Chromebook stand:
One of the lesser known elements of ASUS’ consumer selling would appear to be in Digital Video Recorders, such as those used in taxis all over Taipei and in cars to record what happens in front of them.
Some of the less consumer-facing elements of ASUS were also on show, such as their education-focused range:
As well as the business solutions:
Even from these images there are a few choice items we got up close and personal with that deserve a thorough analysis, such as that white TUF motherboard, the new ROG desktops, the Strix range, an M.2 x4 add-in card, details about the Ares III, the six-stream router announced at the press event, what looked like dual processor LGA2011-3 motherboards, the new Zenbook and many others. Flip through the next few pages to see more.
The TUF Sabranco
Camouflage usually comes in three main varieties for most ground troops of a nation’s armed forces: regular, sand and snow. Due to popular demand on the ASUS forums it would seem that a snow version of TUF, the consumer endurance range from ASUS, is coming to market. One of the prototypes was up on display at the booth, combined with the TUF Fortifier which had also been decorated to match the motherboard. The motherboard itself is purchased as white by ASUS then components added, similar to some Galaxy graphics cards in the past.
The Sabranco is still a work in process, as dictated by the glass sheet in front of it and a ‘do not touch’ sign. There is not much to tell from these images, however the dual fan placement element of the TUF Fortifier is here, as well as the SATA Express connector with the SATA ports.
The Thermal Armor around the power delivery has the two switches to direct airflow around that area. The name ‘Sabranco’ is a portmanteau of Sabertooth and Branco, the Portuguese for white. So I am not one who enjoys portmanteau in general (with ‘chillax’ being on the bad end of the scale but ‘ginormous’ seems reasonable’), and I am not sure Sabranco rolls off the tongue as easily as some of the other ASUS product names. The best alternative as a name for this I could come up with, when ASUS asked what I would call it instead, was the ‘TUF Antarctic’, so go with the color along with the harsh conditions TUF is designed to be used in. I guess I might have been influenced by the case design ASUS had on display to show off what a white system might look like:
As mentioned, this white TUF motherboard is most likely coming to market however it is a few months away from release right now. I suspect the first socket for this model will be Z97, though depending on the demand for X99, perhaps an extreme edition will be made.
Two of the biggest announcements from ASUS at Computex were the launches of its two new gaming desktop systems.
The GR8 (greeeeat) is a 1.5 liter book-sized HTPC designed to be on the shelf and provide an access point to the home television for gaming, watching content or streaming via Miracast. ASUS had the GR8 in the middle of a bookshelf to exhibit how the GR8 might adapt to the home environment.
In terms of height and weight, it easily matches a good hardback book. Next to a monitor, it fits easily enough on the desk as well.
We were unable to have a look at the internals, however there are large custom elements to this design so I would not doubt that we are more likely to see a laptop type arrangement inside regarding DRAM, storage and cooling. The GR8 will ship with i7 CPUs (presumably low power, unsure if full desktop parts or mobile parts, 45W max?) and a GTX 750 Ti for display duties. There is a single SATA drive that comes with the device, and I am under the impression that ASUS will offer both SSD and HDD variants. Users can also add another 2.5” SATA drive. I believe the chipset is one of the H85/H87 variants, perhaps even a H97 variant, although if a mobile CPU is used it might be a HM87.
The GR8 is designed to work with SteamOS and the Steam Controller, with ASUS planning to launch a Steam version when the SteamOS schedule is more clear and the controller is finalized. The system also includes gigabit Ethernet, 2T2R 802.1ac dual-band WiFi and SupremeFX audio. The initial versions will come pre-installed with Windows 8.1.
The ROG G20
The G20 punches up the volume from 1.5 liters to 12.5 liters but in return delivers a system with a full-fat i7 and a GTX 780 integrated into a whisper quiet (25 dB idle) design.
The model on display was equipped with an i7-4790 Haswell Refresh CPU, which clocks in at 84W. The GPU draws a lot of power as well, and given the press release working that states ‘takes advantage of natural convection’, I would assume that the cooling for both the CPU and GPU is the case itself. The device is not fanless – I would assume a low noise directional fan being in the case somewhere, taking advantage of the ‘hidden airflow tunnel’ that draws air in the front and out the rear. It was not clear to see if this system uses an integrated power supply or a power brick, however given the 180W+ power draw I would assume it is an internal power supply.
Like the GR8, I believe the final touches are being placed on the design. I would assume that the samples on display were PVT units, suggesting that an initial batch should occur by the end of the year.
At the release of the Maximus VII series of ROG motherboards, we had the Gene, the Hero and the new member of the group, the Ranger. Oddly absent were the three more important members of that group – the Formula, the Impact and the Extreme. At Computex this year, at the ROG press conference, the Impact and the Formula were announced, but no Extreme. Actually one of my sources suggested that there will not be a Maximus VII Extreme for this generation, with effort being directed more towards the more extreme platforms expected later this year instead.
The Impact was one of the stars of the Z87 chipset, featuring a mini-ITX motherboard that proved to be a good extreme overclocker for memory but also featured in many small form factor gaming builds. This upgrade was exhibited in the Maximini, a case modification by reapervon:
Inside this small case is a GTX 760 DirectCU Mini, as well as a closed-loop liquid cooler for the CPU and low noise-fans. As I have mentioned over the years, some industries like to have technological showcases to prove what can be done, or to test what the public likes, and the motherboard industry is starting to jump on board. Sometimes these shows have custom mods that look great, this being one example.
The main feature point for the new Impact motherboard is the mPCIe Combo IV, featuring M.2 x4 support from the CPU, meaning PCIe 3.0 lanes. This is despite the lack of PCIe 3.0 M.2 drives out in the market right now – ASUS is expecting them within the next couple of iterations of M.2 however.
The Impact has an upgraded SupremeFX solution, which like in the last generation uses a daughter board to provide PCB separation and a focused audio design. The power connectors are both on the right hand side of the motherboard which should make cabling easier, and I really want to see this right angled power delivery migrate to other bigger form factors in order to provide space for other features.
One motherboard I was not expecting to see in the ROG section of the ASUS booth was the H97-Pro Gamer.
At this moment, this is not a full member of the ROG motherboard section, but it takes obvious cues from the ROG branding. I am unsure at this point of time if this motherboard is derived from the ROG team inside ASUS or the channel motherboard team, or if ASUS was just showing this motherboard to gain interest. Other motherboard manufacturers have moved some of their gaming range models to the H or B series chipsets with varied success, but I would be surprised if ASUS was trying to undercut their own Maximus VII Hero and Ranger models. H97 means no CPU overclocking of course, so I guess in an effort to provide cheaper options in markets where the high-end models are not applicable then going with a non-overclocking version might work. From the image above we can see SupremeFX integrated on the motherboard, as well as SATA Express and M.2. There are no TPU or EPU headers, and a big PCIe to PCI switch is also present.
Last year was the advent of some decent 4K UHD panels, especially with a nod towards more affordable models. Fast forward twelve months and 28-inch 3840x2160 monitors are hitting price points south of $1000 and penetrating more of the enthusiast monitor market, as well as the prosumer market. Add in to this the element of frame-rate synchronization technologies and we are in a very different place than we were at Computex 2013. To this end, ASUS had several of their newest monitors on show.
ROG Swift PG278Q
The PG278Q is a 27-inch 2560x1440p gaming monitor with G-Sync installed. The key element here is a narrow bezel as well as a quick-change button to switch between different refresh rates (60/120/144 Hz). The monitor uses DisplayPort, and also can act as a USB 3.0 hub (two downstream, one upstream).
The monitor can also do 3D (limited to 120 Hz), and is VESA wall mount compatible. The OSD is controlled by a small stick on the side of the panel
ASUS recently released the PB279Q, the 4K panel to challenge the likes of the Samsung U28D590 and Dell P2815Q but in the 27 inch form factor. The panel supports 3840x2160 at 60 Hz via DisplayPort on a single panel in the OS, meaning that no MST is taking place. The 163 ppi screen is also 100% sRGB and supports picture-in-picture with picture-by-picture up to four screens via the four HDMI/MHL inputs.
The panel also uses two speakers, with a fully adjustable tilt/swivel and pivot/height stand.
Moving up to the 32-inch segment, the PB328Q was also on display. With a bigger display we expect more functionality, and the USB 3.0 hub was clear to see:
The PA328Q moves down to 138ppi from the 27-inch 4K/UHD model, but still contains four HDMI/MHL inputs, picture-in-picture, picture-by-picture and 10-bit display.
Curved 32-inch Monitor
This product does not have a name yet, but it was quite striking against the other monitors present at the booth. The stand itself looks novel, and at a quick glance the curve was not wholly obvious but it is there:
The only feature points we know about it so far is the 2560x1440 resolution, 250 cd/m2 brightness and that it uses DisplayPort.
The latest update to the Designo range is this gold thin-bezeled number, using a 27” 2560x1440p panel via HDMI:
I’ll take three.
Motherboards and M.2
Recently at AnandTech we have attempted to diversify more into the server motherboard segment, especially in terms of compute-restricted content generation that requires significant power and/or features in order to let the user continue with their workflow. Also as part of Computex we have been on the hunt for X99 related motherboard showings, either in the consumer or the server space. The trip to ASUS did not disappoint, with two 2P LGA2011-3 motherboards on show:
The two models are the Z10PE-D16 and the Z10PE-D8, featuring 8 DIMMs per slot and 4 DIMMs per slot respectively.
The D10 model has 10 SATA ports in total, some of which will be earmarked for SAS 12Gbps I would imagine. The sockets are offset due to the extra power connectors at the top, and the motherboard supports three PCIe 3.0 x16 devices. We get server management from an Aspeed IC and USB 3.0 support via a header on board. There are four NICs on the rear, plus another for the management, though it is unclear if two of these are 10GBase-T NICs or they are all gigabit Ethernet.
The D8 model moves the sockets closer together, reducing the DIMM slots but still keeping 10 SATA/SAS ports on board. The rear panel loses a lot of its functionality in order to accommodate the dual slots in what looks like an E-ATX format. M.2 is here as well, with two fill-length PCIe x16 slots and management via an Aspeed IC. A USB 3.0 header is here also.
Also in the server motherboard line was a mini-ITX motherboard focusing on mini-SAS (cia a Marvell 88SE9485) and gigabit Ethernet ports:
This looks like an Avoton C2750/C2758 platform, similar to the C2750D4I we reviewed a little while ago. Here we have one DIMM per channel, with all the NICs being gigabit Ethernet. ASUS are promoting this as a high-density node for cloud storage or a micro server, will support up to SAS 64TB/SATA 96TB :
There was nothing much to mention regarding the Z97 motherboard segment, as the new models on display were the ROG ones and the rest were available from launch.
One of the interesting aspects from the ASUS booth was a way to get M.2 x4 into a system that does not have it. Much in the same way that Kristian tested the XP941 on his regular testing motherboard, ASUS seems set to launch their own M.2 x4 PCIe adapter, named Hyper M.2 x4:
This does what it says on the tin – an M.2 x4 Gen 2/Gen 3 upgrade card. Not sure when ASUS will release this, as M.2 x4 cards might not hit the consumer market properly until the end of the year.
Recently ASUS has launched their new range of low-noise hardware under the branding of ‘Strix’. The word Strix is derived from the Ancient Roman and Greek words for ‘owl’, specifically a bird of ill omen that fed on human flesh and blood that cries similar to a banshee. I am not sure what this has to do with computer components focused on noise and volume, but the logo is a set of owl eyes. For the end-user this means a couple of sets of headphones as well as a range of graphics cards.
I am not much of an audiophile, but the Strix graphics cards are advertised as ‘0dB’ when idle, which is not strictly possible. Even electrical noise on the logarithmic scale is 15 dB, but to clarify on ASUS’ part, they specifically want to refer to the noise generated by the fan assembly. At idle, the Strix line should completely disengage its fans until the unit heats up to a certain temperature.
Here is a pair of Strix GTX 780 6GB models, with 941 MHz boost clock and DirectCU cooling. The 0 dB fan technology is touted as allowing users who invest in high end Strix model cards to enjoy light gaming in ‘complete silence’ (again, the 15 dB electrical noise will mean it is not strictly silent). The card comes with a DIGI+ VRM with 10-phase ‘Super Allow Power’ as well as GPU Tweak to overclock.
There will be other models on the market in the Strix line:
These are an R9 290 OC (980 MHz, 3GB GDDR5) and a GTX 750 Ti OC both in the making, again using DirectCU cooling on top of the new Strix-branded shroud. Strix is not part of the ROG branding, but aims to compete alongside for those users that require a more silent operation. The only difficulty here is that the software has to be water tight, such that the fans spin back up every time.
Also on display with graphics cards is the new Ares III, an R9 295X2 that comes with an EK water block pre-attached:
By having a water block as part of the package, this means that users can avoid damaging a regular card trying to take it apart as well as avoiding the cost of that dual heatsink water cooling solution. Also in this box were the two previous Ares models, the first being a dual HD 5870 model, whereas Ares II was a dual HD 7970 with a water cooling pump, tubing and radiator.
The clock speeds of the Ares III were also on show:
This shows a 1030 MHz frequency on each of the GPUs.
Networking and Audio
One of the highlights of the ASUS press event at the beginning of Computex was the announcement of a six stream 802.11ac router called the AC3200. As 802.11ac is starting to penetrate the wireless market beyond the early adopter stage, and it offers higher speeds than Ethernet, it is important that the implementation is done as best as possible and hopefully hits a price point that every is satisfied with. This is even more poignant now that any mobile device with a WiFi solution that comes with less than a dual stream, dual band 802.11ac solution is seen as more of a cost saving exercise. At this point, routers are still relatively expensive by comparison, so hopefully by driving the enthusiast end with better products, the entry level models might be cheaper – at least in this author’s opinion.
The six-stream AC3200 actually is a little confusing, given that it is advertised as a tri-band six-stream device. To start, it is actually two three-stream devices in a single shell that share the same firmware/topology that it can be managed by a single entity. When ASUS advertise it as 3.2 Gbps possible, this is more like 1.6 Gbps possible for two devices at the same time, one on each of the receivers.
As mentioned in the comments when we first posted news about the AC3200, WiFi certification is only possible on a maximum of four streams, hence any device with >4 streams is either not certified or using more than one chipset underneath the packaging. Certification is a big deal in order to drive a product into a more professional environment. To that extent, the AC3200 should be coming with all the modern features, bells and whistles, as well as OpenWRT support.
To answer some confusion about ‘which bands are being used’ when ASUS calls the AC3200 a tri-band device, well the answer is here: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz band 1/4 make up the three bands. Thus in order to maximize the speed of the device, the receiver should be able to negotiate both the 5 GHz bands.
In previous years at Computex, ASUS has pushed its audio product selection quite vehemently by using sound rooms to showcase audio clarity. This year it was a lot more subdued, and focused on a few key items. The main one was the Mosaic Streaming DAC, for converting digital signals to analog or acting like a passthrough for other digital signals.
The device accepts music over Bluetooth or WiFi up to 192 kHz/24-bit, including FLAC/AAC over WiFi. Users can also add in a USB device to play music from, and the system also supports Spotify and other services.
Education and Business
One element of ASUS’ business that we as consumers tend not to realize is the business-to-business aspect. These are corporate clients interested in an ASUS solution to their IT infrastructure. On show were two sides of the same coin – the models geared towards education (typically lower performance parts but backed up by security) and business models that require higher performance or specific functionality.
Education based PCs have to be able to allow multiple users to interact and sign-in, and are often controlled by a single machine in the IT supervisors office. The model that caught my attention was a unit based on Bay Trail-D, the quad-core Celeron J1900:
The VESA mount it straight design is a stark difference to the big desktops back when I was in high school, suggesting the student can focus more on what is on the screen rather than a wide range of noises coming from the box underneath the desk.
As mentioned, another element is security, such as students attaching unauthorized devices, or teachers needing to disable the workstations in the classroom in order to get attention. ASUS software for this from a central terminal was on display, but also for the more digital signage aspect (moving into business), there is per-unit software too:
One unit on the business side caught my attention essentially because the CPU it listed (i7-4785T) is a Haswell refresh version of a 35W CPU that is not on sale to the public. It was housed in a small chassis capable of add-ons such as an ODD:
The left hand side of this 1-liter unit contains the whole system (which can be VESA mounted) whereas the modular nature means that the business can add in other components such as ODD and storage to the devices that need it.
Another highlight of that initial ASUS press conference was the launch of the next Zenbook. The NX500 is a 15.6-inch 4K design using Haswell mobile CPUs and a GTX 850M, presumably with Optimus as well. At a quick glance it almost looks like a MacBook Pro, although looking more at the keyboard (as well as the ASUS logo) might make the user stand out more in their local workspace.
Due to the 15-inch size, the NX500 is not necessarily an upgrade to the UX301, the 13-inch 2560x1440 Zenbook announced at last year’s Computex. I have since invested in a UX301 for work use, and the size and weight difference is particularly noticeable. The NX500 has a more regular z-height throughout the chassis rather than tapering to an edge, again mirroring the difference between the MBP and the MBA. It would seem that ASUS might pursue two different lines of Zenbook to act as counterpoints to the Apple hardware offerings.
The NX500 models on display were using an i7-4712HQ processor – a 37W quad core Haswell Refresh CPU with HyperThreading, listed at 2.3 GHz with a 3.3 GHz Turbo mode. A quick look in the system also showed the 512GB Samsung XP941 M.2 x4 SSD, rather than the dual PCIe SSDs in the UX301.
I did not notice the 4K/UHD display at first compared to the 1440p display on my UX301, but I would assume that actually using the device for a measured amount of time might make it more apparent. The main problem with the NX500 will be Windows 8.1 scaling issues more than anything else, something which I advise users looking at high DPI Windows machines. ASUS had two NX500s on show, one with a 72% NTSC display and another with 100%:
The aim here is that a high-end notebook must also come with high-end features for professional use.
I personally could not tell the difference between the two at quick glance, but my small amount of colorblindness might be the reason.
In terms of side ports, the right hand side has two USB ports, an SD card reader and headphones:
The left has the power socket, mini-DisplayPort, HDMI and a third USB port. No Thunderbolt 2 here.
The 2.2 kg weight was noticeable, even when I used to use a 4 kg 15-inch notebook until recently. Using the 40-45W Maxwell GPU alongside a 37W CPU suggests that all in the ASUS laptop is pushing 100W when you factor in the display, DRAM and storage. The chassis size should be sufficient for cooling this amount of power, and it will be interesting to see how long the 96 Wh battery lasts in regular use.
Transformer Pad TF303CL with LTE
After being mentioned at the Intel Keynote, the Transformer Pad 303 took my interest. Here is a 10.1” ‘netbook’ with a 1920x1200 display and LTE connectivity. This is essentially a tethered laptop/tablet that weighs 595g / 1.1Kg at only 10mm/20mm thick.
Transformer Pad devices aim for the cheaper end of the market, despite the high resolution screen (which is capable of 10-point touch). This is through its use of Silvermont-based Bay Trail-T, the quad core 1.86 GHz Z3745, as well as 16GB/32GB eMMC and storage through the cloud in the form of 5GB ASUS WebStorage plus 11GB for the first year. Due to its small stature, ASUS is quoting 10 hours of uptime from the 25 Wh Lithium-polymer battery.
The WiFi is only 802.11n, but at least we get dual band 2.4 GHz/5GHz included. The LTE connectivity is Cat4, with various EU/APAC/TW bands included.
Connecting other devices is a little limited, with at least one USB port on the side:
Intel in Fonepad and MeMO Pad
One of the big stories to come out of Computex was the large number of design wins for Intel’s Silvermont based platforms. Some of the items we saw at ASUS system press event on Monday at Computex were the new Fonepad and MeMO Pad models, with the Fonepad featuring Intel’s Moorefield processors.
The Fonepad was nice and light (299g) and doing basic navigation on the device did not reveal any slowdown. The Fonepad 7 here is more oriented towards the mid-range 7-inch tablet market, featuring a 1280x800 IPS display with 10-point multi-touch. The SoC is the 64-bit Intel Z3560, a quad core 1.8 GHz Silvermont based system leveraging a PowerVR G6430 at 533 MHz. The system was running Android 4.4, but with only 1 GB of LPDDR3, which suggests that high-end gaming use might be limited. Perhaps the lower resolution display might help with this. The device will ship with either 8GB or 16GB of onboard storage, along with 5GB of online ASUS WebStorage plus 11GB for the first year.
The MeMO Pad 7 and MeMO Pad 8 were also launched at the ASUS press conference earlier in the week, both almost identical to each other except the screen size, 25g of weight and 1.3mm z-height.
Both models use the same Z3745 (quad core 64-bit, up to 1.86 GHz) and same 1280x800 IPS display. The battery in the 7-inch model is listed at 15 Wh compared to 15.2 Wh in the 8-inch.
Transformer Book Flip
The best way to look at the Transformer Book Flip is to consider it as ASUS’ first attempt to offer something similar to Lenovo’s Yoga series. The Flip part of the name refers to the different modes in which the unit can be used – as a notebook, as a stand, as an interactive touch screen or as a tablet. The hinge is designed to be fully 360º rotatable, and when testing it I found it to be quite sturdy.
The reason why I think it is a first attempt is due to the specifications. I unfortunately did not go into the system to see the exact internals of the model on display, but the specification sheet lists Core i3 and up with an NVIDIA GT820M in the mix and no SSD option. The GT820M is only ever added to machines that are stuck with low end graphics, or machines that need extra displays. The 1080p display, compared to the 3200x1800 of the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro, compounds the low-end play.
The 15.6-inch panel and internals makes for a heavy 2.6 kg, as well as a small 38 Wh battery might not be so good for uptime. It is exciting to see ASUS push into this space and give Lenovo some competition, however I would like to see a competitive high end model along the Zenbook specification lines.
Republic of Gamers GX500
It does not take long to put two and two together to realize that the gaming GX500 laptop is a variant of the Zenbook NX500 covered earlier in this booth tour. Similar principles apply – this is a 15.6-inch 3840x2160 IPS model that can use dual SATA SSDs in RAID or a PCIe x4 SSD up to 512 GB. The shell is fitted out with a GTX 860M (rather than the 850M in the NX500) but uses the same 96 Wh battery and is similarly listed at 2.2 Kg.
The sound system is a little different, as the speakers are two grills either side of the keyboard rather than the circular grills of the NX500, and the keyboard also highlights the WASD keys for gaming.
Connectivity either side of the device looks the same, and I was able to compare it to the UX301 from last year:
Like the NX500, the GX500 is a more fixed width down to the bottom of the device, compared with the tapered point of the high-dpi 13-inch models. The connectivity of the GX500 matches that of the NX500 as well, triply confirming that both devices have the same starting point with a few minor changes.