We have recently returned from Computex 2006 with our heads still spinning after viewing literally thousands of products from a multitude of suppliers. We already provided some pre-show coverage, but there's still lots more to see and talk about. This year's show was a general success and while several companies were launching new products in different market segments, the talk of the town was Core 2 Duo (Conroe) and AMD's expected response. AMD's first response in the short term very well could be the purchase of ATI; whether this truly makes business sense for either party is up for debate considering ATI's close relationship with Intel and AMD's long term partnership with NVIDIA, but privately representatives from both Intel and NVIDIA told us they were already discussing the potential effects of this merger internally.

While the focus of the latest Computex was definitely on Core 2 Duo products, we did see a significant amount of AMD AM2 products with the low to ultra low end being dominated by VIA and SIS. However, we were told by several motherboard suppliers that NVIDIA plans on aggressively pursuing the upper low end range of the AM2 market with expected board prices for the micro-ATX GeForce 6100 boards reaching US $53 and nForce4 ATX boards reaching US $60 price points in the near future.

Several of the manufacturers told us that NVIDIA is offering incentives on the nForce4 Ultra chipsets in order to move out this inventory, and we noticed a significant amount of AM2 boards based on this chipset and very few on the nForce 550 at the low end of NVIDIA's AM2 product roadmap. While NVIDIA does not appear willing to go after (at this time) the under US $50 market, the fact that they will be creeping up on this price point is sure to place additional pricing pressures on VIA and SIS at the top of their product ranges.

ATI's market plans in the AM2 segment were a little less clear as very few suppliers were showing the Radeon Xpress 300 or 1100 micro-ATX boards, essentially a Radeon Xpress 200 Northbridge (X300 integrated graphics) with DDR2 support and either the SB460 Southbridge in the 300 or SB600 Southbridge in the 1100 series, with price points starting around US $65. It appears at this time ATI will be offering the Radeon Xpress 1100 with an X16 PCI-E slot as an answer to the nForce 570 Ultra product around the US $75~$90 price point. The emphasis is clearly being placed on the Radeon Xpress 3200 (RD580/SB600) boards with planned price points from US $125 to $200. Hopefully, some of these Xpress 3200 product offerings will drop to the US $90 to $125 range to compete with the excellent nForce 570 SLI product range; if not then NVIDIA will continue to dominate in the mainstream market space.

One of the more pleasant surprises of the show was the rejuvenation of Abit. While we knew they were on the road to recovery, we did not expect the product lineup they displayed. Abit was at one time the top manufacturer of enthusiast level boards that catered to the overclocking community. However, Abit found itself in serious trouble over the past couple of years, and for all intents and purposes it was close to ceasing business operations. Fortunately, Abit entered into a long-term partnership with USI this past January that ensures their financial health for the foreseeable future. This strategic partnership also signals a return of Abit to their roots as a company driven to provide the computer enthusiast and extreme overclocker with the highest performance solutions available.

We spoke at length with Abit's PR managers David Jarlestedt and Peter du Preez about Abit's upcoming motherboard product lineup, the new Universal Abit branding strategy, and their entry into the Media Center PC market with the ViiV certified IL80-MV motherboard and new iDome digital speaker series. Let's take a closer look at Abit's new products along with those from Biostar and Thermaltake.



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  • Gary Key - Saturday, June 10, 2006 - link


    Did they really think that people running Crossfire setups wouldn't at least want better-than-onboard sound? That alone is one PCI slot. The onboard sound looks good, but is it that good?

    The on-board sound on this board will be the Realtek ALC-882M that is placed on a riser card. The sound was significantly better audio quality wise than some of the 882m solutions we have heard placed on the motherboard. We also spoke with Abit about utilizing the new Realtek ALC-888 which sounded a generation better to us and that was on a $85 ASRock board the same day. We are hoping the transition to the ALC-888 will be a quick one for most manufacturers as it would suffice for about 90% of the users. The balance will want a X-FI or something else discreet.
    My issue with Abit, the Product Managers agreed, is that the buyer for these boards will typically not only want a discreet sound solution but also a slot for a TV tuner card or a professional audio interface card. PCI is not dead until the multimedia companies move over to PCI-E, it is that simple and until such time, the board should have two if not three PCI slots that are not blocked, take one of the PCI-E x1 slots, combine the lanes, and give us a universal x4 slot if need be to make room but do not block this slot also. We were able to play with the 975x board before the show opened and although it was pre-production, it ran like a banshee. ;-)
  • xsilver - Saturday, June 10, 2006 - link

    any indication of what the prices are going to be?
    hopefully prices will stay the same and just replace a 600w one with a 1200w one?

    or if the price is going to be 2x the 600w one, who could afford it??
  • Gary Key - Saturday, June 10, 2006 - link


    any indication of what the prices are going to be?

    Pricing was not set yet but we would estimate in the $250~$325 range at this time. Yikes.....
  • emilyek - Saturday, June 10, 2006 - link

    You'd think 50 engineers could rub their heads together and come up with something decent.

    Have the Thermaltake boys been watching 'Pimp My Ride' or something? The only decent thing in their lineup as shown is the HTPC.
  • Xenoid - Saturday, June 10, 2006 - link

    The Thermaltake cases were all very nice (and I'm sure very expensive), but is it just me or do the LAN-style carry cases still look ridiculous? Same with that big box for 2 systems in one..I'd rather just have 2 full-towers..they'd take up a lot less room and cost less too. Reply
  • toyota - Saturday, June 10, 2006 - link


    This was the first 7600GS card we noticed with 1024MB of memory. Whether the card can utilize this amount of memory properly is debatable but it was nice to see cards including 1024MB at mainstream pricing.
    what a waste of ram. i guess this means we will start seeing 1 gig on next gen cards that might actually utilise it.
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, June 10, 2006 - link

    We've already got the GX2 with 1GB, though granted that's really 2x512MB. Vista may actually be able to use the GPU RAM for lots of other things, though - that's the theory anyway. Imagine, no longer getting the slow background refresh when Windows decides to swap some of that information out of RAM and into the page file.... Reply

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