In the Lab: Gordon Mah Ung Thinks ESA Is Long Overdue

Nathan Edwards

PC geeks like dials and gauges and greater hands-on involvement, so Nvidia’s Enthusiast System Architecture (ESA) should come as a welcome gift to us all. In a nutshell, ESA is an open standard for adding communication capabilities to normally “dumb” components. Using USB as the basic protocol, ESA adds intelligence to devices such as water coolers, power supplies, and cases, so you’ll have more insight into how your PC is running and be able to effect changes.

I finally kicked the tires on ESA’s basic functionality with this month’s Hypersonic Sonic Boom OCX (reviewed here ). The PC came with an ESA-enabled PC Power and Cooling 1,200 watt PSU and CoolIT Systems Freezone Elite. At this stage, the software, drivers, and hardware are pretty rudimentary, but I like what I saw.

Of course, your own appreciation of ESA depends on how geeky you are, but I like knowing that my PSU is eating about 34 amps on the 12-volt rail at idle. And just how hot is it inside my power supply? Well, it’s 31 C, and the fan is spinning at 100 percent. Likewise, just what is the temperature of the coolant? You’ll know if you have an ESA-enabled water-cooling system. Sure, some water-cooling rigs already give you basic readouts and manual control over flow, but ESA will eventually let you control functionality from the OS or monitor a device remotely across the Internet.

ESA will finally let you know the actual load on your PSU!

Ultimately, if ESA takes hold, we could use it to troubleshoot problems—we’d know if the power supply is overloaded or if the coolant is low. Cases with ESA will let you toggle lights and control fans from within the OS, functionality which has been limited to large OEMs until now, and I’m sure some crafty geek will figure out a way to let you remotely control a USB device via ESA, so your Peltier cup-cooler has your beer nice and cold by the time you get home from the cubicle.

ESA actually stands a better chance of widespread adoption than Nvidia’s EPP profiles for RAM. While EPP couldn’t make it past the August JEDEC memory council, ESA will be submitted to the USB-IF—the folks who approve USB standards. Nvidia is even willing to forgo branding the spec with its name to ensure its competitors feel more comfortable adopting it.

Overall, ESA is cool and will give power users yet another reason to upgrade.

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