In and of itself, the Asus N61J wouldn’t normally enter our radar. Let’s face it: A $900 16-inch desktop replacement is wholly pedestrian—an affront to the sensibilities of most power users. But the N61J has the distinction of boasting one unique feature that, at the time of this writing, wasn’t available in a more enthusiast-class rig, but which most enthusiasts are sure to take interest in: Nvidia’s brand-new Optimus technology, which changes the landscape of hybrid graphics.
To summarize, hybrid graphics make it possible to switch between a notebook’s integrated graphics and discrete videocard based on need. The concept is hardly new, but Optimus streamlines it. Rather than the user having to shut down applications, manually enact the switch, and then reboot—a nuisance no matter how you slice it—Optimus intuits the correct graphics solution for the task at hand and implements it seamlessly.
Asus today launched what it describes as a "strikingly stylish" 13.3-inch notebook, the U30Jc. The thin and light laptop is the world's first notebook to pair Intel's Core i3 processor with Nvidia's Optimus technology for a "perfect blend of performance and power management."
Nvidia's Optimus architecture plays a big role in the above mentioned blend, which stretches battery life by intelligently switching back and forth between the integrated Intel GMA chipset and Nvidia's GeForce GT310M discrete graphics. Fire up a game, for example, and the discrete graphics will kick in, but will take a back seat to the integrated solution when you're composing an email.
Other features include 4GB of DDR3-1066 memory, 320GB hard drive, DVD burner, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 0.3MP webcam, HDMI port, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit, and an 8-cell battery.
Hype is high for Apple's iPad, which will be delivered to homes and on Apple store shelves starting this Saturday, but if Asus is worried, they're putting on a good poker face. So why does Asus appear unfazed?
Probably because Asus is prepping "at least two" tablet PCs of its own, company chairman Jonney Shih revealed to Forbes in an interview. Both models, and maybe more, will see the light of day in the coming months
Maybe Apple is the one who should be nervous. Asus is the same company that played a large role in pushing the netbook frenzy that swept the globe, and as successful as they've been, Asus is now looking at the tablet market.
"Netbooks are the best combination of personal computing and cloud computing," Shih said. "But between netbooks and smartphones and e-readers, we think there will be a space for something like a tablet or slate PC."
Details are obviously sparse on what exactly Asus has planned, but Shih did say they would likely turn to Google's Chrome or Android OS for one, and Microsoft's Windows platform for another.
"There will be an Apple camp [in tablets], but Asus always tries to address the open camps of Google and Microsoft," Shih explained.
Intel isn't the only one getting jiggy with six-core desktop chips, AMD's planning a six-core party of its own. One motherboard maker who won't be showing up fashionably late is Asus, who this week announced a full range of mobos ready to support the upcoming Phenom II X6 parts.
"Besides being ready to support six-core processors, the Asus M4 Series gives users of every level the best performance and value with tis Core Unlocker feature," said Joe Hsieh, General Manger of Asus Motherboard Business. "This has received notable recognition from many of the world's top media organizations for deliver a phenomenal boost in performance."
There are several M4-based boards representing a variety of chipsets ready to support the 6-core parts, all of which will require a BIOS update. If you're planning to upgrade, be sure to check out which BIOS version you need (see list here) and get to flashing!
This isn't the first we've heard of the Eee PC 1001PX, but now that Asus has whipped up an official product page, we now know it's going to come with a matte-screen, which will be easier on the eyes when you're outdoors. And the carbon fiber finish? That's still there.
The rest is pretty basic for any modern-day netbook. You'll find a 10.1-inch screen, an Intel Atom N450 processor, up to 2GB of memory, 160GB or 250GB hard drive, 0.3MP webcam, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, two USB 2.0 ports, memory card reader, Windows 7 Starter or Windows XP Home, and a 6-cell battery.
No word yet on when Asus will release this beauty, but word on the Web is that it will ship for $299 with Windows 7 Starter, while the XP version will only hit your wallet for $279.
Having trouble deciding between a netbook or jumping on the tablet bandwagon? If you can wait a few weeks, you can snag an Asus Eee PC T101MT and have the best of both worlds.
After first showing off the T101MT at CES earlier this year, Asus is getting ready to ship the upcoming Eee PC netbook/tablet in early April for $499. That's the same price as Apple's iPad, and in this case, you'd be getting sort of a hybrid. The 10.1-inch capacitive resistive touchscreen display with support for multitouch gestures folds down over the keyboard so you can use the device as a tablet. It runs Windows 7 Home Premium and includes the AsusTouchGate software suite.
You can also use it as a traditional netbook. Either way, underneath the hood you'll find an Intel Atom N450 processor, GMA 3150 graphics, 2GB of RAM, a 320GB hard drive, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 0.3MP webcam, 3 USB ports, and an SDHC card reader.
There's also going to be tamer version that cuts the RAM and hard drive in half and drops the OS down to Windows 7 Starter Edition, though it's unclear which one will ship for $499.
The Declaration of Independence lists Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness as unalienable Rights, but our founding fathers forgot one: USB 3.0. Asus hasn't forgotten, and whether you're more of a mainstream Joe or a hardcore Harvey, Asus wants the world to know you deserve a SuperSpeed USB product.
"The availability of super fast data transfer to consumers is not a gimmick; it is the way of the future and means to providing better technology to people around the world," Asus recently stated. "Knowing this, Asus now offers USB 3.0 on a wide range of products beyond motherboards. This includes notebooks, the Eee PC range of netbooks, all-in-one PCs, and even digital media players. All of these feature designs specifically tailored to accommodate USB 3.0 connectivity so that its true benefits are available in full."
The motherboard is arguably the most important product, and here too Asus pounds its chest, noting that they were the "first to include USB 3.0 on a motherboard, offering the new technology not just as-is, but optimized to realize its potential."
It will soon be tough to find a new product that doesn't incorporate the new spec, and looking at Asus product line alone, the company has implemented USB 3.0 support on every modern chipset imaginable (Intel P55, X58, 3450, H57/55, g41, and P43, and AMD 890GX/890FX, 880/870, 770, 785G, 780, and 790FX).
Asus today added four new models to its Designo Series, including the MS248, MS238, MS228, and MS208. All four boast an eco-friendly, ultra-slim design with 16.5mm profiles and range in size from 20 inches to 20.3 inches.
On the lower end, the MS208 sports a 1600 x 900 screen resolution with a 5ms response time. The other three up the ante to a 1920 x 1080 resolution and a faster 2ms response time. The MS228 adds an HDMI audio-out port, while the MS238 and MS248 also include an earphone jack (for HDMI only).
Asus says all four units are easy on the environment, thanks in large part eschewing bulbs in favor of mercury-free LED backlit panels. According to Asus, the LED monitors reduce energy consumption levels by 45 percent, enough to reduce annual CO2 emissions by 23.6kg per year, the equivalent of planting 1.9 trees that can contribute two years worth of oxygen for a family of four.
Citing sources from motherboard makers, news and rumor site DigiTimes says there's a shortage of mobo components, including multilayered ceramic chips (MLCCs), solid capacitors, LAN connectors, and other odds and ends. The reason, sources say, is because of recent labor shortages.
In response to the shortages, Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, and ECS have all begun "aggressively placing orders" in an attempt to avoid having the component shortages affect overall shipments.
The good news is that the labor situation is expected to improve after April, by which time the mobo market will have entered the slow season. The tight supply of components will also improve, but component makers fear that their performance will be affected in the second quarter as top-tier mobo makers halt any new orders to avoid a surplus in inventory.
Asus today announced the launch of its Cine5 PC speaker. According to Asus, it's the world's most compact five-channel speaker and serves up multi-directional surround sound.
"By integrating an array of speaker drivers into a single bar, the Cine5 PC speaker helps users save space in their study rooms," Asus said. "Additionally, installation is simplified by eliminating the need to set up multiple satellite speakers—users just need to place the Cine5 PC speaker below the computer monitor. No positional adjustment is necessary to get the sweet spot for audio recreation."
The Cine5 pumps out 25W max (15W RMS) and measures 373 x 100 x 100 mm with metal stands (373 x 100 x 80 mm with rubber stands). it comes with a 3.5mm jack for multi-channel inputs, headphone output, volume knob, and a 5.1 channel audio cable.
Asus also says you can expect a bit of punch with the Cine5, despite its compact size. By using a specially-designed bass reflex port, Asus claims the Cine5 provides 15dB more bass than speakers of similar size.