We know what you’re thinking, what more could a motherboard vendor put on the PCB that would convince anyone to part with $400? Asus thinks its latest Rampage II Extreme board in the Republic of Gamer’s series will do it.
This X58-based Core i7 board features support both Tri-SLI and CrossFire X, six DDR3 DIMM slots, EAX 4.0 software support, an audio card riser, heat pipes, LCD poster displays and a joystick and probe ports to connect your multi-tester.
What the hell do you need a joystick on a mobo for? Using the provided small single-line LCD display, you can toggle voltages, overclocking profiles or clock speeds. Want even more insane features? The board features probe ports to connect a multi-meter to the motherboard to read direct voltages for the RAM, southbridge, PCI-E, CPU, QPI and CPU PLL’s.
One feature the board doesn’t have that we expected was support for Nvidia’s nForce 200 chip. Instead of the Nvidia hardware, Asus has SLI certification for up to three-way SLI in a x16/x8/x8 configuration. There’s no word as to whether Asus plans to offer a board with an nForce 200 part in it yet.
Sprint may not be impressed with Google's Android in its current form and be content to sit on the sidelines, but that isn't stopping Asus from getting in the game with an Android-powered handset of its own. Citing un-named "company sources," news outlet DigiTimes reports Asus will launch an Android-based Google phone sometime in the first half of 2009. It remains unclear what Asus' marketing strategy will be, but speculation suggests the company may initially release the new phone under its own brand name in Taiwan followed up with customized models in other markets later on.
Asus isn't new to the handset game and has already shipped 30,000 units in Taiwan so far this year. The company expects that number to reach 40,000 by the end of the year. Asus will ride those shipments into 2009 with a 3G model using Qualcomm's dual-core solutions planned for Q1.
It doesn't matter that most power users would rather use a desktop replacement notebook in place of a lower cost (and much longer lasting, in terms of battery life) netbook, demand is hot and Asus has plans to stoke the coals. Asus Chairman Jonney Shih sees his company shipping 20 million laptops in 2009, which would mean increasing its output by 77 percent.
Should Asus meet its lofty goal, it would become one of the world's top four laptop makers. Not all of the laptops Asus sells are low-cost units or ultraportables, but many of them are and the market for netbooks doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon. According to iSupply, the global notebook PC market will grow 20 percent next year, with the netbook segment twice as active with a 55 percent growth rate. That puts Asus in good position, who's Eee PC line can be argued sports a name brand recognition advantage over its competition.
It may have taken Asus a year to get there, but the ultraportable Eee PC has finally been spotted for an ultra-affordable price tag. For a copper Lincoln shy of $300, Best Buy is currently selling the Eee PC 900A with an Intel Atom N270 processor clocked at 1.6GHz on a 533MHz frontside bus. Other goodies nestled inside the netbook include 1GB of DDR2 memory, a 4GB solid-state drive, 8.9-inch WSVGA widescreen display, integrated graphics, WiFi, and three USB 2.0 ports all running on Linux.
Kudos to Asus for finally offering a model priced in line with its specs, though Asus isn't the only guilty culprit to avoid doing so up to this point. Despite the immense popularity of netbooks in general, many models regardless of vendor have nipped at the heels of traditional laptops in terms of price, which generally offer more power, more storage space, and, well, more of everything. Asus new 900A puts some much needed distance between the two sectors, which is great for anyone looking to pick up a mini-notebook. Then again, no matter what the price, cynics it's still a mini-notebook under the hood.
In case you haven't been paying attention, the netbook sector is one of the hottest areas in the PC market. Demand has been so high that, despite a weakening global economy, mini-notebooks have played a large role in worldwide PC shipments reaching 80.6 million units in the third quarter of 2008. That's a 15 percent jump from this same time last year. Ironically enough, economic woes might be exactly the reason why sales have been so good.
"In the North America market, the economic crunch created more interest in the sub-$500 segment," noted Mika Kitagawa, principal analyst for Gartner's Client Computing Markets group. "Because the mini-notebook is still a new segment, it is too early to determine if the emerging segment created new market opportunities, or if it cannibalized lower priced systems."
Gartner notes that Asus and Acer have been two of the bigger beneficiaries of the emerging mini-notebook sector, as both companies "had a strong focus and acted quickly." As a result, other vendors are playing catch-up, but it might prove difficult to reach the same level of market expansion that Asus and Acer have been able to reach. Acer especially had a good third quarter, recording a 47 percent growth in worldwide PC unit shipments from Q3 2007.
Here's a formula to help boost sales: Take something popular - for example, The Dark Knight - and then apply it to something completely unrelated, like videocards. Of course, copyright concerns could come into play, so be sure and design a character or logo that resembles nothing from which it was borrowed (in this case, steer clear of Batman).
Perhaps we're being too cynical and maybe Asus isn't a fan of DC's comic hero gone big screen. In any event, Asus' new Dark Knight series of videocards will inevitably conjure up thoughts of Christian Bale in his most recent role as Batman, but the new GPUs have no association to arguably the best super hero movie to date. Instead, the "self-designed" Dark Knight branded cards will come with a special heatsink the company claims ups the cooling performance ante while keeping noise levels down.
"The ASUS designed EAH4870 DK and EN9800GTX+ DK Series come equipped with the specially designed Dark Knight Fansink," Asus wrote in a press release. "This innovative fansink is equipped with 4 heatpipes and a large heatsink surface area; and is made of aluminum alloy to deliver extreme cooling while retaining operating levels at only 32dB—almost imperceptible in a quiet room—catering to users who require maximum cooling without excessive fan rotation noise."
The new cards also come with a handful of technologies and buzzwords aimed at attracting the overclocking crowd. These include an EMI shield, DIP spring chokes, LF PAK MOS, and all-solid Japanese capacitors. Put together, Asus claims end users can expect a 9 percent performance improvement while gaming. Utility belt not included.
Citing industry sources, DigiTimes reports Asus will soon add a motherboard line to what's quickly becoming a very crowded Eee series. Details remain nonexistent at this point, but if it happens, we could find ourselves on the brink of a new fad, specifically the DIY nettop market.
In other Eee news, Asus' upcoming Eee Top (formerly known as the Eee Monitor), an all-in-one PC, is coming in 16-inch and 19-inch versions with the cost of entry starting at $450, according to DigiTimes. If earlier reports hold true, the touchscreen device will come powered with a 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor, 1GB of RAM, 160GB of hard drive space, a webcam, and various ports all riding on Windows XP.
Asus also addressed reports that its Eee Box systems were shipping with a virus. The company said an internal investigation revealed the virus most likely got onto systems through a USB key that's used for testing and inspection, further clarifying that the rogue file is only launched on models intended for the Japan market. The investigation remains open.
The largest and second largest PC manufacturers in the world, HP and Dell respectively, haven’t taken an instant liking to WiMax it seems. The launch of the first commercial WiMax network in Baltimore, earlier this month, inspired OEMs Acer, Aspire, Lenovo and Toshiba to launch WiMax-enabled notebooks. However, Dell and HP did not rush to take advantage of the launch.
Moving to the largest PC supplier HP, even though the company is testing WiMax it has no immediate plans of offering support for the technology in its notebooks. It has asked its customers to explore the option of purchasing WiMax enabled PC card, USB dongle or ExpressCard, if they are keen on using WiMax. Dell and HP want to wait until WiMax becomes available in other major cities.
Riding the success of its Eee PC series, Asus has big expectations for competing in the notebook segment, and that includes trying to whiz by both Dell and Lenevo.
Asus will look to ship 50,000 units of its Eee PC S101 this month, which would translate into about $35 million towards the company's revenues. Those numbers could jump even higher as Asus gears up to launch the same model in Europe and Japan later this month.
Fanning the fire, Asus will launch a pair of Linux-bases S101s in the coming weeks, with the 32GB version commanding $700 and the 64GB model bringing in between $800 and $900. All together, Asus thinks it will ship anywhere from 200,000 to 300,000 S101s by year's end.
Other plans include two more Eee PC models positioned between the S101 and 1000 series, and if un-named sources turn out to be correct, Asus will soon announce plans to outsource Eee PC production to Foxconn and another as-yet unknown electronic manufacturing service.
It all adds up to fierce competition in the notebook segment, in which Asus president Jerry Shen had no bones about admitting his company's goals are to surpass Dell in the China market and Lenovo in the worldwide market by the end of 2009.
Asus has recently admitted that some of their Eee Box desktop PC’s have shipped with a virus. While they’ve claimed that they’ve only sent boxes with viruses to Japan, it can be confirmed that other territories have received units as well.
As stated by an email sent out by Asus, the Eee Box’s 80GB hard drive has the “recycled.exe” virus files hidden in the drive’s D: partition. Once the drive is opened, the virus activates and infects the C: drive, as well as any removable drives connected to the system. Symantec states that the malware is likely to be a W32/Usbalex worm, which creates an “autorun.inf” file to trigger “recycled.exe” from D:.
With any luck, Asus will have this under control before they send out their next shipments. Until then though, be sure to look out for any of these new boxes shipping to a desk near you, they could be waiting to take all of your precious information.