What originally was shaping up to be a busy summer with handheld tablet releases from all directions is quickly turning into an iPad-only affair. HP recently pulled its Windows 7-based Slate off the table, perhaps because the OEM is now more interested in webOS following its acquisition of Palm, and Microsoft put a fork in its Courier project. So who's left standing?
MSI, for one. According to a DigiTimes report, MSI will be on hand at this year's Computex convention to show off its Slatebook, a handheld tablet PC built around Intel's mobile internet device (MID) platform. Those in the know claim the Slatebook will sport the latest Intel Atom Zxx processor, a 10-inch display, built-in 3G and Wi-Fi modules, and Windows 7, all at a sub-$500 price point.
Perhaps a bit more interesting, MSI is also apparently considering a tablet based on Nvidia's Tegra 2 platform (pictured below), which would lend itself a bit more gaming prowess than the upcoming crop of strictly Atom-based devices. However, MSI wants to get a feel for the market reception for its Slatebook before moving on to bigger and better things in the tablet space.
We're not so sure a 17.3-inch chassis qualifies as a "supersized" notebook, but if that's how MSI wants to describe its new CX705MX, then so be it.
MSI won't get any argument from us over the ATI Radeon HD 545V discrete graphics solution shoved inside. This should give the mostly entry-level notebook enough muscle to push HD videos on the 1600x900 resolution panel, which is accompanied by a pair of 2W speakers and a subwoofer.
Other hardware consists of an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 250GB/320GB/500GB hard drive, 4-in-1 memory card reader, HDMI output, three USB ports, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1, 1.3MP webcam, and Windows 7 Home Premium. The CX705MX also incorporates MSI's ECO Engine Power saving technology, which lets user choose from one of five power management levels, including video game, film, presentation, word processing, and turbo.
We first heard about MSI's GE600 gaming notebook at CES earlier this year, and at long last, MSI has begun shipping the 16-inch laptop to the North American market.
Not much has changed since our sneak peek several months ago, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The GE600 sports a respectable spec sheet consisting of an Intel Core i5 420M processor (2.26GHz), 4GB of DDR3 memory, 320GB hard drive, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5730 videocard with DX11 support, a DVD burner, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 4-in-1 memory card reader, 1.3MP webcam, 6-cell battery, and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit.
MSI's new notebook also features a scratch resistant chassis, illuminated touch sensitive hotkeys, a raised chiclet keyboard, wide touchpad, and a glossy exterior we imagine will act as a fingerprint magnet.
We care about a notebook endorsed by professional gaming team "Evil Geniuses" about as much as we give a hoot about seeing Fatal1ty's stamp of approval on a computer peripheral, but for what it's worth, they seem to like MSI's new GX640 gaming notebook.
Maybe you will as well, if you're considering a modest gaming rig housed in a 15.4-inch WXGA+ chassis. Pop the hood of the GX640 and you'll find an Intel Core i5 430M processor, ATI Radeon HD 5850 GPU with a 1GB frame buffer, 4GB of DDR3, 500GB hard drive spinning at 7200 RPM, 802.11a/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 2MP webcam, 4-in-1 card reader, HDMI, DVD burner, and a handful of other nuggets.
The GX640 sports a brushed aluminum chassis in "fire engine red accents." As is becoming standard these days, there's a raised chiclet keyboard, and in a nod towards gamers, the W A S and D keys come marked.
Been out of the motherboard loop for awhile? Even if you haven't, be prepared to learn some new terminology. In a bid to increase market share and separate themselves from the competition, motherboard makers have upped the marketing ante with new or revised terms.
Asus, for example, is touting support for IEEE 802.3az Energy Efficient Ethernet on a bunch of its new boards. According to Asus, the standard can bump up energy savings to the tune of 81.3 percent just by reducing power delivery when there's no or low network activity.
Gigabyte, meanwhile, has begun advertising its USB Power feature, which the company claims delivers more power to its USB ports, enough to charge Apple's iPad.
And then there's MSI, who recently released a pretty big Hydra driver update for its Big Bang Fuzion motherboard and has been advertising Quantum Wave audio technology and other marketing bullets.
MSI forum members last week received a mass email imploring them to RTFM (Read The Flipping Manual, to put it nicely). Those who didn't would be refused support, and MSI would know, thanks to an RTFM-chip.
The poorly worded email (see here) claimed MSI was "fed up" with providing unnecessary support for issues that could have been resolved by spending a few minutes reading the manual. The solution? Install a special chip on some MSI products designed to tell if you've done your homework or not.
"As soon as you start Windows we are informed about your settings and manual readings," the email states. "MSI [has] decided to ban people from support, RMA, and the forum who has done the damage themselves or didn't read the manual the first of next month. We know who you are, and we have gathered enough information via our RTFM-chip."
"We are sorry people took this prank for serious," says a forum post and email message from the company's support team head. "We thought of this prank after answering the many posts where people ask the obvious that is already in the manual."
Taking aim at the business traveler, MSI has put together a Core i5-based laptop built around Intel's Calpella platform. The 15.6-inch P600 boasts a slim and light design, annd weighs about 5.3 pounds.
In addition to a Core i5 processor, the P600 also comes with up to 4GB of DDR2 memory, 250/350/500GB hard drive, integrated graphics, 2-in-1 memory card reader, 1.3MP webcam, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a Kensington lock port, Windows 7, and an 8-cell battery.
On the security front, MSI includes a both a fingerprint reader and EasyFace software. EasyFace works in conjunction with the integrated webcam to take and store several sets of photos of the user to prevent crooks from accessing the laptop.
MSI is best known for its line of motherboards and Wind netbook series, but as 2010 marches on, the company plans to more than triple its all-in-one PC shipments compared to last year, says Shao-ling Lin, president of system unit sales at MSI.
More specifically, MSI plans to ship at least 600,000 all-in-one PCs, and up to 1 million if all goes right. The company is already the most active all-in-one PC vendor in Taiwan and ranks No. 6 globally. If MSI reaches its shipment goal, however, it will leapfrog ahead of Acer to become the fifth largest all-in-one PC vendor. The other top four vendors include, in order, Apple, HP, Sony, and NEC.
MSI also has big plans for its desktop shipments. According to Shao-ling Lin, the company expects to increase its desktop shipments from 400,000 in 2009 to at least 1 million units in 2010, positioning the company as a global top 10 desktop vendor in the process.
MSI is pretty stoked about the latest entry to its gaming notebook line, the 17-inch GE700. The new notebook couples an Intel Core i5 processor with ATI Radeon HD 5730 graphics (with 1GB GDDR3 memory), along with a few other noteworthy goodies.
Among them are two "cinema-class" speakers and a subwoofer, an HD webcam capable of 720p video up to 30fps, two hard drive bays for up to 1TB of storage, MSI's exclusive GPU Boost technology (switch between the integrated and discrete graphics solutions), HDMI output, eSATA, 4-in-1 memory card reader, 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Windows 7 Home Premium.
MSI put a bit of attention into the GE700's styling, including a "super-cool exterior" with a glossy black finish. You'll also find luminescent touch-sensitive hotkeys.
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.