Asus wants you to feel good about yourself so they went and released the Bravo220 "home entertainment PC card." So what's there to feel good about? For one, the card's 21 percent more power efficient than competing models, so you can look Mother Nature in th eye without that twinge of guilt. And secondly, by investing in the Bravo220 you're making a statement to yourself that you're not going to spend every waking moment playing videogames - that isn't what this card was built for.
As you probably surmised, the Bravo220 is built around Nvidia's GT220 architecture. The GPU comes clocked at 525MHz and there's a 1GB frame buffer chugging along at 400MHz (800MHz effective) on a 128-bit bus. It's HDCP compliant, supports resolutions up to 2560x1600, and has DVI-I, D-Sub, and HDMI ports. So before you ask, no, it's not going to run Crysis, not with the eye candy cranked up anyway, but it will fit right in with your home theater setup.
Towards that end, Asus developed a special Bravo Media Center interface they say is intuitive, and it comes with a remote control to boot. The cooling solution is passive, so there's no fan to distract you from those quiet scenes, and Asus says their Splendid Plus technology will reduce noise and artifacts while improving conversion rates.
What Asus didn't say is when it will ship and for how much.
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.
Overclocking enthusiasts have a pair of new motherboards to choose from, both from Asus, and both part of the company's Republic of Gamers (ROG) line. These include the Rampage III Extreme (X58) and Maximus III Extreme (P55), and they're loaded with high end amenities.
Some of the features would be wasted on the casual overclocker, such as the new LN2 mode. What this essentially does is trick the internal diode with a temporary false temperature reading, which should reduce or eliminate cold boot problems when using liquid nitrogen.
High level overclockers will also appreciate the new Extreme Engine Digi+, which is Asus's fancy way of describing its dynamic multi-phase power management scheme.
SATA 6Gb/s and USB 3.0 support are both present and accounted for, as is 10-channel audio, but we're most intrigued by the new USB-based BIOS flashing system. Flashing a BIOS with a USB stick is nothing new, but this one doesn't require a CPU, memory, or videocard. Asus says all you need is a working power supply, so if you pick up a brand new CPU that requires a BIOS update to work, you won't have to fumble around looking for an older chip just to flash the BIOS.
The Rampage III Extreme and Maximums III Extreme are available now for $399 and $349, respectively.
Asus, perphaps best known for its line of motherboards and Eee PC family, is getting serious about its LCD business too. Already a player in the display market, Asus expects to ship between 4.5 million to 5 million LCD monitors around the globe in 2010. That's a jump of 29-43 percent from the 3.5 million displays Asus shipped in 2009.
A big part of that push will come from LED-backlit monitors with screen sizes ranging from 15.6 inches to 27 inches. By the end of the year, Asus sees LED-backlit displays accounting for 10-15 percent of its total shipments.
Many of these will also end up in Taiwan. Asus ranked as the Taiwan's top LCD vendor in 2009 with 400,000 units, enough to claim 25 percent of the market. Both Acer and Chimei were somewhat of a distant second with 250,000 units shipped each.
When Asus first showed off the Eee Keyboard , no one actually expected it to ship. It was more an exercise in engineering than a product people would buy. But after a number of delays, the Eee Keybaord is on its way to shipping later this month. Asus really promises to ship it this time, and we're willing to believe them for now.
The Eee Keybard is basically a netbook's chipset in a keyboard form factor. There is an integrated 5-inch 480x800 resolution capacitive touchscreen display in place of the number pad. It has an Atom N270 and runs Windows XP. Though, Asus has added a skin to XP making it more finger-friendly. Users will also find 1GB of RAM and the option for either 16 or 32GB SSDs. The real star here is the addition of Ultra-Wideband (UWB) for wireless audio and video. The Eee Keyboard will come with a small receiver to plug into a TV or monitor allowing the signal to be streamed from the safety of the couch.
In its original form, the Eee Keyboard didn't make much sense for anything. With the UWB technology, it has at least a shot at being a passable media center PC. The price is expected to be between $400 and $600. Anyone going to take one of these for a spin?
It's been a turbulent couple of years in the memory market, and just when it looks like things might be stabilizing, we catch wind of a DRAM shortage or some other bit of troubling news.
Stepping up as unlikely heroes, Asus and Silicon Integrated Systems (SiS) have teamed up to form a joint venture intent on making sure there's a steady stream of DRAM products without all the price fluctuations. Called Asint, this new company will mostly source DRAM chips from Elpida Memory, or so says Chinese-language newspaper Economic Daily News.
According to the paper, Asus will hold a 60 percent stake in the venture, leaving 40 percent to SiS, but neither one of these companies say those numbers are accurate. SiS, who made it clear that they're not the source of the report, said their stake is just 20 percent, while Asus issued a filing with the Taiwan Stock Exchange saying it holds a 16.67 percent stake. These numbers obviously don't add up, so maybe they won't end up saving the memory market after all.
AMD's HD 5970 consists of two HD 5870 GPUs shoved under a single hood, but for one reason or another (heat, power consumption, etc), the memory and GPU cores come underclocked from their standalone versions. The GPU cores in a 5970 have been dialed down from 850MHz to 725MHz, while the memory drops from 1200MHz to 1000MHz.
That won't be the case with Asus's "Ares" videocard, which combines two true HD 5870 GPUs into a single package. Asus even says they plan to overclock the core and memory, though by how much is yet to be determined. You'll also find 4GB of GDDR5 crammed inside, twice as much as a standard 5970.
Only those with serious power supplies need apply. The card will require two 8-pin power connectors and a 6-pin connector. And while the length will be the same as any other 5970 part, the Ares is a bit pudgier and takes up 2.5 slots.
Asus didn't say how much the Ares will cost, but did promise to have it out in a couple of months.
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.