We've been hearing chatter that MSI is getting ready to roll out a line of ruggedized motherboards and videocards, though details beyond that are disappointingly sparse.
We're not entirely sure how you supe-up a mobo or videocard so that it qualifies as rugged, but we're eager to find out. Maybe they'll come encased in rubber or coated in unobtanium.
Either way, MSI is hoping these new products will help spur sales. The company reported August revenues of around $203.72 million, down nearly half a percentage point sequentially. MSI's graphics card business has been especially brutal, with MSI expecting global shipments to drop by 10-15 percent on year in 2010.
Any old scrap heap will get you from point A to point B, but it’s about the ride, playa, and that’s where the Crosshair IV Formula shines. Not only does the red and black color scheme look pimp, the board backs up its ferocious style with extensive overclocking controls and enough cooling potential to blow down a brick house. How so? Asus plopped eight freakin’ PWM fan headers around the motherboard.
Motherboard makers have had a tougher than expected time moving boards lately and are hoping Intel's upcoming Sandy Bridge architecture will kick-start demand, particularly in the enterprise.
Intel's Sandy Bridge product line is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2011. These will include Sandy Bridge-based Core i7 2600K, 2600, 2600S, Core i5 2500, 2400, and 2390, as well as Core i3 2120 and 2100 CPUs for the desktop. On the mobile front, Intel's upcoming Sandy Bridge lineup will include the Core i7 2920XM, 2820QM, 2720QM, Core i5 2540M, and 2520M processors.
There will also be a Sandy Bridge-based Celeron chip built on a 32nm manufacturing process, which will ship in the third quarter of 2011 for about $50 (thousand unit trays).
The USB 3.0 SuperSpeed spec really is all that and a bag of Baked Lays (unless you're not a fan of Baked Lays, in which case insert your own awesome variety of chips). For starters, USB 3.0 crushes USB 2.0 in maximum theoretical transfer rates at up to 4.8Gb/s versus 480Mb/s. But speed isn't the only benefit. The SuperSpeed spec supports full-duplex data transfers, delivers more power to devices, and allows for longer cable runs. And best off, it's backwards compatible with USB 2.0.
So why the frak aren't we seeing USB 3.0 all over the place? Blame it on Intel, the world's No. 1 chip maker who happens to be dragging its feet in supporting the new spec. The only way you'll find USB 3.0 on boards now is through a third-party chip, primarily from NEC.
That's about to change. According to a Chinese-language Commercial Times report, Intel is expected to announce its own USB 3.0 host controller for its Couger Point motherboard reference design at the upcoming Intel Developer Forum (IDF).
Once Intel makes the announcement, you can expect USB 3.0 devices to start barreling through the market. We've already seen a handful of SuperSpeed products pushed through the mainstream pipeline, but by this time next year, the USB 3.0 landscape should look decidedly different.
Those ever talkative "sources from motherboard makers" are again flapping their gums to Digitimes, this time involving Nvidia. As the latest rumor goes, Nvidia's engineers are busy developing a chipset that combines the function of both a southbridge and GPU.
The funky dual-purpose chipset is Nvidia's way of sidestepping Intel's Sandy Bridge architecture and avoiding a potential messy legal battle. Intel filed suit against Nvidia back in 2009 claiming the license agreement between the two parties only covered processors that don't contain an integrated memory controller, which is the reason why you haven't seen any Nvidia-based chipsets for Nehalem.
Intel's Sandy Bridge architecture combines a CPU and northbridge into one, and as the story goes, Nvidia is hoping motherboard makers will opt to purchase Sandy Bridge without the southbridge (Cougar Point). That would save them about $15, which could then be used towards the purchase of Nvidia's combo chipset.
EVGA this week added another X58-based board to an already crowded lineup built around Intel's flagship chipset. It's called the X58 SLI3, which builds upon the X58 SLI LE by adding a pair of USB 3.0 ports and two SATA 6Gb/s ports to the mix.
The board also comes equipped with 6 x SATA 3Gb/s ports and 10 x USB 2.0 ports, as well as a handful of features geared towards overclockers. These include 100 percent solid state capacitors, VDroop control, EVGA's EZ Voltage, and the E-LEET tuning utility software.
The rest if pretty standard fare for a $200 X58 board, including SLI and CrossFireX support, RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5, and JBOD configurations, a pair of Ethernet ports, and support for up to 24GB of DDR3-1600+ in tri-channel form.
Summer's supposed to be all fun and games, but it's been anything but for the world's largest motherboard manufacturers. Asus, for example, saw July revenues climb 11.83 percent sequentially ($727 million), which is less than the company was expecting. Hey, at least it was a move in the right direction.
The same can't be said for ECS and MSI, both of which posted revenue drops for the month. The only company that didn't have a rough time in July is Gigabyte, which noted a healthy 44.4 percent sequential growth, largely the result of strong demand in China.
Getting back to Asus, the first-tier mobo maker initially had hopes of shipping 25 million units in 2010, but isn't on pace to reach that goal after having shipped only 10.4 million motherboards in the first half.
Zotac, which is perhaps best known for its line of videocards, today announced an itty-bitty motherboard -- the H55-ITX-C-E -- built around the ITX form factor, but don't let its diminutive size fool you. This little board's spec sheet reads like a full-sized ATX mobo aimed at enthusiasts.
Core i7 (in socket 1156 flavor) support? Check. PCI-Express 2.0 x16? Check. USB 3.0, HDMI, and SATA 3.0Gb/s? Check, check, and you betcha.
"We see a trend where gamers are moving towards small form factor systems but want high-end CPUs and graphics. With the updated Zotac H55-ITX WiFi (H55ITX-C-E), gamers can build a complete small form factor system with a high-end Intel Core i7 800 series processor and a Zotac GeForce GTX 400-series graphics card," said Carsten Berger, marketing director, Zotac International.
Zotac seems to have squeezed everything it could onto a board with limited real estate. Builders will find two DIMM slots with support for up to 8GB of DDR3 memory, six SATA 3.0Gb/s ports, one eSATA port, two USB 3.0 ports, a whopping 10 USB 2.0 ports (six on the back, 4 via pin header), a single PCI-Express 2.0 slot, HDMI and DVI, and other odds and ends.
No word yet on when this will ship or for how much.
After a rough start to the summer, motherboard manufacturers are seeing sales pick up this this month and have turned optimistic about the third-quarter. Shipments are on pace to grow 20 percent on month in July, and if things continue this way, shipments will grow 15-20 percent sequentially for the quarter.
This is a far different picture than the gloom and doom scenario top-tier motherboard makers were painting just a short time ago. But as demand has started to pick up in Europe and China, so has their confidence that they'll be able to move more boards than previously thought.
So far this year, Asus has shipped roughly 10.3 million of its own-branded boards, followed by Gigabyte with 8.4 million units. ECS shipped the third most boards with 4.4 million units, followed by MSI and ASRock (a subsidiary of Asus) at 3.8 million and 3.9 million units, respectively.
The bean counters at Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, and every other first-tier motherboard maker are working overtime crunching numbers and trying to get a pulse on the mobo market.
June hasn't been kind to any of the motherboard makers except MSI, which saw revenues jump 13.05 percent over the previous month. ECS took the biggest hit, recording a drop of 17.73 percent, followed by Asus at 5.53 percent. Gigabyte, Pegatron, and ASRock also skidded backwards to the tune of 5.48 percent, 3.1 percent, and 0.94 percent, respectively.
But while June wasn't particularly kind to most of the major motherboard players, they've all seen positive gains for the year, except for ASRock, which is down 11.94 percent. Asus is the biggest winner, having increased its revenues to 68.62 percent on year, while Pegatron and MSI recorded gains of 20.4 percent and 19.03 percent, respectively. Everyone else saw double digit gains as well.