Most of you know ASRock as the brand name behind budget-oriented boards, some of which pack a lot of value for the money. And that's been the intention all along. The Taiwan-based company was spun off from Asus in 2002 in order to compete with major OEM players like ECS and Foxconn, but every once in awhile the mobo maker designs a board that attracts the attention of the enthusiasts. Some of you might still remember (and maybe even still own) the ASRock 939Dual-SATA2 board, one of the first boards to implement both an AGP and PCI-E slot with nary a performance hit on either side.
Packing features that belie a budget price tag has been the company's staple, but does it have what it takes to compete at the high end? We may soon find out. According to sources at motherboard makers, Pegatron Technology is expected to use the ASRock brand name to compete against firt-tier mobo makers and vendors, and that includes Asus after the company is spun off in July 2010.
ASRock will end up shipping 7 million of its own-brand motherboards in 2009, putting the company in position to wrestle with MSI and ECS for the No. 3 spot in global branded motherboards. In addition, Asus plans to reduce its mobo outsourcing to Pegatron from 50 percent to just 30 percent of Asus' total shipments, freeing Pegatron up to churn out even more ASRock branded boards next year and beyond.
It's not all about motherboards, either. Pegatron will use the ASRock brand to promote desktops and notebooks, and could even use it on smartbooks, e-book readers, handheld devices, and LCD TVs, the sources say.
VIA this week announced its new VN1000 digital media chipset, which the company claims is the "world's most power efficient DX10.1 chipset" on the planet.
Providing the DirectX 10.1 graphics is VIA's Chrome 520 IGP, which boasts the same traits as the Chrome 500-series, such as a 500MHz GPU and 32 stream processors. It also supports Shader Model 4, OpenGL 3.0, and OpenCL 1.0.
VIA says its high-performance ChromotionHD 2.0 video processor also offers advanced filter and "ultra smooth decoding" of MPEG-4/AVC, H.264, MPEG-2, VC-1, WMV-HD, and AVS video for Blu-ray content.
"The VIA VN1000 leverages our optimized VIA Nano 3000 Series processors, creating the most balanced, power-efficient, multimedia-focused desktop platform on the market today," said Richard Brown, VP International Marketing, VIA. "Supporting the latest system memory, graphics, and entertainment standards, the VIA VN1000 takes the VIA processor platform to new heights of power-efficient visual sophistication."
Other features include support for DDR3 memory at speeds up to 1066MHz, a single x8 and four x1 PCI-E lanes, up to ficve PCI slots, and 8-channel audio.
November ranks as a quirky month for first-tier motherboard makers ECS and MSI, who posted mixed results. ECS said its consolidated revenues were down 3.05 percent sequentially in November, which is in contrast to revenues being up 6.16 percent for MSI.
Unfortunately for MSI, November is not indicative of the past year. MSI's November revenues tumbled 24.25 percent on year with combined revenues from January to November down 20.43 percent on year, which is by far the biggest drop out of first-tier mobo makers.
To put it into perspective, ECS posted the second worst numbers, with November revenues down 4.8 percent on year. Meanwhile, Gigabyte and Asus were both up, posting gains of 18.62 percent and 58.32 percent, respectively.
ECS, who began the year with ambitious goals, will have little to celebrate as the year comes to an end. The company estimates that its total mobo shipments for the year will reach 17.2 million, failing to meet its goal of 20 million units. ECS is also unlikely to achieve its shipment goal of four million notebooks for 2009, and is expected to fall short by about 600,000 units.
If you’re bored to tears with all the features high end motherboards tend to have, Asus is aiming this product at you. The new Asus ROG Maximus III Extreme has a trick new to motherboards. You can tweak the settings via a Bluetooth enabled cell phone. So if your CPU is feeling a little tired, why not overclock it via your wireless handset?
The current incarnation of the Republic of Gamers series allows users to connect another computer via USB to adjust settings on the fly. The Bluetooth can also be used for other purposes. “RC Bluetooth is also capable of performing standard Bluetooth functions, such as stereo music playback, Skype messaging, Internet access via a Bluetooth phone, and mobile phone or PDA synchronization,” said the Asus press release.
The Maximus III also packs all the features you’d expect plus a little more. It will rock USB 3.0 and SATA 6G. Users will also find 5 PCIe 8x connections. Curiously, this particular board will be socket LGA 1156 instead of the higher end LGA 1366.
After a short stint in the 680i chipset era, ECS hasn't aggressively targeted the motherboard market with its own-branded mobos, and instead has focused more heavily on providing boards for OEM partners. David Chien, VP of ECS' channel business, said that's going to change in 2010 and you can expect to see a lot more ECS-branded boards aimed at both the mid-range and high-end sectors.
ECS-branded motherboard shipments will likely remain flat at 7-8 million units to close out 2009, but next year, Chien said he expects growth of around 20 percent on shipments of anywhere from 8.4 million to 9.6 million units. Most of those will be Intel-based boards, with about 20 percent aimed at the AMD crowd, he said.
You can also expect ECS to promote its use of 15-micron Gold contact technology as it looks to gain some geek cred in the higher-end crowd. According to ECS, the 15-micron gold coating applied to the CPU and memory slot pins helps prevent rusting that, um, occurs from frequently removing the CPU and memory modules. o_0
There's just something about naming a product line "Blood Iron" that gets our attention, even if the latest entry to DFI's lineup is a value oriented board. Such is the case with the just-launched BI P43-T34 motherboard.
As you probably surmised, the new board is built around Intel's P43 chipset. So in other words, this one's strictly for the LGA775 crowd looking to score a deal on a Core 2 Duo or Core 2 Quad chip.
The new board comes with a handful of noteworthy features, including DDR3 support, digital PWM, a generous helping of 12 USB 2.0 ports, 6 SATA II ports, and DFI's ABS II auto-overclocking technology.
While the latest Blood Iron doesn't seem like a bad option for a somewhat performance oriented budget build, we're still waiting on DFI return to old form with cutting edge mobos that push the overclocking boundaries. DFI was once considered the go-to motherboard maker for system tweakers looking for fine grain control over their entire system, but seems to have switched focus on more mainstream solutions.
Lately motherboard manufacturers have been looking to make a splash with their naming schemes, and MSI is no exception. The company's first gaming oriented mobos built around Intel's P55 platform will be dubbed the "Big Bang" series, MSI announced today.
"Unique and innovative, the all-new Big Bang series will deliver the shock and awe of unprecedented experience and expand into its own collection of galaxies," MSI stated in a press release.
Sounds ambitious, and the first galactic board created from the Big Bang series is the Trinergy. Goofy marketing aside, the Trinergy looks promising on paper and comes with 100 percent Hi-c capacitors, a discrete Quantum Wave soundcard, 3-way SLI support, MSI's OC Genie, an external dashboard for on-the-fly overclocking, and some other goodies.
MSI said it plans to follow up the Trinergy with its upcoming Big Bang Fuzion, which will support different GPUs in a single system. Look for Fuzion to land on our home planet sometime before the end of 2009.
Intel may be content to wait until 2011 before jumping on the USB 3.0 bandwagon, but that isn't stopping third-party mobo makers from taking advantage of the SuperSpeed spec right now. Take Asus, for example, who has just launched a pair of motherboards the company claims features "true" USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s performance.
So what exactly is all this talk of 'true?' According to Asus, a special expansion bridge chip outfitted to its P7P55D and P7P55D-E series alleviates bandwidth constrictions for both the USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s controller chips, whereas other solutions might knock the theoretical bandwidth down by as much as 50 percent.
Other features of the new boards include CrossFireX and SLI support, eSATA, up to 10 USB 2.0 ports (and 2 USB 3.0 ports), Firewire, DDR3 2200 support, and full Windows 7 support.
Motherboard makers have had a tough go this past year as consumers cut back spending, but if September is any indication, the worst may be behind them.
Several first-tier mobo makers -- including Asus, Pegatron, MSI, ECS, and Gigabyte -- reported on-month revenue increases for September, which serves as a ray of light in a year where most motherboard companies are down about 20 percent from this same time last year.
The biggest winner appears to be Gigabyte, who saw its month-on-month numbers surge 17 percent and is now only down 2.77 percent from last year. Gigabyte was also one of the most active mobo makers, shipping 5 million units in the third quarter. Only Asus shipped more boards at just under 6 million, but the company also recorded the biggest year-on-year decrease with revenues down 22.3 percent from last year (up 3 percent on the month).
We're all about a hardcore naming scheme that eschews the now overused 'Extreme' nomenclature, so we applaud Asus for its new TUF (The Ultimate Force) series, at least in title.
Kicking off the TUF series is the Sabertooth 55i. Based on Intel's P55 chipset and built around Asus' own 'Marine Cool' concept unveiled at CeBIT earlier this year, the Sabertooh comes equipped with the new CeraMIX heatsink. Through the use of ceramics and a microfin surface texture, the CeraMIX heatsink purports to dissipate heat more rapidly than traditional anti-oxidant compounds, Asus says.
Other TUF attributes include direct memory cooling by way of a CoolMem fan frame that encloses most standard 40mm or 50mm computer fans and fits directly below the memory slots, military-certified capacitors and MOSFETs, E.S.P. (Effcient Switching Power. Drat! We were hoping for a board with a sixth sense), a 12+2 power phase design, and other goodies.