One of the many products Asus is showing off at the Computex convention is a mini-ITX motherboard with a pretty hefty list of features. Built around AMD's AM3 platform, we could see the M4A88T-I Deluxe, as it's been dubbed, being used in an HTPC build with a bit of gaming pep.
The board is based on AMD's 880G Northbridge, which has been paired up with the SB701 Southbridge. It measures just 17cm x 17cm, but includes integrated Radeon HD 4290 graphics, two DDR3 memory slots, eSATA, three SATA ports, two USB 3.0 ports, integrated 5.1 audio, Gigabit LAN, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, DVI and HDMI outputs, and of particular interest to gamers looking to pack a punch in a small space, it also comes equipped with a full PCI-Express x16 slot.
From what we gather, the board also supports Asus' Core Unlocker feature, which allows you to unlock additional cores on select AMD Phenom II X2 and X3 processors.
As it turns out, swallowing a lithium cell battery isn't just bad for your diet, it can be deadly. So warns The New York Times, which tells the story of Aiden Truett, the barely one-year-old boy who stumped doctors with his illness before it was discovered that he had made a meal out of a flat, lithium battery, the same that are found in everything from watches to remotes.
The doctors put little Aiden under the knife and dug the battery out, but by then it was too late. The battery's current had already gone to work, setting of a chemical reaction burning holes in Aiden's esophagus and wreaking havoc on his aorta. Two days later Aiden was dead.
Aiden's death was rare, but not unprecedented. According to The New York Times, some 3,500 cases of button cell battery ingestion are reported to the poison control center every year. During the last six years, fewer than 10 have died as a result, but there's concern this might become a bigger problem as lithium cell batteries are now bigger and stronger than ever. Even when not fatal, swallowing a button battery can have surprisingly nasty effects, such as permanently damaging vocal chords.
"The injuries are so much more serious," said Dr. Toby Litovitz, director and lead author of both articles in Pediatrics. "It’s like drain opener or lye. It’s not something you want in the esophagus of your child."
Of those that are the most dangerous, parents should pay particular attention to button batteries that begin with the number 20 (stands for 20mm). Those numbered 2032 (as are often found in motherboards), 2025, and 2016 account for over 90 percent of serious injuries, NYT reports.
As power users, we sometimes forget how intimidating the BIOS can be to a new or inexperienced user. At the very least, a BIOS can be difficult to decipher, and that applies even if you're a seasoned vet. So why not skip the BIOS altogether? That's the approach MSI has taken with its AMD800 motherboard series, which allows users to unlock CPU cores without ever stepping foot into the BIOS.
"Because of this flexible BIOS core unlock feature, MSI can today announce that it made BIOS unlocking easy and accessible for the big audience who don't know their way into the BIOS screen," MSI said. "The new MSI software tool allows users to unlock CPU cores from Windows with just a few simple clicks, no need to enter the BIOS."
MSI is just one of several motherboard makers who have jumped on the AMD core unlocking bandwagon. It was discovered that some AMD tri- and quad-core processors have additional cores that could be unlocked, and as far as we know, MSI is the only one allowing this through Windows.
If you own one of MSI's AMD800 mainboards, you can download the unlocking software here.
There are lots of things you can do with old motherboards, like give them away to family and friends or build dedicated Folding@Home boxes for Team 11108 (that's Maximum PC, folks). But what about those slices of silicon that don't even run anymore? If you're been looking for a project, here it is.
Some unknown modder got the idea to build a replica of Helsinki, Finland using nothing but old printed circuit boards. This ranks as one of the coolest mods we've ever seen and would make an awesome piece of wall art. We only wish there were more information available, like who built it, how many mobos were harmed during construction, and what other projects the silicon city builder might be up to.
Things are looking a little brighter for Asus, and according to company president Joe Hsieh, motherboard shipment growth for the second quarter is no longer expected to decline quite as sharply as previously thought. Asus had originally predicted a 10-15 percent sequential drop in motherboard shipments, but has now adjusted its outlook to a 5-8 percent decline.
The reason for the revised outlook is strong demand in China. Asus claims a 30 percent share in China's motherboard business, and according to Hsieh, continued strong demand will help the company ship more boards in the coming months.
On the consumer side, don't be surprised if motherboard prices start to rise. Raw material prices are getting more expensive, prompting Hsieh and Co. to evaluate charging more for motherboards, while other mobo makers are in the same situation.
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.
Dropped Wi-Fi signals isn't the only thing early iPad adopters have had to contend with. Trying to charge the tablet has a caused a few headaches as well, at least for those entrenched in the PC camp. The problem, says Apple, is that some USB 2.0 ports and accessories don't provide enough juice for charge the iPad. And in some cases, the iPad will charge, but only when it's in turned off or in Sleep mode.
If you happen to own a recent Gigabyte motherboard, however, you're in luck. The mobo maker announced this week that it has come up with a driver update that solves the problem.
"Gigabyte’s unique USB power design is able to deliver extra power for devices that require more than the 500mA delivered from a traditional USB port. With a simple On/Off Charge driver update which can be found on the Gigabyte website, Gigabyte motherboard users are able to take full advantage of USB charging of their iPad, giving them more options and convenience when recharging their new device," Gigabyte said.
The driver works with a whole bunch of Gigabyte boards, including those for the Intel X58, P55, H57, H55, and AMD 800 chipsets.
Gigabyte’s original GA-P55-UD6 (reviewed December 2009) held the distinction of not only being the first board we tested with Intel’s LGA1156 socket, but also our preferred go-to board for months on end. It was only after Asus’s beautiful Maximus III Formula showed up in our March issue that the GA-P55-UD6 was dethroned.
It didn’t take Gigabyte long to fire a shot back, though, with its GA-P55A-UD6 board. At first glance, you’d think there was no difference between it and its predecessor. But up close, you can see slight changes to the board that make room for USB 3.0 and SATA 6 chips, as well as a slight repositioning of the PCB-mounted reset button. The most obvious physical change is the reduction in the number of inboard SATA ports. The GA-P55-UD6 had 10 ports whereas the GA-P55A-UD6 has eight. Both boards have two eSATA ports, compliments of a JMicron JMB362 part.