Intel isn't the only one getting jiggy with six-core desktop chips, AMD's planning a six-core party of its own. One motherboard maker who won't be showing up fashionably late is Asus, who this week announced a full range of mobos ready to support the upcoming Phenom II X6 parts.
"Besides being ready to support six-core processors, the Asus M4 Series gives users of every level the best performance and value with tis Core Unlocker feature," said Joe Hsieh, General Manger of Asus Motherboard Business. "This has received notable recognition from many of the world's top media organizations for deliver a phenomenal boost in performance."
There are several M4-based boards representing a variety of chipsets ready to support the 6-core parts, all of which will require a BIOS update. If you're planning to upgrade, be sure to check out which BIOS version you need (see list here) and get to flashing!
The Declaration of Independence lists Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness as unalienable Rights, but our founding fathers forgot one: USB 3.0. Asus hasn't forgotten, and whether you're more of a mainstream Joe or a hardcore Harvey, Asus wants the world to know you deserve a SuperSpeed USB product.
"The availability of super fast data transfer to consumers is not a gimmick; it is the way of the future and means to providing better technology to people around the world," Asus recently stated. "Knowing this, Asus now offers USB 3.0 on a wide range of products beyond motherboards. This includes notebooks, the Eee PC range of netbooks, all-in-one PCs, and even digital media players. All of these feature designs specifically tailored to accommodate USB 3.0 connectivity so that its true benefits are available in full."
The motherboard is arguably the most important product, and here too Asus pounds its chest, noting that they were the "first to include USB 3.0 on a motherboard, offering the new technology not just as-is, but optimized to realize its potential."
It will soon be tough to find a new product that doesn't incorporate the new spec, and looking at Asus product line alone, the company has implemented USB 3.0 support on every modern chipset imaginable (Intel P55, X58, 3450, H57/55, g41, and P43, and AMD 890GX/890FX, 880/870, 770, 785G, 780, and 790FX).
Gigabyte is apparently taking this whole USB 3.0 specification thing pretty seriously. As a result, the company claims it has shipped 1 million USB 3.0-capable motherboards, capturing 1/3 of global USB 3.0 market share in the process.
"Reaching the 1 million USB 3.0 products mark is a testament to Gigabyte's strategy of innovating for the high-end product category, and then driving those innovations down through our product line quicker than our competitors in order to boost sales volumes," said Henry Kao, Senior Vice President, Motherboard Business Unit, Gigabyte.
It's also a testament to Gigabyte's rise in the enthusiast community, though the company's USB 3.0 offerings have been spread out among a range of motherboards, including Intel's X58, P55, H57, H55, P45, and P43 chipsets, and AMD's 790FX, 790X, 770, and 785G chipsets.
USB 3.0 ups the ante with transfer rates up to 5Gbps, which is up to 10x faster than that of Hi-Speed USB (USB2.0).
Let's forget for a moment that developers have yet to really tap into the potential of multi-core processing. Now that you've tossed the wet blanket aside, close your eyes and picture not one, but TWO Intel hexacore processors running in tandem. Such a setup would equate to 12 physical cores and 24 CPU threads of computing power, and one badass system.
We won't even talk about the dent this kind of configuration would put on your wallet (no wet blankets, remember?), but will mention that if you want to build one, it's entirely possible. EVGA this week unveiled its Classified SR-2 motherboard with -- drum roll, please -- dual 1366 sockets. And yes, it supports 6-core CPUs.
"We have literally created a new form factor to fit all the amazing things on one board," EVGA said. "Whether you are an extreme gamer, overclocker, power user, workstation suer, server admin, folder/cruncher, or just a PC enthusiast, this is the ultimate motherboard. This board will encode your movies, render your images, or even load your games faster than you ever thought possible."
While you're going all out, the SR-2 will accommodate 4-way SLI, up to 48GB of memory, USB 3.0, and SATA 6Gbps drives. Other features include 8-phase PWM, 8-channel audio, eSATA, a pair of GbE ports, and more.
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.
Entry level motherboard makers are hoping February is nothing more than anomaly, because if it isn't, it's going to be a long year. This especially applies to ECS and ASRock, both of which noted over 20 percent on-month drops in revenue, which they attribute to a combination of fewer working days and labor shortages in China.
ASRock was hit the hardest out of the two, noting a 25 percent on-month drop. On the year, however, ASRock is up 16 percent. ECS, meanwhile, posted consolidated revenues of about $112 million, a drop of 20.34 percent on month, but down 35.51 percent on year.
Compared to the top-tier motherboard makers, only Gigabyte saw declines as sharp as ASRock and ECS, noting a 23.84 percent on-month drop. Asus' revenue fell by 10 percent, while MSI's fell by just 6.48 percent. Out of all the mobo makers, only ECS noted a year-on-year decline, while almost every other vendor saw double-digit growth.
Look out Asus, Gigabyte isn't just nipping at your heels anymore, the top-tier motherboard maker is pretty much standing side by side, market watchers say.
According to news and rumor site DigiTimes, Gigabyte looks to have shipped anywhere from 3.1 million to 3.3 million motherboards in the first two months of 2010, putting the company on par with Asus, who is estimated to have shipped 3.2 million to 3.3 million units.
Don't expect to Asus to concede its lead so easily, however. Channel vendors say Asus, in an attempt to stay out in front, might start slashing prices. If Asus were to do so, it could lead to a price war in the mobo market that could potentially spill over to include other vendors.
Gigabyte is apparently taking this whole USB 3.0 thing pretty seriously and is stoked that two of its P55-based motherboards -- GA-P55A-UD7 and GA-P55A-UD5 -- have passed official certification by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF).
But the SuperSpeed buck doesn't stop there. Gigabyte says it is "aggressively adopting USB 3.0" on all of nearly its platforms, including the Intel X58, P55, H57, P45, and P43 chipsets, as well as AMD 790FX, 790X, 770, and 785G chipsets.
"We are investing heavily in developing the USB 3.0 ecosystem and are overjoyed to see that the majority of motherboards listed on the SuperSpeed USB Compliance Web page are from GIGABYTE," said Henry Kao, Senior Vice President, Motherboard Business Unit, GIGABYTE Technology Co. Ltd. "As the Windows® 7 upgrade cycle progresses, we are finding that onboard USB 3.0 is a powerful deal clincher as consumers look to future-proof their new purchases with the very latest technologies and specifications. As such, the timing for the introduction of USB 3.0 could not be better, and we are excited about working with the USB-IF to ramp up SuperSpeed adoption and explore the new possibilities that it has to offer."
Gigabyte is getting a bit of help from NEC, which is providing the uPD720200 host controller for all of the company's USB 3.0 compliant boards. In addition, a handful of models also feature 3x USB power boost, which you can read more about here.
ASRock recently stated it wanted to start targeting the enthusiast crowd, and making good on that intention, the company will start slapping a new UCC chip onto its motherboards.
So what's the big deal? UCC stands for Unlock CPU Core, and as you might have guessed, it's designed to make easy-work out of turning AMD's triple-core processors into unlocked quad-core parts. All you do is go into the BIOS, enter one of the options, and if the parts play nice together, you'll be sitting pretty with four cores where previously there were three.
The best part about this is ASRock said it intends to plop the UCC chip onto entry-level motherboards too. This tactic of putting high-end features onto lower-priced parts has helped ASRock build a following, and something like this could go a long way in upping the company's geek cred.