Most first-tier motherboard makers started off the year with lofty shipments goals, but it looks as though all of them will have to play catch-up after a disappointing month of sales. Asus, Pegatron, MSI, and Gigabyte each saw over 10 percent on-month revenue drops in the month of May, the mobo makers said.
Waning demand in Europe and China are largely to blame for the slumping sales, which the companies hope is only temporary. Asus was hit particularly hard, noting revenues of $674.12 million for May, a decrease of 22 percent on the month. However, Asus is still up by a whopping 79.71 percent on the year, and up over 80 percent in combined revenues for the first five months of 2010.
The same trend holds true for Gigabyte, though to a lesser extent. Gigabyte's revenues for May were down almost 11 percent, but up nearly 6 percent on the year, while accumulated revenues from January through May were up 17.63 percent on the year.
MSI's numbers are down, both for May (17.88 percent) and on the year (0.07 percent), though combined revenues were up for the first five months (21.74 percent).
VIA has made a living by cramming big features onto small packages, and that's certainly the case with the company's new EITX-3001. Built around the Em-ITX form factor, VIA's fanless next-gen device measures just 17cm (W) x 12cm (L) and sports a trumped up feature set.
"With the VIA EITX-3001 we're offering a full-featured board that is the ideal starting point for much slimmer, fanless and rugged devices," said Daniel Wu, Vice President, VIA Embedded Platform Division, VIA Technologies, Inc. "The VIA EITX-3001 combines versatility with ruthless stability at extreme temperatures in a form factor that is ideal for space constrained industrial and commercial environments."
The tiny board sports the latest VIA Nano E-Series processor clocked at 1.3GHz and pairs it with the company's VX855 media system processor. Between the two, the EITX-3001 is able to handle 1080p HD video. It also comes with integrated Chrome9 HCM graphics, five USB 2.0 host ports, Gigabit networking, support for 5-wire/4-wire resistive touch interface connectors, and HDMI.
Quite frankly, we're a little surprised the BIOS has lasted as long as it has, and so we're not the least bit shocked that MSI is already making preparations to retire the antiquated standard. In its place will be UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface), essentially a modernized bootloader originally developed by Intel and now backed by a number of heavy hitting tech giants, including AMD, American Megatrends, Apple, ARM, Dell, HP, IBM, Lenovo, Microsoft, Phoenix Technologies, and more.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, an MSI spokesperson told THINQ.co.uk that UEFI is literally right around the corner and that the BIOS is not long for this world.
"MSI will start to phase in UEFI starting from the end of this year, and we expect it will be widely adopted after three years," the anonymous MSI tipster revealed.
The spokesperson went on to say that the first new UEFI products will be built around Intel's Sandy Bridge chipset, which will extend from the entry-level on up to the enthusiast sector. These boards will materialize towards the end of the year and into early 2011.
"We won't consider UEFI as an expensive premium feature, but as a must-have for everyone!," the spokesperson added.
J&W doesn't have much of a presence in the U.S. (Evertek Computer Corp. is the only U.S. vendor listed on J&W's "Where to Buy" page), and chances are, you've never heard of them. But if J&W continues to release motherboards like the Minix 890GX-USB3, the company won't remain obscure for very long.
Their latest Minix board is built around the mini-ITX form factor and is the first such board to support both USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbps. As you might have guessed, it's powered by AMD's 890GX IGP chipset, which includes onboard ATI Radeon HD 4290 graphics with DirectX 10.1 support.
Packing a lot of power into a small package, the Minix 890GX-USB3 also comes built around AMD's AM3 socket and boasts support for the Phenom II series, including AMD's latest six-core processors, as well as the Windows-based Core-Unlocking utility.
"We planned to launch this motherboard since 2009 and the specification was revised several times to make it the 'best-of-the-best' mini-ITX motherboard on the market. Many users have the misunderstanding that small cannot be powerful, or mini-ITX is only capable to play HD videos, and we wanted to prove that mini-ITX can be small and powerful," said Ken Wong, Product Marketing Manager of J&W Technology Ltd.
Maximum PC readers love their desktops, and that's why it warms our hearts to hear someone else agree for a change, even if his reasons for doing so are remarkably self -serving. Gigabyte's Henry Kao (vice president of motherboards) is making the somewhat bold prediction that laptops, not desktops will die off as a result of the rising popularity of smart phones and tablet PCs. Because of their "internet capabilities" Kao said "users will eventually stop buying notebooks for their mobile computing needs. Instead, everything done away from the desk or even on the road will be through a smart phone or tablet".
To this end Gigabyte is predicting a boon in the future for more powerful desktop PCs that users can return to for more complex tasks. "Once those people have those mobile devices, people need performance desktop at home or the office," said Kao. In another somewhat unusual twist for a PC executive, Kao labeled the iPhone and iPad as game changers in the mobile computing space.
Kao predicts the full death of the notebook will take three to five years "100 percent replacement won't happen overnight". His argument in favor of desktops carries at least some merit, but I think many in our community would be willing to pick a fight over anyone who claims the iPad is capable of replacing a full-featured notebook for day-to-day tasks. I suspect tablets will need to go through a few more iterations before we reach that point, making the three to five year timeline somewhat ambitious.
There's a code among motherboard makers that says integrated graphics have to suck. To be fair, today's IGP boards are plenty powerful enough for everyday computing tasks and even some light gaming duties, but don't kid yourself, you're not going to build a respectable gaming machine without a discrete graphics card. Not yet, anyway.
Asus has apparently decided to challenge this notion that integrated graphics have to be second rate. How so? Well, they've gone and slapped a Radeon HD 5770 chip on an Intel X58-based motherboard they're calling "Immensity." What's more, that isn't even the only graphics trick up this concept board's sleeve - it also comes equipped with a Lucid Hydra chip, which means that you can add two more PCI-E graphics card for three-way CrossFireX action, or mix and match both ATI and Nvidia graphics cards.
Even though this is a concept board, it sounds as though Asus is fairly confident this one will eventually graduate from prototype status into a shipping product. Here's hoping Asus not only goes through with this, but starts a trend in the IGP market.
Remember when DFI's LANParty motherboards rocked the enthusiast scene? Well, it appears those memories are all that's left, as the LANParty series is no more, says Bit-Tech.
"I finally contacted some other people associated/previously associated with DFI's LANParty group in Taipei, and arranged several meetings during Computex," Bit-Tech wrote after donning their detective caps to find out why there haven't been any new DFI LANParty boards as of late. "Today, we finally got our answer: DFI told its LANParty team in 2009 there would be no more LANParty products. The division was losing money continually through 2009 and late in the year the sales team were told to clear their inventory before being moved to the far more profitable industrial division."
If true, this is sad news for adventurous overclockers who like to push the boundaries of component design. It wasn't that long ago that DFI was the go-to company for highly tweakable -- and often finicky -- motherboards with more BIOS settings than you could shake a Shake Weight at. But the company appears to have fallen on tough times in the enthusiast market, which is probably the result of competitors stepping up their game, overclocking-friendly CPU releases from both AMD and Intel, and perhaps a bit of mismanagement as well.
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.