Author: Hienrich Jager
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Monday, January 16th, 2012
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/CES_2012_DAY_1/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.
The Consumer Electronics Show is an annual event where all the major companies in the electronics world converge and showcase their latest and greatest products, and Neoseeker is no stranger as a guest. Computer hardware has always been a large portion of the show, but over the past few years the manufacturers seem to be moving more toward events in the conference centers located at various hotels and casinos up and down the strip. There were still quite a few booths set up all over the actual convention space, and lots of new products to look at. The first booth that we came across was InWin.
InWin has been a rising name in the gaming and enthusiast enclosure market since the inception of their gaming case product line in the US around 2009. InWin came to CES this year showcasing several of their mid-tower and full-tower cases, with two of the full tower cases still in the product development stages. The final product will not out exactly like either of the two designs shown below, but the InWin representative explained that they plan to get feedback and suggestions from their customers as to which features they like to ultimately form an amalgam of the two into a new tower for release late spring 2012.
InWin was also showcasing a tech-station case. With a completely open design, this case not only looks cool but promises easy swapping of hardware components for testing while offering exceptional cooling for burn-in tests and suicide runs.
They also showcased an interesting lineup of their new Commander II series of enthusiast power supplies. Soon available in 850W, 900W, and 1200W capacities, these power supplies carry an 80 Plus Bronze rating and features a modular design to ensure a clean internal cable layout system. InWin was also extremely proud of their 80 PLUS Gold and Platinum ratings that have been granted to their standard ATX and TFX format power supplies.
InWin's main attraction was their new "do-everything" Mini-ITX system, the K1. This form factor has been designed primarily toward point-of-sale and other commercial computer needs. However, it can also be attractive to the enthusiast side of the market since its small form-factor and the numerous features (such as internal Wi-Fi, Smart-card readers, and Blue-tooth antenna connectors) make this mini-computer would-be a contender for carputers, kitchen rigs, or limited room applications.
Zotac International Limited (or just plain Zotac) have made a name for themselves through its ITX-based motherboards and NVIDIA graphics cards that they have released over the years. Their booth this year continued to underline their commitment to both markets, with a wide array of both types of products displayed.
The motherboards showcased for both Intel and AMD chipsets boasted a wealth of features such as built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth with connectors for external antennas. They also sport fairly impressive video chipsets for such a small package, with the AMD boards featuring such chips as the AMD HD 6310 and the HD 6000, and the Intel boards utilizing either the NVIDIA GT 520 or Intel HD 3000 on-board silicon. These boards look to be designed with a media PC focus and come with lots of connectors for SPDIF audio, HDMi ports, and integrated RAID controllers supporting 0, 1, 0+1, and 5 configurations. I personally cannot wait for these to hit shelves sometime late Spring 2012 so that I can get one for that carputer rig that I am planning.
Zotac also brought a selection of their graphics cards. These cards are all based on NVIDIA silicon and support current interface options such as PCI, PCIe x1, and of course PCIe x16. However, these cards are not based on the top of the line GPU offerings from NVIDIA since this year Zotac was showcasing their products that are oriented around the ITX and other smaller form factors. They do offer their own versions of the GeForce GTX 590 and 580 on their website.
Lastly, the Zotac booth had a display featuring a new cooling system they are developing. Over the years, all computer nerds have heard about people using fish tanks full of de-ionized water, mineral oil, or some other wacky fluid in an attempt to produce an immersion water-cooled system. Usually these setups are a mess and have issues with fluid evaporation or conductivity. However, Zotac has approached this concept with a new fluid that they were quite tight-lipped about; what was clear was that their working demonstration was easily the star attraction of their booth. Through my line of questioning I was able to squeeze out of the company rep the fact that the fluid itself was currently worth about $250 per gallon and only needed replacing every 5 to 6 years under continuous usage. Another hint Zotac shared was that they were utilizing the endothermic characteristic that occurs when a fluid changes phase from a liquid to a gas. This cooling phenomenon allowed the hardware shown in the photos below to stay nice and cool. The temps posted in the HWMonitor screen were the actual temperatures that the system was posting under an 81% load in FurMark with 640x360 resolution settings and without anti-aliasing.
Readers of this article might be concerned that the temperatures for the processor were a little elevated, especially compared with the temps reported for the videocard. This was to be expected though, because the Zotac representatives were also showcasing a special type of heatsink for use in this system that was only attached to the GPU core. The CPU itself was just the bare metal of the chip's built in heat spreader. This heatsink was a little inch-and-a-half by inch-and-a-half square of what looked like a little orange heatsink that would have not been surprising to find on a computer from '98. According to the representative on the showroom floor, this was no ordinary heatsink as it was coated with a diamond dust that had been affixed with a layer of anodized metal. This little heatsink really did a lot for the cooling performance, as the videocard was under 81% load and was sitting at 45C while the 2600K i7 was sitting at ~70C.
In the photos above you can see the turbulence created in the cooling fluid as it boils at the hot surfaces and cools them down. Honestly, I am not sure how they were re-condensing the cooling fluid, but I know the massive heatsink up at the top had something to do it. At this point I would say that this entire setup was mainly an interesting technical demonstration, but I am not sure how feasible this would be in an average consumer setup.
The Turtle Beach booth this year had quite a few new headsets out on display, not only in the PC lineup but for game consoles and mobile devices as well. Turtle Beach had their entire headset lineup on display alongside all of their updated models, with a nice description of each headset and a feature list next to them.
The first two headsets that we saw were the X12 and the XP500. While both of these were engineered for the Xbox 360, the XP500 also works with the PS3 while the X12 works well for the PC. One cool thing about the XP500 is that it is a wireless headset that works on a digital RF audio signal. The XP500 has up to 18 personalized presets to optimize game, chat, and mic audio for different gaming situations; you can also chat wirelessly on Xbox 360 and PS3 and you can even answer mobile phone calls or listen to streaming music while gaming. Looking at the X12 headset, some of the biggest features are the amplified audio, variable bass boost, independent volume controls, microphone monitor, and all of this is USB powered which means no batteries are required.
One of the other headphones featured was the PX3 gaming headset which was engineered for PS3 but also has support for Xbox 360, PC or Mac. The PX3 has 18 interchangeable presets which are optimized for gaming and chat in different situations; the headset also delivers wireless game and chat audio on PS3, includes a rechargeable battery, features a sonic lens with sound field expander, ear guard with blast limiter, sonic silencers, dynamic chat boost, microphone monitor, and an auxiliary input.
The X32 is a wireless amplified stereo gaming headset that is engineered for the Xbox 360. The headset uses a 5GHz dual band wireless Wi-Fi connection from the headset to the docking station for enhanced wireless performance. With the X32 you will find massive 50mm speakers for high-fidelity audio, a high-sensitivity microphone with a flexible boom. The earpieces are made of a breathable fabric mesh for enhanced comfort. Positioned a step up from the X32 is the X42 Wireless Dolby Surround Sound Gaming Headset which admittedly has pretty much the exact same feature set as the X32; however, you are also getting Dolby Digital Surround Sound for an enhanced gaming experience.
Continuing down the lineup, we come across the XP500 headset, a programmable wireless Dolby Surround Sound gaming headset. As with the other headsets, you are going to be getting 18 personalized presets to optimize game, chat, and mic audio for different gaming situations. You are also going to be getting the Dual-Pairing Bluetooth which allows you to chat wirelessly on both the Xbox 360 and PS3 while also allowing you to answer your mobile phone calls, or listen to streaming music while gaming. Turtle Beach also included Voice Morphing which allows you to distort your voice from deep lows to screeching highs. There is also a real voice that announces the headphone status such as a low battery warning, preset numbers when switching between them, and many more status prompts. A step down from the XP500 is the XP400; with this headset you are going to be losing the customizable presets and the Sonic Silencers that eliminate background noise on your mic and online chat. You are also going to be losing the Voice Morphing and Voice Prompts.
Now that the Turtle Beach booth is completed, its time to look at an emerging case manufacturer in the US market.
At last year's CES, Fractal Design only occupied a hotel suite where they invited select people and media representatives but this year they decided to spring the extra cost for a booth on the CES floor. Fractal has been a rising star over in Europe since their inception in 2007 in the Scandanavian region. Since then they have exploded into the French and German markets, gaining in market share and popularity with each successive quarter. According to the company CEO who was present to answer questions about his products, Fractal's core design approach is to make cases that are utterly silent without sacraficing their cooling capability, living up to the "Scandaniavan" concepts of minimalistic structure and architecture.
Their booth showcased examples of this approach with displays of their Arc, Define, and Core series enthusiast computer cases. Every case is fully sound-dampened with a layer of sound and vibration absorbing foam that lines all case walls and sides. This increases the weight of the cases slightly, but in my opinion it is a trade off that is completely worth it. They have also turned a critical eye to dust filtering and have developed simple and efficient ways to manage this dust problem, reducing its impact on both the performance and the audible profile of their case fans.
First up were the two Arc series cases with two variants, the mid-tower Arc mini and a full-tower version, the Arc. With minimalistic styling, USB 3.0 on the front panel, and removable hard drive bays, the Arc series enables the use of high-end videocards that take up lots of room, supporting current and future designs of up to 470mm in length.
Next comes the Array. This is a Small-Form-Factor (SFF) case designed for home server or NAS work. It is made of aluminum and supports both mini-ITX and mini-DTX motherboards.
The Define series is composed of three different types of cases: the Mini, the R3, and the XL. These are the mainstream case offerings from Fractal. This series offers sleek minimal design, cool or quiet operation, and USB 3.0 support. Unfortunately we were not able to grab many pictures of this series.
Finally, we have the Core series that contains the Core 1000 and the Core 3000. This series will be Fractal's main offering and was the first design they developed when the company was first started. Additionally, this design retains most of the little features that their more advanced cases offer such as the sound-dampening foam and the well-designed dust filtering set-up.
This year Fractal Design was sharing its booth with the MNPCtech modding group who had gained recent fame with their Battlefield 3 designed case-mod that they had just finished. As seen below, this case was featured prominantly at their CES booth this year and was based off of a Fractal Arc series mid-tower case with a very nice custom paint job.
MNPCtech also had a wall on the display booth where they were displaying some of their custom designed fan grills, trim, and intake port covers. These pieces were all manufactured from aluminum which gave all the parts a great finish and strength.
Next up is the Deep Cool booth. As you may know, Deep Cool designs cooling solutions for your rig. The first cooler we saw on display was the GAMER STORM, which is a cooler compatible with both AMD and Intel systems. They also showcased the ICE WARRIOR, again compatible with both Intel and AMD CPU sockets and has a cooling capacity of up to 150 Watts. The base of the cooler is pure copper with nickel plating, copper heatpipes, and aluminum fins. It has six heatpipes and 48 fins for a large heat dissipation area. The cooler supports 120x120x25mm fans and already has one pre-installed. A de-vibration TPE fan cover absorbs noise for a more silent operating cooling solution.
The next cooler on display is the Fiend Shark that supports AMD and Intel sockets and has a cooling capacity of 150 Watts. It features a nickel-plated copper base, six copper heatpipes and aluminum fins. It has a 140x25mm PWM fan installed on the heatsink that adds cooling support not only for the CPU but the surrounding motherboard components, such as the memory chips and the VRM/MOSFETS.
The ICE MATRIX 600 is the next cooler that was on display, featuring a total of six heatpipes that are lined up in a straight line to improve airflow through the heatsink. This cooler is designed to work with CPUs on both AMD and Intel platforms and cools up to 150W of heat with a 140x25mm PWM fan installed on it.
Deep Cool also had the ICE WIND out for display - a cross-platform cooler for Intel and AMD sockets with a 130-Watt cooling capacity. It uses four 6mm heatpipes to help conduct heat from the CPU quickly. The ICE WIND uses Deep Cool's Core Touch Technology to help give perfect contact with the CPU surface. There is a 120x120x25mm PWM fan installed on the cooler as well.
Deep Cool also had a few of their VGA coolers out for display. The first we looked at is the V400 which is compatible with mainstream NVIDIA and ATi graphics cards. It features four heatpipes to transfer heat from the copper base to the heatsink efficiently. The base of the cooler is nickel-plated aluminum with a dense fin array to offer high cooling performance. You will find a 120mm fan installed on the cooler and complimentary VGA memory heatsinks to enhance the graphics card's performance.
Finally we have the Deep Cool V6000 VGA cooler that has a total of six heatpipes and a copper base with nickel plating. This cooler is compatible with mainstream NVIDIA and ATI high-end graphics cards. It uses dense fin array to offer even higher cooling performance over the stock cooling solution for a graphics card. The V6000 has dual 92mm fans with TPE cover fan frame to absorb operating vibration and noise. This cooler comes with replacement fan clips and memory heatsinks as a complimentary gift from Deep Cool.
Deep Cool also had some of their UF Fan series chassis fans on display. These fans come in either a white, cream, or black casing with a bright blue fan blade assembly. They are offered in 80/92/120/140mm sizes and feature a patented de-vibration design. The plastic frame is made with a soft and elastic TPE cover which is strong and will help make the fan last longer. These fans are designed for high quality and high performance, aimed at the high-end user. These fans are built with two ball bearings to offer a smooth rotation and long lifespan, while still offering super silent operation and outputting high airflow.
That's it for Neoseeker's Day 1 CES coverage! Stay tuned for Day 2's highlights coming very soon!
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