CES 2012 Day 3 Coverage

Author: Hienrich Jager
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Tuesday, January 17th, 2012
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/CES_2012_DAY_3/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

Zalman Tech Co. is a company that nearly every serious computer enthusiast has heard of and most likely owned one of their products. Founded in 1999, they have pushed the boundaries of cooling performance and blew away the preconception that heatsinks had to be boring square things with no pizazz. Probably their most notable heatsink offerings are the iconic "flower" designs and the Zalman 7000 designed for Pentium 4 and Athlon 64 series of processors. These designs have proven to be solid and obviously were the precursors to the the CNPS 8900 that was on display at the show.

They showcased both an "Extreme" and a "Quiet" design that only differed in the design of the embedded fan. I would imagine that fan rotational speed would make the difference, but nothing was mentioned specifically on the little product cards that accompanied the HSFs. The previous heatsink designs are meant for low-profile cases and instances where you want to maximize your cooling performance while staying within noise and dimensional tolerances. For real extreme cooling of today's silicon, one would prefer the double or triple fan monstrosities that contain a bazillion heat pipes. Zalman didn't disappoint in this regard with their CNPS10X Optima, the CNPS12X, and the CNPS9900 MAX. These heatsink and fan weombos are so massive that I would triple check the space available in your case just to make sure they will fit. They didn't have any of these heatsinks hooked up and working, probably because the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would forbid it. (i.e. only a nuke could produce the level of heat required to make these heatsinks truly shine)

Listed in order of appearance below, the CNPS11X Performa, the CNPS 9900 MAX, the CNPS10X OPTIMA, and the CNPS12X were all set up on a variety of Gigabyte motherboards with some very nice looking but low profile HyperX RAM sticks. Set ups like these really give an indication of just how large these chunks of copper and aluminum truly are!

Zalman also had a single closed-loop water cooling system on display this year. The CNPS 20LQ sees the pump and reservoir all contained within the radiator block, thus giving this model a very slim design with the bare minimum number of hoses needed. This water cooler was installed on a running system that will be expanded on later in this article.

Zalman has long been making after-market cooling applications for GPUs as well, and this year they had on display two cards apiece from AMD and nVidia using their coolers. In order from top left to bottom right are their cooling solutions for the HD6850-H, the 6770-Z, the GTX550-Ti, and the GTX560-Ti. All these cards come with some serious metal attached, but they all remained two-slot cooling solutions.

I must admit that I was rather surprised to see power supplies with the Zalman brand on them at their booth this year. Power supplies are not something that I would immediately associate with Zalman, but they had quite a range of PSUs on display ranging in storage capacities from 450W to 750W. Zalman does offer a 1kW PSU as you will see below, but for some reason they did not have it on display with the rest of their PSUs.

After talking with a company representative for a while, I can now clearly see the direction that the company is trying to take itself. They built their name and reputation on enthusiast level cooling solutions that performed and were quiet; for instance I doubt that anyone will forget the Reserator that they released way back in 2005. This year however, Zalman is trying to focus on being able to build an entire computer from parts that they either manufacture or at least had some role in designing (like the heatsinks).  The rig shown below contains Zalman heatsinks on both the processor and the graphics card, as well as a Zalman power supply and SSD hard drive. Everything was then assembled in a Zalman case with a Zalman branded mouse and keyboard hooked up to it.

This is quite a feat because that means Zalman now has its fingers in a lot of pots. I just hope that going in this direction does not spread them too thin and make them lose sight of what made them a house-hold name in the first place. The case used in this build is the brand new Z11 Plus shown below. Unfortunately we only have that one photo snapped of the case, but from what I was able to see of it it looked like a beast; and knowing that it is from Zalman means that it should cool like one as well. Hopefully one of these will find its way across my desk soon so that I can review it for you readers out there. Also displayed were the Z9 Plus and the full-tower GS1200 that has mounting holes for seven 120mm fans. 

Zalman has also entered into the solid state hard drive market usually dominated by bigger and older names like Western Digital and Seagate. However I believe that these might be solid offerings, with the SATA-III based F-Series claiming face-melting transfer speeds of 560MB/s and 530MB/s (Sequential Read/Write) while the SATA-II based P-Series offering respectable performances at 245MB/s and 115MB/s (Read/Write). However I also remain slightly skeptical since the documentation provided in the press kit mentions that the speed ratings are for "Compressible Data." Zalman also has a line of external hard drive and optical drive enclosures that will keep your hardware safe and cool in solid aluminum housings. No word as of yet concerning pricing for any of these pieces.

Rounding out their booth was a display containing two new laptop coolers: the ZM-NC11 and the ZM-NC3500 Plus. I myself own an older version of the ZM-NC1000 and I must admit that it has performed admirably over the years. Finally, there were several mice on display that seemed like re-branded generic laser mice (in my opinion). I was quite pleased however to see that the one with the silver highlights, the ZM-GM1, boasted of an impressive 800 to 6000 adjustable DPI setting. With the large desktops and the multi-monitor set-ups that people have these days, a mouse like this would be quite awesome.

Next up was the Lian-Li booth where they had a whole bunch of both new and previously released cases on display. They also showcased a few of the smaller form factor cases such as the PC-Q05, which was specifically designed for a mini-ITX board with a passive CPU cooler. Unfortunately this chassis is not yet available for purchase and Lian-Li is not sure if they are going to release it as a consumer case. The PC-Q12 however was recently released; it has a very simple and stylish look. The PC-Q12 would be a great looking case for an HTPC setup in one's living room.

Next up are the PC-C60, PC-C50 and PC-Q25 smaller form factor cases. These are designed to be used as an HTPC, NAS, or media center while still looking very aesthetically pleasing. Both the PC-C50 and the PC-Q25 have removable motherboard and component trays, as can be seen in the bottom right image.

The PC-Q09FN chassis is another small compact form factor chassis that can be used for an HTPC/Media center setup. Taking a peek inside of the chassis, you can see that every device is mounted in its own special place in the chassis to keep everything organized and maximize airflow. The PC-Q15 has a very similar design as the Q09FN, however some of the internal components are moved to different locations. Lian-Li has also added four stylish chrome wheels to enliven to the plain style of the chassis. Continuing with the smaller HTPC cases, we saw the already released PC-V353 and TU-200. The PC-V353 has a full mesh front faceplate, which allows for more even airflow in or out of the case depending on the positioning of the fans. The TU-200 looks like it was designed with a briefcase in mind; with the handle on the top it could make a pretty decent LAN Party chassis. The PC-U6 is a 2011 Special Edition case, and you won't soon forget it once you see it. The chassis has a very unique look, somewhat like a snail shell. You will be able to fit up to an M-ATX motherboard inside of the case, which features a maximum of four PCI slots.

The next chassis is the PC-90B from Lian-Li's Hammer Series. This chassis has a nice clean front bezel to with a total of two USB 3.0 ports, mic/headphones ports and an e-SATA port to easily connect your favorite devices quickly. When you open up the back side of the chassis, you will see two large holes in the motherboard tray that allows for easy access to the bottom side of the motherboard for quick installation an aftermarket CPU cooler and routing wires to hide them from plain view.

Looking at the PC-B10FN, you can tell that this chassis is designed with silence in mind; the front door has sound dampening material to help keep out not only dust from inside your case but keeps the sound inside of the case. All of the side panels are lined with this material as well to help add even more dust/sound protection.

Lian-Li also had a few of the chassis from their 3.5" S-ATA HDD-ROM external enclosure series, specifically the EX-503 and EX-20N, on display at the booth. The EX-503 is the flagship of this lineup, allowing you to install up to five 3.5" drives with sizes up to 2000GB per drive. It has both eSATA and USB 3.0 support for maximum 5GB/s transfer rates (using USB 3.0). The internal connections for the drives are limited to SATA I/II. The entry level EX-20N enclosure supports two 3.5" SATA drives up to maximum storage capacity of 2TB per drive. Again it boasts eSATA and USB 3.0 connections with a maximum transfer speed of up to 5GB/s over USB 3.0.

One of my favorite chassis that LianLi has recently launched is the PC-100, also in the Hammer Series. Perhaps the most innovative feature of this chassis is how the internals have been rotated by 180°. Looking at the front bezel you will see a small door about half way up the front, where you are going to be able to access the "rear" I/O panel of your motherboard. There is a cable routing system that allows you to have a few cables come out the side for your mouse/keyboard/etc. as well as your monitor cable going along the side panel. There are no HDD cages installed inside, but you will find an HDD tray for six internal 3.5" or 2.5" drives along the support bars under the motherboard tray. On the back of the chassis are two 140mm fans that can be positioned to push or pull air. A single 120mm fan on the front under the bezel helps bring more air in or out.

I would imagine that most everyone at one point has lusted after an all-aluminum Lian-Li case. Unfortunately for those lustful folk, myself included, Lian-Li's amazing construction and designs were just out of their budget range. Thankfully, if your like their designs, you can now probably afford to purchase similar looks and quality under the LanCool brand. In 2009 LanCool was formed as a subsidiary company to Lian-Li with the mandate to manufacture all their award winning cases at a lower and more affordable cost. They achieved this by making the core structure and side panels of their cases out of steel rather than aluminum. This would enable Lian-Li to retain their title as a high-end enthusiast aluminum chassis manufacturer. As you can see below, there is no visual stylistic difference between the two case manufacturers.

Finally, Lian-Li had on display the SATA Hot Swap 2.5" HDD Cage. This device works by installing into an external 3.5" drive bay and inserting the Hot Swap Cage into that. This will allow you to insert either a small form factor mechanical HDD or an SSD and make the drive hot-swappable for easy access and high transfer speeds (if an SSD is used).

Known for years primarily as a server motherboard and chassis manufacturer, SuperMicro had a booth at CES this year where they also featured systems that were focused toward extreme enthusiast gamers. Admittedly the motherboards and cases seen below still have all the hallmarks of a professional server setup, but it is not that often that you find server motherboards with features like 4x PCIex16 slots or BIOS's that support overclocking. 

With the four motherboards shown above all built for the Xenon processor, there is no argument that they are primarily designed around servers and high-end infrastructures. The X8DTG-QF would make a great backbone for a TESLA high-performance computing system and the X8QBE-F is just obscene, in a good way. The last two boards on the wall made a hard core gaming enthusiast like myself quite happy. Supporting Core i7 silicon enables me to think immediately of a gaming rig. Don't get me wrong, Xenon chips are quite awesome, but they are way out of the normal consumer's price range and they are only optimized for intensive computing applications. Even if you wanted to do Folding 24/7 AND play BF3 constantly, this board wouldn't even blink. With the X8SAX motherboard and its two x16 PCIe ports, it is just waiting for someone to throw in a pair of SLI cards and rock out. In addition, the full-bandwidth 64-bit PCI-X 2.0 slots are an awesome feature but rarely seen on consumer-level boards. This interface is notable because it allows for the full utilization of SCSI and high-performance SATA III add-in RAID cards that are coming out soon.

To demonstrate the gaming potential of the Core i7 boards and to help associate their brand with gamers, the SuperMicro booth had three stations set up all running Starcraft II on massive monitors. At the stations here were two of the world's top professional League of Legends players plus a random person from the audience. They turned this into a spectator sport and I must admit with the MC calling a running tally of the players actions it was quite entertaining to watch.

One of the things that is really enjoyable about CES is that you never know what you will find. Booths cost an insane amount of money and not every company can afford as gigantic a booth as Zalman or Microsoft. The smaller 9' by 9' booths (3x3 meters) often contain companies that are just starting out or only have markets in Europe or Asia, yet no one here in North America have heard of them. Case in point is the booth set up by the German company ROCCAT. This company has built itself a cult following of enthusiastic gamers who swear by the mice, keyboards, headsets, and accessories that this company offers.

The Kone[+] is ROCCAT's signature mouse. Featuring multi-level blue backlit trim and the now standard forward/back buttons and DPI adjustment buttons, this mouse really shines in its polling performance. The Kone[+] has a 6000dpi Pro-Aim laser sensor resulting in a 10.5 megapixel resolution with 1000Hz polling rate. This enables extremely accurate and precise positioning with a latency of ~500 nano seconds which is down-right amazing. The mouse wheel has distinctive indexed notch positions that are perfect for switching to the exact weapon you want while gaming, and the wider design makes it easier and more comfortable to control. A system of 4 individual 5g weights allows for customizable weight profiles to suit individual needs.

Also on display was the ROCCAT Isku. This keyboard features an ergonomic hybrid shell that is made from their proprietary Soft-Touch material for maximum comfort during those long gaming sessions. There are eleven programmable buttons that are situated strategically next to the WASD keys and across the top row above the Function keys. These hot-keys are programmable and with five profiles stored on 576kB of on-board memory, this keyboard can be set up for five games at the same time. This on-board memory is also very handy when recording in-game macros on the fly with the Macro Live! software built into the keyboard.  All of these profiles are selectable at any time with ROCCAT's revolutionary EasyShift+ command system that is accessible through a software interface or a keyboard command button. This keyboard also sports back-lit keys that glow blue in color with six selectable brightness levels, including off.

One of the best things about both the keyboard and the mouse is that when used in tandem, you will receive auditory feedback when changing the DPI profiles on the mouse or the volume levels for the computer. This allows the gamer to focus on what is most important without having to wonder which setting he has just switched to.

With a slogan of "Ze Germans have returned again, this time to play", you can be assured that this company not only knows that they have good products, but that they have a sense of humor as well.

IOGear has been around since 1999 and have made a name for themselves by providing connectivity for networks and peripherals. If you own a multi-memory card reader, KVM/HDMI switch or router, you probably heard of this company before. But you might not know all the different types of products they offer. Thankfully IOGear had a booth set up at this year's CES with lots of their gear on display. 

First up is IOGear's new Universal 5-Port Wi-Fi N Ethernet Hub seen on the left side of the image below. This hub allows five IEEE 802.11n devices to connect to your home or small business network and achieve transfer speeds of up to 300MB/s with the ease and hassle-free connections that wireless Ethernet provides. You do not have to worry about network security either because this hub supports WEB, TKIP, AES, WPA and WPS2 encryption at the hardware level.

Also on display on this table is IOGear's latest offering in home-theater connectivity: the 4-Port Super Switcher. This KVM switch allows for the connection of four different HDMI sources to feed into a single television or HD capable projector. This little box also contains an advanced 2D/3D video processor that enables the up-scaling of 480 or 720p video feed into the 1080p resolution that most modern displays are capable of. This processor will also up-convert your favorite videos and DVDs into a 3D data-stream as this KVM is also capable of handling 3D feeds. There is a mini-amplifier residing in this little black box as well (seen in the center of the image below) that ensures there is no data loss when running long cables.

KVM switches remain a large portion of IOGear's product lineup, and there were several to see on the floor this year. First was the standard 2-Port Compact USB VGA KVM with non-removable cabling. This is the most basic offering on display but it will get the job done in a pinch.

The slightly upgraded version of the above product was the 2-Port USB, VGA, and audio KVM shown below. This KVM still feels stuck in the stone age with support for VGA only, however it does provide for a maximum video resolution of 2048x1536 which isn't bad.

A more modern offering is the 2-Port USB Audio and HDMI KVM shown below. This KVM is fully HDCP compliant and supports Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio, but unfortunately it only supports a maximum screen resolution of 1920x1200.

Finally, it was nice to see a KVM that offers support for both USB and PS/2 connections. This is the product that would be the most useful in my opinion, because it would allow me to have an advanced gaming mouse while retaining support for my ancient AT-interface (through a PS/2 converter) SiliconGraphics mechanical keyboard that I absolutely love. This KVM also supports audio and a maximum video resolution of 2048x1536.

There was also a display set up for a new generation of USB 3.0 hubs. IOGear was showcasing a basic 4-port USB 3.0 hub that plugs right into any USB 3.0 socket on your computer, a USB 3.0 capable 56-in-1 memory card reader, and the one to rule them all: a  5-Port USB 3.0 hub with a built in 56-in-1 card reader and a mini-B USB charging cable.
 

 

Unfortunately I ran out of time before I could capture images of the rest of IOGear's products, but there was a whole wall filled with connector cables, bluetooth wireless keyboards, and USB wireless cards.

And thus ends coverage for Day 3 at the Consumer Electronics Show for 2012. Be on the lookout for Day 4 soon!

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