Asus CES booth tour covers notebooks, nettops, speakers, mobos, and more


— 7:37 PM on January 12, 2010

Visiting Asus' booth at a trade show is always an experience. The company makes, well, just about everything. At the Consumer Electronics Show, nearly about all of it seemed to be on display. Easily the most striking new additions to Asus' product portfolio were shown early, so we skipped over them at the booth. We did, however, learn a couple of new things about the gorgeous-looking Bamboo Collection. Expect systems to arrive in the second quarter using GeForce G310M discrete graphics processors alongside their Core i3 and i5 CPUs. The 13.3" model will tip the scales at just 1.7 kg, while the 15.6" flavor weighs 2.6 kg.

Brushed aluminum can also be found in the UX30, which features a Core 2 Duo SU7300 processor accompanied by a GS45 Express chipset. This system has a 13.3" display and measures just 20 mm thick. It's available with a 160GB SSD and weighs only 1.45 kg with a three-cell battery.

The U30Jc is another 13.3" model, this time with a Blu-ray drive. You also get your choice of Core i3 and i5 processors, GeForce 310M switchable graphics, and up to a 640GB hard drive. Brushed aluminum makes an appearance here, as well, alongside a fair amount of matte plastic.

We've been criticial of Asus' use of fingerprint-prone glossy plastics in the past, and it looks like the company has taken notice. Expect new finishes this year, including matte plastic with a grippy, slightly rubberesque feel. For budget systems, Asus has also come up with a textured finish impregnated with just enough sparkle to give off a bit of a shine. Fingerprints and smudges don't seem to be a problem, and there's enough bling to give systems a little shelf appeal.

One of the more intriguing systems on display was the Eee PC 1201T, which features a 12.1" 1366x768 display, an Athlon Neo MV40 1.6GHz processor, and an RS780NM chipset with Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics. This budget ultraportable also sports 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a 250GB hard drive. Expect to squeeze about six hours of run time from the 47Wh battery when this puppy arrives in North America between the first and second quarters of this year.

Tablet PCs were plentiful at CES this year, and Asus had a convertible version in the Eee PC T101MT. Due to arrive in March, this Pine Trail system offers a 10.1" touchscreen with multitouch and stylus-based input support. Asus will ship the tablet with handwriting recognition software and an interface of its own design running on top of Starter and Home versions of Windows 7. 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are included, too, alongside a 35Wh battery said to delivery 6.5 hours of run time.

Asus had plenty of nettops and all-in-one systems on display. The most interesting was the EeeBox EB1501, which features a dual-core Atom N330, an Ion chipset, Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and a slot-loading DVD burner. Asus actually looked into equipping this system with Blu-ray, but it couldn't find a slim, slot-loading drive that would fit in the chassis.

The Eee keyboard, otherwise known as the EK1542, also made an appearance at CES. Asus has been taking its time working on the interface for this novel system's embedded display, and it's finally ready for prime time. Under the hood, you'll find a last-gen Atom platform with an N270 processor, 1GB of memory, and 16 or 32GB of SSD storage. 802.11n Wi-Fi handles networking, while HDMI is broadcast wirelessly via an included ultra-wide-band kit.

Unfortunately, the EK1542 doesn't have an Ion chipset or an auxiliary video decoder, so HD video playback will be a challenge. So will battery life, with the included cell expected to deliver about four hours of run time. The Eee keyboard will hit shelves this quarter starting at $499.

One of the more unique Asus products on display was a PC speaker that offers virtual surround sound. The single bar of speakers is quite compact, and the surround virtualization worked rather well—even on the crowded show floor. Pricing and an availability date have yet to be set.

Next to the speaker bar, we saw Asus' new Bravo graphics card in action. Designed for home-theater PCs, this low-profile GeForce 9500 has an ambient light sensor that tweaks the brightness of the video output based on one's environment. Nifty.

Oh, and Asus makes motherboards, too. A full refresh of the company's X58 lineup is coming in preparation for Gulftown, and there are some very exotic new boards in the Republic of Gamers family. The ROG models are predictably expensive, but then they're designed for the most extreme of overclockers. The latest model has digital PWMs throughout and a special LN2 mode in the BIOS that works around the so-called cold bug that can limit overclocking at extremely cold temperatures.

Perhaps the most unique element to the new board is what you can do with an attached laptop. Asus offers software that allows users to monitor the board with a second system. You can even flash the BIOS via a connected rig, allowing users to recover from a bad flash or prepare boards for new CPU models that aren't supported in older BIOS revisions.

Asus had a Mini-ITX AT510NM10-I Pine Trail board on display with its P7H55D-M Pro H55 board. Just above those was the M4A89GTD Pro, which is pictured above. The specifications for this Socket AM3 motherboard didn't provide details on the chipset used, but we're told it's AMD's next-gen core-logic offering.

There was really more on display than we had time to see. However, we did snap some additional pictures that you can flip through in the image gallery below.

   
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