A little while ago, we hit the streets of Taipei to visit the suites at the Grand Hyatt, the floor of the Taiwan World Trade Center, and the aisles of the Nangang Exhibition Center to take in all that Computex had to offer. If you're not already familiar, Computex is a week-long trade show devoted to the PC and little else. Many of the companies we cover make their homes in Taipei, so big names like Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI take the opportunity to show off some of their bigger product releases for the year at this event. That doesn't even begin to cover the galaxy of smaller companies who also set up booths and show off their wares.
Now that we've had some time to shake off the jet lag and rub the afterimages of miles and miles of RGB LED glare from our eyes, we've sifted through our notes and the thousands of pictures we took while we were on the show floor to offer up a small slice of what it's like to walk among the acres of hardware on display from all over the world.
As you read this retrospective, you may wonder why your favorite company isn't mentioned. It's possible that I already filed a report from the show on that company's booth during our whirlwind tour. See our posts on EVGA, Zotac, Cooler Master, and Corsair for more info about those companies' offerings this year.
Asus' Computex booth was full of new motherboards, monitors, and other gaming gear this year. We sadly didn't have time to have a look at it all, but we did spend a lot of time in the ROG section of the company's booth.
The weirdest thing Asus previewed at Computex this year was its ROG Avalon modular desktop prototype. This extremely sturdy aluminum box is supposed to be a gateway for gamers to explore building their own PCs without having to work up a system completely from scratch.
The Avalon also has modular rear I/O panels that can be swapped in and out to accommodate different users' needs, like a VR-specific set of ports. We're not sure that the Avalon is the future of gaming PCs—various companies have been down this "modular proprietary form factor" road before with little success—but it is a sharp-looking system in its own right.
Take a look at the elaborate riser cards that go inside the chassis to make all this work.
The "Dogfish" name you might be able to make out on some of those cards is an internal code word for the Avalon project.
The Avalon supports both air- and liquid-cooled systems, and Asus had an Avalon built up with each type of cooling inside to show how it works.
The company also previewed a reworked version of the XG Station 2 external graphics enclosure it first showed off at CES. The first version of the XG Station 2 relied on a proprietary connection instead of a Thunderbolt 3 cable, but this revised version will be able to hook up to both Thunderbolt 3-equipped PCs and Asus systems with the required connector. (Sorry for the stock photo—ours didn't turn out.)
Asus keeps pushing the limits of what a gaming notebook is with every trade show we visit, too. The company showed off its insane GX700 liquid-cooled gaming laptop at CES, and now it's made an even crazier beast in the form of the GX800. This "portable" machine will pack a pair of unspecified Nvidia GPUs (though, c'mon, they'll be Pascal chips) in SLI, "Intel K-series CPUs," and a full mechanical keyboard that Asus calls "MechTAG."
All of the GX800's Schwarzeneggerian internals will be overclockable, but check out those twin power cables: you'll need to dock this thing any time you want to unleash its full power on some poor, unsuspecting game. The machine relies on twin 330W power supplies to feed its desktop-class internals.
Asus' booth minders shot us death glares any time we even thought about touching this machine, so we can't say what the mechanical keyboard feels like. Given how much this machine is likely to cost, only a precious few people will ever know, too.
Here's a look at the ROG Strix GeForce GTX 1080. Asus has revised its Strix cooler for Pascal with a darker look and RGB LED accents. This card offers a substantial factory clock boost to 1759MHz base and 1898MHz boost speeds. An OC Mode takes that even further, to 1784MHz base and 1936MHz boost clocks.
We also caught a glimpse of Asus' top-end X99 motherboard for the Broadwell-E refresh cycle, the Rampage V Edition 10. This extremely tricked-out board features RGB LED lighting across most of its surface, including the translucent ends of the PCIe slots. Those PCIe slots are metal-reinforced, but Asus' approach to this now-common feature is characteristically innovative. Instead of putting a metal shroud around the slot, Asus molds the slot and reinforcement together as one piece for extra strength. Expect to see that feature on many of the company's high-end boards from here on out.
On our way out of the Asus booth, our guide showed us the company's upcoming ProArt 5K monitor. Forget 4K—even with this display's generous size, the demo images on the screen looked practically printed-on. This is another lustworthy piece of hardware that doubtless won't be cheap when it comes to market.
be quiet!'s biggest news this year is its Dark Base 900 high-end case. This enclosure is one of the more creative designs we saw at Computex. Every internal component of this case, including the motherboard tray, can be removed or repositioned in some way.
Builders can use the motherboard tray in its traditional orientation or flip it to the other side of the case to create a Corsair Carbide 600C-esque inverted layout, as you can see in the two systems above. The tray can also be removed and stand on its own as a test bench. If nothing else, this design makes the initial assembly and heatsink-mounting build phases for a high-end PC easier.
The front and top panels of the Dark Base 900 are clad in a stealthy black brushed aluminum that feels quite nice. The Pro version adds a tempered-glass side panel and a top-mounted Qi pad to let compatible devices charge wirelessly. The Dark Base hides its front fans and 5.25" bays behind the brushed-aluminum front door for cleaner lines and reduced noise.
The Dark Base will be the first case to get be quiet's next Silent Wings fans. Check out the funky-looking frames—like everything else the company makes, these distinctive-looking fans are designed to reduce noise during operation.
be quiet! is also introducing a line of all-in-one liquid coolers. The Silent Loop series uses a "reverse-flow" pump that pulls coolant over the water block for reduced vibration and noise.
be quiet! will offer Silent Loop coolers in 120-mm, 140-mm, and 180-mm versions. We got the impression that it's unlikely we'll see these coolers in the USA, though, thanks to potential patent trouble.