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Computex 2005

We visit Taiwan's big show and ogle the hardware

Taipei 101 towers over Computex

WHEN IT COMES TO trade shows for computer hardware, Computex is second to none. Situated in Taipei, Taiwan, Computex takes place in the shadow of the world's tallest building, Taipei 101. The annual show allows Taiwan's incredible bounty of technology manufacturing companies to showcase their wares to one another and to the world. The show floor offers up a bewildering mishmash of off-brand media players, cell phones, USB flash drives, motherboards, and miscellaneous gadgets, all presented by teams of young Taiwanese booth babes dressed in ways that suggest their culture never experienced the full impact of modern feminism.

All of the big names in motherboards and graphics cards are present, as are the smaller ones—not to mention the obscure and the start-ups. Also visible everywhere is the presence of these companies' chip suppliers, including larger North American semiconductor firms like Intel, AMD, ATI, and NVIDIA. A line of Asian women dressed up as ATI's Ruby snakes between the convention center halls on motorcycles while a competing pack of NVIDIA-themed pixies hands out leaflets beckoning showgoers to a partner's booth. It's unintentional comedy gold, and it's also the best place on earth to see the latest in computer hardware.

In many ways, Computex 2005 was strikingly similar to last year's, with quite a few of the same products on display once more. Progress was apparent in some cases, though. Last year's abundance of motherboards based on Intel's 915/925X chipsets was replaced this year by a full spectrum of 945/955X-based boards. Enthusiast-oriented motherboards of all stripes added a second graphics slot, whether it be for NVIDIA's SLI, ATI's CrossFire, or some future dual-graphics solution. And second-generation dual-graphics motherboards gained better cooling solutions than their predecessors. As ever, the show floor was abuzz with concerns about the state of the industry, including optimism for dual-core processors and anxiety over the uptake for DDR2 memory.

I amassed a mountain of product literature, photos, and notes about the latest in PC hardware during my whirlwind tour of Computex 2005, and it's taken me a few days to recover from jet lag and sort it all out. Read on for my company-by-company tour of the show floor.

Despite a cloud of recent financial troubles still hanging over its head, Abit put on a fine showing at Computex '05, with several new motherboards on display.

Key among them was the AW8, Abit's new Intel 955X-based board aimed, as expected, at PC enthusiasts. The AW8 features an innovative cooling design for the north bridge that Abit has dubbed Q-OTES, for "Quiet Outside Thermal Exhaust System." The Q-OTES heatpipe draws thermal energy off of the 955X north bridge chip and directs it to a copper-finned radiator block on the back edge of the motherboard, so heat can be drawn outside of the case.

Also on display was Abit's AN8-SLI, the company's nForce4 SLI mobo for Socket 939 processors. The AN8-SLI offers external user interaction via Abit's Guru Panel, show in the bottom left part of the picture above. Among other things, the Guru Panel features a CMOS reset button cleverly placed under the red flip-up cover with the radioactive warning symbol on it.

Abit's Fatal1ty lineup gets a new member in the form of the NI8-SLI, an LGA775 board based on NVIDIA's nForce SLI Intel Edition chipset.

As an ATI partner, Abit was also showing off a live demo of ATI's CrossFire technology, but the board in the demo was a reference sample from ATI. Obviously, Abit plans to create its own motherboard for the CrossFire platform, but the board wasn't yet ready for use in a public display.