Computex proves crowd pleaser

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COMMENTARY: The last few days of Computex, leading up to the final day when they let the general public loose on the exhibition, are absolutely insane. This is great for honing the pushing through crowds skills, but not particularly good for getting hands on with the hot new tech.

We saw quite a few companies regardless, and this helped to flesh out the PCI-Express story nicely. We swung by ABIT and managed to get a look at its full range of new motherboards as well as its ATI based PCI-Express solutions, including the X800XT PCI-Express card, and even an X800 Pro PCI-Express version, which ATI had previously told us would not be available in the retail market.

One of the most interesting things about the X800 XT PCI-Express card was that it sported a completely new six-pin power connector on the back end. Apparently this is a new creation specifically for graphics, and while cards will initially ship with adaptors to support the plug, down the track we will see PSUs adopt the new design.

Unlike the AGP versions of these cards, the power connector is actually optional; ABIT had its card running a variety of 3D stress tests using only the 75 watts of power supplied by the x16 PCI-Express slot, and when we asked them about this it transpired that the plug is only needed when overclocking the card.

Now that actual PCI-Express based hardware is trickling off the Taiwanese production lines we will be taking a close look at this new generation in the next issues of Atomic, seeing just how the hype matches up to the end user experience.

Overall this year's Computex marks an interesting transition phase in the IT industry. At one end, companies like Intel and Microsoft were pushing the convergence of IT and Consumer Electronics, seeing it as a way to drive the industry to more and more profits.

But on the other hand there was a mix of reticence and extreme enthusiasm towards the idea from the Taiwanese manufacturers. Some companies were telling us that they didn't expect the digital home concept to gather steam for a few years, while others like MSI and BenQ are doing some serious refocusing to take on the Consumer Electronics might of the Japanese.

In the end most manufacturers have adopted a middle ground, sticking with their traditional strengths while simultaneously dipping toes into the Consumer Electronics water with one or two products. Only time will tell which way things end up going, but it pays to remember the lessons learned with technology like RDRAM, which was pushed heavily by Intel but basically destroyed by a combination of end user dissatisfaction and the combined influence of the manufacturers of hardware.

My guess is that this wonderful convergence thing will happen, but it will take a fair while yet. At least us power users end up winning thanks to the aggressive pushing of new technology like PCI-Express, and that is what this year's Computex really reinforced.

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