Then onto the Chaintech VGA lineup. Chaintech is an NVIDIA partner which manufactures products based on the standard reference design, as well as providing a separate Apogee lineup to differentiate their products from various other manufacturers.
One great example of the differentiation of their Apogee lineup is what they’ve done with the GeForce FX 5600. The FX60 is based upon the standard reference design and as such has the exact same specs as the rest of the 5600-powered cards out there. The FX61 is the result of a bit more engineering prowess combined with the requests of users.
The FX61 is built upon an 8-layer PCB, as compared to the typical 6-layer PCB. The extra layers provide a cleaner signal as well as allowing Chaintech to make use of FBGA memory instead of the aging TSOP memory module format. Combing the card with FBGA memory has allowed Chaintech to provide a memory speed of 350MHz (or 700MHz DDR) as opposed to the standard 275MHz (or 550MHz DDR).
However, the innovation doesn’t stop there. Chaintech knows for some of us, it’s not just about power… looks count to. As such they’ve designed a new single slot cooler which is designed for better cooling while producing less noise and it looks extremely cool to boot. Chaintech has employed a new concept in the design of their cooler that they’ve dubbed Gas Turbine Technology. The new tech uses principles from modern supersonic jet engines, which provides maximum airflow and pressure to allow 30% more heat dissipation. A few temperature results were from tests ran in Chaintech’s labs which compared their proprietary cooler with the reference design: RF GPU temperature : 48.5 C GT: 38.6 – RF solder side temperature : 45 GT 32.3. Needless to say the results are quite dramatic, of course we’ll be testing this when we’ll be receiving a sample of the card. Any of you remember those pictures of the cool Blue LED inserted in Chaintech’s now deceased GeForce FX 5800 Ultra cooler? Well, it’s also been included in their new cooler.
The Apogee also comes with a nice little bundle which includes a tidy VIVO connector, wires which will allow you to use it right out of the box and a nice game bundle.
The keen eyed among you may have noticed that all these features have been included in Chaintech’s Apogee VGA lineup. So the question remains, where’s the Zenith lineup? Or why not dub the enhanced VGA lineup Zenith? The purpose behind this naming is because Chaintech reserves the Zenith nomenclature for only the very best and different products. While I think the use of the cooler and various top-quality components earn the Zenith nametag, Chaintech feels there is more that they can provide to really have their Zenith division stand out. They were looking for a few responses from the attendees.
Most interesting among them was inclusion of the Personal Cinema 2 feature on their high end cards and bundling the card with even faster memory. Chaintech has researched the Personal Cinema idea and they don’t believe there’s a market for the feature. I, as well as all the ATI Radeon 9700 Pro All-In-Wonder and 9800 Pro AIW owners may beg to differ however. Combining the card with faster memory was also researched, and although it is possible, Chaintech’s results displayed that the drastic increase in price of upgrading the memory speeds was not validated by the improved memory speeds they were capable of attaining as they ran into various other high-speed bottlenecks including the chip not making proper use of the additional bandwidth available or the PCB not supporting the higher transfer speeds.
After a short break, the other vendors had the floor.
NVIDIA’s Brian Del Rizzo got the ball rolling with a few quips and then handed the mic over to Micha, who is part of NVIDIA’s audio team. The presentation covered the recently launched nForce2 Ultra 400 and nForce2 400. No doubt, most of your have already read the reviews about the new motherboards, but I’ll briefly summarize the new features of the chip.
Lower Voltage Requirements
Single memory controller for non-ultra model drastically reduces the price
More "headroom" for overclocking past 400MHz FSB
Micha mentioned that NVIDIA would be launching a new nForce driver set where nForce2 audio users will experience a significant decrease in CPU usage. These drivers will also contain a new layout and implements a help system that provides information of the various settings by hovering the cursor over the feature rather than having to wade through various cluttered help sheets.
The next topic was the new GeForce FX 5900 series, which is lead by the 256MB-equipped Ultra version, followed by the 128MB-equpped 5900 and its lower-clocked sibling the 5900 Value. NVIDIA was touting its performance lead over the Radeon 9800 Pro in a few benchmarks with various FSAA and Anisotropic filtering settings. It was also mentioned that we should be seeing an improvement in the driver department with regards to image quality. As it stands, the NVIDIA driver team is divided to focus upon various aspects of the drivers, most notably improving performance and compatibility. Lately, they’ve added an image quality improving lab. While I found it quite interesting that such a group hadn’t already been part of the driver development (especially with NVIDIA’s initial claim to fame over 3dfx being their higher image quality, i.e. support for 32-bit color), it’ll definitely be a driving force in the never ending search for more speed without the reduction of image quality.
Micha also demonstrated NVIDIA's upcoming overclocking utility dubbed NVOverclock. While currently in the beta stage of development, the utility was able to increase the front-side bus speed of the nForce2 motherboard with a few clicks of the mouse. It displays the necessary information such as voltages to the common areas of interest (i.e. CPU, memory, etc.) and the system temperatures. It also allows the user to tweak a number of features such as the voltage provided to various parts of the motherboard and the memory timings as well. This is certainly shaping up to be a very important part of the tweaker's arsenal. Unfortunately, the pictures I was able to take of the utility weren't able to capture anything but a blurry mess.
Shortly after the article went live, Brian Del Rizzo from NVIDIA sent over some pictures displaying the current GUI of NVOverclock:
NVOverclock is still under development as most of the settings are currently not functioning, especially the CPU temperature in a Koolance-cooled system. Hehe. If NVOverclock moves along as planned, it's easy to see just how quickly and easily one will be able to tweak the aforementioned settings. Definitely a step in the right direction for NVIDIA to separate itself from the rest of its competitors in the motherboard chipset market.
Next up was Corsair, which was represented by Brent, the PR manager and Robert, the Technical director. Their presentation covered the various products produced by Corsair, such as their extremely popular XMS line-up, their Value line-up and the recently launched TwinX XMS line-up for Dual-Channel capable boards. Corsair applauded that the reason they produce the best memory in the world due to their extremely stringent testing where each the module goes through two different tests (the TwinX modules go through three). Some of the tests are so thorough that they go all the way down to testing each memory cell within the modules to ensure proper operation.
Corsair also displayed their new Water-cooling system. The unit on hand was one of the first final models to roll off the production line. The claim to fame for the system is a rather low price (under $225 US), quite operation and no-drip plugs for easy un-installation of the unit for moving. The system also arrives with enough chemicals for two changes of the coolant and all the adapters necessary for installation on either an AMD of P4-based system. One of the neat features is use of the standard mounting bracket on P4 systems for a quick and easy installation.
Finishing up the presentation was Barbara from InterVideo. She displayed the company’s recently launched software entitled WinDVD Platinum. The Platinum edition of WinDVD incorporates support for a number of audio standards such as Dolby, SRS TrueSound ETC (Fill IN More). The new software package’s retail MSRP is $99.
Among the notable additions to the Platinum edition is a time-scaling feature which allows a movie to be watched in a shorter time frame than normal. For example a movie which lasts two hours may be watched in an amount of time from 50 to 200% of its original duration. Although not that useful, it’s a great addition to those of us on the go which may only have a certain amount of time with which to watch the movie, for example aboard an airplane or train. When I first heard about the feature, I was surprised as I comprehend how they could speed up the video segment, but what about the audio? Wouldn’t speeding it up increase the pitch of the sound and thus make all the characters sound like The Chipmunks? InterVideo took care of this by implementing a pitch-reduction algorithm in the software. Although they went to great lengths to insure that the audio sounded great, it HAD to be synchronized with what was happening on-screen. Barbara, the InterVideo rep stressed this point which allows me to believe that this was quite a feature to tackle… although I could be wrong.
Of course, I just had to see this technology in action. Low and behold it works very well, although the faster than normal action and speech may be irksome to some of you. One thing I was pondering since viewing the tech was just how little dialogue there is in your typical movie.
WinDVD Platinum’s support for Dolby Headphones allows the user to experience the Dolby experience with only two speakers by running the various channels through filters and outputting the channels with various reverb effects to simulate the sound originating from the source.
The members of the press were then brought to the Preservation Hall of Jazz, known as the birthplace of jazz. Once the huge group squeezed into the rather small and VERY old building (it seems as though it hasn’t been renovated in years), the five members of the band commenced playing. Needless to say, it was an unforgettable experience for all. We then walked over to a Bourbon Street restaurant called Embers. The establishment is one which offers a balcony overlooking Bourbon, where everyone chatted it up about the day’s presentation while trying to stave off the extremely humid and muggy night.
Sunday was the closing day. Chaintech held one last breakfast for the members who were able to awake early enough to enjoy it. Most members of the press said their final farewells. While this was the last event for me, a few others remained as their flights parted on Monday. No doubt they enjoyed a few more hours of each other’s company while checking out the sights of the city or its surrounding crocodile infested swamps.
I’d like to thank Mr. Milton Fang, Cathy Liu and the rest of the Chaintech and RAM crew for having organized a very successful event. I anxiously await Chaintech’s next event where they will no doubt be displaying their latest and greatest products.
Thanks goes out to Envy News' Karl Blessing for allowing me to borrow his Handigator and NVIDIA system pictures.