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Gigabyte And IBuyPower

CES 2010, Day 3: Thermaltake, Gigabyte, MSI, And Shuttle
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IBuyPower: Multi-Touch Gaming Laptops And An Unusual Gaming Rig

IBuyPower, familiar as a gaming PC system builder, is trying to branch out into more innovative territory. The Battalion Touch is the company’s new gaming laptop, and will ship with multi-touch screens. One model is available with Core 2 Duo CPUs and Mobility Radeon 4670 graphics, while the higher-end model supports Intel’s new Core i3/i5 mobile CPUs and Mobility Radeon 5650 GPUs. While Windows 7 has built-in multi-touch support, there are few, if any, games that work well with this capability. However, the first major game title optimized for multi-touch, the RTS Ruse, will offer a fully multi-touch-aware interface and will ship in 2010.

IBuyPower was also showing a highly unusual system, though John Harrell, product engineer for iBuyPower, stressed that the system was a conceptual idea more than a product. Called the PC360, the system consists of a high-end Core i7 system plus an Xbox 360 built into an NZXT PanzerBox case.

The PC360 is designed to easily switch between the console and the PC, with both able to run simultaneously. You can actually pop up a window with a console game active while the PC is running.

There are many unanswered questions, though. What will a system like this do to the the Xbox 360 warranty? Will iBuyPower pick up the cost of support if Microsoft considers the warranty void? What about heat or noise issues? Still, it’s an intriguing idea for gamers.

Also on display (although photos were unfortunately "discouraged") was a prototype gaming PC with an unusual chassis. Designed in partnership with Koolance, the system is specially optimized for liquid cooling with no concessions for air cooling. The prototype system was running dual graphics cards, and the only noise was a slight hum from the coolant pump. Six large, slow-spinning fans move air over the radiators. When coolant needs to be replaced, old coolant can be drained from the underside of the case, and the fill spout is in the top. Despite the custom design, iBuyPower hopes to keep the price for the lowest end version under $4,000, though pricing hasn’t been fleshed out yet.

Gigabyte: Riding High

There’s no question that Gigabyte has come a long way. The company's motherboard designs have, in the past, either been somewhat awkward and clunky or ho-hum. But with the advent of its newer X58 and P55 boards (Ed.: going back as far as its P35- and P45-based boards, in my experience), it is staking out high-end, high-performance territory that’s been the purview of Asus’s Republic of Gamers' line of motherboards.

The new P55-UD7 board includes a PLX PCI Express bridge chip, enabling dual PCI Express x16 graphics support without stealing bandwidth from the Intel PCH chip. The PCI Express lanes from the Intel PCH will be dedicated to the discrete SATA 6 Gb/s and USB 3.0 ports.

Angela Lan, spokesperson for Gigabyte’s US operation, noted that Gigabyte is also pushing USB 3.0 and DualBIOS into more affordable territory, including the micro-ATX H57M-USB3 boards, which will be priced under $150.

The company hasn’t given up on the X58 chipset, however. The new GA-X58-UD7 board adds USB 3.0, SATA 6 Gb/s and a water block cooler to the chipset. The board will be ready for Intel’s upcoming six-core Gulftown CPU, which will drop right into the LGA 1366 interface.

Meanwhile, Tim Handley, Gigabyte’s deputy marketing director, noted that they’re standing firm with the use of the Foxconn LGA 1156 interface, despite the belief among some overclockers (the guys who use LN2 on bench setups) that the Foxconn socket doesn’t work well in a demanding overclocking environment. Handley noted that the Lotes socket used by some of its competitors' boards isn’t supported by Intel.

Gigabyte is using the Lotes ILM (the lever and lid mechanism), though Handley said that was mostly for cosmetic reasons.

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