Best Industry Innovation
Asus ZenPad S 8.0
Far too often in the current market, a tablet is a tablet is a tablet, and Asus went for something a little different with its ZenPad S 8.0. Luxury. Style. Fashion. Lifestyle. Accessories. At its press conference, Asus did its best to highlight all of the above -- the tablet is specifically designed to resemble a ladies clutch -- and thus obscure the tech hiding inside.
The most important feature of the ZenPad S 8.0 is the fact that it has a USB Type-C port, a first in the industry. OEMs as a whole have been reluctant to implement Type-C ports anywhere, citing a chicken-and-egg problem, but Asus apparently decided to be the chicken. (Er, the egg. Er... wait.) We've been seeing Type-C ports cropping up here and there as of late, primarily on some new motherboards, but what's notable about the ZenPad S 8.0 is that, being a tablet, it's not as if you have a plethora of other port options.
Even though this is only USB 3.0 over Type-C, instead of USB 3.1 and all the features that spec brings, Asus deserves recognition for being an industry leader here.
Further, the rest of the ZenPad S 8.0's specs are rather impressive, which Asus buried under a pile of shallow blah-blah-blah about fashion at its Zensation press conference, like a man waxing long about how hot his wife is and then casually mentioning that she has a PhD in biochemistry.
It runs on up to an Intel Atom Z3580 (2.3 GHz, 64-bit) SoC with up to 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal storage. The 8-inch IPS display rocks a 2048x1536b resolution and has Active Pen Support for the productivity-friendly Z Stylus pen accessory. The cameras are a bit middling (8MP rear, 5MP front), but the ZenPad S 8.0 does have front stereo speakers with DTS-HD Premium Sound.
Discussion question: In that image, is the tablet and background white and brown, or blue and black?
Best Enterprise SSD
OCZ NVMe Z-Drive 6000 Series SSD
The NVMe OCZ Z-Drive 6000 Series offers amazing performance and density in the small 2.5 inch form factor and will also be available as a typical add-in card. The Z-Drive 6000 is the first 2.5 inch NVMe SSD to offer dual-port functionality, which is a key requirement for mission-critical workloads. Sporting a top random read speed of 700,000 IOPS, and an impressive 160,000 IOPS of sustained random write performance, the Z-Drive leads the pack. Sequential performance is also impressive with 2,900/1,900 MB/s of read/write speed. The series will launch with top capacity at 3.2 TB along with a 6.4 TB model, which will be available in Q4 2015.
The 6000 series offers two models with either 1 DWPD or 3 DWPD of endurance, allowing it to address the majority of data center workloads, and features an innovative open-case design that takes advantage of the linear airflow patterns inside servers. The Z-Drive has already been certified by the UNH-IOL, and we already have working samples in hand to verify performance metrics. You can read more about OCZ's NVME Z-Drive 6000 series here.
Most Ridiculous Product?
Apacer AR-15 Style PCIe SSD
Some things just make you shake your head. The AR-15 styled prototype PCIe SSD at Apacer's booth is definitely in that category. Apacer representatives would not comment on the gaudy affair, other than to say that it is a PCIe SSD.
We aren't sure if it is merely an M.2 SSD holster (pun intended) or the fastest SSD on the planet hidden under the most ridiculous case ever. This could be the holiday season's top-selling device for adolescents, and perhaps millions will fire their way into computers by the end of the year. We really don't see this product making its way to market, and Apacer is actually a serious company, killing it (also intended) with great products. But hey, what's a little gun play between friends?
MSI's RGB-Lit X99 Godlike Gaming Motherboard
Just as in the case (cough, pun, cough) of the In Win H-Tower, giving an award to MSI for its RGB-lit X99 Godlike Gaming motherboard seems a little... obvious.
The hardcore enthusiast in us certainly smirked a bit when we saw the glowing motherboard on display in MSI's booth. It is, after all, RGB lighting on a motherboard, which in many situations is obscured by components, or completely hidden from view by non-windowed side panels. We mean, come on, it's RGB LEDs on a motherboard.
On the other hand, the wide-eyed kid in us lit up (cough, pun, cough) when we saw it. We mean, come on, it's RGB LEDs on a motherboard!
See for yourself how cool this thing is in our video of the Godlike demo.
We also have to hand it to MSI for taking the time to set up an app to control the lights. It has all the lighting effects you expect, and the app, though plain, worked relatively smoothly, which tells us that the company put some time, and no doubt a bit of childish glee, into creating the X99 Godlike Gaming. (Minus 50 points for the overly presumptive name, though. Tsk.)
Most Improved Product
MSI Gaming Dock
We first saw MSI's Gaming Dock, an external housing for a graphics card, at CES and it was an interesting idea, a way to give some graphics juice to a gaming laptop, namely the GS30 Shadow. But it took up a ton of space, begging the question: why? As in, why not just build a PC.
The jury is out on whether this is a good idea or not, but the evolution seems a bit more promising. What's more, MSI listened, and learned, and now has evolved the concept to become more of a gaming laptop dock, sitting under the laptop. The new product is called the GamingDock Mini, and it will spread across the MSI gaming laptop line over time, we're told. It still uses MSI's proprietary PCIe connector, and Windows still doesn't support hot swap.
The dock will house any standard-sized Nvidia or AMD graphics card, including the latest Titan X or GeForce GTX 980 Ti. There is no internal power supply for this dock any longer either, as it relies on the laptop's power brick.
The GamingDock Mini will ship in the second half of 2015 and will cost $169.99.
MSI is also adding a similar GamingDock concept to its forthcoming All-In-One, the AX24. You can read a little more about both products here.
Best Celebrity Sighting
Tom Pabst -- The Real Tom of Tom's Hardware!
It's Computex, not CES. So there was no Shaq, no movie stars, no rappers or other musicians. The celebrities were more the likes of Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang and AMD CEO Lisa Su. But the best celebrity sighting for us was Tom.
There are actually some of us who have never met the real Tom of Tom's Hardware, and we had that chance this year, as he and his family were in Taiwan for Computex. For us, given he's the man behind the site, it was a celebrity sighting. We met Tom Pabst at Barcode during one of the many Computex parties and he had his wife and child with him. We talked about his dealings with Intel, but generally shared thoughts on the current state of the PC industry, including virtual reality, one of his current fascinations. Tom is full of energy, vigor, and opinion. He still has many friends in the industry. And likely a few enemies too!
While our visit was cut short by a sick, tired child (Tom served as constant pacifier, as the youngster would bury his head into his dad's shoulder and instantly fall asleep), it was good to see him and remember the foundation of our site. From left to right in the picture, Tom's son Ciarán, Thomas (the Tom) Pabst, current news editor Seth Colaner, and editor-in-chief Fritz Nelson.