Nearly all motherboard companies are presenting full lineups of Intel 3-series motherboards (P35 and G33), as well as lots of Socket AM2 motherboards with Nvidia's nForce 500 and 600 chipset families. However, the next product generations are on the horizon: most motherboard makers are showing off early revisions of motherboards with the new Intel X38 flagship chipset, the G35 with improved integrated graphics, and AMD's upcoming RD790 chipset. Both the RD790 and Intel's X38 will support PCI Express 2.0, which doubles bandwidth and increases slot power supply from 75 W to 300 W.
Almost all enthusiast motherboards utilize a heat pipe to cool the core components such as the chipset northbridge, southbridge and voltage regulators. While it makes sense to conduct heat away from heat spots to larger surface structures such as heat sinks, some motherboard makers are really exaggerating their solutions, creating amazingly complex heat pipe designs. Some have become long, while others were given funny shapes such as the rollercoaster-like design from MSI (Circu-Pipe). Asus even extends the heat pipe concept to embrace up to two memory modules, and the pipes of other vendors such as Gigabyte sometimes even run up and down, creating double-decker designs. Some still use fans, while others don't. I almost got the feeling that motherboard component cooling has become a casting show for the most creative designs: once again, bigger and more complex seems to be better. Check out our slide shows and make up your own mind:
Slide Show: AMD RD790 Motherboards
Slide Show: Intel X38 Motherboards
Abit: Digital Voltage Regulators
Solid capacitors are more or less standard in the upper mainstream segment and higher. Abit is one of the first motherboard makers to deploy digital pulse width modulation (PWM) for more accurate voltage regulation.
Abit's new motto is "Digital Avantgarde", which the new corporate identity reflects pretty well. After the merge with USI, the new Universal Abit is on a consolidation course and focused on what it can do best: motherboards for enthusiasts and industrial customers.
We found several new motherboards at the Abit booth: the AX38-MAX, which will be the top-end model, and the IX38 QuadGT. As you can easily imagine, both boards are powered by the soon to be released X38 chipset from Intel, which is expected to provide barrier-free overclocking: all multipliers can be selected freely. Both the MAX and the QuadGT will be powered by digital PWMs, which allow for more precise voltage regulation, and they will use all-solid capacitors. You can find these two boards in our X38 picture gallery.