Gimmicks And Special Editions
AOpen was the first manufacturer that introduced a special PCB color. One year ago, it released the AX6BC Pro II Millennium Edition , which was colored black. The latest idea is a board that is pink:
In Europe or the United States people aren't exactly awfully keen on pink motherboards, with the possible exception of Brighton/UK or San Francisco. I took this photo at CeBIT2001 a few weeks ago at the AOpen booth. The Japanese are obviously crazy for extraordinary hardware, as it is the only market where AOpen is selling those boards. Maybe we are going to see more colors?
Asus and Azza realized the problem that interfaces such as the USB-connector are usually only visible at the rear of your PC. They designed boxes to make connectors available at the front by installing them into a 5.25" drive bay.
AOpen's 'Dr. LED' feature keeps you informed about the system status with several LEDs. Those LEDs are integrated into a case that can be installed into any 5.25" drive bay. AOpen decided to integrate a little CD box into it, thus the drive bay is not entirely used for the LEDs.
Azza''s 'Azza-Up' is a simple front panel which gives you two USB ports and audio jacks. To save space you can install a hard drive into the bay used by the Azza-Up, as it comes with a 3.5" frame for drive installation.
The Asus iPanel is available as a basic and a deluxe edition and seems to be the perfect fusion of the Azza and AOpen core features. The basic type features two USB ports, a few buttons and status LEDs as well as a four-digit display that is meant to report possible error codes. An IrDA module is optional to expand connectivity with IR devices (e.g. mobile phones or notebooks). The deluxe edition comes with a serial port and audio jacks as well. I will go into detail later.
The main reasons for inventing such kind of hardware is of course the high level of competition in the motherboard market. The performance of motherboards using the same type chipset usually does not vary too much. In terms of features, there also is not much space for variation. Special features like those panels seem to be the only way for motherboard makers to differ from their competitors.