Familiar Chipset Stories
New on Asus' motherboard scene are the nForce, VIA KT266A, and the SiS 645. The Asus nForce boards will all be based off of the NVIDIA 420 chipset. This took us by surprise, as we were under the impression that the low-end boards would be based off of the 220 chipset. Asus decided to work solely with the 420 chipset, differentiating the products only by making the high-end board support Dolby Digital encoding. The low-end boards will appear first, and if demand is there, Asus will go ahead and produce the high-end ones.
On the KT266A scene, Asus has the A7V266-E. Along with the usual features that come with Asus boards (i.e. overclocking features, DIP switches…), ASUS has also added a few other toys to their lineup. Many of their newer boards will come out with a POST Reporter and MyLogo. The POST reporter actually speaks to you during the boot up process. If anything goes wrong, the Reporter then verbally (or rather, orally) tells you that the keyboard is unplugged, or that your video card is broken. You are also given the option to record new error messages. The MyLogo feature allows you to change the boot logo easily, a motherboard feature that has been available to OEMs for over 5 years, but is finally making the move to the consumer side. Various versions of the boards will ship with an onboard network card and RAID controller.
On the SiS front, Asus came out with the P4S333, a Pentium 4 based motherboard. Because of the controversy surrounding the VIA P4X266, many manufacturers have opted not to incur the wrath of Intel by staying away from the non-licensed VIA chipset. So far boards based on the SiS 645 seem to be turning out rather good. The P4S333 comes with support for the DDR333 spec. The key that makes the Asus boards stand out at the moment is the inclusion of a feature called Asus EZ-Plug. This allows the end user to use an older power supply with a Pentium 4 based system. What Asus has done is very much akin to what 3dfx did with the Voodoo5 video card, by including a standard drive-level Molex power header on the board.
Asus has also released their new lineup of GeForce cards - V8200T5, V8200T2, and the V770TI. All of these cards are based off of the Titanium lineup from NVIDIA. New to the bundles is a little thing that allows you to adjust display properties while playing a game. An onscreen display will pop up allowing you to adjust color and light properties while still being able to view the results in game. Asus is also bundling a Video Security program with their deluxe line of cards. This program allows you to hookup a USB camera for various purposes. Different modes allow it to function as a motion sensor, and also to take pictures of the people that try to logon on to your computer, truly a boon for the paranoid amongst us. We've seen plenty of these programs bundled with webcams (and PowerToys for WinXP even has such a security feature), but this is the first time we've seen it on a graphics card.