Motherboards would have to be one of the more mundane but staple products in the hardware industry, without them we couldn’t really use anything. Which is precisely why they tend to be rather dull most of the time – most of them have to conform. This years Computex actually surprised us in this sense. Two companies had some rather innovative boards out for display.
The first, which has made the rounds a million times by now, is the Aopen AX4B-533 Tube. Translating the first part of the usually cryptic name shows the board to be a Pentium 4 based motherboard running on the i845E DDR based chipset. The last part is more the shocker though – Tube. Until we actually saw this board, we thought the heat and excessive sweat was clouding many a thought pattern. However when we showed up at the Aopen booth, my cohort and I were equally stunned. A vacuum tube based sound solution was actually on the motherboard. By removing the fourth and fifth PCI slot, Aopen had opened up enough room for this to be a reality. Tube amps are usually found in high-end audio equipment, and even then they are relegated to the most discerning of audiophiles.
For those with golden ears among us, this might pique your curiosity. But even within those ranks people are bound to bring up the problem of electronic noise resident in a product such as this. According to Aopen, they claim to have licked the noise problem sufficiently by the use of a method called FIW (Frequency Isolation Wall). Using this method Aopen claims to have minimized the effect of electronic noise that is inherent in a motherboard such as this.
Aopen does not plan to have a large production run of this board. We’re going to speculate that this board was designed more for notoriety, and to let their engineers flex their brainpower a bit. Following the kind of coverage that this kind of board brought for AOpen, we wholly expect other manufacturers to follow suit with equally mind-boggling creations.
The other motherboard of note at Computex was made by MSI. While nowhere near as titillating as the Aopen board, this board will most likely appeal to a larger crowd. The MSI board was sporting onboard Bluetooth for all your wireless communicating needs.
Aside from these two boards the motherboard scene at most of the vendors was essentially more of the same. Some added onboard sound; others started to include overclocking features, all had power connectors.
Not so much on the curiosities end, FIC is going to be officially launching their ATI based motherboard for the Athlon. We mentioned this chipset back during Comdex last year, and since then its pretty much been silent on that end. FIC has dubbed it the FUSION AT31, based on the ATI IGP320. With dual display capability out of the box, it’s going to give the nForce a run for its money. The South Bridge for the board will be supplied by VIA – the venerable 686B. FICs initial foray into this sector will be with a uATX form factor.