For the past several years, every summer gamers have made the trek to Dallas Texas for QuakeCon, a celebration of id Software’s first true 3D shooter, Quake. Originally organized, promoted, and run entirely by fans, QuakeCon has grown tremendously in more recent years due to the success of each previous event as well as the direct sponsorship and participation of id Software and Activision. What was once an event dedicated to one game has grown into something much larger, with a tournament and other contests taking place, as well as demonstrations of upcoming games built using id Software’s game engines.
Of course, with so many games on display, it’s only natural that there’s a good selection of PC hardware being demonstrated as well. AMD and VIA have sponsored multiple QuakeCon events, while ATI (2002) and NVIDIA (2001 and 2003) have also participated as the primary graphics sponsor. This year’s QuakeCon was no exception, so we dropped by ABIT, MSI, and VIA’s booths, as well as checking out the highlight of QuakeCon 2003: Doom 3.
The biggest surprise at the ABIT booth was their new small form-factor (barebones) PC, DigiDice. One of the biggest complaints enthusiasts have with small form-factor setups like the Shuttle XPC is their limited expansion potential. Typically you’re limited to one 5.25” drive bay and two 3.5” bays (one external, one internal) for storage duties, while one PCI slot and one AGP slot (on some models) round out your expansion options. With most gaming rigs outfitted with multiple drives for optical storage, hard disks, and the latest AGP and PCI cards for graphics and audio, this leaves no room for anything else.
ABIT plans to change all this with DigiDice. Based on Intel’s 865GE “Springdale” chipset, DigiDice is built for expansion; with two 5.25” and two 3.5” drive bays, two PCI slots, and an AGP slot. For storage connectivity, two Serial ATA ports and a pair of ATA/100 connectors are provided. The IS-50 motherboard DigiDice utilizes is also equipped with two DIMM sockets, supporting up to 2GB of memory.
The system ABIT had on display was decked out with two optical drives, a pair of Serial ATA hard drives, and a 3.0C GHz Pentium 4 processor (Intel’s integrated graphics was unfortunately used). Regrettably, we couldn’t get a good look at the power supply so we’re still crossing our fingers in that department, but there appears to be enough space for larger CPU coolers to be used without running into any installation hassles. We did notice that the DigiDice system was quite a bit heavier than other small form-factor systems we’ve tested, but keep in mind that ABIT loaded the system with goodies. This was a bit of a concern to us though because the prototype chassis ABIT had on display didn’t feature an integrated handle (like the FIC Ice Cube
); with the extra size and weight DigiDice sports, some type of handle or carrying bag will be a necessity to DigiDice owners that attend LAN parties regularly.
Overall DigiDice is shaping up to be a pretty slick setup. The prototype chassis has an integrated LED display that provides hardware monitoring information as well as a front cover to hide those ugly beige CD and DVD drives. DigiDice will enter production at the end of this month, so you won’t have to wait much longer if this product interests you.
Think of DigiDice as the small form-factor system for enthusiasts. Considering ABIT’s roots, this seems like a natural fit to us.