CES 2011: Visiting with Vendorsby Dustin Sklavos on January 7, 2011 12:50 AM EST
Kingston's showing was admittedly anemic compared to the other two companies they were showing with, Zalman and Zotac. Their big announcement seemed to be the HyperX Genesis memory, which now apparently will come in a gray edition (since it had always been blue), and the new heatspreaders no longer have the clips on the top. They also showed off a USB 3.0-connected SSD.
What Zalman and Zotac brought to the table was more interesting. Zalman's CNPS9500, 9700, and 10X were all solid coolers, and they announced their impending CNPS11X. The 11X is a strange beast; it essentially has two arrays of fins in a V-formation with the fan suspended between the other edges of each, creating an open pocket between the arrays. The heatpipes within the fin arrays are particularly remarkable: internally the heatpipes are actually uneven, increasing their surface area and improving heat transfer. Zalman stated the CNPS11X would be able to dissipate a staggering 350 watts of heat.
There's also a smaller CNPS7X (92mm fan) with the same V-shaped cooling arrangment, and an inexpensive tower that has a mounting bracket with adjustable mounting ring that will fit older socket 775 as well as socket 1155/1156. And not to miss out on the SSD fun, Zalman showed us a 2.5" external HDD/SSD enclosure; there will be USB2 and USB3 versions.
While Zotac mostly talked about how 2010 was their "coming out party," the new products they unveiled should surprise no one but excite everyone. Zotac has made a habit of producing Mini-ITX boards stuffed with every feature but the kitchen sink, and naturally they've updated their line with an H67-based board complete with PCI Express 2.0 x16, SATA 6Gbps, USB 3.0, and dual-band integrated wireless networking.
The other product that should've been expected but is nonetheless very compelling is their new ZBox. Externally it looks identical to the previous ZBox we reviewed, but internally it's a lot more exciting. Zotac traded up in a major way, swapping out the Atom and NG-ION combination for AMD's Fusion. The new ZBox sports a Zacate processor with dual 1.6GHz cores along with all of the connectivity as the previous version. We weren't able to find out if it supported HD audio bitstreaming, but as soon as we know we'll update and pass along that information. If it does, Fusion coupled with the integrated Blu-ray drive makes for a very compelling HTPC option.
Compared to some of the other vendors, A-Data was less flashy and more about the products and the data, which is fine by us. The usual memory kits were on display, but one of their big pushes is in flash drives, and that's being handled in two ways. First, they're producing flash drives in a broad variety of form factors and shapes, including some cute panda and skull-shaped drives along with NBA-licensed flash drives shaped like stout players with logos on the jerseys and even Disney-licensed drives shaped like Mickey's glove or with illustrations of Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
The other and likely more important change is the gradual transition of all of their flash drives to USB 3.0 moving forward. It's worth mentioning that even though neither Intel nor AMD support USB 3.0 natively in their chipsets, the standard is nonetheless gaining traction in a major way. The major motherboard vendors are all making it a point to integrate it into their products, and virtually all of the cases we've seen due for the marketplace feature USB 3.0 ports.
A-Data also announced a Marvell-based SATA 6Gbps SSD and were posting very impressive numbers with it, but they ran across something that we'll have to verify in our own testing: while the drive offered strong performance on AMD's SB850 southbridge, both the Marvell SATA 6Gbps motherboard controller and the P57's SATA 6Gbps posted significantly lower numbers--on the order of 30%-50% slower. We can't say for sure where the issue lies and will have to wait until these drives are in our hands. Testing Crucial's RealSSD C300 across the three different controllers produced similar results, but the P67 is relatively new (not to mention the pre-production drives being tested on it), so we'll have to take a wait-and-see approach.
Last but not least, A-Data will be debuting in the power supply market and coming out swinging with some very compelling products. All of their power supplies are 80 Plus Bronze certified and include a unique and nifty feature: a status LED that indicates the kind of load being placed on the power supply. If it's green everything is copasetic; at yellow it's starting to really work; and if it's at red it's being pushed too hard. When I asked if they were licensing their power supplies (similar to Corsair) they said they were actually manufacturing their own.