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CeBIT 2010 - SSDs, motherboards and more

CeBIT 2010

The mighty German tech juggernaut that is CEBIT rumbles on and we’ve been checking out the latest tech and hardware from some of the biggest names in the business. If you missed the first part of our coverage, check it out here.

Motherboards

There were plenty of new motherboards on show, with all the big names launching new, ultra high end workstation boards just in time for the imminent release Intel’s new Gulftown LGA1366 processor. Support for quad CrossFireX, long missing from recent top end boards, appeared to make a return and MSI even went two better with its Big Bang X-Power, which offers no less than six PCI-E slots – perfect for fans of Folding@home!

Asus was also showing off its new range of AM3 motherboards, most of which featured automatic core unlocking for dual and triple core Phenom II processors. This would be nothing new except AMD’s latest chipset, 890GX has specifically disabled core unlocking only for Asus to have apparently found a reliable workaround. Needless to say the benefits of buying a dual core CPU and getting a quadcore upgrade for free are obvious, so this certainly seems to be a great addition and whether other motherboard manufacturers are able to match it any time soon remains to be seen.

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Click to enlarge - MSI's six PCI-E Big Bang X-Power Board (left), a robot made of 120mm fans from Enermax (just because it was so cool) and Asus' P7F7-E board (right) with support for quad card CrossFireX

We also saw a big change in high end motherboards, with pretty much every new model featuring SATA 6Gbps and USB3 ports in some shape or form. We’ve certainly seen the benefits of USB 3.0 and its rapid adoption bodes for these new standards. Pretty much everywhere at CEBIT we saw USB 3.0 devices (admittedly mostly 2.5” and 3.5” drive caddies) and we fully expect the standard it to break into the mainstream within the next twelve months.

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Click to enlarge - OCZ had a number of new SSDs on show, including the Vertex 2

SSDs

Speaking of high speed data, there were no surprises to find plenty of new SSDs on show, with the most excitement centred on the upcoming Sandforce controller drives. Capable of read speeds of 280MB/s, write speeds of 270MB/s and random read and write performance that puts the current best to shame Corsair, G.Skill and OCZ all confirmed to us their plans to launch Sandforce drives. OCZ look to be the first to have stock available with its Vertex 2 LE (using Samsung NAND) and Agility 2 (running cheaper, Intel NAND) drives set to launch soon but the competition won’t be far behind and G.Skill was good enough to give us a peek inside its Sandforce drive, the Phoenix.

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Click to enlarge - G.Skills Phoenix is another drive using Sandforce, although the benchmarks G.Skill showed weren't as impressive as we might have hoped.

Sandforce drive capacities are lower than previous drives at 50GB, 100GB and 200GB due to the drive controller’s high “spare” NAND requirement and with prices likely to come in slightly higher than those of the current crop of SSDs the £/GB will only rise. While we love the improved performance Sandforce looks like it will offer, making SSDs even more expensive won’t help in the long run– for that we’ll have to wait for cheaper NAND prices.

Elsewhere we saw more partners picking up the JMicron 612 drive controller for their drives with Corsair’s Reactor series soon to released, and an increasing number of drive manufacturers turning were to Intel’s cheaper 32nm NAND for their drives following continued instability in Samsung’s NAND pricing. We’ll be looking at some of these products very soon.