A Look Back at CeBIT 2008: Extreme Gaming

The gaming industry was very dominant at this year’s CeBIT exhibition. As this market continues to expand, companies are delivering new products at an unprecedented pace. Hardcore gamers demand extreme overclocking capabilities and the manufacturers are focusing on delivering “rock solid” hardware and easy to use software to provide flexible, stable gaming platforms.


Gigabyte

 Gigabyte-GV-NX98X1GHI-B (Credit: Gigabyte)
Gigabyte-GV-NX98X1GHI-B
(Credit: Gigabyte)

Gigabyte showcased its latest “Gamer Heads-Up Display (HUD)” overclocking software utility, which according to the company, allows hardcore gaming enthusiasts to reach the highest levels of performance using their graphic card. The HUD utility features Gigabyte’s “Voltage Gear Overdrive (VGO)” chip, which was specially designed to drastically reduce power consumption by adjusting the GPU frequency to the mode used. Lower GPU frequency is sufficient when using 2D applications, such as E-mail, web browsing, and media playback, while higher GPU frequency is necessary for more graphics-intensive programs such as gaming and 3D rendering. The software solution allows users to manually adjust a variety of settings through the application’s control panel, including regulation of GPU voltage and clock settings, as well as control over the shader and memory attributes. Currently, “Gamer HUD” is compatible only with VGO-supported graphics cards, such Gigabyte’s 256MB GV-NX88T256H and 512MB GV-NX88T512HP GeForce 8800 GT based cards. This disappointed many gamers who expected the software will be able to work on any graphics card with a Gigabyte BIOS.    

 Gigabyte--GV-NX96T512HP (Credit :Gigabyte)
Gigabyte–GV-NX96T512HP
(Credit :Gigabyte)

The company also demonstrated its “Multi-Core” cooling technology, which utilizes a series of ultra-thin layered fins with nodes of copper. This adds more cooling points on the heat pipes and increases the heat conduction ratio, enhancing thermal efficiency by up to 76%. According to the company, this solution delivers the latest innovations in passive cooling, allowing for a noiseless and outstanding thermal performance. The “Multi-Core” technology was integrated onto Gigabyte’s new GV-NX96T512HP graphics card, which is powered by an overclocked NVIDIA “GeForce” 9600GT GPU, running at 720MHz. This card also features 512MB of overclocked GDDR3 RAM (2000MHz), and supports PCI Express, SLI, and NVIDIA’s PureVideo HD technology. It provides a combination of powerful hardware acceleration with low CPU utilization and power consumption, allowing for cinematic-quality of both HD DVD and Blu-ray movies.

Another notable graphics card presented at the exhibition is the GV-NX98X1GHI-B, which utilizes NVIDIA’s “GeForce” 9800 GX2 GPU and is integrated with an impressive 1GB of GDDR3 memory. One of the fastest graphics cards available, it supports PCI Express 2.0, Microsoft DirectX 10.0, PureVideo HD, and features Dual-link DVI-I and HDMI.

Sapphire

Sapphire showcased their recently released HD 3870 X2 graphics card, which is comprised of two complete ATI-based HD 3870 video cards on a single PCI Express card. With 512MB of GDDR3 RAM for each of the GPUs, which are used simultaneously in CrossFire mode by ‘heavy’ 3D applications, this graphics card is currently one of the fastest single cards available.

Sapphire-HD-3870-TOXIC (Sapphire) 
Sapphire-HD-3870-TOXIC
(Sapphire)

Sapphire also showed off the HD 3870 TOXIC Edition, which features the company’s award winning Vapor-X single slot cooler. This is Sapphire’s proprietary implementation of the Vapor Chamber Technology (VCT). VCT is a cooling solution similar to a heatpipe system, in which liquid that is caged inside a vacuum chamber vaporizes and condensates alternately, moving between the cooler and warmer surfaces of the chamber in a repeating cycle. This model has 512MB of GDDR4 memory onboard, and is equipped with a PCI Express 2.0 x16 bus interface. It supports DirectX 10.1, CrossFireX, and HDMI.

The company also launched a new version of their successful HD 3850 graphics card, which now has an enhanced memory configuration of 1GB GDDR3, running at 829MHz. According to Sapphire, the combination of this model’s relatively high clock speed of 703MHz with the large onboard memory, delivers excellent performance especially in games or applications where large volumes of texture or data are involved. The company also introduced an AGP version of this new model.

ASUS

ASUS--ARES-Gaming-PC (Credit: ASUS) 
ASUS–ARES-Gaming-PC
(Credit: ASUS)

ASUS recently launched the world’s first dual HD 3850 graphics card. The company says it is 34% faster than single GPU units, and 5% faster than two single-GPU CrossFire-configured graphics cards. This new model, called EAH3850X2/HTDI/1G, is equipped with dual fansinks for both GPUs and has an impressive 1GB of onboard DDR3 memory running at 829MHz. According to the company, the card provides feature-rich DirectX 10 gaming and the best multimedia playback without lagging at ultra-high resolutions and maximum quality settings. The new model is also equipped with ASUS’s “GamerOSD” application, which lets users configure the graphic card’s performance during gameplay, allowing them to instantly adjust their GPU clock and keep track of the FPS status. 

ASUS-EAH3870X2 (Credit: ASUS) 
ASUS-EAH3870X2
(Credit: ASUS)

The company’s gaming division – ASUS “Republic of Gamers” – showcased their “TOP” series of graphics cards –including the EN9600GT, EAH3870X2, and EAH3870 models. According to the company, gamers can expect “astounding core, shader, and memory clock performance boosts that empower higher 3DMark06 scores in comparison to any other reference boards”. 

Additionally, the company demonstrated its “SmartDoctor” utility, which allows users to overclock the shader clock and engine clock independently and to achieve performance boosts without having to reboot or re-flash their BIOS. This application comes with any model of the TOP series.  

ASUS--EAH3850-with-OCGEAR (Credit: ASUS) 
ASUS–EAH3850-with-OCGEAR
(Credit: ASUS)

Another original tool for overclockers showcased by ASUS was the “OC Gear” – an external device that can be connected to the chassis through an internal 4-pin USB connector. The device sports a mirror LED display, which provides information about a variety of overclocking parameters and allows gamers to make on-the-spot adjustments to the GPU clock, memory clock, and fan speeds using a special knob adjacent to the monitor. OC Gear is currently being shipped with ASUS’s EAH3850 graphic card model.

One of the centerpieces of ASUS’s stand at CeBIT was the ARES Gaming PC, which sported an impressive gaming hardware configuration. The computer’s gaming hardware configuration includes an Intel Core 2 Extreme CPU, supporting up to 8GB of fast DDR3 memory, NVIDIA’s 3-way SLI graphic technology, and a 4 Terabyte hard disk. This PC, which ASUS promotes as the “Ultimate Gamer Gear”, is also integrated with “Dual Power” power modules and a liquid cooling solution. The ARES PC certainly looks top-notch, but what immediately draws the eye is its unique keyboard. In addition to the regular QWERTY board, the keyboard includes a small circular panel on its left side that was specially designed to suit gaming-specific operations.

OCZ Technology

 OCZ Neural Impulse Actuator
OCZ Neural Impulse Actuator

OCZ unveiled its highly anticipated Neural Impulse Actuator (NIA) interface, which allows gamers to play a variety of games using their “mind-power”. Similarly to earlier systems developed by “Emotiv” and “NeuroSky”, OCZ’s mind-reading kit includes a headband with a built-in array of carbon interface sensors. The sensors monitor the players’ neural activity and respond accordingly by converting electroencephalograph (EEG) signals into specified keystrokes. NIA can also react to users’ facial movements – for example, your avatar shoots on the slightest clicking of your teeth or due to a sudden rise of an eyebrow. The kit is not entirely hands-free, however, since a mouse is used for aiming. Gamers can assign commands using NIA’s interface, which maps each of the Actuator’s signals to a specific keystroke on the keyboard or a mouse button in a way that gives gamers the same level of control they got when playing the ‘old-fashioned way’. Commands for running, jumping, and firing can all be ‘coded’ through NIA’s interface. “Because the NIA converts EEG (electroencephalograph) signals into specified keystrokes, the device can be used with any software and upon proper configuration, will allow users to control PC games without the use of a keyboard and minimal use of a mouse” – states the company.

The NIA stand was continuously crowded with gaming enthusiasts and a handful of skeptics, all of whom wanted to get hands-on experience with the futuristic interface. An OCZ representative demonstrated excellent gaming skills on an action-packed game, at times without even using the mouse. Our own experience with the system was far from impressive, despite the fact that ‘self-training’ should usually take no longer than 5 minutes…   

OCZ have already announced that NIA entered mass production and is just about to hit the market, which would make it the first commercially available brain-computer interface specifically designed for PC gamers. “Advances in hardware and software allow today’s games to offer consumers an exceptional entertainment experience, and we wanted to take the next step by immersing gamers into these environments with the innovative new NIA,” stated Ryan Petersen, CEO of the OCZ Technology Group. “The NIA radically changes the ways that gamers can interact and control elements within games, and can be configured in a matter of minutes for any game that is already published or will be released.” 

TFOT has previously covered Emotiv’s and NeuroSky’s brain-computer interfaces, which were the first of their kind in this sci-fi field. You can also check out our article on the soon to-be-launched online and free “Quake Live” Project, which is guaranteed to draw at least some of the gaming enthusiasts among you. For more information about the latest in the gaming industry, read TFOT’s full coverage of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las-Vegas, where many state-of-the-art gaming-dedicated products were showcased.