Monday, November 19, 2007

New Alienware Area-51 notebooks: The mother of all systems?

The most powerful 17-inch notebook ever?

The most powerful 15.4 notebook that's ever been thought of?

It was with that kind of unbridled enthusiasm that Alienware Corp., makers of musclebound gamers' notebook and desktop computers, rolled out its latest high-powered efforts at a New York press conference on Monday (Nov. 19).

According to Alienware, a subsidiary of PC giant Dell Corp., in addition to powerful processors and fast hard drives, the new Area-51 m17x 17-inch notebook (above) and Area-51 m15x 15.4-inch notebook (below) offer graphics performance far above that offered by any other current notebook.

"This is really the mother of all systems when you're talking about performance," said Bryan de Zayas, Alienware's associate director of product marketing, after he uncovered the m17x at the press conference.

He went on to describe the m17x as "the most powerful 17-inch notebook that has ever been created" and noted somewhat modestly that the m15x was the most powerful 15.4-inch notebook "that's ever been thought of and brought to market."

The specifications for the sleekly designed Area-51 units seem to bear out some of his enthusiasm. Both come with Intel Corp.'s Core 2 Extreme processors, Blu-Ray optical disk burners and up to to 4 gigabytes of system memory.

The Area-51 m17x offers a 17-inch, 1,080p widescreen display and can be had with dual nVidia GeoForce 8800M GTX or dual GeoForce 8700M GT graphics processors and up a gigabyte of dedicated graphics memory--an astounding amount video muscle for a notebook. The Area-51 m15x has a 15.4-inch, a 1,080p widescreen display, a single nVidia GeoForce 8800M GTX graphics processor and up to half a gigabyte (512 megabytes) of graphics memory.

De Zayas noted that the just-released nVidia 8800M GTX graphics chipset used in the new notebooks is two performance levels above the nVidia chipsets now in use by other notebook makers. This means, he said, that the Area-51 units can easily digest the most demanding PC games, including the recently released Crysis from Electronic Arts Inc.

However, nVidia noted that the 8800M series graphics chipset will soon be available in machines from other notebook makers, including Canada-based Eurocom, Gateway Inc., and Sager.

While the Area-51 units are obviously designed for the best possible games performance, they offer amenities that make them useful as high-end business units. For example, with the touch of a button above the keyboard, you can tune the units down to a low-power "stealth" mode, which reduces processing muscle, but extends battery life long enough time to perform mundane non-gaming tasks during a long flight. You can also tune down the graphics muscle in order to extend battery life a little further.

The units come with backlit keyboards which can change color and a touchpad that's invisible save for an lit outline that lets you know where it is on the palmrest area.

Both units will be available next year and pricing has not been set yet, according to Alienware representatives.

Photos courtesy of Alienware.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Lenovo's new ThinkStation: Slam dunk or technical foul?

It's not often that a press conference takes technology journalists to a sporting goods store, but that's exactly what happened Nov. 6 as Lenovo staged a televised press event at the NBA Store on New York's Fifth Ave. to announce its entry into a workstation market now dominated by Dell and Hewlett-Packard.

According to Lenovo, the new ThinkStation line of workstations marks the first new workstation brand to be trotted out by a major PC maker in ten years and marks Lenovo's first addition to its Think-branded products in five years.

By definition, a workstation is a musclebound PC with extra processing and graphics power for high-octane applications such as computer-aided design and digital content creation -- such the nifty graphics and videos you see during televised National Basketball Association games.

Lenovo is already the official computer of the NBA; which explains the reason for the press conference site. Its units are at courtside at all 29 arenas of the 30 NBA teams (the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers share the Staples Center). Company executives said the China-based company aimed to get a modest slice of the U.S. workstation market but sought to succeed in emerging markets overseas as well.

The single-processor ThinkStation S10 (starting at $1,199) will come with an Intel Corp. Core 2 processor while the dual-processor ThinkStation D10 (pictured at top, starting at $1,739) will use Intel's Quad-Core Xeon processors. Both models will come with nVidia graphics adapters and will feature second-generation PCI Express expansion slots, which allow for far faster graphics-data speeds than the original PCI Express standard.

Inside the easy-to-service ThinkStations you'll find room for an array of hard disks and lots of RAM as well as extra fans and huge heat sinks to keep things cool.

While the ThinkStations will come in black, their interiors will be quite green, according to the company. More than 50 per cent of the plastics used will be recycled plastics, Lenovo said. Despite the additional hardware, the units will be no noisier than far less powerful PCs, according to Lenovo.

On hand for the press conference was former NBA star and Basketball Hall of Fame member Bill Walton (at right in photo), who seemed to genuinely appreciate the extra processing power of workstations and said he couldn't wait to get his own hands on a ThinkStation.

"Intel doesn't have the out-front name, but they're the ones that make it work from the inside," said the almost 7-foot-tall Walton, who was joined by executives from Lenovo, Intel and the NBA as well as sportscaster Ian Eagle.

ThinkStation D10 photo courtesy of Lenovo.
Press conference photo copyright 2007, Stadium Circle Features.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Congrats! You have a new PC! Now pay up!

So how much does it really cost to upgrade an office with new PCs?

Find out by reading my piece in today's (Nov. 5, 2007) edition of the New York Daily News.

Enjoy and let me know what you think!