Monday, June 27, 2011

Computex 2011: Danshui Bay Concept Motherboard


ASUS have been coming to Computex to sensationalize and dazzle the press with concepts for years, and this year is no different, regardless of whether something is technically feasible or not.

Last year, we saw the ASUS Immensity motherboard concept that was never put into production – an X58 featuring a 5450-type integrated GPU and a Lucid Hydra chip to combine any discrete GPU combination on board. This year takes a turn for the surreal.

Introducing the Danshui Bay concept:

Simply put, ASUS are wanting to combine two chipsets on one motherboard – the X58 socket 1366, and the X79 socket 2011. If we completely disregard the technical challenges this faces, it provides the interesting idea of something that might be possible in the future: You want to upgrade your machine to the latest chipset and processor. Rather than throw your old processor away or sell it on, you could buy a motherboard that lets you harness the power of the old processor and a new processor together, in some form of chimerism.

As for the technical challenges in producing such a product, I could reel off a whole list. For a start, chipsets are not designed to talk to each other. Processors need dual QPI links to talk to each other of the same model – how that would work with different socket processors with different caches and core counts is also a mystery, as with 1366 you would need an appropriate Xeon. With two chipsets, you’ll have to have a different set of memory for each processor, and possibly getting a mismatch there based on dual/tri/quad channel memory. Each processor requires its power and a set of PCIe each – unless you disregard the PCIe of one of the chipsets but then you would have to have at least the processor of the other socket in order to run a discrete GPU. The same goes with SATA ports, I/O connectors, USB headers, and so on.

Obviously, this board presented is a mockup – merely bits and pieces put together. It’s showing sixteen SATA 3 Gbps and six SATA 6 Gbps for a start, as well as no significant power delivery and an obscene form factor. ASUS only want to know that if there was a demand for such a product, despite the technical limitations.

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