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Smaller = hotter? Think different

Apple's iMac created a brand new market category of designer desktops. You can even get 'em in snazzy colors like indigo, ruby, sage, graphite, and snow. But behind the pretty face, there's a neat engineering design-the iMac has no cooling fan. And now, the latest high-end computer from Apple-the G4 Cube-has followed suit.

"Cooling is provided by air flowing through the Cube's center vertical cooling channel," the company says. And at just 8x8x8 inches, the Cube seems to break one of the steadfast rules of engineering-you make something smaller, it will heat up faster. Besides lowering the part count and power drain, the lack of a fan also reduces noise.

"It cools by convection," explains Apple spokesperson Nathalie Welch. "The core is suspended in a lucite enclosure with 3 to 4 inches clearance. The product is designed to seat the hottest components near the central airshaft, such as the processor and the DVD drive. So air is drawn in through a cut-out in the sides of the enclosure, and lifts out through vents in the top."

The computer (actually, Apple's calling it a "supercomputer") runs a 450 MHz PowerPC G4 processor with a Velocity Engine(TM)that speeds operations to 3 gigaflops. It has 64 MB of RAM, a 20 GB hard drive, a slot-loading DVD drive, and a 128 Pro graphics card with 16 MB of graphics memory. It stays connected through two FireWire(R)and two USB ports, 10/100 Base-T Ethernet, and a 56k V.90 modem.

That firepower is designed to support applications including desktop publishing, making desktop movies, playing ultra-realistic 3D games, and watching DVD movies.

Put some octane in your tank for speedy graphics

The Octane2(TM)visual workstation has "the highest level of visualization of any UNIX(R)desktop workstation," says Silicon Graphics Inc. In fact, it has three times the graphics price/performance as its predecessor, the original Octane(R), and has 33% faster CPU performance.

In context of the market, SGI claims that Octane2 has three times the performance of other UNIX desktop systems, including GXT3000P graphics on the IBM 44P-170, and SUN Expert3D graphics on the Sun Ultra80. It's made to be flexible for the user's needs, so the Octane2 is configurable with single or dual MIPS(R)R12000A(TM)400 MHz processors. And it is available with two different VPro(TM)graphics configurations-V6 and V8.

Sure, they sound like types of muscle cars, but the VPro family is actually a new set of graphics subsystems for IRIX, Windows NT, and Linux desktop workstations.

"Customers are looking for a single vendor for their graphics demands," says Dixie Fisher, an SGI product marketing manager. "They're running entry level CAD on NT, high-end CAD on UNIX, and all sorts of applications are coming up on Linux."

With 32 MB graphics memory, the Octane2 V6 is designed for 3D CAD modeling and animation applications. And with 128 MB graphics memory, the Octane2 V8 is suited for advanced jobs like CAD styling, digital prototyping, geosciences, medical imaging, and visual simulation. Both options feature SGI's OpenGL(R)on a Chip(TM). And both options run on 256 MB system memory and a 9 GB system disk.

Gloria gives graphics a boost

For super graphics, you need a supercharged workstation graphics card. And ELSA's GLoria(TM)III, which is based on NVIDIA's new Quadro2 Pro GPU (graphics processing unit), is designed for high performance in MCAD, film animation, and game content development.

Featuring 64 MB of DDR frame buffer memory, it operates at nearly twice the processing power of its predecessor, the GLoria II. Benchmarks include generating 1 billion lit, two-sided triangles per second, and 30 million textured pixels per second.

Announced at the SIGGRAPH trade show with a September shipping date, the card includes custom performance drivers and utilities for Autodesk's AutoCAD and discreet's 3D studio MAX. Also, it has OpenGL optimization with: MicroStation, PTC's Pro/ENGINEER, SolidWorks, SOFTIMAGE/3D, Maya, Lightwave 3D, Unigraphics, and SDRC's IDEAS Master Series.

HP visualizes fast CAD

Another new set of graphics accelerator cards announced in New Orleans at SIGGRAPH this summer was Hewlett-Packard's VISUALIZE fx5 (replacing the fx4) and fx10 (replacing the fx6). With many software graphics providers porting their programs to the Linux OS, the fx5 and fx10 are designed to enable 3D Linux capabilities. (NT and UNIX-based workstation versions were previously released.)

But where are you going to run these cards? HP also launched its next generation VISUALIZE P-Class (for high value) and X-Class (for high performance) personal workstations.

The P-Class features three options: the P733, P800, and P866 and hold single or dual Intel(R)Pentium(R)III 733, 800, or 866 MHz processors. All three use 133 MHz SDRAM for large memory implementations. And the fx5 or fx10 graphics cards provide three or six PA-RISC geometry engines. P-class machines are designed for mid-range applications for designers, engineers, and creative artists.

The X-Class offers expandable mass storage up to 54 GB internal disk space, and comes with single or dual Pentium III 800 or 866 MHz processors. It's targeted at high-end users like engineers doing simulations, virtual prototyping, and other high-bandwidth visualization tasks.

Incredibly small business machines

Big, old companies like IBM tend to be slow and steady, making no sudden moves, right? Well, now Big Blue has released a new PC line that it calls "the company's most dramatic and significant roll-out of desktop technology since its first PC almost 20 years ago."

What's the occasion for such a breathless announcement? The highly-styled NetVista(TM)line includes the All-in-One X40 and the Legacy-Free S40.

At just 16x16x10 inches, the All-in-One X40 (right) is designed for minimum size, about 75% smaller than the typical home or office PC. For maximum space-saving, the CD/DVD and floppy drive tuck away, and the keyboard fits beneath the monitor to free up desk space. Options include Intel(TM)'s Celeron(TM)or Pentium III processors, with SDRAM from 64 to 128 MB, and a 10 or 20 GB hard drive.

The Legacy-Free S40 (left) is said to combine the functionality of a PC with the simplicity and security of a thin client. It has a vertical design, and docking cradle for synchronization with handheld devices and palm-sized organizers. Its five USB ports enable easy peripheral connections. And it omits the serial and parallel ports and the diskette drive, thus eliminating configuration issues. It has similar processor and memory options as the X40.

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