Asustek preps low-cost motherboards for launch

When it comes to choosing a motherboard, users around the world will soon have a new choice. Asrock Inc., a subsidiary of Taiwanese motherboard maker Asustek Computer Inc., has been shipping several low-cost motherboard models to distributors around the world since October and the boards are expected to soon hit the street, according to an analyst in Taipei.

Based in Tamsui, Taiwan, Asrock was established by Asustek to target price-conscious consumers and users in emerging markets, such as in Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe, said William Fong, an equity analyst at Primasia Securities Co. Ltd. in Taipei. Asrock is also going after rival motherboard maker Elitegroup Computer Systems Co. Ltd., he said.

Elitegroup, which shipped more than 2 million motherboards during October, has been a thorn in the side of leading motherboard makers, grabbing market share from rivals by setting lower prices for its motherboards, Fong said. While Asustek's motherboards sell for an average of about US$80, Elitegroup sells its motherboards for approximately $40 on average, he said.

Asrock is expected to counter this challenge by pricing its motherboards at an average of less than $50 and is expected to get off to a strong start, with initial shipments of between 100,000 to 200,000 motherboards per month, Fong said.

"One advantage is that they are fully backed by Asustek with its strong brand and R&D capabilities," Fong said, adding that despite backing from its parent company, Asrock still faces challenges in the months ahead. "It will take some time for consumers to accept a new company."

To support its business overseas Asrock has already established a subsidiary in the Netherlands and has a network of distributors in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Thailand, Indonesia and Russia, according to the company. "Distribution will not be a problem for Asrock," Fong said.

Asrock offers five motherboard models, according to the company. Three of the models support Intel Corp.'s Pentium 4 processor and three support Advanced Micro Devices Inc.'s (AMD) Athlon XP chip.

The GPro motherboard, which supports the Pentium 4, is a MicroATX board (9.6 inches long by 9.6 inches wide) based on the SIS650 chipset from Silicon Integrated Systems Corp. (SIS) and supports both a 400MHz and 533MHz front-side bus. Offering AGP 4X support and integrated graphics, it supports up to 2G bytes of either SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM) or DDR SDRAM (double data rate SDRAM), integrated 10M bps (bits per second) and 100M bps Ethernet support and up to six USB 2.0 ports.

The PEPro, also for the Pentium 4, is an ATX board (9.6 inches wide by 12 inches long) based on the SIS645 chipset and offers 400MHz and 533MHz front-side bus support, AGP 4X, support for up to 2G bytes of either SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM) or DDR SDRAM (double data rate SDRAM), integrated 10M bps (bits per second) and 100M bps Ethernet support and up to six USB 2.0 ports.

The P4I45D is an ATX board that supports Pentium 4 chips with hyperthreading capability, to be introduced with the expected launch this week of Intel's 3.06GHz Pentium 4 chip, is based on Intel's 845D chipset and offers support for a 400MHz or 533MHz front-side bus, AGP 4X, up to 2G bytes of either SDRAM or DDR SDRAM, integrated 10M bps (bits per second) and 100M bps Ethernet support and up to four USB 2.0 ports and two USB 1.1 ports.

For AMD's Athlon XP chip, Asrock has two offerings: the K7VT2 and K7VM2.

The K7VT2 is an ATX board based on Via Technologies Inc.'s KT266A chipset and supports a 200MHz or 266MHz front-side bus, AGP 4X, up to 2G bytes of either SDRAM or DDR SDRAM, integrated 10M bps (bits per second) and 100M bps Ethernet support and up to six USB 2.0 ports.

The K7VM2 is a MicroATX board on Via's KM266 chipset and supports a 200MHz or 266MHz front-side bus, integrated graphics, AGP 4X, up to 2G bytes of either SDRAM or DDR SDRAM, integrated 10M bps (bits per second) and 100M bps Ethernet support and up to six USB 2.0 ports.

All of Asrock's boards support its U-Cop technology, which is a thermal protection mechanism that prevents processors from being damaged by overheating.

Pricing and specific availability was not immediately available.

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