Day One, 9:30 AM
The first moments of any major trade show are always overwhelming; the rush of people waiting to get in, the harried exhibitors that are quickly making last-minute changes to their booth, the workers scrambling to clean up their tools, the fresh-faced security and floor personnel as they diligently check everyone in, and the gush of sounds and lights that greet you when you first try to get your bearings. It’s quite a spectacle.
That’s why I sat it out; I was having a nice coffee at Mr Brown across the hall. I sipped the delicious brew (which, at $80 TWD is extravagantly expensive, considering you can get a full meal at most small restaurants for the same price) and charged my phone while the frenzied mass made their way in.
When my coffee was gone and the crowd subsided, I geared up and walked in. The Computex press pass is also RFID-enabled, so there’s no clunky optical scanning (like there is at CES) or hasty visual inspection (a la E3). They just wave you in with a beep.
The first thing I noticed was the overwhelming number of SSD displays. From companies familiar and strange, large and small, SSDs were everywhere in 世貿南港館 Nangang. I met with LiteOn and Plextor, two familiar brands in the storage world… at least for optical storage. I wasn’t aware that Plextor was making moves in the SSD market, but there they were showing off a very impressive set up with eight SSDs in RAID-0.
The next booth over, a company named MemoRight was showing off displays of an SSD running in 63C (145F) water as well as the same model running in a vibration machine akin to a paint can shaker and another one running while sitting in dry ice. They make military-grade SSDs, but they are launching a consumer line in the North American market. The drives are run-of-the-mill, performance-wise (based on Marvell controllers), but with the DNA from their incredibly durable construction experience, customers should be confident that the drive isn’t going to fail in any sort of normal circumstance.
I began walking around areas that weren’t SSD-centric, and that brought me to a row of companies I’d never heard of, all showing off full lines of gaming-centric PC hardware. They all ran the usual gamut of power supplies with all kinds of lights, blinged-out keyboards, and mice with all sorts of aggresive angles and nearly naked women showing them off. One company that caught my eye was showing off what I can only describe as “Cold War-era Russian design motif” keyboards. Seriously, if you’re designing your PC workstation to look like a Russian nuclear launch control room, get yourself to Asia and buy a Delux brand keyboard (not available in North America, although they’re looking for distributors…)
Oh, and by the way: Only the red keys are mechanical, while the black keys are rubber-dome. This is a cost-saving measure.
I next met with Noctua and Rotosub, the companies that are partnering to bring active noise cancellation to PC fans. The display was as impressive as it sounds (or doesn’t sound…). He hit the switch, the fan went quiet. There will be a separate article on my booth visit shortly.
After that I wandered the show floor some more, and saw countless USB sticks. Seriously, there were entire huge booths filled with nothing but various styles of USB sticks. They are obviously a very big deal. I also saw a neat OLED button display with a camera pointed at the showfloor; the buttons showed live video from the camera. They reminded me of the impressive slot machines in Vegas.
Computex is enormous. It covers the entirety of not only Nangang Exhibit Hall, but also the Taipei International Convention Center, all three halls of the Taipei World Trade Center, and significant portions of the Grand Hyatt hotel. The only problem is that Nangang is something like 7km away from TWTC and TICC. The metro (subway) is very, very clean and fast, but you’ll be a sweaty mess by the time you walk to the stations and back (Taiwan is an extremely humid country). Luckily, Taxis are cheap, but the drivers never speak English (I get the impression most of them are mainlanders) and they don’t even know the names of places in English (they will look at you like an alien if you say “Grand Hyatt” or “Computex” or “Trade Center”. The only English words I could get any cab driver to understand were “101” for Taipei 101, which was close enough to the TWTC and TICC to make it good. Luckily there are also hotel shuttles, but they only operate once in the morning and a few times in the evening (unlike CES where they are operating all day). There is an inter-venue shuttle between halls that runs constantly, which is a must for going back and forth the 7km between places.
I made my way from Nangang to Grand Hyatt to meet with my friends at NZXT. They showed off a lot of cool things and were very jealous that I figured out how to get a local SIM card with unlimited data for my phone. This also allowed me to unlock the city-wide free TPE Wi-fi (you need a local phone number to register).
After NZXT it was a subway ride to TWTC Hall 3 to meet with ROCCAT. The marketing guy was on lunch, so the CEO himself sat down with me for a half hour to show off his baby, Power Grid, of which he is very (and rightfully so) proud.
I finally made it back to my hotel (despite a cab driver who had no idea where my hotel was and drove with his face buried in a paper map, nearly killing us… and for whom I finally had to struggle with explaining where the hotel was in Mandarin), and now I get to relax a bit before heading back out to meet with friends from TweakTown.
Taipei is a beautiful city with very friendly people, and everything runs very efficiently. So far, Computex has, in one day, become my favorite trade show.
I would once again like to sincerely thank ECS Elitegroup, who is sponsoring our coverage of Computex this year.