Leadtek shows off PCI Express box for your notebook

New hardware video encoder/transcoder card

LEADTEK WAS ONCE one of the big names in the graphics card industry and although the company is still selling graphics cards, including the highly lucrative Quadro products from Nvidia, the company has branched out into other segments over the years. This year Leadtek was showing off a couple of interesting products at Computex, one for notebook users and one for those that work with video files.

First up we have the WinFast ExBOX 100 which is a fairly small, square, black box. Pop the lid off and you’ll find a pair of PCI Express x1 slots and a pair of PCI slots. Around the back is a pair of USB 2.0 ports and a DVI port. There’s also a custom connector here that connects to an Express Card via a cable. The ExBOX 100 is actually something of a blast from the past, as it allows you to use desktop expansion cards with your notebook, something we haven’t seen since proper notebook docking stations more or less disappeared a few years ago.

The demo unit had of all things a Killer NIC, one of Leadtek’s SpursEngine cards and an Audigy 4 sound card in it. The ExBOX 100 also has built in support for DisplayLink’s USB graphics solution, hence the DVI port on the back. Of course there are limitations as to what you can use the ExBOX 100 for, as for starters you got a bandwidth limitation of a single PCI Express lane. This shouldn’t prove to be a huge issue, but it’s something to keep in mind. It’s also limited to outputting 40W of total power for the expansion cards, so no power hungry add-in cards can be fitted.

It’s a great idea, although considering how few notebooks still ship with Express Card slot; we’re not sure how well it’ll sell. Sadly most notebook manufacturers are only concerned about cost these days and features that aren’t widely used are being dropped. The Express Card standard never really took off, as USB has pretty much replaced the need for expansion cards for notebooks. Nonetheless, we have to give it to Leadtek as this is one of the more innovative things we saw at Computex this year.

The other product is the WinFast PxVC1000 which is a video capture, encoding and transcoding card. Leadtek has been one of the few companies selling a SpursEngine based video encoder/transcoder card, but at about $150, this is quite an expensive solution for those that aren’t professional video editors. The new card uses a solution from ViXS called the XCode-3111 and although this isn’t ViXS’ latest hardware solution, it’s still more than capable.

We were told that the PxVC1000 should be a more affordable video encoding/transcoding solution than the SpursEngine based PxVC1100, despite the ability to capture video over HDMI or component video. This isn’t the first HDMI capture card in the market, but it should hopefully turn out to be an affordable solution, although we weren’t given any pricing details. Amusingly, Leadtek had a card on show at Computex 2008 with exactly the same model name that never made it to production and we thought we’d throw in a picture of the card for a laugh. As you can see, the new card is far less complex in terms of manufacturing.S|A

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