Post-National Day Special: GIGABYTE Power Users’ Gathering
We love questioning the top minds of the PC hardware industry for our readers, and the men behind the GIGABYTE Power Users Gathering: Rockson, and Derrick Foo from CDL Trading Pte. Ltd., became natural targets of our inquisition.
We took the rare opportunity to put Rockson on the grille.
VR: GIGABYTE launched the GA-X58A-UD9 with an unprecedented power delivery of 1500W to the CPU socket. You guys call it “Unlocked Power.” Do you expect other mainboard makers to break this 1500W barrier anytime soon?
RC: Although we have yet to see any of our competitors attempting to outdo us in this aspect, it is perfectly possible for them to eventually match up to us in CPU power delivery. The thing is that our “Unlocked Power” technology is focussed on extreme overclocking, and it is impossible to expect all our competitors to invest the same kind of effort we put in it. Even if they do, it takes a lot of engineering to achieve what we have managed.
With the GA-X58A-UD9 for example, we spent almost half a year of Research & Development (R&D), surveying new components and testing out power layouts just to come up with Unlocked Power.
VR: GIGABYTE has long been an advocate of using reliable (and potentially expensive) components on its mainboards. What challenges does this holds-no-barred approach pose for GIGABYTE’s manufacturing?
RC: No doubt, one of the first challenges we met was increased manufacturing costs – something that trickles down the retail chain to the customer eventually. We view this as value-addedness, however. We believe that when the customer has to pay a premium for a GIGABYTE mainboard, he or she is buying a quality product with the assurance that it will function reliably for many years to come. We do not want our customers to be purchasing insecurity, and so we do it right, right at the beginning.
There are technical difficulties in implementation too. For our two ounce copper Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) for example, we took about a year experimenting with layout and compensation. Once we had thicker ground and power planes, we found that the trace impedance changes, and we had to make adjustments to the layout so that signal integrity improves.
At the end of the day, we are glad that these reliablity features benefits everyone down the retail chain. Distributors and retailers are seeing less product returns, and end users benefit from having trouble-free mainboards. In that sense, it does offset the challenges of increased manufacturing costs.
VR: Today’s CPU have more contacts than ever before. Just one decade ago, we depended on PPGA370. Now we have FCLGA1366 – that is more than triple the amound of contacts going from PGA to LGA. Next year, we are moving into FCLGA2011. Do you foresee any issues with such a large contact-count?
RC: Back when we first looked at FCLGA1366, we thought that it was pretty big too (laughs). I do not foresee GIGABYTE having any issues when we finally move into FCLGA2011.
VR: GIGABYTE has been pushing SuperSpeed USB a lot this year. Up till now, we are looking mostly at two USB 3.0 ports located at the mainboard I/O shield. When will we start to see SuperSpeed USB make it to mainboard headers for hooking up to PC chassis?
RC: USB-IF already has a header standard for SuperSpeed USB 3.0, and you should see GIGABYTE mainboards with more than two USB 3.0 host-controller ports in the near future. Once the SuperSpeed USB 3.0 take-up rate has risen, we will implement extra USB 3.0 ports for PC chassis front panel sockets.
VR: MSI and ASUS have both been putting voltage test points on their overclocking-oriented mainboards lately. We understand that GIGABYTE is far from insecure about having its voltages probed by users given the stiff regulation engineered into the top end mainboards; still, are there plans to put such fancy overclocking novelties on future GIGABYTE mainboards?
RC: There have been requests for “voltage checkpoints” from the feedback we gather. The measurement traces should not introduce extra noise into the power rails, so you should be able to see these measurement spots on our future overclocking-oriented mainboards.
VR: Are you looking forward to Sandy Bridge?
RC: I am always looking forward to technological advances, from Intel or otherwise. It will definitely outperform current-generation processors, and chances are, with 32nm lithography, run cooler and greener as well.
Techno-journalism has long been notorious for its nosy tendencies. We took the opportunity to ask Derrick about his experiences with GIGABYTE mainboards at CDL Trading Pte. Ltd, one Singapore’s oldest PC hardware distributors.
VR: How long have you been working for CDL?
DF: I started as a Technical Support Staff in 2004.
VR: You have been working with GIGABYTE for quite some time now. Given a choice, would you distribute other makes of mainboards other than GIGABYTE’s?
DF: If you asked me, the answer is “no.” I have confidence in GIGABYTE, both the brand and its products. In fact, I am proud to be associated with GIGABYTE to this day.
VR: You said that you once worked as a Technical Support Staff for CDL prior to doing Sales & Marketing. During your time, how many of the product returns were Problems that Exists Between the Keyboard and Chair?
DF: Problems I faced in those days were often not exclusively product issues or user issues. What I can confirm is that product return rates have fallen significantly in recent years.
These days, my colleagues and I receive calls that often have nothing to do with product failures. Instead, we have moved into a more personal level of customer support; we are supporting end users rather than supporting the hardware we distribute.
Nowadays, it is not surprising to find our staff answering questions on memory and peripheral compatibility. We sometimes even suggest tweaks to more experieced customers so that they can finetune our products to improve performance. We believe that end users who have maximised their purchase are the happiest ones.