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MSI Mobos and Graphics @ Computex 2010 - Wooing the Enthusiast

MSI Mobos and Graphics @ Computex 2010 - Wooing the Enthusiast

A Chat with MSI's Director of Component Marketing, Jason Lee

A Chat with MSI's Director of Component Marketing, Jason Lee


Tell us some of the trends affecting PC components e.g. motherboards and graphics.

I think for the next generation of processors, there will be a significant amount of graphics being integrated to the processor, like AMD's Fusion and Intel's Sandy Bridge. This will certainly impact the market, especially the mainstream segment, which could be eaten away by these integrated processors. However, for the performance and high-end market, there's still demand for better performance, better quality components and materials and that's a market MSI is aiming for. So yes, the trend is we'll see a transition but we believe that there's still space to grow.

Intel's demo of Sandy Bridge had its integrated graphics running competitively with a discrete graphics solution, what are your thoughts on that?

I think in some way, the demo is optimized for certain purposes so when you see that, you think it's equivalent. But that may be different in real life because every game and application is different and things like overclocking is something that differentiates the discrete market from the integrated solution. Especially for DX11 and DX10, there's still a certain gap between Intel and discrete graphics. It's a good thing though because the new technology will push the market forward.

In light of these developments, how would MSI try to differentiate its products in the mainstream segment?

If we add on more features, the cost will of course increase but we cannot just try to be different from the reference design because there are so many other competitors. Take graphics for example, we have all the features on our flagship, Lightning and then we trickle down the features for the mainstream products such that they don't add too much cost, like our mainstream 'Hawk'. The same applies for our motherboards.

We noticed that there are two 'OC Genie' buttons on your Sandy Bridge motherboard, can you tell us more about that?

Laughs. It's our secret weapon. We cannot reveal more at the moment because it's not ready. We think Sandy Bridge will only be out in December and we don't know too much about the processors yet.

What can you tell us about MSI's next-gen motherboards?

Let me tell you about our design concept. This year you probably have seen a lot of military class components from MSI. Actually it's not that new; MSI has been using it in our graphics cards for more than a year and we have seen the success - a dramatic decrease in defect rate - so we're doing it for our motherboards too. We will use these advanced materials on all our boards, but for the mainstream market, only the critical areas of the board will have these military grade components, which will keep them cost competitive. Not only will they help for overclocking, users will also feel safe using them.

Earlier this year, we introduced Fuzion with Big Bang using the Lucid chip, (which can do multi-GPU configurations between ATI and NVIDIA graphics cards). This was a high-end US$300 product so it was very hard for users to try that. Right now, we're ready to introduce it to the mainstream segment, with the P55 and AMD 870. Users may not hesitate to try it now, since compared to other motherboards, the additional cost is slight. I think it's an example that we're not just trying to have the best technology, but also to make it affordable for the average user.

What do you think about the approach of some of your competitors, like Gigabyte and their larger XL-ATX motherboards.

I feel that MSI's approach is different - we try to define what's useful for the end-user. From a consumer's point of view, they pay money for something useful, not for something fancy. I think we opt for a more practical approach.

Can you tell us about MSI's collabration with 3DMark11?

You like it? It started about two years ago, when MSI begun to be involved in overclocking. It's around the same time we started our own overclocking competition (Master Overclocking Arena). During this time, we had the opportunity to work with Futuremark (the creator of 3DMark11). They knew that we were new to overclocking then but MSI's mindshare in overclocking circles has increased over the past two years.

That's why I think Futuremark gave us this opportunity, not because we paid more money compared to others. I heard the rumors that MSI paid a lot for the exposure in 3DMark11, but actually it's not. The reason we got this is because we have developed this relationship with Futuremark over two years and we have worked together in the lab to provide the best DirectX 11 product, and not just any reference design. I don't think Futuremark would just risk its main product for any vendor who paid more. So you see there are many reasons why MSI became the 'Chosen One', not just paying more money.

How has the market responded to MSI's overclocking initiatives?

In the past, we felt that the overclocking market is very small, but we now understand that word of mouth in the channel is very important. We need some opinion leaders to help us spread the message about the good things of our products, but they also give useful feedback that helps us improve. After each of our overclocking events, we hold meetings to gather what we have learnt from overclockers.

That's why some people tell me that this year, they can see the spirit of overclocking in our products. So this market may be small but the opinion of overclockers are important and they get the attention of other users. Actually next year, we are planning a much bigger overclocking event. Perhaps, even more events to educate users about overclocking, because we found out that many users are interested in overclocking but they don't know how to start.

The initial implementation of Lucid (on Big Bang Fuzion) wasn't the best...

Yes, there are two reasons for this. First, it's a new architecture. Lucid is a small company, it's not able to throw money to increase the awareness of its product. The other reason is we decided to put Lucid on a top model. So not many users got to experience it. And when consumers pay US$300 for a board, they expect the best performance. This meant that consumers associate this technology with performance, and not about the flexibility offered. That's why we are now trickling it down to mainstream chipsets. With the price reaching mainstream level, we believe that more users will be more willing to try this technology.

Also, in terms of its technology, Lucid is very dependent on constant driver updates to keep up with new graphics cards and drivers from ATI/NVIDIA. It takes a lot of effort to do the testing and updating of new drivers. In fact, yesterday, I talked with some of Lucid's management team. I think it was quite positive; the product is getting more mature and the performance is getting better. I think when the cost is low enough, consumers will flock to it. The thing about ATI and NVIDIA graphics cards is that one year, ATI may be stronger, the next NVIDIA may be, so Lucid helps users bypass this issue of choosing between the two.