ASUS Republic of Gamers and X79 ROG Review – Rampage IV Gene, Formula and Extremeby Ian Cutress on August 3, 2012 1:00 PM EST
As part of this review, I approached ASUS with the request that I get some more in-depth information regarding the Republic of Gamers situation. It is all very well being the face of a corporation, but behind it all there are real people, with real lives, trying to make these products innovate, perform well, and then bring them to market. During Computex this year, I met with Mr. Kris Huang, ASUS' Director of Product Marketing for ROG motherboards, and had the opportunity to discuss with him for an interview. We exchanged details and he has since filled out a questionnaire I sent for the benefit of the AnandTech readers to understand what goes on in the minds of some of the individuals that carve and create the products that enthusiasts live and breathe.
Thankfully, Mr. Huang is the best person to ask on all things ROG. He has been part of the ROG system since the beginning, being one of the core team that brought ROG to the masses. On with the questions!
Name: Kris Huang
Current Position at ASUS: Director of Product Marketing Division (ROG Motherboard)
Length of Time at ASUS: 7 years
Background: Masters, Major in Engineering, National Taiwan University.
- 3 years Sales & PM function at a regional software company
- 4 years Product Manager in ASUSTek
- 3 years PM Director in ASUSTek
Q: What attracted you to work at ASUS?
I always had a passion for computers and noticed that ASUS was hiring. I really wanted to do something to change the world and figured having that opportunity at the top company would be a dream come true. I just wanted to make the best performing and most innovative product on the market (at least in the motherboard category).
I do not want to repeat discussing ASUS' DNA, but the spirit of pursuing perfection really matches my philosophy. Innovation never stops here, especially in the ROG team.
Q: What is your current role at ASUS, and what does the role mean to you?
My current role is Director of ROG for the motherboard team. My team is responsible for the ROG motherboard roadmap, design, and business execution, which is quite challenging and yet very interesting to me. Because our customers are always wondering what we will do next or how we will improve our products, it puts a lot of stress on the team to constantly improve and innovate. If we design and produce something really good, it is great to see the praises and excitement from our users, but if they are not satisfied with our product, we will hear a lot of complaints. Those are sometimes difficult to accept after working particularly hard on a product but it is what drives us to do better the next time so we always appreciate the feedback that our community communicates to us.
Q: Please describe a typical ‘day’ working at ASUS.
Well, there is no typical day for me, since it is a very dynamic market with lots of competition. We are always working on something - it might not always be product design as a lot of our work is also determining customer demand and wants, channel and SI acceptance, pricing and other activities that help determine the final product design. And then we are always making decisions about the product by discussing if we should design or remove a feature or specification. If it is something new we have devised or a customer requirement, then how do we overcome the technical difficulty with R&D, manufacture it and also justify the cost so it is accepted by our customers. We also discuss current/future market trends and various product design concepts with our marketing and sales team to see if new designs or features fully deliver the right product message. We also spend a lot of time with users in the ROG community to get their ideas or working with them when the product ships to ensure a great user experience. But basically we spend most of our time on how to make a great product and then testing out our ideas.
Q: What does ROG as a brand mean to you?
First off - ROG is like raising a child to me, it used to be my baby, but now it is a child with a lot of excitement since it is just 6 years old and still growing rapidly. :) There was a core team who created this brand and direction, and I was so lucky to be one of them. I joined ASUS a little over 7 years ago, and spent 6 years in ROG plus over half a year developing the new brand. So my whole ASUS life is ROG. I love it!!
The ROG brand means so much to me and I hope others see it as I have the past several years. ROG is an absolute passion, not only to deliver the most innovative products possible for gamers and enthusiasts but also to ensure the best user experience. I see ROG as more than just great hardware since ROG is really about the community of gamers, enthusiasts and overclockers that use our products and share the passion we do for the PC platform. We are always excited and even amazed at what our community is able to accomplish with ROG products is what drives us not only to deliver better products but to grow and improve our participation within the community.
Q: What new features on current ROG products would you like to see improved/developed over the next few years?
We are continuously improving our software and especially the user interface for both the OC utilities like ROG Connect, TweakIt, OC Key and of course the EFI. We feel like we are way ahead of our competitors in this area and for us, this is extremely important. A solid and responsive interface is essential for an overclocker to handle his OC project. On the gamer side, there are also several features we are continuously improving like the software interfaces, networking and audio. Since audio is like a gamer’s 2nd pair of eyes during gameplay, we just introduced our SupremeFX IV audio package on the Maximus V Formula and are constantly looking at other audio solutions that will improve the gameplay experience. As for other features, well let us just say we have some very interesting designs for our next generation products but it is too early to discuss them.
Q: Why is ROG important?
Enthusiasts, Overclockers and Gamers are a very important group within the PC industry in our opinion. Their passions for the PC hardware helps to drive the industry forward and they are not shy about their opinions in the DIY or System Integrator space. ROG is designed for these guys, we like being innovative, we love pushing performance to the limit, we want something different, and we have that passion to pull it all together. If the industry was suddenly without ROG, I guess it would be a bit boring, right?
And for me, it’s definitely important that ROG continues to grow, it’s my child, remember :)
Q. What difficulties has ROG presented to you?
I think the biggest challenge for us is we have to surpass ourselves again and again under very short chipset lifecycles; it seems that every half year or even quarters recently we have new product release, and users (media, consumers, partners) expect we will show up with new jaw-dropping features on every release. But I guess this is our destiny, this forces us to think differently and innovatively with every product.
Q: What is your favourite feature on any ROG product and why?
There are several features that I like very much on every ROG motherboard. For example, the OC Key is something we launched with the Rampage IV Extreme motherboard. It is really innovative, but more importantly it provided a tool to help overclockers improve their OC experience. We listened to the community and then figured out a way to accommodate their wants or needs for a feature. This is really important to us as improving the user experience with our products ensures happy users and ones that provide great feedback so we can further improve the feature. These type of OC interfaces really differentiate us from others, not just competing how many phases on CPU power, whether a component is from Japan, or how many ounces of a material we are using and so on. Among numerous features we have included another favourite is USB BIOS Flashback that was originally on the ROG Maximus III Extreme (P55) motherboard. Right now, it has been widely adopted on most ASUS mainstream and high-end motherboards. Finding a different and safe way to flash the BIOS has always been a hot topic in motherboard industry for users, system integrators and manufacturers. We looked at the problem differently and thought of something nobody considered, what if we could easily and safely flash the BIOS only needing standby power, not a CPU, HD, Video card or even a memory module being installed. This greatly improved the ability of our partners, users and service group to easily flash the BIOS without the headache normally involved in the procedure. Our users, partners and service groups are extremely happy with this solution, which means we have done our job.
Q: Would you like to see ROG expanding into other product lines in the future?
Of course, we are always interested in a product line that can enhance a users’ PC experience. However, we are also very conservative when looking into new business opportunities. We need to make sure our core advantage, what we can do better than others can, why people want to buy our product is met before deciding to do a new product. If those criteria cannot be met, then we will pass on it.
Q: If you had a limitless budget, what would be your ideal ROG product to design and sell to the world, even if it only sold one unit?
Probably using a pair of glasses as an HD monitor with 5G WiFi connectivity. It can connect to a ROG gaming pocket PC that is able to run BF3 effortlessly, as one example. The pocket PC will have gesture and motion sensors, so you can use your gesture or motion to control the game. The glasses could also be transparent in predefined areas but still enable a portion of the game to be rendered on it (like a HUD display) and would allow you to play the game on a big screen or in multi-monitor mode and allow for a different yet totally immersive game experience.
17. Have you had any very exciting situations whilst working at ASUS?
Yes, a lot of time it is very exciting for me. Whenever we have a new product release, or technology summit, it is an exciting moment when we hear direct feedback from users, media and partners. Of course, the feedback varies from very nice to sometimes tough love but I have yet not to be excited during launch or at a summit or gaming event. I can remember when we launched Rampage IV Extreme at end of last year, a lot of users and partners just said “WOW!”, “they never thought of this!”, “This is insanely creative!". This always reminds me the original intention to create this brand, not get lost in the sales number, market competition, or compromise on the technology difficulty; the goal is to make the user happy with their decision to go ROG. In addition, at times we can spend part of the workday playing the hottest game title since we are making gaming products. We fortunately have the privilege of doing this type of 'testing'.
Q: What is your current home PC setup?
My PC in the study room is Rampage III Extreme, Core i7 970, 6x2GB DDR3, GTX580. SSD & several HDDs. Running Win7 64bit. Also have an HTPC in the living room, It uses the M4A785-M HTPC board for now, but I plan to upgrade to a Maximus V GENE with Ivy Bridge.
Q: Do you see yourself more as a home user, an enthusiast, a gamer, or an overclocker?
I was a passionate home user before join ROG, but since then, I learned how to build a serious water-cooled unit, started played the latest game titles, and gained overclocking skills. I guess I am something in-between all of the above. A more appropriate saying is I am a friend to those in the ROG community.
Q: ROG Motherboards are currently called the Gene, Formula and Extreme. If ASUS were to produce a mini-ITX SKU, what name would you pitch in for it?
Haha, this is a tricky question, I really do not have the answer now. If we are to produce one, maybe starting from 'H', since 'E'xtreme, 'F'ormula, 'G'ene, then it should be 'H'? Could be, I am not quite sure yet :)
We would like to thank Mr. Huang for his time in answering our questions!