Build-A-Rig Round 2: SilverStone and Crucial Interviews and $800 Back-To-School PCsby Ian Cutress on October 13, 2015 8:00 AM EST
Interview with Tony Ou (SilverStone Technology)
Position: Marketing Manager
Name of Rig: ‘Mighty Milo’
IC: How long have you been at SilverStone?
TO: A long time! 11 years.
IC: Has it really been 11 years?
TO: It seems to be rare to stay at the same company that long these days. We met talking over that external GPU box, the very first Thunderbolt type.
IC: We’re still waiting for that to come out!
TO: Creating anything graphics related over Thunderbolt like that is difficult, especially for consumer. We always try some internal things, like a technology showcase for events.
IC: I know you travel a fair bit in your job and you’ve been out and about recently.
TO: Yeah, I was in Australia and New Zealand for two weeks, and I’m travelling to Japan in a couple of weeks also. This is all work, not for pleasure!
IC: Are you global marketing or tied to a specific office?
TO: Technically I deal with global marketing, but we have a number of regional offices that focus on that region, such as in Europe and our US office. I don’t handle their activities, but we do keep in contact for big projects.
IC: Onto products – from SilverStone’s perspective, how competitive are the chassis and power supply industries right now?
TO: Very! Even in the last few years, there are new players coming into the market. There is no let-up. Some PC component industries are going through a change, especially as low end product becomes more scarce.
IC: Why are there so many new companies trying to get in if the market is competitive?
TO: For many I guess the technology barrier for chassis and power supplies, if you just want to do a simple design, it’s not a very difficult thing to start. It’s not as technical, so I guess more companies think they can come in and shake up the market. Also everyone has a subjective outlook on how they like to have their computers look – there is no one look that fits everyone’s taste so that is another reason we have so many players. You’re always going to have someone that wants a different look.
IC: So SilverStone plays in small form factor, mid-size, all the way up to full tower and some of those crazy feats of engineering we see at the trade shows for chassis. SilverStone also does the same for power supplies. What types of these are the most exciting right now – is it the small form factor, or the showcase builds?
TO: I think the market is growing more multi-faceted right now. Because of the personal preferences of the user, the products are becoming more focused so we are getting a lot of different categories. The tower style of PC case that most people are used to is still going to be there, but for enthusiasts at least, there is more diversification in the market. For the industry as a whole I don’t think our focus is towards either end – it may seem that for the last few years we are more focused on the small form factor, but we are still working pretty hard in trying to create new larger cases. Actually the larger cases take longer to design – we can start a project that lasts a couple of years and eventually scrap it because the market is not ready for it, or has moved on.
IC: We have a lot of users that used to have the desktop but are now migrating to other form factors to either mini-PCs or tablets or laptops. What can SilverStone do to keep the customers and business when the market has ups and downs?
TO: In the past we’ve helped introduce new form factors or push that type of form factor more into the mainstream market and we think we’re pretty good at it. Ever since we started at SilverStone, we pushed HTPC (home theatre) to become more popular that it was previously. We’re doing something similar now with many different form factors – cube cases for example we have pushed more into mainstream and retail markets back in 2005-2006, and mini-ITX cases around 2009. Now it’s focusing on the slim form factor type of steam machine from 2014 (like the Milo ML08 in this build). I think we’re pretty good at trying to create a different look with these machines. We have a lot of system integration customers that build complete PCs so we get inspiration from them as well, turning their ideas into good products.
IC: Is there more focus in SilverStone these days for self-builds and end-users, or system integrators? How about geographical markets?
TO: They’re both very important to us – we have a lot of system integrator partners, but our retail presence is also very strong. Every time we build a new product, both sides are kept in mind. The US still ranks as our number one market right now, with Europe close to it. Japan also factors as a strong single country, with APAC as a whole increasing in importance.
IC: So we invited you onto our second round of the Build-A-Rig project, with a budget of $800 to build a ‘back-to-school’ given that students are now going back to class. How difficult was the budget constraint?
TO: I was very surprised we only had $800 to play with! We’re not a brand known for budget cases and power supplies so it was quite tough. So we had to go for a cheaper CPU for example as a compromise, but the build covers performance and gaming too.
IC: What sort of features should a back-to-school system have?
TO: A system that is fast for Office is a must, so having a CPU very high should help. Most Office applications I guess are not so multi-core heavy. For college students, they might want to do some LAN gaming, so we gave the build a good graphics card for the budget.
IC: For the gaming, do technologies like Windows 10 and DirectX 12 do much for SilverStone?
TO: I hope so! Usually with these changes, some users feel the need to upgrade so hopefully our range of form factors will be considered for new builds.
IC: I want to talk about this case you chose, the Milo ML08B-H. It seems to be a new product SilverStone have been presenting at trade shows in recent months.
TO: Because this is a back-to-school build, I purposely chose a case that has a handle on top for easy carrying. It shares the same internal structure as our Raven RVZ02 which was also recently released. This is considered our second generation slim case design to build on our first one launched last year to very good reviews. The number one feedback we got from customers and system builders was that the case was great for its dimensions but it was a bit difficult to assemble, so this is something we worked on for the second generation. So for users wanting to build a small thin system like this but think it might be too difficult or too fiddly for them, they should be really happy with this case.
IC: You’ve chosen a small form factor 450W Bronze power supply to go with the GTX 960.
TO: Correct – this power supply has been proven to be capable of driving a GTX 970 plus a high end CPU, so we have no worries here. You guys are overclocking, right?
IC: Well you’ve chosen an overclocking processor, but an H-series motherboard.
TO: The H97 motherboards will allow CPU overclocking, so I’m hoping you guys will do that!
IC: Will the SilverStone Argon AR06 handle some overclocking?
TO: So that CPU cooler is good for up to about 86W, so there should be some headroom with both the CPU and an overclock to around 4.0 GHz. It will be interesting to see your results!
IC: So you’ve clearly outfitted this system for gaming in mind. Are you a gamer? What games do you play?
TO: Like most people my age, I don’t have that much time to play games these days with two children who are both very small to look after! I used to be a big racing game fan, but I had to sell my setup which included a racing seat, wheel and pedals before my second child was born. While not on the PC I was a big fan of Gran Turismo. I haven’t actually had a chance to play the latest one – I bought it but had to sell it without even opening it. But with Gran Turismo 5, I enjoyed the handling of the Ferrari 458.
IC: So to finish – if you had half of the Build-A-Rig budget ($400) to spend on upgrades in twelve months, what would you consider?
TO: I would guess the CPU would be the first thing, depending on what is the mainstream on the market at that point, followed by a bigger GPU. Everything else should stand up well over the year – the case and power supply should last a lot longer than that!