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XFX - ATI Launch Interview


by Stuart Davidson - 17th Feb 2009
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Cy Brown - Vice President of Sales (XFX Europe)


DriverHeaven: Hi Cy thanks for taking the time to talk to us today. How are things going for you so far in 2009?

Cy: You are welcome it’s, a pleasure to speak with the DH Team, well 2009 so far has gone off with a real bang! As you can imagine with our significant increase in product offerings it really has been keeping us all very busy, everything is at full throttle right now.

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DriverHeaven: Let’s get straight to business, can you give us a little breakdown on the changes inside the company with the recent move to also supporting ATI graphics cards?

Cy: As anyone knowing the history of XFX We have been building Graphics cards for many years now, from the times of the ISA Bus and we have worked with every major graphics chip company over the years. During this time we have seen the GPU advance exponentially into an integral part of most computing platforms - So we have always embraced new technology and tried to be reflective of market demand as a whole and will continue to do so the consumer wanted more choice from XFX and we have delivered.

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DriverHeaven: Was this a difficult process? Dealing with both ATI and Nvidia must prove rather tricky at times?

Cy: At XFX we have always embraced a challenge, and in recent times we have stepped into the Motherboard manufacturing business again as well, from this we have learnt so much already - the decision to expand our graphics offering meant we needed to study how we do things and in some cases why we do things - From the top down this meant some very constructive analysis of our processes and work flow - Especially in R&D. As we are well known for factory Over-clocking cards we really needed to get the basics right to be able to step up to the XXX platform and beyond. I am pleased to say from go we have managed this.

However something to keep in mind when NVidia launch a new model that typically means we launch around 12-16 models wrapped around one GPU this represents overclocked models, specific models for markets such as Japan and South America, In Europe this means around 4 models for each GPU.  As you will all have noticed the GPU lifecycle recently in many ways has so quickly been superseded by the next more powerful model, this cycle has far surpassed more static technology such as CPU’s or Hardrive technology - In a nutshell what I am saying is at XFX launching a new range of models in itself is not such a huge challenge as we are doing this every few months and sometimes even less - However the challenge as we saw it was in many ways learning a whole new GPU language, that of ATI - however as with most things you can find the parable that crosses over whether NV or ATI there is a common interpretation.

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DriverHeaven: To reassure your current Nvidia customers, I am guessing XFX are employing more staff now to deal with both ranges of hardware development and support?

Cy: We immediately made a separation between our NV development teams and our ATI development team - Over the last few years we employed a lot of talent, much of that talent has been under utilised - Now we get to maximise our engineers in ways we could not before with some impactive redeployment.  In these uncertain economic times most companies have focused on downsizing their existing R&D teams, however at XFX we have always believed that investing in new technology on the down times ensures we can upscale when the markets expand again.  We are also a big investor in people internally and we have many young engineers that have been nurtured in the XFX environment that have been involved in our training schemes and are rising through the ranks and now increasing our head count in the R&D departments.  So we are more than covered in every area whether it is NV, ATI or representative of our motherboard business.

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DriverHeaven: You guys have your own fabrication plant in the far east right? What benefits does this give you over your competitors?

Cy: XFX has always been a TRUE manufacturer, our custom built facility comprises of multiple lines of the latest SMT technology and a highly qualified labourforce. Infact in the last 6 months we just added a new factory in Brazil to increase our manufacturing base and to meet local geographical manufacturing needs. Having this invaluable resource has been a key factor in the rise of XFX from our humble roots of building IO cards and then soundcards to where we are today building hundreds of thousands of products every month.

Having our own custom facilities means we are the master of our destinies we are not just a marketing company repackaging a generic graphics product, we design it, we build it, we market it, we ship it and we sell it! To be competitive for the longterm in this highly competitive business you need to be able to innovate and just as importantly respond and scale to the market, especially in the current market this is more relevant then ever - we have the ability to make a 180 degree turn at any moment, our structure allows us to do this, we are not too big or too small or in today’s case to wide in other words.

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DriverHeaven: Does the same principle of XXX branding carry across to the ATI range of cards?

Cy: Absolutely!  We are incredibly passionate about adding value and differentiation to the ATI proposition as we have delivered this for years on the Nvidia proposition - The customers wanted it and we agreed there is so much more that can be done when producing an ATI graphics card - We have never been about just ticking the boxes we are all about breaking the boxes and making them into something out of ordinary - At the same time we want to deliver to them simply the best graphics card for their budget and for their requirement, be it raw performance for work or for play - The beauty of an overclocked card is that it really does add value with increased performance, quite often people can not afford to go to the higher end GPU what buying an XFX OC card does is this takes you that much closer to the next GPU up without having to pay the considerable increase in price, this is the win in many cases.  Things like XXX and Black Edition for XFX are in many ways our brands within a brand this give us huge crossover utilisation.

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DriverHeaven: Are there any differences in terms of hardware between XFX branded Radeons and reference design cards?

Cy: I am glad you asked this, at XFX we feel it important to work on the overall aesthetics of everything we manufacture - We want all users of our products to be able to definitively say “That is an XFX product” So the first thing you will notice is that we have ensured our full ATI lineup is built on our Black PCB designs (This black colour believe it or not is extremely hard to produce this is why most manufacturers use standard PCB colours)  added to this are Red DVI and VGA connectors - Which gives the card a stunning outlook from whichever way you look at it. 

Further to this we are already using some custom cooling solutions and importantly of course many of our XFX customers will not be expecting anything along the lines of ordinary or run of the mill from XFX - So as not to disappoint our fans we are committed to maintaining their high expectations and yes they can already see we are delivering cards that have undergone the full XFX treatment from our resident XFX-perts and Graphics Masters and can buy our signature “XXX” branded and factory over clocked  warranted products - bringing a little of our magic to the ATI proposition backed up by our 5-Star service and support

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DriverHeaven: We are hearing wonderful things about your upcoming ‘X’ shaped boxes. Can you explain the manufacturing process a little?

Cy: It seems like a quite a long time ago now when we first conceived the award winning X-shape packaging design - We effectively turned conventional packaging on it head, we really thought why should every thing have to be in a square box?  Retail is a very important part of our business and to stand out in retail quite often means doing things differently.  So innovation is so important, the new X-shape design we have conceived really perfects many areas we wanted to address in the old design, being messaging and versatility - I do not want to give to much away right now but origami comes to mind, you guys really need to have one of our new boxes in your hand to understand what I mean!  This design really is taking packaging to a new level.

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DriverHeaven: Who do you see as your main competitor in the ATI market?

Cy: We see all manufacturers as competition, some do it better than others - We have not come into this business from the entry level, we see this business as a premium business - We never do anything by halves and all the benefits we offer in the rest of our business are immediately available with our ATI offering - Our competition knows who they are, and they know XFX has entered the game.

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DriverHeaven: Are there any plans to brand out into other ATI related areas? For example XFX branded motherboards with onboard Radeon graphics?

Cy: Our motherboard offering already offers Intel and NV offerings, naturally it makes sense to branch further - Right now I cannot confirm or deny we will expand our range, however we are looking closely at what is available and more importantly what is on the horizon, so far the Dragon Platform looks impressive.

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DriverHeaven: Your support system is very localized. Can you explain to us the benefits of this for your customers?

Cy: As a multinational company trading in many countries in Europe, our platform enables us to offer real support, by real people in multiple languages.  We encourage every customer of XFX to register their product via. our support website accessible from our home page as early as they can, as this opens up a huge range of benefits for the health and support of XFX products. We currently actively support English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Spanish, Polish, Russian  and more in Europe.

We offer what we refer to as our 5-Star support service, most companies follow the “support-as-an-afterthought” a basic fix it, if it is broken doctrine - At XFX our support process begins at the manufacturing process and is threaded into every step there afterwards.  Our XFXperts (as we like to call them!) know everything about your card, because it has been tracked since its first moments in our factories and everywhere it goes thereafter, that’s why we can provide you with immediate answers for your specific products through our “Support Central” the last piece of the jigsaw is the consumer registration. 

Some of the features and benefits to registering are: • Forget wading through pages of irrelevant information, Support Central takes you directly to your registered product files.

• Support Files. Our comprehensive serial number tracking system gets you the exact product revision you need for your specific card.
• Message Boards. Find the latest product announcements and driver information here.
• Live Help. Real technicians in real time provide real answers. And, your session is saved along with your profile in case you need further assistance or a service ticket.
• Ticket System. Speaking of tickets, if you need one, we’ll connect you with one of our technicians through our message board system. Every message gets a response in a timely manner, with no lost or ignored emails.

Our Five-Star Support Has Five-Star Support!
 

• Driver Downloads. The latest isn’t the greatest. We load the drivers that are optimized for the best performance for your specific product. All we need is your serial number and our system does the rest.
• Help Guides. Written by our technical support team, our Help Guides highlight the features and troubleshooting solutions for your specific card series.
• Support: It’s in the Box. Open any XFX box and you’ll find either a door hanger or a card that has your product’s serial number on it. Simply register your product so that when you do have a question, you won’t be hunting for a serial number. Our XFX Driver searches our database for drivers, BIOS and documents specific to your card.
• Multilingual. We speak your language. Whether it’s English, German, Dutch, Russian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian or Chinese, our translation tools enable us to talk with your in your native tongue.
• RMA Handling. Tracks your product throughout the ticket lifecycle.

Five-Stars Plus Five-Stars is a Perfect 10!


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DriverHeaven: Are there any plans to bring your USA lifetime warranty system over to the EU? If not, can you explain why?

Cy: Warranty is an erroneous terminology and can mean many different things depending on what the consumer expects or even needs - The American market is intrinsically different to the market over here, we are governed by many different laws and EU regulations that in many ways dictate what term of warranty can be offered - Firstly the reality is for most people the retailer is usually the first port of call if they have encountered any product difficulties as naturally where you spent your hard earned cash is where most people choose to contact first, and exercise there consumer rights.

However in many countries in Europe you can not legally offer a lifetime warranty, in Germany for example you can offer a maximum of 10 years, any more that that and you would be breaking the law!  In many other countries that we would consider to be emerging markets for example they will never offer more than a years warranty as they do not want to extend any risk.  So the complexity of Europe and the need to offer a uniform warranty that is both applicable and useful to the consumer means our warranty will always be different to the USA, however this means we can service the widest range of customers in the widest range of countries effectively with a service that we will be able to uphold our warranty criteria and promises.

Delivering what we say we will is so important as this is part of what we consider an honest and fair service to all XFX customers, business or consumer.

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DriverHeaven: What other cool products and designs can we expect this year? Obviously we know much of this will be under NDA, but hopefully you can entice our readers as to what XFX are planning?

Cy: At XFX we are always looking at what is next, so 2009 as mentioned at the start began with a bang - This however is only the first salvo, we intend to take ATI to the next level of overclocking as we will soon start to roll out our Black Edition Models, the clocks and designs of this are always kept confidential and only a handful of people are privy to the final specifications - If I told you I would have to kill you!

We are also very much looking forward to the new products that will be launched from ATI this year - We would love to get our teeth into this.

Also we are working on a brand new product that will surprise our customers and at the same time open a up a whole new market for XFX - Hopefully soon I can let you know what this is, and for sure DH readers will be the first to know!

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DriverHeaven: Cy thanks for taking the time to speak to us today, anything else you would like to say to our readers?

Cy: We do acknowledge that we are in uncertain economic times and we do realise that for many customers taking the decision to invest in a new graphics card is a harder choice to justify, however this is where the GPU really is recession proof - A GPU can boost the performance of your PC in a far more realistic way in terms of cost as appose to a new CPU, Hardrive or memory.

Some of the tools that open this up are the dynamic ATI Stream technology that now allows you to accelerate many applications by unlocking the cores in some case hundreds, some exciting developments that are really relevant and adds value is the free transcoding software that allows you rip video in hi-definition to virtually any format this is where investing in new technology and the versatility and value a GPU offers, really comes to the forefront.

Innovation is recession proof as is good design - We live by this ethos at XFX and will drive great graphics technology forward as we see our selves as a true manufacturer and the “Graphics Hub”

So with that note I and XFX  are looking very much forward to upgrading and improving your graphics experience throughout 2009 with an offering that will meet every pocket.

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