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Exclusive interview with Andrew Wu from Republic of Gamers

On Thursday 30th June 2011, the Asus Republic of Gaming (ROG) gurus will be hosting a special overclocking event at a secret London location. KitGuru was lucky enough to catch up with one of the ROG elite, Andrew Wu, who spends 365 days a year dreaming of new ways to make the ROG mainboards better. Wireless connection firmly established, it was game on.

“This event will be very special”, said Andrew with a grin. “We will have some great overclockers, support from partners and the very best Republic of Gamers technology on show”.

Sounds good, but let’s have a little background shall we?

At college, Andrew spent all his time studying Civil Engineering so that he could, one day, build his dream house. That idea disappeared the moment he was offered the chance to work with the crack team of hardware and software engineers that create ROG for Asus. The latest ROG Gene mainboard was examined first by the KitGuru Lab and you can read about it here. If you wanted to see how all of the ROG content stacks up, then try this link. Let’s be honest, when the world’s top mainboard producers want +30 pages of independent, in-depth, expert opinion – they know where to go.

Nice chap Andrew Wu in front of a very dodgy looking car. Photochopped number plate or what?

He joined in 2007 and his first project was the original Gene board. We asked him about this.

“While DFI was probably the first company to attempt to create high-end mainboards for gamers, no one else has the resources that we have at Asus”, explained Andrew.

“More than anything, we had to educate people that size and price are completely independent”, he said. “Often, when you try to make products smaller, you actually need to use higher quality components and spend more time on researching the best board layout”.

This focus on quality, flexibility and stability are crucial for both ROG’s markets. More about that over here.

“For overclockers, we want them to be able to set world records – and they do. For gamers, we want to give them the best experience possible, with simple tools that allow for automatic overclocking configurations – without too much specialist knowledge”, he explained. “All of the products we create in the ROG team are designed to be the best available in the market”.

In ROG's presentation, Andrew discusses on-going improvements in hardware and control, which means Asus-using enthusiasts have been able to set more individual records - and a whole heap more world records - than their competitors.

Given that Bulldozer and X79 are both around the corner, we asked about the size of the relative markets.

“We can’t share specific details,” said Andrew. “But I can tell you that demand for our CrossHair boards is surprisingly stable, while demand for Intel can vary a lot – depending on the launches”.

Some decisions must be pretty straightforward, like choosing the black and red colouring for heatsinks. On the other hand, some decisions will be much tougher.

Even engineers are children at heart. Andrew's favourite ROG product? He really loves the shape and colour of the heatsinks.

We asked Andrew which part of designing and delivering a next-generation ROG mainboard caused the most work. Which bit is hardest?

“Easy”, he replied. “Configuring PCI Express”.

How so?

“Most gamers will use a single GPU or maybe add a second,” he explained. “The NF200 controller can handle that easily, but we still use a unique blend of electronics to ensure minimum pressure is placed on the unit”.

“When you are a third card, for Tri-SLi, then things get a bit more complicated and for Quad SLi you have no option but to add a second NF200”.

“All of this requires a lot of planning, testing and configuring to get the best possible performance” he said.

Is it worth it?

Well, in the Asus presentation, they quote some specific numbers. We’ll share the most important facts with you here:-

  • While NF200 does give you the possibility to create a 4-card system(dual NF200), when used with a single or dual VGA card, performance can drop by anywhere from 2% to 5%. Now that is a significant number
  • As a result, Asus uses fast, native controllers until it’s absolutely necessary to move over to an NF200 solution
While the NF200 does provide some useful features, overall it makes things slower. Asus works around it where possible

That attention to detail goes throughout the product range. How does it manifest itself? Well, as Andrew explains, “The Republic of Gamers thermal test process is up to 5% stronger than with a regular Asus mainboard and we also test at very low temperatures using LN2 – to make sure everything works perfectly under extreme pressure”.

OK, that’s a lot of claims, but the most honest way for people to vote is with their wallets. Do sales of high-end Asus products back that up? Well, according to a quote Andrew is using from HWBot in June 2011, almost exactly 50% of the world’s gamers choose Asus – with the Rampage editions coming top of the list. You can’t say fairer than that.

Before heading off for his next meeting, Andrew wanted to make one last point about the popularity of ROG products.

“Other companies try to make super mainboards, but often they make it super sized”, he said. “Oversized XL-type boards, where the dimensions could be 34.5cm by 26.2cm, will render most PC cases unsuitable”.

We found that at KitGuru with the EVGA Classification boards. While they were undoubtedly packed with features, only a very small group of chassis could house them properly.

Andrew believes that because the ROG team is the best in the industry, they are able to fit more into a smaller space than any of their competitors. He has some simple diagrams to explain the issue.

It's the motion of the ocean not the size of the wave - ROG sells to the largest possible market, by keeping the design compact.

The event will be supported by AData and Thermaltake, it will put some serious pressure on the components available and we’ll send Andrew some follow up questions after to see how it was all received by the O/C professionals.

We’ll leave you with a little story board from ROG. This compilation of shots, shows how they started with the wings of a comic book super hero and then extrapolated that design element across the whole range – with an element of crystal explosion/stealth aircraft design thrown in for good measure.

Once you see the cartoon villain's eye, the hero's wingtips and the crystaline design etc - the ROG style becomes clear

KitGuru says: Looking at Zardon’s exclusive review of the most recent ROG Gene mainboard, you’re left in little doubt that this is the work of one of the best mainboard teams the world has ever seen. We’re not sure if anyone else can rise to the challenge set by ROG, but it will be fun watching.

Comment below or in the KitGuru forum.

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