Today we are interviewing Alvin Chan, Product Development Manager from Antec, gives us his take on why Japanese capacitors are the only choice for him, the importance of energy efficiency in 2015 and where the market will be heading next.
Established in 1986, Antec has been a favourite with enthusiasts for many years.
Step back to the end of 2006 and every LAN party was guaranteed to be full of systems built into the legendary Antec 900 – with it’s pre-modded lighting and enormous fan in the roof. Some genius R&D derivation process then kicked in at Antec HQ, which led to the launch of the 300 and 1200. At that time, the company was equally famous for its gorgeous HTPC products, under the ‘Fusion’ brand.
We mention Fusion for a very specific reason.
Antec was one of the first companies to give focus to the idea of efficiency with power supplies and anyone who bought a Fusion HTPC chassis was likely to have found themselves the proud owner of an ‘Earth Watts’ or ‘HE’ (High Efficiency) PSU as well.
When the chance came up to chat with Alvin, we were very interested. What has Antec been doing in the PSU market?
KG: Antec recently launched the HCP-Platinum PSU series and the gold-certified EDGE series – how would you describe nowadays challenges in designing high-end power supplies and which role do regional regulations, e.g. for power consumption play?
AC: Antec has invested a lot of R&D resources into developing a number of high-end PSU series products. For example the HCP-Platinum and the our brand new EDGE series.
We are aiming to provide perfect products for Overclockers and enthusiasts. We want them to use Antec PSUs to break world records. It’s that simple. You should see what happens when a world-class overclocker links four of our HCP-1300 Platinum PSUs together with OC Link.
Synchronising four PSUs with that much power is not easy, you can face output timing issues etc, but the Antec HCP-Platinum series are totally stable when linked. Perfect for delivering maximum power throughput.
Here is Alvin’s relaxed selfie from Taiwan
KG: 1300w Power supplies is DEFINITELY what we call ‘serious power’. But that is what you have ‘today’. How does Antec prepare PSUs for future components’ needs?
AC: To predict the future, you must have a strong relationship with Intel, AMD and nVidia – to understand their upcoming roadmaps. Then you need to understand all of the regional differences – the kind of PSU that is right for central America might not be right for central Europe. It helps that our production partner is Delta Electronic, the world’s largest manufacturer in this market – and we are their only partner for the PC market. That’s a huge advantage and really helped us deliver annual revenues over $200 million.
Right now, our products are hand-assembled, but Delta has made huge investment into automated production lines and we will soon be announcing a new series that has been fully assembled by robots. We are aiming to achieve the highest performance and quality possible, but with great value at the same time, and this new range can help us achieve that.
KG: Please explain the Circuit Shield Technology and why no user should be without it.
AC: Circuit Shield Technology is a fully functional PSU protection circuit. It is industrial level PSU protection that not only protects your system from external issues like high AV voltage impact or temperature problems – it also protects components from each other within your machine.
KG: Can you describe the process of developing a new PSU line? When do you choose a production partner?
AC: The Antec PSU development team has a large array of testing equipment in our test lab, so R&D can easily analyze the components and PSU circuit internally. This is a big advantage. We have a world-class product research team that designs the supply itself and then liaises closely with our production partner to make sure that our vision is delivered to market.
Right now, we are ready to release a brand new PSU topology. For a project of this magnitude, we need to evaluate several partners. Each will be invited down to meet with our product management and R&D teams. We will run through our idea and make sure that each potential partner states the quality level they are able to offer – to minimise the possibility of failure for our customers.
Once we have found the right partner, we sit down and work out the EVT (Engineering Verification Tests), DVT (Design Verification Tests), PVT (Product Versification Tests) and a schedule for Mass Production. Once that has been laid down, we accept no variation. That is how we achieve the highest quality possible.
KG: Has the market for PSUs become more difficult and why?
AC: It is harder because so many companies launch power supplies with what we call ‘tick box marketing’. Antec uses high quality components and does extensive testing to ensure safe delivery of high wattage with continuous output. So many companies operate without a proper technical team, procedures or the equipment needed to deliver quality. They are happy to put stickers on the packaging – claiming all sort of features and standards – but it is false.
When you see a multi-award winning power supply from Antec at a certain price, then a low-cost Chinese copy says that it offers all of the same features at half the price, you know something is wrong. It’s not possible and it’s dangerous. We only work with premium partners to deliver first class PSUs with honest branding and reasonable price. That is the benefit we bring to Antec’s fan base.
KG: Are users really becoming more conscious about saving energy or is the whole thing more of a marketing claim?
AC: Users definitely care about energy saving! Over the past 10 years, users are becoming more and more aware that the price of electricity is going up as supply is constricted. Global warming is also an issue and you can see from the number of electric and hybrid cars being released. At Antec, we believe that it’s our responsibility to improve the situation, by bringing high energy saving products to market. We are dedicated to staying ahead of the latest ErP regulations.
KG: PSU vendors often emphasise the usage of Japanese capacitors – what makes these better than others?
AC: Japan is the leading nation for capacitor manufacturing and material technology. In addition, Japan makes the best aluminum foil in the world, but refuses to sell that foil to Taiwan or China. The reason is simple, because Japan wants to protect its own industry.
At the same time, the quality of Japanese capacitor manufacturers is unmatched, because they are very strict when it comes to ensuring specifications are matched. You can always trust that they will deliver. In order of quality, the capacitors call into these groups: Tantalum > Solid > Japanese Electrolytic > Taiwanese Electrolytic >>>>> Chinese Electrolytic.
KG: We have seen trends like Bitcoin Mining over the last couple of years – has this trend died? What’s the next big thing?
AC: Bitcoin Mining is still a factor, but no where near as strong as it was at the end of 2013. Some retailers are taking Bitcoin, so it will stay around, but the days of major mining are probably behind us.
KG: Antec’s OC Link Technology seems to allow two HCP PSUs to work in tandem for more demanding system. What kind of user needs that technology?
AC: OC Link Technology is a safe way to connect two PSUs to work together for something like a serious Bitcoin Mining machine and extreme liquid nitrogen overclocking systems. Some of our overclocking clients modify these to allow up to four HCP-1300 Platinum PSUs to work together in order to smash world records.
KG: Finally, which trends do you predict for the hardware sector in the next few years?
AC: By Computex 2015, in Taipei in June, you will see serious competition in the 80Plus Titanium category from every PSU manufacturer – and we hope to be standing at the front.
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KitGuru Says: Thanks to Alvin Chan from Antec for speaking with us.