ABIT Interview

Article

posted 4/21/2004 by John Yan
other articles by John Yan
ABIT's a company that has a great reputation with enthusiasts and some sweet products. Today we get to talk some shop with Lester Lau of ABIT.

Gaming Nexus:Tell us a little about your role at ABIT and your history with the company.

Lester Lau:I started with ABIT in 2001 as a PR Specialist, which had me interacting with hardware media and end users on a daily basis. Working in this role was great, because it allowed me to get a true feel for what people look for and appreciate in ABIT products. Being a bit of a tech head myself, it was fun discussing the latest and greatest in hardware with people with similar interests.

Now, I'm the Brand Manager for ABITGamer.com, a new online community for gamers around the world. I basically oversee all of ABIT's efforts in gaming and the gaming community. This involves the creation of the ABITGamer.com website, bringing game servers onto that site, partnering with gaming teams from around the world and organizing the world-wide gaming contest ACON4 with our partners Intel, ATI, Kingston and Western Digital.




Gaming Nexus:What do you think sets ABIT apart from the rest of the hardware manufacturers out there?

Lester Lau:I think the one thing that amazes me to this very day is the little things that ABIT engineers incorporate into their products that make our lives easier, and our PC experience better. I remember way back in the day, a Celeron 300A coupled with an ABIT BH6 was truly the only way to go hardware wise. The reason? ABIT's venerable SoftMenu that allowed us to overclock without jumpers. Now, with things like µGuru, we don't even have to do things like that in BIOS if we don't want to! Working for a company like ABIT that is this focused on the user experience is fun to say the least. I’d have to say that at ABIT when we say we are Built for Gamers, By Gamers, it is really that way and not some corporate bulls**t.


Gaming Nexus:The ABIT name is synonymous with high quality motherboards. What are some of the factors do you think have attributed to your success?

Lester Lau:ABIT has always put the user first in all of its decisions. Last year, a number of websites reported that many motherboards from numerous manufacturers which utilized capacitors made out of China were experiencing problems with leakage, But instead of just dodging or ignoring the issue, ABIT was one of only two manufacturers (IBM was the other one) to acknowledge the issue and make strides to rectify the problem. Although they cost several times more than regular capacitors, we now only use Japanese-made capacitors on all of our ABIT-branded motherboards. Things like this make me proud to work at a company like ABIT. Our latest effort is BulletProof Technology, which brings testing of components and stress testing to much higher levels. Our ABIT Approved Program will test as many components we can get our hands on and recommend components that ABIT users should be buying and those they should avoid. The Torture Test is a stability test with one major difference from those stability tests existing today – this test is designed to have most motherboards fail. How do we ensure ABIT boards pass each and every time? We start running this test in the design stage. If the early board is not passing, it is completely redesigned in order to ensure a PASS on the Torture Test while others will FAIL.


Gaming Nexus:You've moved into the video card area with great success. The original OTES cooling system was pretty original to the ABIT line. And an OTES cooling setup appears on motherboards as well. What can we expect to be the next innovation from ABIT?

Lester Lau:ABIT engineers are a smart bunch. It never ceases to amaze me what kinds of stuff these guys cook up at the ABIT labs.

Power users love ABIT for the range of control over the system that we are able to provide. The next step will be to make some of these more advanced features accessible to the computer novice. You can already see it with µGuru, and the way updating the BIOS, which is traditionally a more complex task, has been transformed into a simple mouse click with FlashMenu. Of course, we will continue to cater to our core audience of more experienced users by making products that put the power in their hands.


Gaming Nexus:Along the lines of moving into new areas, you recently introduced a small form factor PC. How is that doing and should we expect more small form factors?

Lester Lau:DigiDice is definitely a change from the traditional small form factor PC. It seems that most manufacturers are more focused on size than functionality. Users appreciate the fact that DigiDice is the only small form factor PC that provides two 5-1/4" and two 3-1/2" bays for expansion, while remaining small enough to fit into a living room or carry to a LAN party. This balance of function and form is working well for us, and expect more small form factors in the months to come.


Gaming Nexus:Are there other areas you'd like to see ABIT expand to?

Lester Lau:I would like to see ABIT put even more emphasis on the burgeoning gaming market. I believe that most of our users overclock in the first place to get those few extra frames in Far Cry. So, making more products that cater to this group in particular seems like a natural step. Of course, being a gamer myself, I may be a little biased. :)

Also look for ABIT’s launch of our Fatal1ty line of products at E3. Jonathan ‘Fatal1ty’ Wendel has won CPL 3 years running. He worked directly with our engineers to produce a kick-ass gaming board. Like I said, when we say Built for Gamers By Gamers, we really mean it.


Gaming Nexus:How has the move to producing ATI cards been?

Lester Lau:Working with ATI has been great for us. Generally, only one company has produced ATI cards with all companies simply putting their own sticker somewhere on that board – hence the similar look to all ATI cards. At ABIT, we design and manufacture ATI cards ourselves. By doing so, we feel we provide a stronger, faster card. We know Fast. We know Durable. We one of the only companies that are able to do our own unique design, so expect some ABIT Engineered ATI cards in the very near future.

Besides adding their VGA cards to the mix, we've also begun to collaborate on some other projects, such as the ACON4 Global Gaming Contest. We've got qualifiers happening around the world in over 20 countries and territories. By working with great companies like ATI, Intel, Kingston, and Western Digital, we are able to put over $150,000 in cash and prizes up for grabs.


Gaming Nexus:Not much press seems to go into the audio, server, and workstation products. Can you talk a little bit about those and what ABIT has to offer and some products you'd like to bring some attention to?

Lester Lau:We've backed off from the audio products as of late, and instead have diverted our efforts to our core offerings of motherboards and graphic cards. The server and workstation products don't get a lot of press simply because they are offered to businesses and OEMs. ABIT's core audience has always been with end users. In fact, over 85% of our business is through the retail channel, which explains why in the end, ABIT products tend to be more focused on the end user.


Gaming Nexus:What products have been your best sellers so far?

Lester Lau:Motherboards by far make up the bulk of our business, but VGA cards have been ramping up over the past 18 months as well. I don't think that they will overtake motherboards in sheer volume, but their growth has been astounding. Making high quality, innovative VGA products will continue to be a focus for ABIT. On the mobo side, the IC7-MAX3 has been the biggest selling Intel 875P-based motherboard since it became available last August. It still remains the fastest, most stable board available for gamers. On the AMD side, our NF7 Series has been the first choice of gamers for more than a year now and does not look like that will change anytime soon.


Gaming Nexus:Of all the products that ABIT has to offer, what are some of your favorites and why?

Lester Lau:One of my favorites has to be GF3 Ti200 card we made that was one of the very first to feature our OTES cooling technology. When I saw that bad boy in the lab, I was like, "Holy, what the heck is that?" The engineers just grinned at me. It was a great moment.

When I first got into PCs, my board was the ABIT BH6, so that has to be one of my favorites as well. Right now, my personal gaming rig is the IC7-MAX3 with an ABIT ATI 9800XT card. I also chose Kingston HyperX DDR, Western Digital Raptor HDs, and a Lian Li mid-tower.


Gaming Nexus:Where do you see the future of your industry heading to? What are some new technologies you are excited about?

Lester Lau:The future of the motherboard industry looks bright with the boatload of brand new technologies just on the horizon. I'm excited to see what things like PCI-Express and DDR2 will do for gamers. With hardware-intensive games like Half-Life 2 and Doom 3 coming up, it's good to see ABIT delivering the goods to power the next generation of games.

A lot of people are questioning the new technology coming out and asking if it really brings that much improved performance to your system. The answer is a definite Yes. This is an exciting time for PCs and gaming. We are going to see gaming get only better. Far Cry has given us a look at where gaming is going and HL2 and Doom 3 will continue that.



I'd like to thank Lester Lau for taking time to do our interview.