Coverage - Published on Monday, 25 April 2005 18:53 Written by Anton Karmehed
Before we move on with the interview we would like to point out that ut us presented exactly as we performed the interview.
[NordicHardware]: Hi Paul and thank you for giving us the opportunity to ask some questions about Corsair and your products. We wonder if you could start with giving us a simple presentation of Corsair and yourself? We have a few specifically interesting points in this regard.
[Paul Watkins]: So, about me…briefly, I have an engineering background…I enterered the DRAM market in 1992, when I joined Micron. Subsequently, I was European Marketing Manager in IBM 's Microelectronics Division for some years, before joining with Corsair. I have been with Corsair since January 2001. I am Corsair's Director of Sales for Europe. I have responsibility for Corsair's European Sales and Marketing operations.
Paul Watkins (Under en dyksemester på Sardinierna)
· Company history?
[Paul Watkins]: Corsair was founded 11 years ago, to design and manufacture high speed cache memory modules for companies like Intel, Dell and Micron. (When Level 2 cache was on the a module, not on the CPU - Who remembers that ?) We've been working to stay at the forefront of high speed module design ever since then.
· Number of manufactured memory modules in Corsairs factory's (monthly). For OEM and retail sales?
[Paul Watkins]: Since we are focussed so heavily on the enthusiast and gaming market, the bulk of what we make is for the retail market. On-line stores like Komplett and Datorbutiken make up a good share of our business in Scandinavia
· How are Corsair's sales figures divided amongst your different products? ( DRAM memory, USB memory, water cooling and so forth)
[Paul Watkins]: Corsair has been in the DRAM industry for a long time. Memory modules still make up the biggest share of our market. We entered into watercooling last year, in order to get educated in the current and future needs of our customer base. Our current offering ( The ‘ COOL ' www.corsairmemory.com/corsair/COOL_water.html ) is our third water cooling product. We are trying to make top-class watercooling kit is available from a mainstream company (us), so enthusiasts can be sure of good service and good availability. We are trying to bring water out of the shadows. I said ‘future' needs, because surpisingly few people are actively using watercooling right now. We expect water to play a huge part in the enthusiast market in a few years. We want to evolve with the market, so that we can bring the same benefits to that market as we did to the memory market, when XMS overclocking memory launched, some years back - I mean reliability, performance, quality, service.
[NordicHardware]: Mostly when you talk about high performance memory modules the discussion is about what memory chips are the best. What memory chips does Corsair use in its product lines?
[Paul Watkins]: We use many several DRAM chips across our product range. For our fastest modules, we test every chip on the market, to find the fastest. We then ensure that it can be made in enough volume to satisfy our customers needs (there's no point having the fastest module in the world, if real people can get hold of it). For example, our 3200XL modules (the ones with 2-2-2-5 timings) use the special die the Samsung produced for Corsair - their TCCD die. For other speed grades, we balance the needs for price, performance - making sure it always meets the guaranteed specification and then see what headroom we can find.
And what are the differences between memory chips that make them perform so differently?
[Paul Watkins]: Most memory chips are designed and manufactured with the primary goal of making companies like Dell happy. This means that they should be cheap and meet the spec that Dell is using at the time. In general, the chip makers try to tune their production to turn out as many just-good-enough chips as possible. (The Dell-likes won't pay more for a chip that goes faster than their spec). So most chips run just-fast-enough. Sometimes, however, a new die rev will have been designed with a different customer in mind; perhaps in telecoms, or perhaps Corsair, as was the case for Samsung's TCCD. We can find any ‘hidden speed' and harness it. Occasionally, a DRAM chip will be designed to be fast enough that it can be tweaked, at a later date, to meet future speed grades. So, even though the chip maker only tests it to, say, PC3200, we can test it again to find parts that will run faster.
[NordicHardware]: If we look beyond the memory chips we have the PCB (Printed Circuit Board) or the module it self. How important is a high quality PCB for enthusiast memory that often is stressed to their limits?
[Paul Watkins]: It is very important for reliability and stability (as well as performance). The PCB is the foundation upon which the module reliability, compatibility and stability are based. A high quality PCB will contain sufficient power and ground planes to adequately perform at high speeds. It will have matched trace lengths ensuring reliable signal timings (the connection wires that run across the PCB have to be carefully measured and controlled, to avoid deterioration of the signal on the module). It will also have thick layers of gold on the pins, to ensure good connection and signal integrity in the socket (rather than having a thin layer of gold ‘sputtered' on - a kind of electrical spraying technique). Corsair prides itself on the quality of it's PCB design and manufacture - this is what our reputation for reliability is built on.
It's also possible to sometimes get a PCB design that gives significant performance boosts, compared to the norm. There is one such case right now.
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