Keeping up with the Phoboses.
The folks at BFG Tech–and yes, the name means exactly what you think it does–have apparently decided that the sleek, sexy PS3 should no longer be the 'media center-piece' of the living room (as it strives to be). In fact, they think that lofty place should be the domain of their forthcoming game/media monster–the all-around, home theater/digital entertainment center and high-performance game PC called Phobos. Be warned that this one is out for nothing less than your ever-loving, geeky soul—front panel touch screen LCD display, hyper-slick black gloss finish, one-touch overclocking, 7.1 Surround Sound standard on all units, liquid cooling, and red-carpet, to-your-door “Concierge” setup/maintenance service (including free follow-up driver update and system cleaning visits).
Just who do these people think they are? What are they all about? And what can they offer to gamers that we don't already have? Check out our chat with BFG Senior Director of Marketing John Malley… and prepare your living room/wallet/spouse/social life for the coming of Phobos.
Chris Hudak: First off, “BFG”, you're gonna use that name for a tech venture, it's pretty obvious–you're gonna do it to resonate with gamers. We all know, or like to believe we know, what it stands for… but it'll warm the cockles of our reader's hearts to hear a company man step up and say it!
John Malley: My pleasure! Any PC gamer worth his or her frame-rates knows BFG stands for BIG F$%KING GUN!
Ah, man…that felt good.
CH: When we recently talked with [Terminator Salvation Director] McG, we grilled him on his directorial, filmmaking influences; ditto for some of the Imagineers at Disney and their thoughts on 'entertainment space'. Can you talk about the “BFG philosophy” on what a gaming, theatrical rig should do and be? (Use the back of the Internet if necessary.)
JM: I was on (in?) the back of the internet for the first time about a month ago, and I was rather disappointed. There’s all sorts of wires going nowhere, a couple of left shoes, a weird guy that looks like David Bowie, and an unidentifiable smell. So I’ll stay up front here and tell you why we decided to produce Phobos.
I think our core philosophy is summed up nicely in the tagline, “Refined Aesthetics, Unbelievable Performance, Concierge Service”. The system should look good, be at the top of the food chain in terms of performance, and come with service and support that no one else can offer.
First off, we wanted to make a system that didn’t have a flashy case with lights, or a loud paint job, so we kept the all-aluminum chassis clean and slick aesthetically. Second, we’ve built a really high performance system that uses the fastest components, has maintenance-free liquid cooling on the CPU and graphics cards, and one-touch overclocking of the CPU and GPUs via the LCD touch screen. And last but not least, we have Concierge Service, where we install the system in your residence and come back to update drivers and clean the rig free of charge. Plus having Blu-ray, HDMI, 7.1 surround sound and Media Center, Phobos can be in your living room and you can not only watch all your videos and TV, you can PC game with a mouse and keyboard (as gaming was meant to be) on your lush HDTV right from the comfort of your couch.
CH: Your new Phobos line packs your BFG Tech graphics cards, Intel processors, and liquid-cooling—already well into serious-rig territory. What would you consider some of its unsung (or at least, lesser-sung) qualities? Which groups of users will benefit the most, if they go with Phobos?
JM: Out of all the innovative features, the one we are most excited about is the one-touch overclocking of the CPU and graphics cards. No one else offers this extremely convenient way to safely overclock both the processor and graphics chipsets at the same time with the simple touch of a button.
This feature is part of the “Performance Control” on the LCD. From here, you can change between “Auto”, “Quiet”, and “Max” modes on the fly. So if you are in the middle of a game and want to crank up your frame-rate, you simply press “Max” and the system fans will increase speed up, and the processor and graphics cards will immediately overclock to give you a boost in performance. If you want to watch a Blu-ray disc, press “Quiet” and the system fans will slow down and the CPU goes back to “normal” and GPUs will be set to low-power mode to make Phobos as quiet and energy-efficient as possible.
As far as which group of users will benefit the most, we designed Phobos for customers who want all of the performance of a unique high end system without any of the hassle of doing it themselves. Phobos is not a system for do-it-yourselfers. We are targeting customers that don’t have the time, desire, or expertise to build or maintain a high-end system. Plus we’ve added quite a few key features that make Phobos a highly customized/optimized system that you really can’t build yourself. Best of all, we’ve managed to provide all these cool features and services at prices that are right in line with other pre-built systems that don’t have them.
CH: What's all this about your 'Concierge' service? It seems like every other week a tech company yammers on about its top-shelf customer support… so what makes yours a standout option for the understandably-gunshy potential customers out there?
JM: We have a pretty good reputation from our graphics card and power supply products as being a company that takes care of our customers, and we wanted to establish at least that same level of customer respect and service for Phobos. For example, each Phobos customer will be assigned one of our senior support representatives who will provide personalized service throughout every step of the Phobos experience.
Most boutique system builders are content to ship your system and let you install it yourself. We felt that the type of customer who wants a pre-built high performance system would probably appreciate not having to set it up or maintain it. We have 2500 expert installation technicians ready to install Phobos in any zip code in the contiguous United States, and we’re working on bringing this service to the UK. And as part of our post-sale support after installation, our technician will come back out to your home to update your system drivers and clean Phobos for you, all at no extra charge.
CH: One paragraph, no 'bloviating': How did you, personally, come to your present involvement with BFG–and what, exactly, will make you stay?
JM: “Bloviating”, nice vocab! I had to look that one up. Short answer: Please refer to the rules of fight club.
CH: Over the years, the two classic chip rivalries have been Intel vs AMD, and Nvidia vs Radeon. How do you see the future of this battle unfolding? Will there ever be room for a third player?
JM: While I can’t predict the outcome of these battles, I certainly know competition and rivalries are good for everyone. It’s good for the companies to push each other to be more innovative and quicker to market, and it’s good for consumers who benefit from the innovation and inevitable cost reductions.
CH: We've all gotten burned, whether monetarily or emotionally, on some forthcoming, high-end product that wasn't what it was supposed to be. Gamers figuratively (sometimes literally) live or die by their gear; has there ever been a tech product roll-out that disappointed you in a memorable way, or that croaked before its time, and how have you been able to apply the lesson learned towards the betterment of BFG? Name names, please–and show no recollective mercy!
JM: I’ve certainly had my fair share of post-purchase distress over the years. When my PSP was recently stolen by a maintenance guy at my apartment (I can’t prove it but it wasn’t where I left it the day after my toilet was repaired), I got a new one, and was struck by how cheaply the new one was built. Still works, but I still feel cheated somehow.
I also jumped into the whole netbook fad too early and got one with a keypad built for squirrel fingers, sigh. So it’s these types of frustrating personal consumer experiences that have helped us at BFG do everything in our power to not only offer really solidly built, high-quality hardware, but back it up with service and support that we would like to receive as customers. To us, providing awesome customer service is just as important as providing great hardware—the two go together.
CH: From how early on in the process–and to what degree–was the style and physical presence of the Phobos unit a key aspect? Are you deliberately trying to kick the sleek black PS3 out of the center of the living room?
JM: From the very beginning, we wanted our case to look sleek and sexy—more like a new black Ferrari than a tricked-out street racer. We think the people who are interested in a high-end gaming / home theater system like Phobos will appreciate that there aren’t flashing lights and green-glowing liquid, and I’d like to think their significant others would agree.
CH: Do you feel any remorse at all about personally contributing to the rise of Skynet? Dude–whose side are you on, anyway?
JM: Remorse? I’m not progr… this interview is officially OVER!