Computex 2011: ASRock HQ Tour and Boothby Ian Cutress on June 12, 2011 2:00 AM EST
The visit to ASRock was more like I would expect when visiting such a place – I was only allowed to take pictures in certain areas, such as the main offices, but not in places such as the new product development, or regarding product testing. It was all fairly open plan – the design and testing employees were all within earshot of one another, or a short walk down the corridor.
The first thing that struck me was a wall of motherboards:
I was told that these are products for testing and future reference. As with any major manufacturer of any sort of business, knowing your competitors product is vital in predicting what will come out next and what your product needs to have the competitive edge. ASRock are no different: there were various other manufacturers products dotted over all the desks – particularly GPUs as ASRock do not currently make their own.
Testbeds were built using design PCBs with nothing attached, which is a good idea if you have plenty laying around. Whilst walking through, I had a sense that the engineering section, in terms of cleanliness, was less polished – lots of space was taken up with motherboards for testing or motherboards for shipping, and the filing system seemed to consist of ‘let’s stack this here or there’. Nevertheless, I did see people hard at work!
As part of the tour, I was introduced to the engineers in charge of the ASRock Intel and AMD platforms, as well as the Vice Presidents in charge of Research and Development. I spent most of my time talking to the engineer behind the designs of the Fatal1ty products – ASRock’s higher end platforms designed at gaming. We had a long chat based on what I feel various market segment needs, some of ASRock’s design philosophy, and how design should meet price targets but still be competitive. At one point it was suggested that we make a X79-IAN, however after chatting to the VP of Sales, I would also have to be in charge of marketing…!
Part of the areas in which I was not allowed to take pictures included some product testing – particularly with regards extreme temperature and humidity. There were three main units, each around six foot high and five foot wide, using a combination of heaters and liquid nitrogen to create environments below 0ºC and above 70ºC at a range of humidity, all the while looping various stability tests.
Last year, I was told by ASRock that over 8 million motherboard units were sold worldwide (compared to 20+ million by ASUS), with a revenue in excess of $300 million – not bad for a company with around 250 employees worldwide. I was constantly told that ASRock are continually looking to expand, but require the appropriate staff to do so.