Corsair XL Interview w/ Joe James: 01-05-2005
Legit Reviews (LR): Before we jump right into things can we get a little background info on Joe James?
Joe James (JJ): I’m the Marketing Director at Corsair Memory. I’m a 10-year veteran of the motherboard industry, and I’ve been with Corsair over two years.
LR: What inspired all these features? Who came up with all the ideas?
JJ: Most of the ideas for Xpert originated when we invented the Pro Series. Our new products group brainstormed and listed dozens of features that we thought would be great to have in a memory module, then we honed it down. So we really started developing the Xpert about the same time we launched the Pro in late 2003.
LR: So it was about a year in development? What was the hardest part?
JJ: Manufacturing the display has turned out to be the biggest challenge we faced. We have some very clever people in engineering and manufacturing who worked together to solve a lot of issues. We went through some design modifications to improve the manufacturability of the display. And devising the attachment interface for the display wasn’t easy either.
LR: So the data that’s displayed, does the module read that from the BIOS or what?
JJ: The amazing thing about the Xpert is that it uses sensors and a microcontroller on the memory module to measure on-module parameters.
LR: What about the programmable messages? Where are those stored?
JJ: The default marquee is stored in the EPROM inside the microcontroller on the module. The user programmable messages are stored on the computer’s hard drive.
LR: Can the memory modules still work without the display attached?
JJ: Yes. Although we don’t recommend it, you can pull the display module off the top of one of the Xpert memory modules with your system running with no problems.
LR: What supplies the power for the displays?
JJ: A 184-pin DDR DIMM has xx power pins, which supply plenty of power to run the Xpert modules. In fact the Xpert modules use less power than a stacked 36-chip registered memory module.
LR: It’s a little bigger than a standard memory module. Have you found a bunch of motherboards that it doesn’t fit in?
JJ: We’ve found that a pair of Xpert modules fit fine on any standard ATX motherboard?both AMD and Intel based boards alike. The detachable display gives you a lot of flexibility because it can be offset in either direction. And you can use Xpert modules in combination with standard memory modules. The only issues we’ve seen are with a few massive after-market CPU coolers on certain Athlon? 64 boards. And of course Xpert isn’t designed for small form factor machines.
LR: How much does it cost to add all those extra features?
JJ: Initially there will be around a $50 premium for a 512MB Xpert module. As we ramp up our production over the next few months we’ll drive that down aggressively just as we’ve done with the Pro Series.
LR: Will the XMS Xpert Series phase out the Professional series?
JJ: Not in the near future due to the price delta. We’ll continue to offer classic XMS modules, XMS Pro Series, and XMS Xpert Series at three different price points.
LR: Gamers who travel a bunch often toss their case in the car or overhead bin in planes. Will the two piece Xpert modules stay together or should the tops be removed for transportation?
JJ: We designed the display module for the Xpert to be easy to attach, and to stay attached through ordinary transportation of a system. We’ve done a battery of drop tests on the Xpert to verify that the connection is secure. Imagine a floppy cable holding a 2 ounce module in place: it’s pretty secure.
LR: Do you sacrifice any performance for the additional features?
JJ: No, absolutely not. Xpert modules will have exactly the same memory specs as our standard XMS modules. They’re tested exactly the same. Think of it another way — would adding more USB ports onto a motherboard affect the memory speed? No, because the two circuits are completely independent.
LR: What speed grades will Xpert products be launched at? When will we see top to bottom coverage?
JJ: We will probably start with our most popular speed grades, then offer other speed grades down the line, but we haven’t yet laid out an introduction plan.
LR: When will Xpert products be available on the market?
JJ: Currently our target launch date is February 1. That could obviously change depending on a lot of factors.
LR: When will DDR2 Xpert modules be available?
JJ: No comment
LR: What’s next, Joe James?
JJ: Who knows. We always have a lot of new products in the works.
Time for our final thoughts on the preview of the XMS Xpert Series.