Getting To Know Darren Polkowski
What company do you work for and what position do you hold with them?
I am the Public Relations Manager for Palit Multimedia for the North and Latin America regions.
Could you give us a brief history of Palit Multimedia? What market's do they have an established presence in and which markets are they seeking to develop?
Palit Multimedia is the NALA presence for Palit Microsystems. Palit is one of the largest graphics manufacturers worldwide. We currently have 2 million units per month production capacity. Our primary business is graphics cards which we sell under the Palit brand and several others. Palit has 60% market share in Asia and over 40% in Europe. Last year Palit Microsystems was launched into this market. Before the year ended we reached Nvidia’s Authorized Board Partner status, the fastest any partner has achieved this status in North America. We seek to build our branding in both North and Latin America.
Palit produces a large quantity of custom PCBs for the enthusiast market. What does Palit like to focus on with their custom cards? Are you seeking lowered prices with un-diminished quality, higher quality at similar prices, or a blend?
Being a leader in the manufacturing space, we have the opportunity to build custom cards for each segment. Additionally, we are not an AMD or Nvidia only business. This allows us freedom to move with the technology as it is developed. We have a full line of cards from both sides of the fence and that gives us the advantage of providing the best graphics solutions for each segment, not just the lineup we have from one GPU vendor. This means we can offer the best in class at all price points. Being Nvidia’s largest single customer for graphics chips and AMD’s 2nd gives us the cost advantage that many of our competitors cannot equal. Economies of scale helps Palit drive the price down for the end consumer as you can clearly see at e-tail shopping websites.
Does Palit have a defined naming scheme for their video cards? I've noticed a slew of suffixes added to cards like Super+ and Sonic, is there specific pattern the consumer should keep in mind?
There are a couple specific naming themes we keep for our cards. The Super+ is reserved for our graphics cards that have 1 GB of memory. Our Sonic edition cards are overclocked. Many of our Sonic models have 1 GB of memory in addition to being overclocked. I would like to make the point that Palit is the only graphics manufacturer that has entire 1 GB cards across its AMD and Nvidia product lines.
Overclocking and RMAing
Overclocking can pose to be a daunting task for the average consumer. Glancing over Palit.biz I noticed in your News feed that you recently released a card with a custom PCB with two BIOS chips. Would you care to explain what this dual-BIOS card offers to the average consumer and to the enthusiast?
You are referring to our HD 4870 Sonic Dual. We believe that building a stronger product from the ground up. That is not lip service or marketing hype. Why would a company build a graphics card with a dual BIOS? We know that our customers want to push their hardware faster. Of course overclocking and overvolting can void your warranty but why not give consumers the ability to what they want to do? By making the product to suit the overclocking community we also build a more reliable card for the majority of consumers that does not overclock. Think about it this way, if we build a better, stronger and more reliable product, the overclocker can stress it with more confidence and the Average Joe can know that his normal operation will be worry free.
From our perspective we know that the better we make a card the less likely we are going to see it come back to us as a failure. Better equates to less RMA and this has shown up in all our products. Staying with the HD 4870 Sonic Dual, adding the second BIOS allows people who accidentally flash the video BIOS incorrectly know that they didn’t just "brick" the card. They can flip the switch to the other BIOS and be back in business again. I have gotten plenty of emails and forum posts from users stating that this feature has saved them.
Additionally we like to do things above and beyond what the "reference design" calls for. Sticking with that HD 4870 Sonic Dual as an example, we manufacture that card with an 8-layer PCB (Printed Circuit Board). Why would we do something like this as it cost more yet we sell it for about the same as the reference cards from the other guys? Simply put, it is better and you deserve it. Palit has been making cards for the rest of the world using standards that are above the competition and now we get to share that with North and Latin American consumers as well. More layers means less overall EMI (Electromagnetic Interference) and cross-talk. We can put power and other circuits on different layers which insulates them from the other wires. This leads to better signal transmission in each of the wires that travel across the card as well as less heat buildup as the wires are not so tightly fit together.
The HD 4870 Sonic deviates further from the reference design in how we cool it. We built our own cooler with dual fans that are PWN (Pulse Width Modulation) controlled so the user can throttle the fan to the level they need. More importantly it doesn’t have that annoying droning that you hear on the reference design cooler. The revised version of the card has native HDMI, DisplayPort, Dual Link DVI, and 15 pin VGA outputs. We also revised the design to accommodate 1GB of memory (we have both a 512 MB version and 1 GB version of the HD 4870 Sonic Dual). No other card company has all of these options.
Is there a possibility of seeing an HD 4870x2 or GTX 280 with a similar dual BIOS feature?
Since we control the manufacturing of our cards, we work closely with AMD and Nvidia engineers so we can deliver products with features like a Dual BIOS and much more. Currently that is the only card in the world to feature a Dual BIOS. If you want to see more products with this feature please tell us that you do.
Palit is always open to make cards with the features and options that consumers want. I want your readers to gives their wish list. Perhaps you can start a thread in the forums discussing the features and things you want to see in a video card. From there we can take the top ideas and put it into a poll and have you vote on what you want to see. The movie Field of Dreams put it this way, "if you build it, he will come." The philosophy for manufacturing with engineering is not far off. If we build a product you really want, you will buy the product you really want. It is in all of our interests to get your feedback. Consumers get the products they want and the companies do what they are set up to do, reward their stakeholders with profits.
Lately there's been a movement towards watercooled cards. I've noticed that a large quantity of Palit video cards have large heatsinks with large and quiet fans. Does Palit plan in the future offering a watercooled video card or continue with the large heatsinks?
We are about to announce something regarding this very topic but I cannot let the cat out of the bag just yet. You have seen a lot of innovative and customer-centric development from Palit over the past year. You can plan on seeing that continue. As I have told Legit Reviews many times, we are not some cookie cutter company. We are here to lead. If the competition doesn’t want to step up to the plate, that is their prerogative but there are only leaders, followers and those who fall by the wayside. They will either have to innovate, copy us or get out of the market. Prior to our involvement in this marketplace the practice was business as usual. That is simply not acceptable to Palit and we want to deliver more to the consumer and we have many more initiatives on the way.
Would Palit ever consider selling bare cards for aftermarket watercooling enthusiasts?
That is a liability issue. Think about it from the factory’s point of view. If they warranty the card, they expect the air cooler they put on the card to satisfy the cooling tolerances it has proven and done the cost analysis and failure projections for. Let me put it to you this way, would a rental car company lend you a car without a license or major credit card, and the smell of alcohol on your breath? They would not be willing to trust that consumer and just as much as we cannot certify the cooler, the mounting procedure used, the thermal compound used, etc. It leaves a lot up in the air. Therefore if a card was made available without the cooler there is no way they could warrantee it. Our program for water-cooling will take care of this hurdle but that is all I can say about it at this time.
I was not able to easily find the Palit Warranty for their videocards and motherboards however I did easily find the RMA form. What sort of warranty does Palit offer?
As of the time this interview, we offer a two year warrantee no questions asked. The card either works or it doesn’t. We don’t believe in hassling consumers but we don’t want to take back good cards either. We have a very simple process for RMA and our support staff is fantastic. We are on the cusp of adding more services for our customers shortly. The first service we are going to roll out is a free step up to a third year. All the consumer will have to do is register their card on our consumer site. We are doing a complete overhaul on how our site operated for the consumer so people can get more out of their graphics card provider than ever before. I would love to go into detail publicly but we are not ready to share it just yet. That is one thing I love about Palit, they are always moving forward. As a consumer I always want more from the companies I support with purchases, I love seeing them deliver more back to me. Palit is doing this and is revolutionizing the experience consumers have been used to.
Are there any additional fees included in RMAing a product besides shipping from the consumer to your facility?
If the card fails, we will replace it. If the card is fine (without issue) when we receive it, we will ship it back at the customer’s expense. That is the worst case scenario. The only reason we do that is to make sure people aren’t sending us cards for no reason. Putting the burden of this cost helps cut down on wasteful claims. Overall it is a painless process and if people have questions our support staff is extremely responsive.
Will Palit Enter Other Markets?
Shifting away from the video cards, let's focus a bit on your motherboard product lines. Does Palit solely focus on consumer boards or does it have an OEM arm?
With a 2 million part per month manufacturing facility we obviously are an Original Equipment Manufacturer. However, there are a few of the business models that Palit operates under. One role is to build products for our various branded product lines. We also build products that other companies sell. Palit also has business for some countries where it is more cost effective for us to sell the parts and the in-country company assembles the final product. In North America you will see Palit branded products but we have not released our motherboards into this market yet.
Are there any planned LGA775 boards or are you waiting for the launch of X58? How about AMD's 790FX/GX chipset? If you have x58 boards planned will they launch with Nehalem or will we see them follow shortly afterward?
Palit in other regions has released LGA775 based motherboards but we have not released them here. The majority of the motherboards we have available to the market in other regions are low cost or specific need based boards. We have Intel P45, G31, and P35 boards, AMD 770 and 780 boards, and Nvidia nForce based boards as well. We are currently focusing on our graphics business for North America and when the time is right we will introduce boards for this market.
Does Palit plan on expanding into other hardware types such as power supplies?
We haven’t talked about branching out into other components. Our core competency is designing PCBs, cooling solutions, and making everything operate extremely well for graphics cards. That does not mean we could not open new business units for other things but for now we are not planning on it.
Here's your chance to insert a bit of free advertising. Why should our readers want to buy a Palit video card over say an EVGA or Gigabyte card?
Consumers can get a good product from either one of those companies, but I know that they will be much better off with Palit. When was the last time you saw innovation that deviated from the "norm" from most of the companies that have operated in North America. You generally will see more adaption on a design coming from the AMD based cards than from the Nvidia based cards "manufacturers" in North America. Over the past few years you have seen differentiated cards from Sapphire, Asus and HIS, but not enough in my opinion. I saw a lot of the same type of products during my tenure as the graphics editor at Tom’s Hardware. That kind of activity screamed "I want something different!" Palit is here because of that need.
Now, there are a few other dynamics to the launch process than hits the review and new sites. For example, Nvidia likes to keep a tight lock and key on their technologies and on most of the high end boards. For those products there is only a reference design. For the rest of the product set, companies like Palit can take the design and innovate. On the AMD side, it is very open. When HD 4800 launched, the first set of boards were only reference. AMD intentionally held back on engineering to ensure that all of its partners’ boards were the same at launch. This was soon lifted and you can see the cards we have produced that look and operate nothing like "reference."
That being said, I never want to say anything negative about our competition. However, there are so many things that consumers should know, especially when they are spending hundreds of dollars on new computer hardware. There are several companies who operate in the North American market who don’t own a factory. My question to you is "Who is building their boards and why are there so many ‘reference design’ cards?" The simple answer is that they are not building the boards. Several companies buy their boards and tweak the clock speeds. Some even put a fancy cooler they bought from a cooler manufacturer and pass it all off as their own. That is not how Palit operates. I can take you to the facility where we build boards and have lunch with the board designers.
New Products, The Frog, and ATI vs NVIDIA
Are there any sweet products coming down the pipeline that the hardware enthusiast should start saving pennies for?
We announced our Revolution 700 and your readers should be able to see it here at Legit Reviews. There aren’t any major announcements from the chip makers in the short run. There will always be new chips at some point but until then we will keep delivering improvements to what is on the market.
Anything hitting the stores or currently on the shelves that you particularly like?
We have the fastest single graphics card hitting the shelves, the Revolution 700 Deluxe. It is the first non-reference HD 4870X2 based product in the world and it is totally different than any other card on the market. For starters it is a three slot solution with dual PWM cooling fans. It runs less than 70OC at full load which is awesome compared to the reference design at 90+OC. It has DisplayPort, HDMI, Dual-Link DVI and 15 pin VGA. Of course this is not for the budget conscience consumer but it proves that we have the engineering and manufacturing to bring forth the world’s first card of its kind. It is the peak of performance to date but we have cards that fit all needs and uses under the flagship. Your readers should stay tuned to Legit Reviews for a full write-up as you already have the card in for testing.
Any particular reason why a frog is the mascot of sorts for Palit?
Frog is symbol of luck and prosperity in Asia. This is the reason we chose the Frog. Some people love it and some don’t. I guess you can’t win with everyone. If you look at ATI with the Gargoyle, some people thought it was too evil. So the next generation they used the metallic Minotaur, still some thought it was too menacing. Then they switched to Ruby. Was everyone happy? Nope. Some said it was too sexual.
We've jumped around a bit, is there anything else you'd like to add?
For those of you who are looking for something new, you should keep looking to Palit. We have done a lot to revitalize the industry, give more to the tech enthusiast community, and we still have a lot in the hopper. Keep an eye out for some more things to unfold. We are not the cookie cutter company North America is used to.
To tie things off let's end on another easy question. ATI or Nvidia? Rarely is somebody unbiased, have you got a preference?
While it may be professional suicide to side with either one when we are strong partners with each company, I can say what I like about both. On the Nvidia side, they simplified the way the entire engine works. The work on projects like CUDA and multi-GPU has driven the market forward. Single and Dual instructions on a single instruction per shader can be highly effective for the small batch problem.
AMD on the other hand has had forward looking technologies every step of the way. Without ATI there wouldn’t be GDDR as we know it. That has helped the entire industry and not just graphics. Tessellation, we don’t hear much about it anymore since the HD 2900 launch but it will be revolutionary in the long run. All of AMD’s current products have it and DX 11 is supposed to implement it. The memory footprint savings alone should make developers want to utilize it. That coupled with the advances in offline rendering (movie industry) using consumer cards with tessellation is huge. I mean you could see real time movies at today’s movie CGI level in 5 years. That is mind boggling.
Both companies are working on physics simulations, procedural computations, and a host of other things that will not only make games look better but hopefully be less computationally demanding. With advances in the standards for Direct3D in DX11 there should be an even more level playing field for developers. Lastly, as the cinema and the home PC converge, we will see some amazing interactive content with the best visuals imaginable. Graphics is a great industry and I thoroughly enjoy being involved in it.