Interview: We chat with the founder of MAINGEAR

Yesterday, we started our series of interviews with gaming and high end PC makers with the founder of Falcon Northwest. Today, we continue our series with a chat with Wallace Santos, the founder and CEO of MAINGEAR, which has recently launched two new desktop PCs, both with custom cases, along with a new 11 inch gaming PC laptop.

First, MAINGEAR has been in business for a while now, but you guys have secured a reputation for your unique custom case designs. What would you say is the philosophy behind MAINGEAR's business?

MAINGEAR has been around since 2002 and with a decade under our belt, we have built up a great reputation of building some amazing PC both design and performance wise. MAINGEAR was created from my passion of building high performance PC and modding/tuning cars, the two really play off of each and we have been building high-performance custom PCs and tuning them for the best experience possible. Our company philosophy is to build the best quality PC possible with a bold and clean style that offers innovation and assurance that comes from years of experience and powered by the most advanced technology. We are a dedicated team and take our reputation very seriously to remain one of the best recognized PC system builders out in the market.

You recently launched a small 11 inch gaming PC notebook, the Pulse. Why did the company want to bring this kind of notebook to the market?

We saw a unique opportunity to offer a smaller size notebook that can offer a great mobile gaming experience without sacrificing performance and without breaking the bank. The size is perfect for those business travelers and students that would like to have the power of gaming notebook without lugging around a big heavy notebook while still having the ability to get some work done in between. The Pulse 11 is a great product to offer our customers that can also hook this up to a bigger monitor or TV via HDMI for the bigger screen experience - and all the while not sacrificing performance. No lag, no lag. ;-)

MAINGEAR has also recently launched two new desktop PC cases, the small F131 and the smaller Potenza. Why did you want to expand your desktop PC lineup with these products?

With the success of the SHIFT that offers vertical heat dissipation that won us the 2011 CES Design and Innovations award, we wanted to create a family of desktops that offers the same type of innovation in a mid and smaller desktop chassis so those who don’t design the big monolith desktop can still get an amazing system in smaller sizes without sacrificing performance. This led to the new F131 and the Potenza desktops. The F131 is a micro ATX vertical heat dissipation chassis design offers dual GPU solution of any solution, includes a hot-swap, tool-less hard drive bay for quick data storage needs with options to select up to 3 mechanical and one SSD storage device.

The Potenza is a mini ITX vertical heat dissipation design that can accommodate graphic cards up to 10”, support one 3.5” and two 2.5” drives and it also includes a 140mm Air Penetrator fan to supports the EPIC 120 CPU liquid cooling that provides incredible cooling for overclocked processors. With the petite size of only 7.4(W) x 15.6”(H ) x 9.25”(D), it’s a mighty small desktop that is small, stylish and quiet and will fit on top of any desk.

Finally, you just announced a deal with Saitek for a new lineup of PCs that are geared for the air simulation market. How did this partnership come about?

I have always wanted to expand the MAINGEAR brand into something more than just a gaming PC and Saitek is global leader of consumer focused simulation hardware, specializing in flight simulation products which allow enthusiasts to get the most realistic flight experience possible on the ground. This was a great partnership to offer Saitek branded pro flight certified systems that not only has an entertainment value but also a learning experience for flight enthusiasts and those who wouldn’t have the opportunity to sit in an airplane cockpit and experience what it is to fly. Most importantly, we found that this was not a market that was being serviced by anyone. And we also found that customers were frustrated with the experience that an “over spec’d” system delivered.

Most people don’t know that SLI or CrossFire doesn’t scale with Flight Simulator X, or what settings can deliver a crisp, smooth experience or drag the frame rates down for no particular reason. These are things we’ve been able to identify, and by offering very specific configurations, consumers know that out of the box the system has been configured for a great experience. By offering three different certified desktops at three different starting at price points, anyone interested in having a solid system that is into flight sims can select one of the certified SHIFT, F131 or Potenza desktops.

Some people have said they can make their own PCs cheaper and have them be as powerful as those made by companies such as MAINGEAR. What is your argument to convince those people to purchase one of your desktops or notebooks?

Sure, those who want to build their own PC, I encourage them to do so but there is often a trial and error when building your own system with hardware compatibility, getting the latest drivers and the potential issue of not knowing why something isn’t working when everything was built up correctly. MANGEAR works with our strategic partners such as Intel, AMD, NVIDIA, ASUS, Corsair to ensure compatibility, support, and maximum performance. A lot goes on behind the scenes between MAINGEAR and our partners before you see new technology launches. This combined with our unique style of having a clean, bold chassis design is what makes MAINGEAR different.

You will see that both in our desktop and notebook lines, you will have the very best performance options in that form factor while having the option of having a minimalist look or a full blown custom auto paint colored systems for those who are looking for a little bit more attention. Not to mention, our support is top ranked as well, we are an elite member of and we ensure that our customers are completely satisfied with their PC. In a nutshell, it comes down to offering the latest technology, having a bold clean design and an award winning support so our customers can enjoy their PC instead of trying to figure out what is wrong with it even though it may have saved them a few dollars. (And peace of mind)

Let's talk about the future of hardware in desktop and notebook PCs. Where do you see hardware such as graphics cards, hard drives, displays and memory going in the next couple of years?

We’re seeing technology trending towards lower power consumption and higher performance, allowing us to deliver significantly more powerful solutions in smaller packages, like the Potenza and all new F131. There will always be a high end, large desktop to design and build, but we’re quickly seeing a large segment of the market be better serviced with these smaller solutions. We’re also seeing graphics cards do more than just 3D hardware, as GPU compute technologies begin to make their way into more and more consumer applications, not just professional. So the GPU is definitely taking center stage as was predicted several years ago.

SSDs are coming down in price, with top performing solutions from respected names like Corsair coming in at under $1/GB, which is making it much more accessible for many people. Going forward on the memory front, we’ll see DDR4 make its appearance as soon as this year, but there probably won’t be anything to plug it into until 2013-2014. It’s going to depend on how quickly AMD and Intel integrate support for it into their memory controllers.

We see a lot of reports about the "death of the PC" due to the smartphone and tablet industry. Why do you think the hardcore PC hardware market is still going to be around even with the rise of both of these products?

How many years have we been hearing that and PCs are still going strong? The PC gaming marketing is doing extremely well. It was noted back in March from the PC Gaming Alliance that the industry has reached a global record of $18.6 Billion, which is a growth of 15% over last year. The markets are booming with free to play games, social games and even with big budget games such as Battlefield 3 or Star Wars: the Old Republic which have put PC Gaming a big push. With the increase of broadband and digital delivery, PC gaming will get even better in the next few years. There is also a certain experience you have when you play PC game verses playing the same game on a smartphone or tablet, on a smartphone or table; you are limited to the hardware that is on the device while a PC can be upgradable.

Having said that, a Windows 8 tablet is a great “gateway” device to PC gaming – we think that people will see how much fun 3D gaming can be but will eventually look for “what’s next,” and we think the PC is a natural progression for someone who enjoys gaming and wants the best experience. Years ago Microsoft was exploring how they could take PC and XBOX cross-platform games and have console games actually compete with PC gamers. Well, they got it working alright, but what they didn’t count on was that even average PC gamers walked all over console gamers because of the precision and response of a keyboard and mouse.

And quite frankly, PC games just look better. Consoles are DX9, and even those cross-platform games often have a DX11 codepath that enables more immersive effects and visuals. Battlefield 3 and Max Payne 3 are two perfect examples. Both are night and day better looking on a PC. And the PC gaming is also not the only area where PC will still be viable, audiences such as creative professionals will also have a need for a high performance PC to edit, render and composite much more than a phone or tablet can do, and can you image the external drives you would need to hook up if you were to use your phone or tablet to get a project done?

We have also seen the beginnings of the cloud-based PC game service. Do you think that if this becomes popular it could mean that there will be less of a need for high end PCs for playing games?

If you are referring to services like Gaikai or OnLive, there are still a lot of hurdles to overcome to get the experience anywhere near a PC experience, and significant ones that require actual infrastructure advances in this country in regards to networks. Also, there is a mindset that goes along with being a PC Gamer and a need to have the best experience possible whether the rig is pre-built, home built, or even if the end user want to have the option to use 3D, those options are effectively eliminated with cloud based services, and you are limited to what they offer in terms of game selection.

Windows 8 is, without a doubt, the biggest change for Microsoft's operating system since it began. What is your personal opinion on Windows 8 and how it will affect the PC industry?

It’s amazing. The interface is gorgeous, intuitive, and fresh. It will mesh seamlessly with an ecosystem of hardware including tablets and smartphones. And let’s not forget Microsoft’s Trojan horse – the XBOX 360. Microsoft flat out owns the living room. The possibilities are too long to list here, but we’re nothing but excited about moving into the world of Windows 8. We have exciting new products that will bring new ways to interact, consume media, and create.

Does MAINGEAR have any plans to release any gaming PC products that will use Windows 8's touch screen interface, such as a notebook or tablet-slate device?

MAINGEAR has always done a good job of keeping tabs on what is going on in the gaming industry when it comes to technology. As developers show more interest in incorporating a touch experience in their games, I’m sure it’ll be something we’ll evaluate.

How do you feel about Microsoft entering the PC hardware market with the Surface?

I think it’s great! You won’t find too many PC executives that will agree with me. But here’s the bottom line: the Tier 1s (multinational commodity PC builders) had a decade to get a tablet right. Bill Gates demonstrated a concept in 2002. Apple swooped in years later and did it right in one shot. Microsoft had to do this. The tablet is an integral part of the Windows 8 strategy and the ecosystem that Microsoft envisions and the right product has to be there. Nobody was on track to do it, and those who were getting tablets right were focusing on Android.

Finally, is there anything else you wish to say about MAINGEAR and its plans for the future?

2012 has been a year of exciting change for us. Much of that change hasn’t been seen externally yet. But we’re excited that the industry is heading in new directions and we’re going with it. We’re in retail now, so you can buy MAINGEAR systems ready to go from select Fry’s, and we’ll be adding more locations and availability in the future. Mobile is heating up, and touch and Windows 8 will bring us new opportunities and challenges. We will continue to drive our business with our core principles of quality, performance, and service, whatever we do.

We would like to thank Wallace Santos for his time in answering our questions

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