Here at XSReviews, while we mostly review individual PC components we sometimes take a peek at full system builds. One company we’ve worked with in the past is CryoPC who produce some seriously impressive high end gaming rigs. Today we speak with head honcho Alan Johnson who tells us all about the system building process and what it’s like to run a custom PC production firm.
XSR: For those that don’t know, can you give some background on Cryo PC and your role there?
Alan: Cryo PC was founded just about two years ago by myself and a few other passionate and like-minded IT professionals. We all shared a vision of how the PC and IT technology market in general could be transformed to deliver much more to consumers and SME’s. Especially those with specific or unusual technical requirements. We knew of and had experience of innovations, technologies, processes and techniques from the industrial IT world that could be applied at reasonable cost.
We’re a small company, growing fast, offering what would typically be considered a boutique service but I think that bespoking technical products and services to real user requirements actually applies to almost all consumers and businesses. Once you have experienced the benefits of this level of service customers are reluctant to go back to the off-the-peg world of commodity computing. As such my personal role is general, as Managing Director, and more specific as a Technical and R&D Director providing the thought leadership for our technical products and services.
XSR: What challenges do you face as a custom PC manufacturer?
Alan: There are many challenges at the moment with the world easing out of recession very tenuously and at the same time we are communicating our more complex message and differentiating our products and services in a market place that is very crowded, technically complex and ruthlessly competitive. Our competitors are large organisations with significantly more resource, well established brands and leverage with suppliers and distributors. However we are faster, leaner, more innovative and able to offer our customers personal and flexible service. The modern Internet savvy consumer is intelligent, resourceful and discerning, and this works for us.
XSR: So if you’re a small fish in a rather large pond, how do you differentiate yourself from other companies offering a similar service?
Alan: . There is a conventional wisdom in the way in which the big operators work. Like the automobile in the early part of the last century the market has moved to a commodity supply and in this model to make money almost all manufacturers need volume sales and to minimise risk and variation in product manufacture. Every element of cost in the production process has to be removed to achieve this i.e. reduce the cost of sale, cost of assembly, variations in manufacture and minimise performance levels to lowest the common denominator to ensure they are easily reproducible.
What this means to the end consumer is reduction in information, advice, design choice, design options, performance potential and most importantly value. It also means that to a certain extent the testing and QA is outsourced to the end user and not done at the factory hence a higher rate of returns and equipment failures in use. To us this is unacceptable and tier 1 IT suppliers to Blue Chip businesses would not entertain it, and we think neither should SME’s and consumers. It’s simply not possible to stress, regression and soak test every PC on an assembly line that churns out several thousand units a day.
XSR: Any specific points?
- More choice and customisation options
- More performance and processing capacity – we offer among the fastest and most capable single and dual CPU servers commercially available.
- Invididualised configuration and consultation – we deliberately choose not to offer a shopping basket. None of our customers want to order a PC without talking about it first and developing a level of trust with our engineers who will then go on to design and build their personalised machine(s)
- Performance tuning and Optimisation – while most manufacturers simply assemble a PC, at Cryo our performance tuning is geared around the exact configuration of the customers order.
- Using the best and latest components – using largely virtual stock, we are able to immediately update our build specs. Inventory of older cheaper stock bought in bulk is one of the reasons many manufacturers offer obsolete hardware in their designs. Our time to market is among the fastest there is.
- Upgrade rather than throw away – we provide a three year Upgrade Assurance service with all machines (optionally available indefinitely) were we will buy-back parts for upgrade and replace. We design to support easy upgradeability rather than replacement.
XSR: What’s the most popular system you produce at the moment?
Alan: While our high end Velox and Hydro systems are pretty popular, by volume it would have to be the Nano which compresses tower desktop performance into a small form factor micro-ATX chassis. The Nano has scooped many awards in the last year by demonstrating a PC doesn’t have to be big to perform exceptionally well. In fact the design out-performs most of our competitor’s desktops. It’s a design we are focussing a lot of development effort on at the moment an shrinking still further, as its proving to be of big interest to our customers.
XSR: Do you have any over the top extreme systems?
Alan: Since we are able to build just about anything from extreme sub-zero phase cooled systems to ultra performance high flow water cooled small form factor PC’s it really depends on which axis of extreme you would choose to measure any one of our systems. They are all extreme in their own way whether it’s by getting extreme performance using just air cooling or extreme parallel processing capacity from one of our multi-cpu systems. The most extreme rig we sell is often the next order placed by the next most imaginative and demanding customer, you imagine it, we offer to improve on it and build it.
XSR: Do you have any new rigs in the work at the moment?
Alan: We certainly do. Despite a recession, technology development continues at a pace and we have some new ideas to push the envelope still further. We have some exciting new systems coming up which at the extreme end will break a few benchmark records for us again. We want to make extreme sub-zero cooling more accessible to mass consumers and we will be working on reducing its cost and making it quieter.
We have a number of new systems coming: a replacement to our benchmark record setting Velox, new machines focussed on improving the experience in flight and racing simulation games. We also have a range of high performance laptops now available and we are making high performance Media NAS storage severs available. We also have a few new cooling technologies up our sleeve which I can’t go into any more detail on just yet.
XSR: Any big plans for Cryo PC in the near future?
Alan: We want to continue to shrink the ultra performance PC while growing its performance capability so there will be more announcements on this. Of course there will soon be new CPUs from Intel (Sandy Bridge Microarchitecture, a new LGA1155 socket, 8-core processors and 22nm fab) and AMD (Bulldozer etc). On top of this, DDR4 memory is only a year or so away and AMD and nVidia continue to blaze new performance heights with graphics cards.
You can be sure that we at Cryo PC will be amongst the first to get hold of and develop these into new systems all of which we will unashamedly exploit for the benefit of our customers, to the max.
XSR: Thanks for your time Alan. Any closing comments?
Alan: Just to say thank you XS Reviews for giving us this opportunity to talk about ourselves and our passion for technology, what we do and how we go about doing it. We just love talking about our pet subjects!
Thanks go to CryoPC for answering these questions.