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Interview with Brian Zucker

Technology Evangelist, Dell Computer

By: Brian Gray - March 14, 2000

I recently took it upon myself to make some calls and get to know the big computer company in my backyard.  That would be Dell Computer which is based in Round Rock, a neighboring suburb to Austin,TX.  After a series of phone calls, perseverance paid off and I was able to speak with the guy in charge of promoting the latest and greatest hardware, Brian Zucker, Dell's Technology Evangelist.

Here is what I found out about the Company, the new card and the future.

nV News: In the last few weeks, Dell and particularly, you Mr. Zucker, have become media darlings.  How do you feel having the first 64MB DDR card on the market affect how gamer's and the hardcore users think of Dell as a computer maker?

Brian Zucker: "Media darlings" is a bit strong but we have certainly enjoyed the great response and especially the orders.  We hope that gamers realize that Dell can provide top end performance at quality levels that are unmatched.  The 64MB DDR card is only the first step in our effort to reach out to the hard core users and address their needs directly.

nV News: Does Dell have specific plans to make inroads to a "gamers only" product line, eliminating some of the frills to get high performance at a budget? (i.e. horsepower without paying for printers and family ware)

Brian Zucker: We believe we are mostly there with the right products now.  Fine tuning for the gamer is the current focus.  Our build to order model allows buyers to select only those items that are of interest to them and leave out hardware and software that doesn't meet their needs.  Trying to create a few locked configurations as "gamer only" would limit the number of people we could reach.  All gamers are not looking for the same few configurations so our mission is to provide enough options for customizing.  We also have the Gigabuys store for additional customizations beyond the initial system purchase.

nV News: On support, will Dell begin regular driver releases to keep up with nVIDIA's aggressive driver updates?

Brian Zucker: Every driver release from nVIDIA makes its way into our development process where we look at the changes in great detail.  If we believe there are enhancements or bug fixes that will effect our customers we will put that driver through many weeks of in house testing before releasing it into our factory and onto the web.  We even offer an internet service call FileWatch as a way for customers to automatically get notifed when new drivers are posted.

nV News: Have you tested the latest batch of reference drivers (5.08) on the new card?  If so, how does S3TC affect the cards framerates?

Brian Zucker: We are working with that driver now and will look at the new features in great detail.  It is too early to make any claims on performance yet.

Dell 64MB DDR GeForce

nV News: How do you feel the added 32MB of DDR RAM affect system bandwidth limitations?  Does having the extra 32MB of texture storage free up AGP transfers for T&L?

Brian Zucker: The extra 32MB does not really help with bandwidth since the bus size is the same but instead helps out with texture storage size.  Many more textures can be stored to keep main memory accesses down.  This will help performance during game play.

nV News: Are there plans for Quadro based cards for the Precision workstation line?

Brian Zucker: Unfortunately we cannot comment on unannounced products.

nV News: Overclocking: Friend or foe?

Brian Zucker: This has always been an interesting subject.  When computer parts are developed they are guaranteed to work at a specific setting, frequency, thermal limit, etc.  In order to meet that guarantee at all times and for all of the parts produced, the manufacturers provide a "guard band" or buffer.  Overclocking simply stretches that buffer to the limit.  An individual can test out his or her specific device to see how far into the guard band they can progress.  The size of this buffer will be different for every device.  The only thing that can be guaranteed is the original vendor specification and that is what we wrap our warrantees around.  You can see that it would be impossible for us to maintain the highest quality level for each system we sold if we were not adhering to the vendor specification.  Playing with the guard band is an unknown that would be impossible to warrantee.

nV News: NV15, any specs you can release?  When can we expect to see a next-generation nVIDIA card in a Dell computer?

Brian Zucker: Unfortunately we cannot comment on unreleased products but you can be assured that we will stay at the leading edge of graphics performance for gamers.

nV News: 3dfx: Player or spectator?

Brian Zucker: 3dfx has always been a strong player in the graphics market.  While I cannot comment specifically about their unannounced products or which ones we might offer, I can say that they are one of the many vendors we keep in contact with on an ongoing basis.

nV News: As an "evangelist", how do you plan to convince the typical gamer to buy a Dell system over building the custom system from the mom and pop store?

Brian Zucker: Quality, performance, and variety of offerings.  I know the "quality" term is thrown around loosely but we strongly believe that our design and test process is one of the best if not the best in the industry.  We pride ourselves on designing systems and not simply throwing a bunch of parts together.  We have teams of engineers that are focused on making sure that the individual parts all work together correctly as a whole.  When problems do arise in the labs or in the field, we have great working relationships with our suppliers that enable us to isolate and fix issues quickly.

nV News: Back to gamers...  While the gaming market segment has the highest demand for performance, yet makes up only a "small" portion of Dell sales, why did Dell see the value in the 64MB DDR cards development time? Does it have something to do with NV15?

Brian Zucker: The 64MB DDR GeForce card stands on its own merit.  It is based on the original GeForce reference design that we helped nVIDIA develop.  We believe, out of all of the GeForce products prior to this release, that this one has the highest quality levels in addition to the performance numbers you might have already seen.  This is a strong iterative improvement on an industry leading design.

nV News: Does Dell have plans to sell the card away from the Dimension line?

Brian Zucker: Unfortunately it is impossible for us to test and guarantee high quality levels if we do not have access or understanding of where the product might end up.  We want to make complete systems that meet our stringent quality goals.

nV News: Does Dell have plans to enter other markets, such as sound cards, NIC's, controller cards, etc.?  If so, has there been any correspondence between Dell and nVIDIA on developing the recently announced nVIDIA sound cards?

Brian Zucker: We want to stay at the leading edge of the market for all areas of system performance.  We are constantly looking at the current bottlenecks to high performance and work with our vendors to overcome them.  Graphics, audio, and communications are just a few of the many performance areas we target.  We stay in constant contact with the industry leaders in these markets and are on the lookout for any new emerging products or companies.

End of Interview

Since sending the questions to Mr. Zucker, I have been able to tour the Dell Development Lab.  I also got to toy with the new Dell Dimension featuring the 64MB DDR GeForce card and 1 GHz PentiumIII.  More on that later this week!

What I will tell you now, is that the card is very well engineered.  The memory traces on the board itself are artwork, very clean and uncluttered.  The memory intensive Quaver demo ran as quickly as Demo001 in Quake3.  Textures were thrown on the screen effortlessly where I once noticed stuttering. I am looking forward to the NV15 offerings from Dell.

I would like to thank Brian for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions.

Last Updated on March 14, 2000

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