News - Interview with Jon Gerow - BFG Phobos System

Interview with Jon Gerow - BFG Phobos System

BFG Technologies has been in a few headlines lately with the unveiling of their complete gaming and multimedia PCs, called Phobos. The Phobos is targeted at the "Graduated Gamer" as they called it, that is looking for the high performance gaming system without any of the hassles of building and maintaining it. I had the chance to sit down with our very own Jon Gerow from BFG Tech to discuss the new BFG Phobos Systems.

"Phobos at the Nvidia booth at CES"
Tony - First of all, I would like to Thank You Jon for taking the time to sit down with me and discuss the Phobos system.

Jon Gerow - Thanks for having me.  It's good to be back!  It's pretty cool being on the other side of the table like this.

Tony - How did the BFG Phobos system come to conception?

Jon Gerow - Well, we asked our design guy, Graham, to do some mock ups of different potential chassis designs. The goal was something smooth, sleek, like a car, and something unlike anything already on the market. After we found what we liked out of that bunch, which was what is now the Phobos chassis, we did up 2D drawings in Visio of how the hardware would lay out. To get the components to "fit" and still keep the smooth-all-of-the-way-around look that we wanted. We had to turn the motherboard tray around so the I/O and everything is actually on the bottom. Now the cables come out of the bottom and out the back instead of all along the back. We also used slot load optical drives to help maintain that smooth look too. We then took what we had to a chassis manufacturer, had them mock it up in 3D, program the CNC machines and in a few months we had the chassis we have today.

"Phobos at BFG's suite at MGM Grand"
Tony - Looking at what pictures that are currently available, it's obvious that it's not of the standard air flow. Can you tell us a little about it?

Jon Gerow - Right. Obviously that's come up, because people automatically think: "Heat rises, this isn't going to work." But the fact of the matter is, unassisted air rises very slowly. Hotter air can move faster, but the delta between the intake and exhaust isn't so much that just a little bit of assistance from even a single fan can't change the direction of the air flow. So we have positive air pressure with three intake fans on top, and then one on the bottom for exhaust, not including the GPU fans if the customer goes with air-cooled GPU's. The power supply is an additional exhaust, but it's primary job is bringing cool air across the hard drives.

Tony - So the Phobos runs 3 x 120mm intake fans at the top, with 1 x 120mm exhaust fan at the bottom, and utilizes the PSU for exhausting the heat from the hard drive area. This obviously means that the Phobos has a positive pressure design.

Jon Gerow - Right.

Tony - We know the motherboard is turned on its side, how is the rest of the internal hardware placement in the Phobos? Such as the hard drives and power supply.

Jon Gerow - Right, the motherboard is turned with the I/O panel facing downward at the rear of the chassis, The PSU had hard drives are located just in front of it.

"a shot through the bottom of Phobos"
Tony - Looking at the lower section of the case, we catch a glimpse of the Power plug. What’s the raised (actually lowered) area behind it?

Jon Gerow - The picture makes it look kind of weird.  You see the power cord has a 90° angle and kind of loops back towards the rear. What's behind it is actually a plastic cage that goes around the whole I/O, card slots and everything and routes all of the cables up and out the back. Then the wires and cables and stuff don't hang down into that lower part.

Tony - Nice and clean... That should make for keeping the rats nest of cables nice a tidy!

Tony - We've seen listed in the Press Release that the GPU & CPU cooling is handled by a "CoolIT Contained Liquid Cooling Solution (GPU & CPU)". Is this just a single loop setup, or are there multiple loops?

Jon Gerow - The system will be available with either air or water cooled options. The CPU will only be available cooled by Domino because it's affordable, maintenance free and cools better than any air cooled options. The GPU's will have individual Domino assemblies. So with SLI you will actually have 3 Domino setups. This isn’t a problem with the Phobos, due to the large chassis size. The GPU's are the GTX-295's and Cool-IT is still working on those blocks so currently we're just using air for those.

Tony - Will there be options available for the hardware choices like the motherboard, CPU, Hard Drives and etc...

Jon Gerow - The system will start at $3000 and is configurable up to $8000 with different motherboard, CPU, memory, etc. configurations.  And you can even add to that with KBD and mouse options, up to 30" LCD, etc.

"Phobos at the Nvidia booth at CES"
Tony - We have seen from the photos that the front mounted 7” LCD is a touch screen, can you tell us anymore about it and the uses it serves? From first glance it looks to be strictly a system device rather than a 2nd monitor like most LCD implementations.

Jon Gerow - Absolutely, That's the thing that seemed to confuse a lot of people until they actually see it and use it in person.  They think, "oh, it's just another PC with a 7" LCD" but the LCD is NOT an extension of the main PC.  The LCD is actually a panel PC, running off its own ARM processor, RAM and boots Linux off an SD card where all of our programming is. The interface allows you to check CPU and memory usage, and storage capacity. There's over clocking modes that can be selected and you can even control WMP through the touch screen.  We can even turn the PC on and off with the touch screen, since it's powered by the +5VSB of the power supply. The 7” touch screen is on even when the system itself is off.

"Phobos at BFG's suite at the MGM Grand"
Tony - So the Power and Reset is actually done via the touch screen? I hadn’t noticed any buttons externally mounted on the Phobos (limited images).

Jon Gerow - Well, there is a Power and Reset button in the pop-up USB module, mainly because you ALWAYS have to have a back up. Plus, we didn't want them exposed like they are on a lot of cases.  Anything that could break up the aesthetic has been hidden.

Tony - Cool, that is definitely a good idea. Wouldn’t be too good if for some reason the LCD failed and the user was left with a Dead system.

Tony - Seeing that the LCD is running on its own, how does it affect the main system when you’re gaming for instance? Will using the touch screen cause your games to drop out to the Windows desktop?

Jon Gerow - The touch screens resources are completely independent of the main board.  It just polls information as needed, and it does so without interrupting whatever the main part of the PC is doing.

Tony - The docking station?  Is that for an iPod or other brand of player?

Jon Gerow - It is an iPod docking station, Yes.

Tony - You mentioned other options such as keyboard, mouse, and monitors. Will these be Phobos branded items as well? I do have to admit that the Logitech diNovo Edge does look pretty good sitting beside the Phobos.

Logitech diNovo Edge
Jon Gerow - Yeah, that's just one of the keyboard and mouse options that we're going to offer with Phobos.  It's definitely a cool looking set up and I had fun using the touch controls on the keyboard and the air mouse function of the MX Air, but we'll also have more conventional and gamer friendly options available as well.

Tony - One of the obvious questions that I am sure will be asked numerous times. Can the Phobos chassis and LCD be purchased separately?

Jon Gerow - No, not at this time.  We're doing system builds right now. Of course, BFG is a component company at its core and I think we did a pretty amazing job with the Phobos chassis, so who knows what can come.  I never say, never.

Tony - Moving on to the complementary Concierge Service that you offer with the purchase of a Phobos system. This covers the initial setup and a follow up at 6 months?

Jon Gerow - Yes. We have access to service personnel in every zip code in the contiguous 48 states that will come out with Phobos, install it, set it up and make sure everything is good to go. They'll come back for maintenance, system cleaning, both dust bunny wise and spyware and virus cleaning, and we'll also offer upgrade service plans that can extend this service two and three years as well. We just wanted to complete that whole graduated gamer idea with that level of service.  Let us do everything from not only building the machine, but also almost all of the work that's involved AFTER the machine is built.

Tony - That sounds great, hell even I wish I could have someone come and maintain my computers once in a while. Well Jon, again I do thank you for taking some time out of your busy evening to talk with us. We will be looking forward to seeing what BFG Technologies comes up with next.

Jon Gerow - Thanks for having me.  I'm very excited about Phobos and I'll make sure to keep you abreast of it's progress leading up to the launch of the system configurator.

The BFG Phobos System will be available for purchase starting January 19th via the BFG Systems website. Make sure to stop by and check it out. @ BFG Systems

Printer Friendly(Author: Tazz - On Sat, Jan-10-2009)

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