This year’s winner of PCR Award’s Gaming Retailer of the Year, UK gaming brand, Chillblast focused on PC builds as well as laptops, servers and enterprise solutions and is also official PC supplier of Williams eSports. Here we get the latest from Chillblast’s Managing Director, Ben Miles on the custom build world of gaming and some future insights.
How is life at Chillblast now you are under the umbrella of Tactus group?
As part of a larger group, Chillblast is able to develop unique solutions and products that it would never have been able to explore before our acquisition. Tactus’ wealth of experience in international supply chains has been invaluable. For example, Chillblast has developed and launched its first bespoke range of high-end gaming notebooks. Previously we were using the same chassis manufacturer as the rest of the channel, but now we have our own Chillblast Defiant range with class-leading cooling and display technology. This would have been totally unfeasible before. Having access to the pool of talent in the Tactus marketing team is also invaluable, as it allows us to deliver meaningful and impactful campaigns across a wide spectrum of media. Chillblast products are now available from a far wider array of stores and websites. Whereas you could only buy our PCs from Chillblast.com previously, you can now find them in some of the UK’s most respected technology retailers. Despite all this change, the essence of Chillblast has been retained, with the same commitment to customer service, build quality and only the finest components.
How is custom PC building evolving?
We are in a golden era for custom PC building right now. Fierce competition between Intel and AMD in the processor sector means we are seeing colossal gains in performance between each generation. If you are still using a 10th generation Core-i9 CPU, a 13th generation equivalent will give you 3x the performance – an uplift that has been achieved in just two years. This pace of progress is in stark contrast to the pre-Ryzen days where generational gains were marginal at best. This, and brand new GPUs just round the corner from NVIDIA and AMD, means customers can expect big performance gains from an upgrade, even if their kit is only a couple of years old. Another emerging trend we are seeing from our customers is a demand for more bespoke customisation of builds. People want systems that form the centrepiece of their gaming cave, not just an off-the-shelf black box with some red detailing or an otherworldly badge on the front.
Who is buying custom build PCs?
The demographic for buying custom PCs is as varied as the PCs themselves and ranges from business users who need a solution that standard “Tier 1” manufacturer can’t offer, right down to professional esports players who want bleeding edge kit to compete at the highest level. Our customer base includes gamers, developers, architects, Formula 1 teams, film studios, scientific research institutes and aerospace companies. Wherever there is a need for high performance, Chillblast is there to build the finest quality bespoke solutions. We work with our customers to deliver solutions that match their needs, rather than try to pigeonhole them.
Tell us more about the Chillblast optimised esports gaming range?
Chillblast has Esports-optimised PCs to cater for every type of user. Developed in conjunction with FNATIC – the Real Madrid of esports teams – our range includes products for gamers who are just starting on their journey from a console background, right up to kit that is used by the most talented professional players in the world. In a competitive environment where the best and worst players are separated by the tiniest of margins, having the right kit can mean the difference between first and fifth place.
How is the gaming industry evolving, what new tech developments are taking place here and what are consumers increasingly demanding in this space?
We are on the cusp of some incredibly exciting developments in the technology space at time of writing. NVDIA has just announced its 4000 series RTX cards, which promise performance improvements of between 2x and 4x the previous generation. This release is also perfectly aligned with brand new processors from both AMD and Intel who are debuting their Ryzen 7000 series and 13th generation of Core-series CPUs respectively. These processors offer huge steps forward in performance compared to their predecessors and support DDR5 RAM and next-generation storage for a platform virtually free of traditional bottlenecks. Combined, these technologies are giving gamers the performance they need to run Triple-A titles at incredible frame rates, even on ultra-high resolution 8K displays and Virtual Reality headsets. As we have seen time and time again, it does not take long for the PC industry to eclipse the performance offered by even the most powerful of consoles in very short order.
When specifying a custom build PC what do you recommend for consumers to consider to get the best build for their requirements?
My advice for customers is that they always look at the most demanding tasks they plan for their PC, and work backwards from that. If you specify a PC that is good for video editing, for example, it’ll be strong for photo work and graphic design by default. Likewise, a powerful gaming PC will normally have the grunt to deliver a great experience on almost any task. Nevertheless, it’s very possible to over-spend in some areas and under-invest in others, so a good knowledge of the bottlenecks in your chosen software packages is important. That’s where our team of talented customer services advisors can help – they know the pain points of almost any software package imaginable and can recommend an appropriate solution accordingly.
Are you seeing much demand for custom build PCs in industrial or commercial sectors or is it mainly the consumer market?
Chillblast services both sectors, and both are very important to the business. While consumer devices make up the higher volume of PC systems we sell, it is not unusual for our commercial and industrial customers to specify extremely sophisticated devices that command a much higher price tag than any consumer device. It’s no secret that the cost-of-living crisis has seen demand for consumer electronics devices and PCs soften over the past few months, but the commercial and industrial sectors remain very buoyant, and we are seeing a strong recovery in consumer demand as well.
Has Chillblast been successful in its plans to branch out on a more international scale, if so what territories has it penetrated?
Watch this space – our entrance onto to the global stage is imminent!
Where do you see the future of the custom build PC market going?
I see the gaming side of the custom PC market going from strength to strength. Innovation and new technologies drive this sector and developers are always looking to deliver ever-more spectacular experiences for their clients. The hardware industry drives that technological innovation, enabling immersive graphics approaching photo reality. The devices themselves are unrecognisable from the beige devices of the past, with a gamer’s PC increasingly becoming a statement of their personality. More and more of Chillblast’s customers want to put their stamp on a PC, with degrees of personalisation being demanded that go well-beyond simply picking from a list of components.
The demise of standalone PCs has been predicted since I joined this industry 20 years ago and it’s never happened. Many big tech firms have attempted to disrupt the custom PC market with streaming technologies, but until the experience can rival that delivered by a standalone device, I just can’t see it happening. A recent trip to IFA to see the latest streaming technology confirmed to us that we are still many years from this technological breakthrough, particularly when you consider the main draw of gaming on a PC has been the ability to enjoy mods, user-created content, DLCs and add-ons – not just the best possible graphics and frame rates.
What are the most specified/popular PC components such as type of memory, ram etc.?
The most commonly specified PC components at Chillblast sit at the higher end of the hardware hierarchy – a typical Chillblast PC will sport an Intel Core i7 or Ryzen 7 CPU, 32GB of DDR4 or DDR5 memory, a couple of terabytes of SSD storage and a powerful NVIDIA GeForce graphics card – a 3070 Ti or better is the most common selection! Some of our customers go far higher than that, however. It’s not uncommon to see AMD Threadripper Pro builds sporting 128GB of RAM and RTX 3090 Ti video cards on our production line. It’s that hands on time with bleeding-edge kit and the passion for perfection our team has that makes Chillblast such an incredible place to work.
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