Intel, 2018. Photo by Anna Kucera/The Photo Pitch

Dino Strkljevic is Intel’s Business Development Manager, for Australia and New Zealand. He’s also an avid and very successful gamer, and a self-described “OG extreme overclocker”. 

He has held world records in overclocking as part of Team AU, and still experiments and pushes the limits with liquid nitrogen in breaking new performance records.

While the gaming sector is enjoying a massive spike thanks to Covid, Intel the company, hasn’t been as lucky.

It has hit a rough spot recently; manufacturing troubles, C-suite instability, supply issues and growing competition. 

Last year the company was forced to announce it’d be delaying its next major manufacturing milestone for its chips and Apple switched from Intel to its own ARM-based chips for the highly regarded M1 and the recently released MacBook Pro models.

However Intel is fighting back – partnering up with top laptop manufacturers to co-engineer their lineup of premium Intel Evo laptops—thin, light and fast machines that feature 11th Gen Intel Core processors and Intel Iris Xe graphics that are customisable to users’ needs.

And if you’re a serious gamer, Intel powered machines are still your go-to.

I talked to Dino to find out more.

You’re a massive gaming enthusiast – do people outside the sector underestimate the popularity of gaming – both commercially and as a space that drives constant innovation?

People consistently underestimate the popularity of gaming, what it means to be an average gamer, and the scale of the industry.  Ask your mum if she’s a gamer and she’ll look you in the eye and say “no”, then look straight down at her phone and continue her game of “Words with Friends” with her mate. There’s no average anymore, because most of us are gaming on some level on some device. It’s ubiquitous. 

The New Zealand government has officially recognised esports as a sport, and it’s become pretty mainstream, appearing on Let’s Play Live on terrestrial TV. It’s still not a traditional sport though. Where traditional sports may be broadcast on TV in prime time, the prime time equivalent for gaming is Twitch.

Esports is definitely a space where extremely powerful devices are needed – the place where many of Intel’s flagship products are targeted. 

How does the gaming market in NZ compare to other territories?

New Zealand’s market is a quirky one. It’s small, the OEMs are here, retail is still really important, but it’s also affluent, well connected digitally, and there’s a desire for innovative and more powerful computing in the market. It’s a bit of everything!

Particularly when it comes to connectivity, I’ve got to compliment New Zealand on getting its broadband infrastructure right. It means you guys can take advantage of the best and brightest technologies.

Most importantly, and I think this is baked into the people of the New Zealand, there’s a strong expectation for getting the basics right. Kiwis demand a fast, responsive machine, long battery life, fast charging, and great connectivity. I think that’s why Intel’s Evo laptops are doing really well here. 

Confession time – I’ve never been a gamer – but what sort of gear do you recommend I buy as a beginner if I wanted to get into the latest games – obviously my MacBook won’t cut it…

It’s a great time to buy an Intel 11th Gen H45 gaming laptop. It really depends on your price range but picking a machine that has a core i7 or faster and a reasonable discrete graphics card will play most titles.

You’re a world famous overclocker – tell me more…

I started overclocking in my basement in 2005, was very loud on forums and got noticed by Nvidia, Gigabyte and many other companies. You could almost call me the OG tech influencer. I started experimenting with water cooling, dry ice, liquid nitrogen, and even appeared on the ABC doing a liquid nitrogen world record attempt on “Good Game” back in 2007. I started to travel to San Francisco and got exposed to the industry and fell in love with it even more. From 2007 onwards I created a team, a passionate bunch of friends and together we beat just about every overclocking world record there was, taking every new generation of technology to its max. I haven’t stopped since.

You must have seen the gaming space transform incredibly over the last 15 years – what stands out to you?

Gaming has gone from the underground scene at physical LANs to online games, esports tournaments, public shows, all the way up to huge events like PAX and IEM. We’ve seen the rise of gaming personalities and personas that are real life heroes of current gamers. My original esports heroes were the original CSGO Fnatic team and Olofmeister, who still plays for Faze today. I’ve had the opportunity to meet a few other ones like Coldzera, Guardian, Adren, Niko and many more. Calling out all the CSGO and IEM fans out there ?

What’s your gaming set up?

I’ve just put together a new 12th Gen Intel-based PC as my new gaming PC because of DDR5 and PCIe 5.0, and this awesome new Intel core architecture which is super-fast. I highly recommended looking into this one too if you want the best gaming experience possible.

How is the laptop market changing in ANZ?

The biggest shift for laptops, anecdotally but I also don’t think you need to check the research, is working and learning from home. Businesses are moving away from desktops and so have schools.  The need for portability, and to a degree contingency, is critical.  Your employees can’t work, and students can’t learn away from the home without a powerful, well-connected device.  Laptops have become faster, smaller, and thinner with batteries that last longer. I often leave home with my Evo laptop in my bag and have to double check that it’s in there because my bag feels so light it tricks my brain into thinking I’ve left it behind. The most amazing part is it lasts all day literally, thanks to latest advances in Intel Evo technology. Sounds like a plug I know but it really does deliver an amazing experience.

While I can’t predict anything about the pandemic, I’m comfortable saying that there’s still space for growth in laptop use in Australia and New Zealand.

How has the chip shortage impacted the ANZ Intel team?

Off the back of the pandemic, we’ve seen unprecedented global demand for semiconductor components, and substrates is a challenge for many industries, including ours. Of course, this has affected us in Australia and New Zealand as well, where the trend to work and study at home drove massive demand for notebooks. We’re focused on supporting our customers and will continue working to increase supply to meet our customers’ needs.

Intel 7 – Intel’s third-generation 10nm technology – tell me more…

There’s some solid reasoning behind this change. The industry has long recognised that traditional nanometer-based process node naming stopped matching the actual gate-length metric since 1997. 

In July this year, Intel shared one of the most detailed road maps ever on process and packaging. As part of this we refreshed our node naming lexicon to create a clear, consistent and meaningful framework to help the industry and our customers make better-informed decisions as we enter the angstrom era of semiconductors. 

Enhanced SuperFin is now Intel 7. It followed 10nm SuperFin later in 2021 and will deliver approximately 10 to 15 per cent transistor performance per watt improvement as we evolve the node.

Intel’s new names are based on key technical parameters that matter to our customers including process performance, power and area.

Give me some compelling reasons to switch from an M1 Apple to an Intel powered laptop…

One of the most compelling reasons is the open partner ecosystem and the choices it brings. Intel is focused on delivering the most advanced PC experiences and a wide range of technology choices that redefine computing.  We concentrate on producing superior processors while fostering a vibrant, open partner ecosystem that ensures the best possible computing experience. 

We staked a leadership position in the PC ecosystem with Evo. We’re constantly driving innovation across the platform to deliver the best computing experiences for Kiwis and anyone else using a device with Intel Inside.

We believe Intel-powered PCs provide people with the best experience in the areas they value most, as well as the most open platform for developers, both today and into the future. x86-based PCs do not limit consumers’ choices, options or compatibilities with respect to their favourite software or peripherals.

What’s the thinking behind the recently introduced Intel Evo laptops?

Evo was born out of our Project Athena effort, which was a research-based program looking at how people use and experience their laptops, and what their greatest challenges were, day to day. As a result of this extensive research we came up with the key experience indicators the best laptops for productivity should have. Ultimately this resulted in the Intel Evo brand. Evo focuses on the end user experience rather than the tech specs which many people can be overwhelmed by when it comes to choosing a device.

Any laptop supporting the Intel Evo “badge” or sticker has been co-engineered with our industry partners to meet strict criteria for things like consistent responsiveness on battery, fast wake-up, long battery life, incredible performance and lightning-fast connectivity.

What this means for everyday consumers, is that they can walk into a store, and avoid any confusion by looking for the Intel Evo sticker across a range of laptop brands, and know they are getting a top performing laptop for productivity.

Is the NZ consumer tech market pretty similar to the Australian one or are there key differences?

One key difference is that when it comes to broadband infrastructure, New Zealand is a front runner comparable to Hong Kong, Singapore or Japan. This really opens up the possibility to make the best use of technology in the best way.

Ok, Xmas is coming up what does a parent buy their teenager who’s really into gaming?

This year is a fantastic year to be buying a gift for a gamer. It’s a tough choice between an Intel H45 laptop and the new Intel Core i9 12900K for gaming. Frankly both would be great too!

Intel hit the headlines when Apple chose its own ARM based chips in 2020 and Intel has had a troubled recent history with manufacturing delays, competitors upping their game and leadership changes – can Intel bounce back?

No doubt we’re in a competitive environment, but we have a long history of innovation and we’re here to win. Intel is the only company with the depth and breadth of software, silicon and platforms, packaging and process with at-scale, global manufacturing our customers can depend on for their next-generation innovations. We are focused on driving product leadership and meeting customer commitments. Our overarching priority is to deliver product leadership for our customers.

Intel is working with Microsoft to bring Android apps to Windows 11 – is the aim to make the PC experience more attractive?

This is all about bringing more applications to the Windows ecosystem. In Windows 11, Microsoft Store enabled by Intel Bridge Technology allows people to download and install Android-based smartphone and tablet applications on their Windows PCs.

People rely on their PCs to do the things that matter most, and by enabling applications developed for smartphones and tablets to run on the PC, they have all the things they love in one place.

What’s exciting you right now in the tech space?

Look, of course you’d expect me to say this but I’m genuinely excited by our 12th Gen desktop range. It’s a game changer. The entire 12th gen family besides the Intel Core i9-12900K that I’ve already mentioned is also really great. These are the CPUs that your everyday person is going to experience, the new i5 and i7 chips are a real jump forward for anyone getting a new device.  They redefine x86 architecture performance and introduce a new performance hybrid architecture, which is ground-breaking.  We’ve combined Performance-cores with Efficient-cores to elevate gaming, productivity, and creation. The UHD graphics built in are also a real step up, you get up to 8K HDR support and the ability to view 4 simultaneous 4K displays.  I’ll stop geeking out now, because what all that means is that your average punter is going to get way more performance for their money than they used to – and I’ve never heard a Kiwi complain that their device was too powerful!