Computer Direct Outlet unveils world’s first ‘sustainable’ computer

Photo by Computer Direct Outlet.

For nearly two decades, Computer Direct Outlet, which is located just off Laurens Road, has thrived off computer sales and IT services for both residents and businesses. Now, the small business is trying to become a tech giant with the release of an exotic computer that’s the first of its kind.

In January, Computer Direct Outlet plans to release the Volta V, a computer made from sustainable woods like walnut and bamboo. It is meant to be the first of a new dynasty of computers that are much more stylish, energy-efficient and powerful than the company’s current line of products.

The new computer is entirely custom.

“We hand-build every single computer. It’s not some machine sitting on a shelf that may or may not fit your needs. We install high-quality parts, because we don’t want it to come back. We actually have a lifetime service guarantee,” said owner Gary Underwood. “This design hasn’t been tried before.”

Customers can choose the processor and other components for their computer so that it fits their specific needs, whether that’s email or gaming. Underwood uses a numerical control machine to cut the woods into a rectangular case and then places the company’s signature lightning bolt logo on the front panel.

Then, technicians insert the processor and wiring into the case and test each computer. Each computer requires about five days for full assembly. The Volta V should cost somewhere between $1,900 and $7,000, Underwood said.

Photo by Computer Direct Outlet.
Photo by Computer Direct Outlet.

But the price depends on the computing power. The computer can hold processors that range from Intel’s Skylake to the Xeon processor with up to 32 gigs of RAM. It can also hold a solid-state or hard-disk drive as well as the NVIDIA Quadro video card or GeForce GTX 10 series video card.

“It’s built with power to handle the tough jobs – from CAD programs to engineering to intense gaming,” Underwood said.

The computer, which is four inches thin and five inches tall, features liquid cooling, fans and dust filtration to prevent overheating. It also features two aluminum legs, allowing the computer to act as monitor stand and users to store their keyboards underneath when it’s not in use.

Underwood got the idea from his son, Ty, a game designer, who wanted a smaller version of the standard Volta computer line.

In 2011, Underwood and his team of computer techs started designing a computer that could support high-end programs yet maintain speed and quality graphics. After three years of prototyping designs and operations, Underwood released the Volta, which became a hit among architects, photographers, graphic designers and other professionals using high-end programs.

Underwood and his team spent 15 months designing and prototyping more than three versions of the Volta V. “The process was very exciting and frustrating, because for every problem we solved, two more would just crop up. But we wanted to design something that was sustainable and durable,” Underwood said.

He turned to sustainable wood. “This computer was inspired by the beauty of handmade hardwood furniture,” Underwood added. “We designed this computer with sustainbility in mind. It’s really built to last and will be supported with repairs and upgrades for a decade, so we hope it helps cut out some electronic waste.”

Computer Direct Outlet owner Gary Underwood. Photo by Will Crooks.

Computer Direct Outlet is also donating some of the profits from Volta V sales to Greenville’s Upstate Forever, a nonprofit that promotes conservation and sustainability throughout the region.

Underwood said he hopes to sell at least 1,000 computers in pre-order. But he expects to see boosted sales for the Volta V, which can support virtual reality, a market that’s becoming increasingly popular and profitable.

Virtual reality is the creation of a three-dimensional, computer-generated environment that a person can interact with through a headset, featuring goggles and headphones, and a healthy dose of computer engineering.

The virtual reality industry is expected to boom throughout the next couple of years. According to Manatt Digital Media, virtual reality sales are going to hit $30 billion by 2020.

Those sales are going to stem mainly from video games and hardware, including high-end computer systems such as the Volta. The Consumer Technology Association estimates the sale of 1.2 million virtual reality units in 2016.

Photo by Computer Direct Outlet.
Photo by Computer Direct Outlet.

Other Volta computers feature similar electronics and are capable of virtual reality. The computers have garnered positive reviews from technology publications. Tom’s Guide, for example, issued the Volta an average quality rating of 11. Its closest competitors, Alienware X51 and Asus ROG G20CB, scored closer to a 6.

Underwood has big plans for the Volta computer line.

“This has really opened the door to some new stuff. We have a few ideas. We are going to release a second version of the Volta V sometime in the future. I’d love to use hickory or pecan for the case,” he said. “We’re also thinking about producing an all-in-one computer that’s more sustainable and upgradable.”

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