Secrets of the extreme overclockers

How the pros manage 8GHz and beyond

A more common method of dragging overclockers out of their workshops and sheds, though, is sponsored public displays. Benchtec UK now demonstrates its skills regularly at the Multiplay i-series events, for example, and most of the manufacturers have paid well-known overclockers to perform their stunts at trade shows in order to prove their kit can stand the rigours of extreme performance and gain fame by association.

At a total kitty of $11,500 for the AOCC 2008, the prize funds aren't in quite in the same league as gaming, and we're unlikely to see a 'professional overclocker' any time soon. It surely can't be long before one of the motherboard manufacturers recruits the hardware equivalent of Fatal1ty to its ranks for box branding, though.

In some respects, it's already begun. Take a look at the NVIDIA 'Priceless' pastiche of Master Card ads featuring k|ngp|n at www.youtube.com/watch?v=TV-1kYMh2G4.

Outside of the very small semi-professional arena, hardware companies have also realised for some time that there's value in involving overclocking teams before components are released. Many companies enlist the help of the leading lights with BIOS design and early silicon testing, and both NVIDIA and AMD claim that their motherboard control panels are the result of a two-way dialogue.

"We work closely with hardware enthusiasts," says Foxconn's Sascha Krohn, "People whose hobby is testing, tweaking, overclocking, modifying and pushing hardware to its limits. They have an immense amount of experience in using computer hardware and they know what could and should be improved and what features are rather useless or they think are unwanted."

Asus' Iain Bristow agrees. "The benefits of working so closely with the overclockers," he says, "Is the wealth of ideas and innovation. Our current range of Designed for Overclocking motherboards, namely the Rampage Extreme and Rampage II Extreme have both been designed and created with the help of numerous world-class overclocker experts."

It's not always easy, though, according to Foxconn's Sascha Krohn. Getting the right kinds of feedback from ardent enthusiasts can be a tough process and will occasionally lead to design black holes: "Their feedback is crucial to getting a product to where it should be, but you need to know how to work with it," he says,

"Some will tolerate anything so long as they get good numbers, and if you only listen to their feedback you end up with a great enthusiast board that won't be too popular with regular users who have less patience – a problem we sort of ran into with the QuantumForce BlackOps X48."

One person often called on for these consultancies is CPU speed champion duck "I think that what they get out of it is information about durability and operability," he told PCF, "The sorts of data that are uncertain, while designs are on the drawing board. It's the sort of discussions car manufacturers have with race drivers."

Benchtec's Clapham is slightly more philosophical about this aspect, though, and feels that even the best manufacturers still have a blind eye when it comes to certain areas of design: "It's simple things like good hardware documentation and leaving plenty of room around components for cooling that gets frustrating," he says, "What I really want to see is something that's straightforward to set up and simple to use."

One thing that everyone agrees on, though, is that there's more to the courting of the overclocking community than endorsements. The component manufacturing process means that improvements made to the high end pieces of kit filter their way down to regular consumer level before long. Just look at the proliferation of high quality, durable capacitors and power regulators on low price motherboards that are available these days.

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