Is overclocking dead?

Kenny Clapham is a member of BenchTec UK, one of the UK's premier overclocking teams which regularly competes in international tournaments and regularly attends games shows to show off its skills with liquid nitrogen. While speeding up your PC isn't as essential as it used to be, he says, people who don't take advantage of the quality and resilience of today's components are missing out.

"Overclocking will always be worth it," Clapham explains, "The basic level of power is so much higher than it used to be, but if people can get the same performance as the top-end parts (or better) for a fraction of the price, I don't think anyone should turn it down."

It's worth remembering those niche markets that still require a lot more computing power than the average processor delivers too.

"The price difference in component bins is still so high that for PC-intensive tasks like video encoding, I don't think overclocking can be ignored," he says. "A Core i7 975 costs £700-odd. An i7 920 is £200 and is pretty much guaranteed to match the clockspeed of the 975. £500 saved per machine for five minutes work? Savings like that can't be ignored."

It looks like there's some interest from gamers, too. The latest Steam hardware survey shows a significant number of people, nearly 15 per cent, are running their CPUs over 3GHz, a fair number of which are highly likely to be overclocking, given the number of actual CPU models sold at that speed.

At the semi-professional end of the scale, Clapham continues, overclocking is still being helped by sponsorship deals and wooing from the component companies, who are keen to attach performance cache to their brands.

MSI, for example, has just announced a $5,000 prize competition with the website that hosts the nearest thing the overclocking community has to an official records database, HWbot. Asus, meanwhile, regularly organises events based around its high end Republic of Gamers' brand.

Asus rampage

RAMPAGE: ASUS promotes its RoG brand at high end overclocking events

Iain Bristow, Technical PR and Marketing Manager for Asus, reckons you can gauge the popularity of overclocking by looking at retailers' forums and specialist sites like Xtreme Systems, which has over 104,000 registered users.

"We work very closely with extreme overclockers," says Bristow, "And work hard to ensure their feedback is listened to and offer lots of features within our mainstream boards to make overclocking easier for everyone.

"I think the level of interest from the general public is still pretty high," he continues, "While some CPUs can 'overclock' themselves with turbo mode, much higher levels of performance are still achievable through manual overclocking."

Just because overclocking has been automated and simplified doesn't mean that it should be, or that you should settle for it. It may no longer be essential, but it's still as good a cost saving trick as ever if you want a top performing PC for the lowest possible price.