COMPUTEX - Battle of the overclockers

For overclockers the thrill lies in the challenge of pushing chips and systems to their limits

Overclockers waged a battle of ice against fire at Computex in Taipei, pushing the performance limits of Intel's CPUs to 5GHz. The hobbyists, who are becoming an increasingly common sight at IT trade shows, are perfecting the art of pushing processors to their limits.

"Overclocking is taking a basic system and modifying the settings to get more performance out of your system," said Fugger, a U.S. overclocker who like others prefers to go by a nickname.

"We take a processor you can buy in the store, like we have here, and we're pushing these up to 4.6 or 4.7GHz," he said, indicating a couple of computer motherboards hooked up to cooling equipment designed to keep the processor below minus 100 degrees Celsius. The demonstration on the stand of Taiwanese motherboard maker Abit Co. used Intel Core 2 Quad processors that usually run at 2.66GHz.

The speed of a processor is typically determined by two things: the speed of the interface that connects the chip to the rest of the computer (called the front-side bus) and a multiplier. For example, a 500MHz front-side bus and a multiplier of three means the chip runs at 1.5GHz. By changing these values the chip can be made to run faster.

The result is not just more speed but lots of heat. Typically a processor is cooled with a large metal heat sink and fans, but that's not enough for overclocked chips so a more imaginative method is needed.

"I have a pressurized 22 psi (pounds per square inch) liquid nitrogen cooler, we're feeding it through copper tubing through a stainless steel valve into a king-pin pot. This is a copper pot that sits on top of the processor and we actually feed the liquid nitrogen directly into the processor," said Fugger as a fellow overclocker from Sweden opened a valve and white clouds of vapor began to billow out of the system.

The system, Fugger maintains, is quite safe and is one that he uses at home alongside more elaborate systems that rely on coupling two or three refrigeration compressors together to get the desired temperature.

"We can bring the CPU down to minus 200 degrees Celsius but we usually keep it at minus 120," said Crotale, the Swedish overclocker, as he played with the system. "At a certain point the CPU becomes like a super conductor so it just shorts out the CPU. We need to keep it as close to that point as possible to get the maximum performance."

A short walk away on the booth of Foxconn Electronics, the Taiwanese component maker, another overclocking demonstration was talking place. This one matched a local overclocker, who was pouring liquid nitrogen from a large bottle into an ice-crusted mug and then pouring that by hand over the processor, with Shimano, an overclocker from Singapore, who was using dry ice, or solid carbon dioxide.

He was overclocking a 3GHz version of Intel's Core 2 Duo processor to speeds of around 5GHz.

For the overclockers the thrill lies in the challenge of pushing chips and systems to their limits and the bragging rights that go along with the fastest system. For the industry there's something to be had out of this too. Overclockers routinely submit details of their systems and benchmark reports to Web sites like that run by FutureMark, which ranks the results.

"The gamers would go look to see what the top-ten listing would be," said Fugger. "So if they see Abit up there and NVidia up there, the chances are they are going to buy an Abit motherboard with an NVidia video card so it's critical that the manufacturers work with the enthusiasts. If you have a lot of rankings in the Future Mark, your products are going to sell a little easier."

Once you've made your purchase there's a relatively low level of entry into the world of overclocking, said Shimano, the Singaporean overclocker.

"Dry ice is cheap and all you need is a really good copper or aluminium container and you're on your way," he said, noting that good ventilation is important because of the carbon dioxide given off.

"It's cool, it's fun, it's extremely exciting and you get to meet a lot of people with the same interest and others just keep spurring you on," he said. "You want to beat the other guy."

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

D-Link TAIPAN AC3200 Ultra Wi-Fi Modem Router (DSL-4320L)

Learn more >

Crucial® BX200 SATA 2.5” 7mm (with 9.5mm adapter) Internal Solid State Drive

Learn more >

D-Link PowerLine AV2 2000 Gigabit Network Kit

Learn more >

ASUS ROG Swift PG279Q – Reign beyond virtual world

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Lexar Professional 2000x SDHC™/SDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >


Learn more >

Family Friendly

ASUS VivoPC VM62 - Incredibly Powerful, Unbelievably Small

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Lexar Professional 2000x SDHC™/SDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Lexar Professional 2000x SDHC™/SDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Best Deals on Good Gear Guide

Latest News Articles


GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy


First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni


For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell


The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi


The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott


My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.


Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?