Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/7081/competitive-overclocking-the-gigabyte-oc-lab-and-hwbot

Every field has enthusiasts – the users that obsess over the smallest details to get the best, to be the best, and excel in their field. For technology the most recognizable fields are in audio and video, where enthusiasts will spend upwards of a hundred thousand monies to kit out their home studio/cinema with the correct equipment to get the best experience. There is also an element of competitiveness between enthusiasts to own or create the best. This could be extended to PC chassis modifications, which can get rather elaborate and end up competing for prize money. Well it turns out you can be a PC enthusiast as well, where the only thing matters is speed. This is the art of the competitive overclocker.

Overclocking has been a part of reviews at AnandTech almost since the beginning – the ability to run the hardware faster than rated for an extra level of performance in day-to-day tasks, gaming, or high throughput tasks. In recent CPU generations it was a common time to find a user who had taken their 2.4 GHz processor and overclocked it to 3.2 GHz processor, and thus getting the performance of the higher class component for a large monetary saving. In the recent generation of Intel processors, the –K SKUs are designed specifically for overclocking, and AMD processors are always welcome for a few extra MHz.

Competitive overclockers take the whole game a stage further. For this group of people, no speed is fast enough. They are not after a 24/7 stable result, it has to be quick enough to run a benchmark (to verify the speed). As a result the equipment used can go way beyond the standard PC hardware – examining data sheets to modify the circuit boards to deliver extra power is not an uncommon sight in the higher echelons of the community. If this allows them to squeeze an extra 0.01% over someone else, then it will be done.

Because this community of performance nuts is encouraging how and where some regular users are spending their money on new system setups, component manufacturers are jumping on board to produce hardware that fits the purpose. One of those companies is GIGABYTE, who over recent generations has produced a range of ‘OC’ motherboards, such as the current Z87X-OC, Z87X-OC Force, and previous generation products such as Z77X-UP7 and X58-OC. These motherboards are designed for the extreme overclockers to go wild and allow them to push the hardware further and faster than ever before.

Gigabyte is so committed to this venture that they have opened up the ‘Gigabyte OC Lab’ in their HQ in Taiwan. It is manned by their in-house overclocker HiCookie, former World #1 and an instantly recognizable name within the community. HiCookie is responsible for the features of the Z87 OC boards from Gigabyte this time around, and the OC Lab is his den to invite extreme overclockers to Gigabyte to break world records.

After Computex 2013, Gigabyte held an OC Event manned by HiCookie for over a dozen overclockers. I got a chance to cover the event, as well as interview Pieter-Jan Plaisier, the Project Manager for HWBot, the main website where overclocking records are verified and collated.

Start at the Beginning: Principles of Overclocking

In order for completeness, I am going to start at the very basics. Overclocking in its simplest term is making a component of the PC run faster than what the component is rated for. This concept predominantly applies to the CPU, the GPU and the memory, though additional elements of the system (the chipset, the uncore) can also be overclocked.

Typically overclocking a component would void the warranty. This is despite the fact that Intel sells processors specifically for overclocking (the –K SKUs like the i7-4770K and the i7-4670K) or GPU manufacturers provide software to help users overclock components. By overclocking you are accepting the risk if the component breaks outside of its normal usage – if a system integrator sells a pre-overclocked system, they are accepting the risk above the component manufacturers and your primary warranty remains with them.

When a component is pushed beyond its specified speed, it typically requires more energy in order to achieve that speed and remain stable. This is done by increasing the voltage, or changing the power signal to improve stability (load line calibration). Increasing both the operating speed and the operating voltage increases the power usage, and the heat generated by the component. Increasing the speed higher requires more voltage, and thus more efficient cooling methods need to be used. This is why pre-overclocked GPUs often come with large coolers attached, such as the Gigabyte Windforce series.

In the world of CPUs, the Intel and AMD stock coolers are designed to be sufficient with a non-overclocked system. In order to remain within thermal stability in an overclocked mode, users will turn to bigger and more efficient air coolers, ranging from $10-$100 for the most extreme. Typically the expensive ones will be made of copper or a copper/aluminum mix, and involve fans to help move the heat away from the source as quickly as possible. On the high end of the air-cooler price range we have closed-loop liquid coolers (CLCs) that use liquids to move heat away from the source, and then pass the liquid through a radiator with a large surface area to remove the energy. For daily systems, enthusiasts will invest in water cooling, and use high pressure pumps to quickly move de-ionized water around a water loop. A good water cooling system can take a system that runs at a high 90C on the stock cooler down to below 40C, giving more headroom for overclocking.

Very few enthusiasts go beyond water cooling for a daily system, as beyond this lies sub-zero cooling, used by the extreme overclockers most often in competing for the best scores.

There are a few different methods of sub-zero cooling.

- Phase Change: Similar to a refrigeration unit, a phase change uses a gas and a compressor to cool down a copper mass or ‘head’. The head is placed on the component needed to be cooled, and unlike a fridge, the system will stay on as long as needed. Phase change units are often tuned to a certain loading, such as a rate of heat transfer at the head at which they can handle. Beyond this limit the phase change cannot be used. When one refrigeration loop is used the unit is often called a ‘single stage’, and when multiple units are used in series (i.e. a first loop to cool down a second loop which is attached to the CPU) this can be referred to as a ‘cascade’. Single Stage units are usually tuned to around -40C to -55C (depending on the refrigerant), whereas multiple stage cascades (3+ stage) might go as low as -110C or more. These units often require a large power draw of their own, such as 1600W for a cascade.

- Dry Ice/Liquid Nitrogen: By using a substance that transforms into a gas when heated at low temperatures, a component can be cooled by a constant supply. Most competitive overclockers in live competitions will be using liquid nitrogen (LN2, liquid to gas at -186C), however as a stepping stone dry ice (DICE, solid to gas at -78C) can be used. In order to draw the heat away from the component, an overclocker will attach a pot – a large copper mass to it. The design of the pot is often very important, and will determine the characteristics of the how to keep the component cool – if the pot is too light, the temperature will vary wildly, whereas if the pot is heavy it will keep the temperature regular but require a lot of LN2/DICE to reach the low temperatures (which can cost money).

Overclocking at sub-zero temperatures has many issues associated with it. First is moisture condensing in the air and then onto the motherboard or components – this is not a good situation! The system is typically insulated to prevent moisture build up on components, but also to control the ‘spread’ of the cold (no matter how anti-physics it sounds, it is the term used) to other components.

Many overclockers will use additional safeguards such as water repellant coatings on the motherboard to stop moisture causing damage, as well as use Vaseline or artist’s eraser along with plenty of moisture absorption towels to minimize damage.

This is a very large field with plenty of experts on board preparation on the big overclocking based forums that offer comprehensive guides to users interested in sub-zero overclocking.

Another set of issues with overclocking at sub-zero rears its head by a few names:

- Cold Boot Bug (CBB): Below this temperature, a component will not even boot up. The component has to be allowed to warm up (either naturally or aided by a heat gun) in order to boot again.
- Cold Bug (CB): Below this temperature, the system will crash. Again, the system will be needed to be warmed up.
- Cold Slow: Below a certain temperature, the system will perform slowly, and cause erroneous calculations or skip frames in graphical benchmarks.

Typically an extreme overclocker prefers none of these issues to occur, allowing them to bench freely pouring in LN2 and not worrying too much about how low the temperature goes. This is referred to as benching ‘full pot’, which is not always the case. For example, the latest Haswell CPUs all have a CBB around ~-135C, although the luck of the draw means that some CPUs will CBB at -110C or -90C.

The Luck of the Draw

Not all components are created equal. Users trying to compare overclocks will have noticed this – their CPU might hit 4.5 GHz but a friend’s CPU might go to 4.8 GHz at the same voltage. This is the luck of the draw – despite the component being made in the same factory on the same process (maybe even the same silicon wafer), there is a small element of randomness in CPU production. As a result the manufacturer will bin the components – the components will be put into ‘bins’ depending on how they perform with relation to voltage. Chips that can perform at the higher speed at the lower voltage are often labeled as the faster components, and those that cannot meet the high standards of the top bin will be tested until they are suitable and will be sold as something else. Even within a bin, the silicon can perform very differently, especially at the high end.

As a result of this, depending on the nature of the architecture (some architecture ends up more varied than others), enthusiasts can end up searching through hundreds of different CPUs, GPUs or memory sticks to find the ones that perform the best. Most competitive overclockers will do this on their own money, keeping the best and selling on the ones that do not perform as well to buy more in. Competitive overclockers that have the backing from a hardware manufacturer might get access to a number of CPUs to test, or typically those that work as ‘warehouse overclockers’ for the big hardware distributors may go through thousands to pre-bin for the pre-built systems but keep aside the best for overclocking and buy them personally.

The Knowledge and The Software

Competitive overclocking is much more than having the best hardware – being able to tweak it to the best values is a skill in itself. Knowing how a system performs with changes in voltage is something that is learned more through experience than anything else, and as such groups of overclockers who compete for the same team will often meet up to discuss tactics, overclock together, or populate numerous threads on their forums with the best way of performing.

The level of tweaking to get the best performance goes beyond the hardware, so much so that competitive overclockers will also tune the software. In order to verify an overclocker’s competence, they will have to run a benchmark and submit a result. Sometimes these benchmarks can be simple affairs to verify CPU speed, whereas others are 10 minutes+ requiring careful attention to hardware settings and especially temperatures when dealing with sub-zero conditions. The benchmarks most commonly associated with competitive overclocking are SuperPi and the 3DMark range from Futuremark, known to stress the CPU and GPUs to varying levels.

When dealing with the benchmark, placing the benchmark in the right frame of software is crucial. For example, in most situations SuperPi might prefer Windows XP over Windows 7 or 8, especially when Windows XP is stripped down to the bare essentials.

Most competitive overclockers will use custom operating system builds designed to lower the memory footprint of the OS and maximize the priority of the benchmark. Part of this is to reduce the instability of the operating system which can cause the system to crash when on the bleeding edge.

Other benchmarks might require preparation, such as storage based benchmarks which may prefer different types of RAID configurations depending on the sections of the benchmark. Most commonly during some of the later versions of 3DMark overclockers will have high CPU clocks for the GPU elements of the benchmark, then use features on the motherboard to reduce the CPU speed for the heavy CPU computational elements. This all wraps under the knowledge of how the benchmark runs, and is a vital tool in competitive overclocking.

Competitive overclockers argue about the ratio between how much of overclocking is in the hardware and how much is in the software/preparation. When competing at the top, both is needed, although in the lower classifications sometimes the knowledge of the benchmark will provide a good MHz advantage if the hardware is not the best.

How to Compete

The main website where competitive overclockers compete against each other is HWBot.org, which has its origins in preening forums for overclock statistics and placing them in a database for people to compare. It has slowly evolved into a system of leagues for people to compete against others in terms of overall score (global), score relating to the hardware (hardware score), team against team, air/water against air/water, and those sponsored can pit their wits against each other in an F1 style scenario.

HWBot.org currently takes submissions from users with any hardware for a pre-defined set of benchmarks. In order to submit qualifying scores, various rules have to be followed to make the score verifiable, such as submitting a screenshot with CPU-Z and GPU-Z windows open to clarify the hardware used. 3DMark submissions can also be made with Futuremark ORB links as verification (ORB is FM’s database system).

HWBot is supported by several hardware manufacturers, including GIGABYTE. Gigabyte sees many positives from the relationship with HWBot, especially when discovering trends between manufacturers about which hardware seems to be most positive for overclockers and preferential to attempt to break records with. One evolution of the partnership with HWBot is centered around Gigabyte’s in-house overclocker, the instantly recognizable HiCookie. HiCookie has his OC Lab at Gigabyte HQ in Taiwan where he has helped develop motherboards such as the Z87X-OC and Z87X-OC Force, both for overclockers to beat each other and push world records higher.

Format of this Article

Part of my trip to Computex this year was to take a look at the OC Lab during an overclocking weekend, where competitive overclockers from around the world took advantage of a few extra days in Taiwan to meet up and use some of HiCookie’s liquid nitrogen in the process. Gigabyte was on hand to supply the space, the motherboards, the refreshment, and some rather interesting scores came up as a result. I took a lot of pictures for everyone to see, and as part of the coverage, I also managed to sequester Pieter-Jan from HWBot and Dino from Gigabyte for an interview.

When you enter Gigabyte HQ in Taiwan, get your visitor’s pass, head towards the elevators and make your way up to the fourth floor. Get out of the elevator, take a left, and then another left. Here is the Gigabyte OC Lab in all its glory.

The principle of the OC Lab is simple – a place for HiCookie to dismantle any PCB he wishes: three fully functional desks packed to the rafters with soldering equipment, scopes, multimeters and temperature gauges to test hardware on, a whiteboard to discuss voltages and ideas, and the fridge stocked with refreshments. The walls are top to bottom with cupboards hiding all manner of broken and to-be-broken hardware, spare motherboards, trays of CPUs or memory (pre-tested and binned), and on the floor are several plastic boxes filled with dead hardware. These are either failed modification attempts, burned out phases, or hardware that died while being overclocked. Every so often I came across a dead Titan PCB and wept softly.

A dead GTX480

Several dead motherboards and GPUs

Having a dedicated space to overclocking within such an OC focused company as Gigabyte seems like a no-brainer. Before this OC Lab was built earlier in 2013, HiCookie had several benches in the main office as well as 6 or seven cubicles for the hardware he was using and testing. Moving it into the OC Lab (an old storeroom) has freed up those cubicles for software developers in the main office, but it also allows Gigabyte to invite other overclockers to come and test their hardware.

OC Lab Success

Within the week of Computex, Corsair and Intel held an overclocking contest and invited a large number of overclockers to compete – both individual and company sponsored overclockers alike were represented. The team from Gigabyte consisted of HiCookie, former world #1, and Dino, who is both a Gigabyte employee and world renowned overclocker in his own right, being part of the Team.AU squad.

The overclocking contest lasted six hours in Marquee, a restaurant/lounge in the middle of Taipei, with a total prize fund up for grabs of $20,000. The top prize of $5,000 went to the best SuperPi 32M score, $4,000 to the highest memory overclock, and then $1,000 each for other CPU and GPU related categories such as Aquamark, 3DMark06, 3DMark Firestrike Extreme and others.

While I did not catch the event in its entirety, I was able to swing by the location just as they were packing up and the results had been announced. Fellow UK overclocker 8-Pack had taken home the big money prize in SuperPi 32M, but HiCookie and Dino were able to score a win in the memory overclock stage, bringing home an award on Gigabyte hardware, a shiny trophy, and a nice big check.

The OC Lab was the source of the preparation for the event, with HiCookie and Dino spending most of the week previous discussing how to proceed on the day, and how to best use the time. Aside from product development, this will be the main use for the OC Lab, especially in the run up to big overclocking events. Most of the overclocking community is hopeful that Intel+Corsair run a similar event for many years to come.

OC Lab Weekend

For the overclocking weekend itself, where Gigabyte opened the doors to over a dozen overclockers, there was no schedule as such. Alongside a number of motherboards, Gigabyte provided a tray of CPUs to use – several Intel i7-4770Ks and a few Richland A10-6800K APUs. Corsair was also on hand to provide power supplies, coolers and some memory.

Gigabyte also ordered in some extra special hardware. Four Gigabyte GTX Titans were also available for the overclockers to use, as long as they were not modded! For several of the overclockers who had not had chance to use Haswell before release, this was a fine chance to get to know the systems, as well as test it with Titans.

Over the weekend the following users and overclockers were present and ready to bench, coming from far and wide representing many different nations:

HiCookie (TW), the Gigabyte in-house overclocker
Dino (AUS), from Gigabyte Australia and Team.AU
Pro (AUS), from Team.AU
borandi (UK), from AnandTech and UK ProOC Team 5xP
Massman (BE), from HWBot.org
SDougal (UK), from Gigabyte HQ
Finn, from Corsair
Cpt.Planet/Jake (US) from Corsair
Christian Ney (SWI), memory overclocker extraordinaire
Lucky_n00b (IND) from ProOC Team JagatReview
Coldest (IND) from JagatReview
der8auer (GER)
Gamer (BE)
RedMax (US)
zzolio (DEN)
sin0822 (US)
sofos1990 (GRE)
M.Beier (DEN)
Trouffman (FRA)
Leeghoofd (BE)

Whiteboard for voltage talk or motivation!

An internal test bench

Getting frosty

Some air-testing on Titan

Some CPUs floating around

The highlight of the weekend was something I missed entirely. Dino and Jake hit 7 GHz on one of their 4770K CPUs in testing, while I happened to be in another room.

Soldering iron at the ready

A couple of Titan boxes hidden away

3DMark in full swing

Thermos flasks for LN2

Preparation for some CPU benchmarks

zzolio making some BIOS changes

The fan is to move the LN2 vapor away from the system - this helps reduce condensation

Another system being set up

HiCookie starting at 6.8 GHz while under cold

sin0822 going for maximum BCLK

Pro and zzolio on 3DMark

Dual Titans with a cold CPU

In order to show that competitive overclocking is not just for madmen with a desire to play with liquid nitrogen, I wanted to get some insight into how a website like HWBot works and why companies like Gigabyte want to get involved with competitive overclocking. Truth be told the competitive overclocking community is actually quite small, whereas the casual forum overclockers can actually be quite large. There is a lot to be said for overclocking guides and plenty of new enthusiasts wanting to get extra performance for free from their hardware.

As part of the weekend I managed to get hold of Pieter-Jan Plaisier, the Project Manager for HWBot, and Dino Strkljevic, Gigabyte Technical Marketing Manager for Australia and ask them a few questions.

Pieter-Jan Plaiser / Dino Strkljevic
HWBot Project Manager / Gigabyte Australia

Ian Cutress: Many thanks for letting me interview the both of you. To start with, (to PJP) can you explain what exactly is HWBot?

Pieter-Jan Plaisier: HWBot is a website that tries to promote and help grow the overclocking community through rankings, competitions and fun statistics!

IC: HWBot employs how many people?

PJP: Currently we have four people officially working for the website, two of them dedicated to HWBot. We have one software developer and then me, doing the PR, relations, the website, the forum and stuff like that. We have a dedicated team of up to 12 or 15 volunteers that go through the reported submissions and help on the forums and help with all kinds of stuff.

IC: How many users does HWBot have?

PJP: Around 40,000 registered users, and over 750,000 submitted results as of a few weeks ago.

IC: How do people get started on HWBot? What is the main reason for people joining?

PJP: I think the reason people join today is the same as before – people start to learn overclocking on forums or through friends and then eventually they end up submitting their results to HWBot. They get the bug from friends and join maybe to enter a competition and submit results with their 24/7 PC and get drawn into it.

IC: Can anyone compete?

PJP: Sure!

IC: What makes HWBot a competition?

PJP: It can be difficult to see the rankings as a competition per se, because first of all the rankings are not limited in time, so any result you make from back in the past until today, if it is still ranked high for the hardware it will still generate the same amount of points as it did five years ago depending on whether or not you maintain that position. So I would say that the league rankings are more of a ranking of how you have performed over time, with the most recent results often being the ones with the most points.

We have specific competitions such as the Country Cup and the Team Cup which are more limited in time like a competition.

IC: Can you explain a little about the league system?

PJP: So there are two aspects to a benchmark submission: you have the benchmark application, and then you have the hardware that the benchmark application was used with. So when you submit your score, you essentially submit your score into two different rankings. Firstly you have the global ranking, which is just the highest score for the benchmark, and then you also have the hardware ranking, which is the same but limited to the system hardware you are running. For each score you can obtain global points and hardware points while competing against other users – the global points have a higher weighting because you are essentially competing against everyone, and the hardware points are just for within your hardware class. The leagues then are a ranking based on an algorithm of your best global scores and hardware scores.

In total we have five leagues. Firstly the Overclockers League and the Enthusiast league are both continuous leagues – the enthusiast league is limited to ambient cooling whereas the overclockers league is just full out and you can use whatever cooling and hardware you want. Then we have the Teams League which is essentially a community ranking between groups of users. The Hardware Masters League is just about hardware points, and then we have the Pro OC Cup which is a limited-time competition between teams of up to five overclockers.

IC: How do you see HWBot developing?

PJP: That is a very difficult question! If you look at the evolution in terms of user base and activity of users, the highest jump we saw was with Sandy Bridge. It was kind of ironic that a CPU architecture that does not scale with voltage or temperature turned out to be the biggest catalyst that we’ve ever seen in our website. With the CPUs now scaling quite well under cold and scaling well with voltage we see lower activity ratings. Also we notice that people are less and less thinking about overclocking from a daily usage point-of-view, so the step people need to make to actually start overclocking is a little bigger than before. Before people used to overclock for higher performance for their daily systems, but now it does not come across as worth it so there needs to be more motivation to actually get into overclocking. On the top/extreme end, a lot of the users that are active now right at the top are mostly the same that were at the top five years ago. If we look at the registration dates of the people using LN2 on HWBot, most of them registered on the website between 2007 and 2009, so we seem to have a low influx of people at the low end driving up to the top.

IC: Can you discuss a little about the relationship between HWBot and Intel XTU?

PJP: In January 2012 we got in touch with Intel to see if there was any room for cooperation, and we started talking about something we could do on the end of social networking for overclocking. At Intel they had a tool called XTU which is a generic overclocking tool for Intel based platforms, and for a couple of months we went back and forth discussing what could be the integration between HWBot and XTU. We ended up with this idea that we could use the XTU overclocking profiles and embed them on HWBot so people could share their overclocking settings through our engine.

As the development went on we saw that this could actually be something interesting. I think the most interesting part of XTU is this function that we call ‘Analyze’ – what XTU basically does is when you run the XTU benchmark (which is a performance indication rather than a benchmark), it ties that to a BIOS profile. So it says that for a certain CPU ratio, for a certain BCLK or voltage setting you get a particular score and it uploads it to HWBot. Once you upload it will rank your score on a graph indicating how far you are from the top setting and bottom settings so you can visually see how good your overclock is and you can see, for example, that there might be a hundred people with the same system that went 400 MHz higher so there must be some room for improvement. I think that the function should be interesting in getting people involved with the overclocking community because it gives you a very easy path to get to know overclocking and to get introduced into this world of HWBot.

IC: So today we are in Gigabyte’s HQ in Taiwan with an event in the OC Lab. Can you explain HWBot’s relationship with Gigabyte?

PJP: We’ve been working with Gigabyte since 2009, and essentially Gigabyte gives us the room to support the overclocking community. In terms of what they request from us, they are very free – they don’t really ask for much specifics apart from the Gigabyte based competitions. We help Gigabyte understand what is happening on HWBot – we give them all sorts of statistical information; we help them run competitions on HWBot and in return we get the support to keep our site up and running.

IC (to DS): So now to Dino – can you please explain to our readers what you do?

Dino Strkljevic: Hi everyone – my name is Dino and I am Gigabyte Marketing Manager for Australia and New Zealand in my main role, but what I generally do regarding the overclocking community is the second part of my job where I work for HQ and manage the relationships with overclockers. I monitor forums and overclocking trends, and also provide feedback on people to support (for example) as well as work closely with quite a few different key reviewers. I work with Massman (PJP) as well, and as he mentioned stats – I use stats to make some decisions on a few things we implement internally and we make informed decisions on how to support the community and support HWBot. Also I have fun with these overclocking events and support the hobby I started before I joined Gigabyte.

IC: Can you explain how the relationship with HWBot came about?

DS: At that time I didn’t work at Gigabyte when it officially started but I was one of the key people that Gigabyte consulted about whether they should do that sort of thing and what I thought of it. Gigabyte after about 2006 were thinking about their products and started with the whole Ultra Durable line, and that sort of got them thinking about what they are making and why, also regarding how they could get the word out around that they are making all these improvements. Because if you are just making improvements and you don’t reach to people then it could be pointless – sure it would reduce your RMA rates but you have to communicate that to the right people.

So around 2007 or so they [Gigabyte] did some trial runs of GOOC [Gigabyte GO OverClock] – one in Sydney and one in Indonesia and a few other places so that was one of the first things where they thought “Hey we’ve got this group of really hardcore guys that are into this technology – they know all the little bits and pieces on how things work and they influence the wider community with their recommendations.” So I think that is one of the reasons how they started sort of thinking about this idea of ‘let’s make some competitions’.

At that time HWBot started evolving on forums where they would go to the forum and say ‘Look, why don’t you create a thread and we’ll automatically feed it into our system so if you submit results on your forum they will automatically go to our website’. That really got people into the competitive spirit and people started to spend a lot of free time to push their rankings on the local forums and that really got people into this whole competitive spirit of binning hardware and trying to outdo their mates. The decision was made to move the forum based threads and activity to direct submissions which sort of globalized it a little bit more.

Gigabyte saw that as a benefit to reach out to a global community of enthusiasts, people that have something in common with whatever Gigabyte was doing at the time and to improve their products. That is essentially how the relationship got going because Gigabyte had something in common with HWBot and associating itself with a website so widely known and accepted (because there was nothing really bringing the community together before) and HWBot is the glue that gels the overclocking community. Obviously being part of that Gigabyte gets to learn about the community as well as increasing its visibility. Also HWBot has some really good information which helps Gigabyte understand the community and helps to make good decisions based on the information that they receive. There are quite a few aspects to the relationship but this is the way I see it from my point of view.

IC: So to what extent has working with HWBot helped improve the products that Gigabyte sells?

DS: It basically added on the work that was already sort of started – like the idea behind GOOC of bringing people together with competitions and HWBot has a lot more global appeal as there are a lot more people there. Gigabyte learns a lot about the community (through HWBot) about what they want. HWBot is not just HWBot – every forum still has a HWBot thread and teams and there is a lot of discussion about hardware. That information is really important for manufacturers – I know Gigabyte is a lot more flexible in those decisions to change and implement a lot of the ideas and it fed back through Massman and people like me who were in direct contact with Gigabyte to improve the products every generation and you’ll see something that was crucial in the community.

IC: How do you see the relationship between Gigabyte and HWBot evolving?

DS: That’s a difficult question – obviously Gigabyte and HWBot have worked very close from ‘the start’. Gigabyte was one of the first companies to lift their hand up and say that they want to support the community and this kind of hobby so obviously as long as there is a focus on enthusiasts. We’ve even got a specific product line now for enthuisasts and overclockers with a couple of motherboards for this type of community so obviously there is that market there for the company to concentrate on so that brings in money for R&D and marketing and everything else so as long as the community is there big companies like Gigabyte will support it.

IC: That is great, many thanks to both of you for the interview!


As a competitive overclocker myself, I find this hobby of mine absolutely fascinating. I have had some mild success personally, hitting near the top of the enthusiast league for several years, achieving success in local competitions and I currently hold a number of UK records. I joined HWBot before I really got into enthusiast hardware, and through HWBot I joined the local UK team and luckily I had a chance encounter at a Gigabyte overclocking event with an AnandTech editor which started my writing career.

While the competitive overclocking itself is fairly small, there are always much smarter people than I developing new ways to get the best score and push the hardware to the limits. Having companies like Gigabyte able to support the community in more ways than one, such as with HWBot.org or by developing hardware fit for purpose, is a welcome addition to the arsenal and allows the midfield to compete in many different categories.

Is coverage of competitive overclocking something that excites any of our readers? In the past we have mentioned one or two ‘maximum frequency’ results in Pipeline but almost every other week I get an email in my inbox regarding an overclocking contest where new records are broken. Events like Computex bring out the big guns to break every record possible and with new platforms every few months, such as Haswell, Kabini or Richland, every competitive overclocker wants to reach new heights of performance if it allows. If AnandTech readers are interested, I would very much enjoy reporting such events to everyone. Let me know if this interests you!

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