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The Art of Overclocking; Is It For You?

The Art of Overclocking; Is It For You?  - PCSTATS
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Abstract: One of his customers who was standing near by listening in interrupted to ask "is it really worth all the trouble for the last few MHz"?
Filed under: Editorial Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: PCStats May 23 2003   Colin Sun  
Home > Reviews > Editorial > PCStats

The Art of Overclocking; Is It For You?

I recently went to one of the local computer stores here in Toronto to chat with my friend Marlon about my new Peltier thermoelectric cooler setup. One of his customers who was standing near by listening in interrupted to ask "is it really worth all the trouble for the last few MHz"? As an enthusiast I take pride in squeezing as much performance as I can from any given computer part (CPU, videocard, memory, etc) so I obviously said "Yes!"

Skeptical, he went on to ask me a couple more questions. For instance; "I'm an average PC user, how would I benefit from overclocking?" and "just how much performance difference do you notice?" We talked for a bit and in the end, we came to a conclusion that overclocking was actually not necessary for him because of the type of computing he did.

Since a lot of readers take the time to e-mail their questions in on this topic, I figured it's about time for me to write a little on the subject, and hopefully explain the benefits of overclocking. Overclocking isn't necessary for everyone, but hopefuly by the end of this you'll know whether it is right for you!

Who overclocks, and why do they do it?

Gamers out there know full well that while a system may run games just fine, it can never really be fast enough or pump out enough frame rates every second. As a gamer myself, I need extremely high frame rates to play any FPS competitively online. I would like to get well past 150 fps in every game from UT2003 to Quake III (yes I still play it now and then), or even Raven Shield. I know what most will ask, "Why the heck would you need that many frames per second?"

The reason behind this is because when my frame rates start to tank - say someone throws a few frag grenades, or there are a few explosions at the same time - I don't want my frames per second to drop below a certain point.

If your gaming rig is getting a bit old and you'd like to get a bit more performance out of it without having to invest a lot of money, overclocking may be able to hold you over till the next major upgrade. If you're a 3DMark freak (it's ok, I am one too) and must have the absolute highest score among your circle of friends, then overclocking is definitely necessary. That should be pretty evident from the three PCstats.com 3DMark2001SE tweaking guides.

However, if you mainly use office based applications or work with 2D programs you probably won't get much of a noticeable 'performance' boost with overclocking. Typically, computers running these types of applications are what we call "user limited" - meaning the slowest link in the whole computer system is the person who is actually using it.

Dangers/Drawbacks of overclocking

First and foremost, overclocking will generate more heat and heat is the #1 enemy of electrical devices like processors. If you cannot remove the additional heat, the life expectancy of your components and stability of a system will certainly decrease. Usually this means the overclocker will have to invest a bit of money for a larger or better heatsink/fan for the processor. Sometimes, it also means better cooling for some of the other components like the videocard, memory and MOSFET's on the motherboard itself.

Most overclockers out there would scoff at the notion that their overclocked systems is unstable. An inexperienced/novice overclocker though may run into stability problems at the beginning because they're not familiar with how to setup a functioning overclocked system. Once they learn the in's and out's, it's not very difficult to run an overclocked system 24/7 without sacrificing stability. I for one would never sacrifice speed for stability, as my data is more important to me then the additional speed.

How much does all this cost?

Yes it does cost money to overclock like the pros, and depending on how much you want to push your system it can cost a great deal or actually very little. If you're really hardcore, buying a retail phase change cooler can cost well over $1000+ CDN. If watercooling sounds like a better answer that type of cooling can cost in the range of $300-500 CDN. Most overclockers out there use conventional HSF's, and luckily a mid to high end air cooler will only cost $50-90 CDN. To get a feel for what heatsinks you should be looking at, head on over to www.frostytech.com - they have over 200 heatsinks reviews online.

Enough with the talk, here are the system spec's for some benchmarks we'll be running to illustrate some of the gains overclocking can bring to the table.

PCStats Test System Specs:

Computer Hardware:

Processor: Intel Pentium 4 2.66B GHz
Clock Speed:

20 x 133 MHz = 2.66 GHz

20 x 173 MHz = 3.46 GHz

Motherboards:

Abit IT7 MAX2 Rev2

Chipset:

i845PE*

Videocard:

ATi Radeon 9700 Pro (325/620)

Memory:

2x 256MB Corsair XMS3500 CAS2

Hard Drive: 40GB Maxtor D740X
CDROM: NEC 52x CD-ROM
Floppy:

Panasonic 1.44MB Floppy Drive

Heatsink: Swiftech MCW5000-PT
PowerSupply: Enermax 550W PSU
Software Setup:

WindowsXP
Intel INF's 5.00.1012
Catalyst 3.2

Benchmarks:

Business Winstone 2002
Content Creation 2002
Winbench 99
SiSoft Sandra
PCMark2002
3DMark2001SE
3DMark03
Quake III Arena
UT2003

* - The 4/5 memory divider was enabled both at 133 MHz FSB and 173 MHz while maintaining the most aggressive memory timings (2-5-2-2)

© 2014 PCSTATS.com Next Page >

 

Contents of Article: PCStats
 Pg 1.  — The Art of Overclocking; Is It For You?
 Pg 2.  Benchmarks: Winstone 2002, Winbench 99
 Pg 3.  Benchmarks: SiSoft Sandra 2003, PCMark2002
 Pg 4.  Benchmarks: 3DMark2001SE, 3DMark03
 Pg 5.  Benchmarks: QIII Arena
 Pg 6.  Benchmarks: UT2003
 Pg 7.  So is overclocking for you?

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