Over the weekend, Gigabyte held its regional overclocking finals in the Los Angeles. During the event, 12 competitors spent almost all of Saturday overclocking in an attempt to walk away as champion and be placed in the top spot for Gigabyte's finals this June.
Jeremiah "miahallen" Allen eventually took the championship spot and will now represent Team USA in the international finals. Our hats go off to him!
We managed to catch up with Jeremiah and ask him a few questions about his strategy for taking the event. Being a modest guy, Jeremiah dismissed anything related to his own personal skills, attributing a chunk of his win to the variables in his hardware versus everyone else's. Being a good sport, he broke it down like this (the following is written by Jeremiah):
My name is Jeremiah L. Allen, more commonly you’ll see me online as “miahallen”. I have been overclocking computers for more than a decade, but I just joined the competitive overclocking scene about two years ago. Although I have been very successful in competitions I have taken part in, usually coming out on top, I still feel I have a lot to learn. The following is what I do know, and hopefully it can help all of you who are interested in competitive overclocking:
[Right: Jeremiah receiving the awards from Tony Liao, Gigabyte's VP of Sales and Marketing, and Francois Piednoel, Intel's Senior Performance Analyst]
When discussing competitive overclocking, I break the process down into three basic parts; prepping, overclocking, and tweaking/benching. Each part is extremely important, and builds on the previous step. There are other minor steps many people use. For instance; many times, when time is not a concern, I’ll run all the hardware through all the benchmark programs to ensure that none of my hardware is faulty. This is usually done at stock frequencies, or close to stock speeds, and only when time allows. So I consider prep work the first major step.
• Prep work is the process (maybe even an art) of preparing you hardware for the overclocking session. For me this consists of preparing for sub-zero cooling to be used on the CPU and/or GPU. This process requires a bit of thought and finesse. The goal is to prevent formation of condensation.
Tuan here (my comments in gray). During the competition, many of the overclockers used Vaseline, die-electric puddy, and other insulating materials to cover the areas around the CPU, such as the VRM. This prevents liquid condensation from dripping onto the motherboard and causing a short. Be weary that doing this also insulates the heat around the covered area. So you want to make sure that there's adequate cooling on the entire motherboard.
After mounting an LN2 container on your motherboard/graphics card, and pouring LN2 onto the container… the container becomes very cold. The colder it gets the more potential it has to gather condensation. Frozen condensation does not pose a threat, only liquid condensation. So while preventing the formation of any condensation is ideal, rarely is that accomplished. There are many techniques used to accomplish this goal, I stick to the more common methods, as they seem to work the best.
I noticed usually the competitors would keep dabbing the surrounding areas with tissue, constantly making sure that frozen condensation wouldn't start melting. The LN2 pots that they used would often be insulated too, to prevent condensation from occurring.
• Overclocking consists of finding the right combination of settings to maximize the potential of your hardware. There at a tremendous amount of variable in overclocking to the limit, and the task can be a bit daunting at times. I try to keep in mind that’s it’s important to work with one thing at a time, so that you can identify the source of a problem quickly, and compensate accurately to continue the bench. The problem is that this can take hours upon hours to dial every aspect of your hardware in to its maximum potential.
In competition, I find it is better go with “known good” overclock settings for less significant aspects (i.e. memory sub-timings), and focus your time and effort on the more significant settings (i.e. CPU frequency). My strategy (and most others as well), is to start at speeds you are confident will pass, and work your way up to the faster speeds.
Stepping up voltages for memory and CPU at tiny increments will help you establish both a successful higher frequency as well as a stable system. There's definitely a factor of how good the grade of your hardware is, so this comes down to trial and error--no two CPUs are exactly the same. This applies to everything in the system: motherboard, memory and components included.
• Tweaking/benching is the process of optimizing the operating system and software to most efficiently take advantage of your hardware for a particular benchmark (every benchmark may require different settings). I believe this is where the true innovators earn their reputation. Spending hours upon hours and days upon days trying to find the absolute best setting possible for a particular benchmark is beyond reality in most peoples’ lives (mine included). Most overclockers read about what these others have done, and attempt to mimic the settings on their own systems. There is also tons of controversy over the benefit of many of these tweaks, and many are very platform dependent. There are also many tweaks that are quick and easy to implement, and make a substantial impact regardless of the platform... these are the only ones I use in competition.
Many overclockers were concerned leading up to the GOOC event in LA because the motherboard selected for the event was a more entry level board than typical. However, the Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD4P surprised many of us with its very high end BIOS overclocking options, and its overall performance. There were plenty of options for voltage, timings, and memory options. The Gigabyte “Ultra Durable 3” technology is a tough sale if you ask me. There are tons of motherboards on the market which do not use this technology. But from an extreme point of view, it makes tons of sense, and when you can back up a technology with performance to match... enough said!
Quick comment here about Ultra Durable 3--which includes Gigabyte's 2oz copper. Those concerned with stability and longevity, the added benefits are stretched over the long term and aren't immediately visible. However, under stress, many components--and a motherboard contains hundreds--are put under a lot of stress. Heat, current, voltage, and frequencies all stress out a motherboard over the long haul. Many users I've talked to feel that the added benefits Gigabyte builds into its recent motherboards provide peace of mind.
The motherboard is the glue which holds a system together and can have a large effect on performance, and a massive effect on overclocking potential. When pushing hardware to the extreme, lesser products always surface... in my experience, the Gigabyte UD4P was not one of them. I was pleasantly surprised in its stability, capability, and user friendliness. Gigabyte has been able to integrate a majority of the features of the EX58-EXTREME into this low cost board. Very impressive!
Part 2 to come soon. We'll also put up input and strategies from everyone else that competed to see what they did.