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Day One: Continued

Team USA Emerges in Round One of Overdrive
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Prepping requires careful protection against water condensation

In sharp contrast, Team Ironmods rushed right into tuning its hardware and had an entire board’s worth of baseline scores posted before the end of the first day of competition. The group did do some prep work, laying down foam, covering sensitive areas with petroleum jelly, and packing on the paper towels. But they did just enough to keep their hardware safe, dedicating valuable time to benching instead.

Team OCForums took a similar approach and ended up trading blows with Ironmods for most of the competition. The trio was quickly up and running, generating benchmarks and taking screenshots that’d ultimately pave the way for a nail-biting finish on the contest’s second day.

An unfortunate string of hardware troubles prevented 411 Overkill Extreme from hitting clocks much higher than 4 GHz, which kept them from generating baseline numbers that they knew wouldn’t be competitive. The group’s first motherboard just didn’t have the headroom they needed. So, after fighting it for most of the first day, a second board was provided, which turned out to be missing a pin inside of the processor socket. The challenge would have been significant enough had a third board performed as expected, but even then, frequencies above 4 GHz just weren’t in the cards.

Filling Thermos' with LN2

Before we were able to make too much progress with actual benchmarking, we received a visit from the friendly Culver City Fire Department to check in on the event (more detail on that in this video). Once they signed off on our setup, the game was on. We wheeled out the dewars full of liquid nitrogen and the teams started cooling their systems, looking for the cold bugs that’d lock up each of their configurations. For reference, there is such a thing as getting these components too cold—go past a certain point and everything just locks up.

Lunch Break

Knowing that several of our guests had never partaken in the joy that is In and Out, our Tom’s Guide managing editor Rachel Rosmarin and fearless CEO Antoine Boulin made a dash to the west coast chain for Double Doubles and fries—mostly Animal Style, of course.

Lunch didn’t stop the four teams from battling on. In between bites they continued tuning and tweaking, searching for the right combination of settings that’d allow each benchmark to complete successfully. One interesting piece of information that the teams shared was that because each benchmark taxes a different part of each component, overclocking competitively didn’t mean finding the one combination of settings that’d do the trick. Rather, for each test, the teams needed to start over and find the very edge before backing down in search of a speed stable enough to benchmark. Suddenly, the task at hand sounded all the more time-sensitive given just two days of testing.

Wrapping Up Day One

Volt-modded GTX 280, ready for action

We were originally scheduled to wrap up around 5:00 PM, leaving plenty of time for the contestants to get back to their hotel rooms, find food, and relax before the next day of competition. It quickly became clear, though, that our group of 12 would rather tune their hardware throughout the night than succumb to sleep. “Fine,” we said. “Let the games continue until the first overclocker drops.”

A stack of 10 pizzas came and went. We made another run for Red Bull, and a guest on the scene obliged the overclocker’s requests for Coronas and made a beer run. Supposedly, that’s the stuff that makes higher frequencies possible. At around 10, the group had had enough, and we officially called the first day of competition. Two teams had posted a full score board’s worth of results, and two teams shared a single score between them. Though it might have seemed easy to predict a winner at that point, the second day was full of surprises that saw the scales tip three different ways.

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    Anonymous , 13 December 2008 07:59
    They wanted to get the highest benchmarks, yet they used a GTX 280 when a HD4870X2 is alot more powerful? o.O