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
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
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.
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