Overclocking study – Intel Core i7 4790K & Intel Pentium G3258 – air, water, phase-change, DICE & LN2
This is LAB501, house of world champions overclockers and die-hard overclocking fans, so normally I wouldn’t explain to you guys what overclocking is. However, this time, and only this time, I am thinking that maybe we have new readers interested in overclocking, or guys who only used air so far, and are reading this story to learn about alternative cooling methods. So… the die-hard bunch can skip this page. Newbie overclockers, this page is for you. Pay attention!
You wouldn’t believe this, but actually I often get asked “what is overclocking”. Be it at an event where we do a live show (like Dreamhack or LSE), be it when some of my newer friends ask me exactly what we do for a living, or what was it about in the contest they saw we won… And the answer is always the same – overclocking can be defined as pushing the limits of a PC component, beyond the speed planned by the manufacturers.
Basically, everything in a computer runs at a certain speed (frequency), even if we talk about the CPU, graphic card, memory, PCI devices, S-ATA controller or USB controller. With some of those speeds you don’t want to mess because the system will stop working properly (for instance S-ATA, PCI, etc), but there are also those speeds that you can slightly adjust without causing problems. That is the case with the CPU, the VGA (graphic card) and the memory. You can increase the clock beyond the factory specs and gain performance while you do that.
Of course, it is very easy to overclock nowadays, but this was not the situation many years ago. In fact, manufacturers would try anything possible to stop you from doing it, because you wouldn’t need a more expensive PC if you could overclock. However, the funny part is that some of the first “overclocks” were done in 1983 by none other then… Intel. I’m not kidding – they would sell their Intel 8088 to IBM, who would set the CPU clock in their PC at 4.7MHz, while Intel was offering the same 8088 model clocked at 8MHz.
However, hardware aficionados didn’t have an easy ride overclocking back then, since most of the times you would need some hardware knowledge in order to modify the parts needed for overclocking, because most of the parts in a PC would run at the same clock, mainly the BUS speed. The first big breakthrough came in 1992, with the introduction of 486DX2 (or i486DX2), when a concept we all know and use today was introduced – the multiplier.
This allowed the CPU to run at higher speeds then the bus speed (2x in this case), and many people “upgraded” their 486SX to DX2 speeds (from 25MHz to 33MHz) by moving a jumper on the board. But one other thing also got introduced to later 486 models, and that was the fan mounted on the radiator. Until then, all CPU’s were passively cooled with a small aluminum or copper radiator.
1998 brought another important breakthrough – the birth of Celeron 300A (a 300 MHz Mendocino core CPU, based on a 66MHz FSB and a locked 4.5 multiplier) and Abit BH-6. Celeron 300A was one of the first real overclockable CPU’s, and motherboards like Abit BH6 made that possible. You could ran Celeron 300A at 450MHz simply by using the 100MHz FSB, and most of them would actually be stable at those clocks.
But the introduction of the Abit BH6 board meant something else – it was the first motherboard that would allow you to make all the settings in BIOS, without any need to move jumpers or dip switches on the motherboards. And I think that with this combo, 15 years ago overclocking started to become something mainstream, something that most of the PC enthusiasts could enjoy, and not only the hard core engineer bunch.