Issue 23 2013 rev 2.1
THE WORLD’S BEST OVERCLOCKING ONLINE MAGAZINE. SERIOUSLY.
It’s An Odd
World! Can the hardware DIY market continue this way?
HWBOT COUNTRY CUP 2012 Greece, finally victorious! Feature
K|NGPIN’S GUIDE Permanent Prep your motherboard for Liquid Nitrogen Reviewed
ASUS RAMPAGE IV GENE Reviewed
MSI N660 HAWK Lifestyle
CORSAIR Obsidian 900D
Iced out and nowhere to go – Untitled I
t would be very appropriate for me to write an Ed’s note about the New Year and all that. However at the time of writing, I had nothing to say about 2013. I suppose it’s too early in the year to have any meaningful insight about the industry. We have though as TheOverclocker team gone out on a limb and have committed to a few changes in 2013 which will further improve and refine the publication. (Seriously, the title has nothing to do with anything in this here body of text). One of those changes isn’t really related to the magazine in its magazine form but the website. We’ll have a new Overclocking record section which we will use for only the most relevant and worthwhile overclocking records. The reason for this is further elaborated on in the feature, but briefly it’ll be a simple list of biggest, greatest and “grandest” scores in overclocking. It’s pretty self-explanatory but it’s a minute change we’d been thinking about for a while and there’s no better time to set this in motion than at the beginning of 2013. With the changes we expect to happen in overclocking and hardware this year, there should be a lot more features a well, so the magazine “may” get a little bigger than before even if it’s by a few pages. As for those who are thinking about F1 OC, we’ve been mulling this over for a while and it turns out that there are some modifications that need to take place in the overclocking economy before that is ready to launch. There isn’t enough space to go into it all here, but briefly stated, F1OC is a live event and in truth it can’t be any other way. We are determined to not repeat the mistakes of the past. For us to succeed it needs to happen on our terms. Overclocking as a whole
needs to be self-reliant; this isn’t the case at present. As it stands, the entire overclocking enterprise is maintained solely by economic interests. This in itself isn’t a problem, but it does run the risk of being steered into oblivion. This isn’t by the community or any regulatory body like HWBOT, but perhaps by the absence of a clear and easily communicated trajectory that overclocking or at least competitive overclocking should be taking. With the multitudes of overclocking records that have grown to be as meaningless as most press releases are, they are a vivid display of the short comings we presently have in the system. There’s a lot more to be sad about this issue, but that will be covered in the feature in the pages that follow. So for more insight into this matter, be sure to page through and weigh in on it if you have valuable insight. As for the rest of this issue, I can’t tell you what’s in it hardware wise because for the first time ever, this Ed’s note was written as the first piece of copy. So I’ll likely be as surprised as you are. Suffice to say whatever hardware we have should be interesting. Lest I forget, if you remember a few issues ago I spoke briefly about review scores. In this issue some of those necessary changes I spoke about are ready and you’ll see them from this month going forward. In closing, I’m looking forward to 2013 and I’m hoping it’s a wonderful year for us. We wish the same for vendors, readers and everyone who is in anyway related to overclocking and consumer hardware. Let’s see what wonders 2013 holds if any. [ Neo Sibeko - Editor ] Issue 23 | 2013 The OverClocker 3
REGULARS 3 - Editor’s note The Overclocker is published by OCL-Media (cc).
Editor Neo Sibeko
6 – Q + A with Angel “Chispy” Colon 28 – It’s An Odd World
Art Director Chris Savides
34 – HWBOT Country Cup 2013 Contributors Dane Remendes Vincent “K|ngp|n” Lucido Pieter-Jan “Massman” Plaisier
REVIEWS 10 – ASUS Rampage IV Gene
Online contributor Jonathan Horne
12 – OCZ Vertex 4 512GB SSD 14 – CORSAIR H100i
For editorial and marketing please contact:
16 – ASRock 990FX Extreme9 22 – Cooler Master Seidon 240M
24 – INTEL 335 240GB SSD
Tel: +8869 8874 0949
26 – MSI GTX 660 HAWK
18 – Permanent Prep your motherboard for LN2
LIFESTYLE 40 - Game Review – The Walking Dead 44 – ASUS ROG Xonar Phoebus 46 – CORSAIR OBSIDIAN 900D
4 The OverClocker Issue 23 | 2013
Angel “Chispy” Colon Country Name and City: I am from a small island in the Caribbean called Puerto Rico. I live in the city of Mayaguez, which is the far west point of the Island. It’s a laid back slow pace city but fun mostly during the night at the beach. Boquerón beach in particular fills up with people from all over the world in the many bars and restaurants across the beach front. If you are lucky you will find yourself immersed in a beach party without even knowing it, dancing to the beats of Caribbean music. Puerto Rico has some of the most beautiful beaches on the globe rated in the top ten across the world. Partly because we are one of only two places in the entire world which are blessed with three bioluminescence bays, (the salt water bay will light up at your touch like the stars in the sky, sparkling and glowing at the slightest movement of the water). It really is a magical place to see on a moonless night. If you swim in it you will find yourself glowing as the little microorganisms called dinoflagellates stick to your body. It reminds me of cold cathodes and neon tubing in a water-cooled rig. It’s the best way I can describe it in an overclocking context so everyone has an idea of how a bioluminescent bay looks like at night. On the far East side of the island you will find the cosmopolitan city of San Juan which is the capital of Puerto Rico our capital city which is a mixture of old Spanish castles (El Morro fortress in the old San Juan) and tall skyscrapers in the new San Juan. We have our own tropical rain forest called (El Yunque) filled with wildlife and big waterfalls; a paradise truly. What language(s) do you speak? Spanish, English and some German 6 The OverClocker Issue 23 | 2013
Your nickname “Chispy”, how did that come about? Well, there’s a funny the story behind my nickname. I was born 3 month premature and as soon as the doctor saw me he said to my mother, “Que chispita de bebe.” meaning in English, “It’s a small, tiny baby.” hence the nickname Chispy (small, tiny baby). I have used the same nickname all my life, even though I am not so small now :) When did you start overclocking seriously or rather competitively for points? Is overclocking solely for competitive purposes or do you take part in it for “fun” mainly? I started overclocking seriously in 2004 with an AMD Athlon 64 (Winchester). Like most of us at that time, I was mainly using high end air cooling and modding heat sinks with big fans for cooling purposes. Then in the beginning of 2007 I joined HWBOT in a competitive capacity. I did this up until 2011, but now at this moment I’m
doing it just for the fun factor. I started with air cooling in 2004 then changed to water-cooling, dry ice, vapour phase change and finally LN2 all in 2007. I’ve been overclocking on LN2 since then. What was it that got you started in overclocking? I started overclocking my CPU and GPU to get higher FPS in games. At that time it was for “Need for Speed Underground”. I became a pro gamer and racer in worldwide competitions with a clan at clanbase named FTR. I soon found myself wanting more and more Speed / MHz out of my hardware and that's when I found my way to extreme systems and that was it :) I caught the overclocking bug and suddenly found a new, more interesting hobby than racing with Team FTR. I got hooked immediately to overclocking exclusively. When you started overclocking which forums did you spend your time on
mostly? Has that changed now many years into the extreme hobby? When I started overclocking I spent most of my time at the extreme systems forum and Guru3D. That has changed as I have moved on with my life and I don’t spend that much time on forums anymore. Still, once a day I visit extreme systems to check out the news and the extreme cooling section along with the KINGPINCOOLING forums as well. What are you currently overclocking (at the time of writing) and how goes it? I’m currently overclocking an MSI Lightning HD7970. I’m testing different BIOS versions for this video card and drivers while I wait for a cooper shim that I have ordered online so that I can mount my kingpin Tek9 Fat LN2 Pot on it. I’m also pre-testing my good INTEL i7 3770k CPU and RAM with my ASUS Maximus V Extreme in preparation for PCMark05. With PCMark05 it’s like a ritual, a lot of things have to be running correctly and lots of tweaking and driver testing has to be done for this benchmark.
As the most prominent overclocker from the Caribbean if not the only competitive one, what is the hardware scene like there? Is hardware easily accessible and how is the pricing? We get access to all the hardware available on the market, but no immediate access on launch dates. So we have to wait a little, sometimes longer until the newly launched hardware arrives. I would like to see better and more support from the hardware companies for the guys like me. In general hardware is easily available on the island. Since we are part of the USA we have CompUSA stores all over and you can find everything you need in there for extreme overclocking. In addition we have the brick and mortar stores that carry a wide variety of old and new hardware. Prices are on the high side due to taxes and everything has to be imported from the USA to the island. How feasible is it for you to get access to LN2 where you live and how much is it? In respect to LN2 I’m a lucky son of
a gun :). I have Linde Gas Guayanilla Plant next door, only a 15 minute drive from my house. Sometimes I will go there two or three times to refill my 60L Dewar in one day when I want to beat a certain score. I got lower prices after I spoke to the manager of the plant and I explained what I used the LN2 for. Since I was there all the time filling up my Dewar, I became like a family member to the employees of the plant and now they know me really well and are ready to fill up my Dewar at any time. It’s not cheap by any means, even with the good price the manager already gives me I still pay $156.49USD for a 60L Dewar. I used to pay double that price at around $300USD before. Any hardware you’re looking forward to this year? Sure I am, I’m really looking forward to the NVIDIA GeForce Titan, I think it will be a great video card and many 3DMark world records will fall after this card is out. That's just my opinion due to the rumours on the net.
Issue 23 | 2013 The OverClocker 7
What is your single greatest or most memorable overclocking achievement? I broke the PCMark05 world record in 2009 and it was a very rewarding feeling, even though it was short lived. It only lasted 2 days until Gorillakos, Stelaras or another Greek Team took it to the next level and took the world record back, good times. That score was done with a gem W3570 that I bought online. I hit the jackpot with that CPU and it did help me climb all the way to the top 10 in HWBOT. I was at my peak of my career and accomplished my goal of being ranked number 9 on HWBOT in 2010, an unforgettable moment for me. As one who has been into overclocking longer than most people, is there anything you miss about the old days, be it the hardware, the people or the scene as a whole? I come from the old school and what I really miss the most is the people, those 3DMark01 friendly battles between Pedro Rocha, Shamino, KIngpIn, hipro5 and Macci were epic. I believe the whole scene has changed and evolved in some ways for the
better and in others for the worst unfortunately. Which is your favourite benchmark if any and what is your least favourite and why? My favourite benchmark has always been PCMark05 because I really like storage tweaking a lot. The whole ritual from start to finish is fascinating. Finding the best drivers for the video card and tweaking the OS all the way until you start running the actual benchmark. It is so time consuming that it can be days of tweaking trying to find the right settings and sweet spot for that specific setup at the time. My least favourite is 3DMark05 due to the fact that all you really need to get a good score is CPU frequency and just a couple of tweaks on VISTA 32-bit and that's all. It’s no fun as it comes down to whoever has the highest clocked CPU. The benchmark is very CPU dependant. Share with us your thoughts on the new 3DMark and if you will Catzilla. This time Futuremark has outdone itself as this has been the most spectacular looking 3DMark of them all. I really like it a lot and I am getting hooked on FireStrike already. A well thought out benchmark, excellent execution by Futuremark. Catzilla is a lot of fun to run, also to watch. It’s a different benchmark and I like that. It’s different in a good way from all the others, refreshing. I would like to see it included in HWBOT rankings. How often do you have overclocking sessions in a month? All out LN2 I will have one or two 10 to 12 hour long bench sessions a month. Most of the time in-between LN2 sessions I’m running my two stage Blue cascade made by sdumper at -114C. Sometimes my high end water cooling set up made entirely of SWIFTECH parts. I’m always benching something, be it on LN2, cascade or water. As a solo overclocker for the most part around your part of the world, do you have any memorable group overclocking sessions? Definitely the most memorable group bench session I ever had was in September 2010 at KIngpIn’s old Deep Freeze Lab in Detroit Michigan. It
8 The OverClocker Issue 23 | 2013
was a Team PURE meet with KIngpIn, 3d06 from Canada, Knopflerbruce from Norway and US overclocker Gunslinger. Gautam arrived after I left. There was an instant bond between all of us, a friendship that connect us for life. It was a memorable experience that I will carry with me until the day I leave this earth. So much knowledge shared between us. I learned a lot of new tweaks from the master himself, KIngpIn. I truly admire the dedication he puts into every bench session and his willingness to help us find “the way it’s meant to be played!” I mean 3DMark benchmarks. It was an epic one week long bench session where I barely slept other than a couple of hours. So much LN2 and hardware, we hammered the GTX480 really hard for an entire week along with the EVGA X58 Classified and SR2. In your opinion, is overclocking growing, dying or staying about the same for the most part? I have seen the growth of overclocking as the years pass by; I definitely see a growth with a new very competitive generation that will continue to carry on the legacy of overclocking throughout the many years to come. What are your thoughts about the growing desire for some users to fabricate scores? Is this something inherent in the community or is it exacerbated by the current need for vendors to claim records? It really irritates me when I see that stuff. I have been overclocking for so long and every year is the same. You get people who are unknown, new in the overclocking scene coming out of nowhere with these outrageous scores to get to the top of the charts finding the loopholes in the rules and
using Photoshop scores trying to get attention. In my opinion the problem lies in the thin line drawn between the community and the vendors pushing for world records to gain momentum and exposure for their new hardware. Is there any thought or idea you would like to extend to the community and other readers? We are a big community that keeps evolving and growing and as such I would like to see more respect within our community. We have a unique passion for overclocking let’s try to maintain a good spirit and carry on the legacy of the old school overclockers of old. Outside of overclocking, what else are you as passionate about and spent an equal amount of time if not more doing? Going to the beach with my family. Do you have any advice for overclockers just starting out? For the new generation of overclockers in the community, if they would like to have a long career and a spotless record in the overclocking scene stay clean and abide by the rules. You won’t have to fear what the future has for you. If I have done it the right way for so many years with a spotless record you guys can do it too. Respect, dignity and honour are some of the words that come to my mind. If a humble guy like me coming from a small island in the Caribbean made it this far without a single problem ever in the overclocking scene. I know it’s possible for you new guys to do it too. I try to set an example myself and that is the best advice I can give you. Just stay true to yourselves. [ The OverClocker ] Issue 23 | 2013 The OverClocker 9
EDITOR’S CHOICE AWARD
ASUS RAMPAGE IV GENE ERP: $279.99 | Website: rog.asus.com
Test Machine • INTEL Core i7 3970X • MSI NGTX680 Lightning (313.96) • CORSAIR Dominator Platinum • 4x4GB DDR 2666MHZ CL10 • OCZ Vertex 4 512GB SSD • Cooler Master Silent Pro M2 1500W • Windows 7 64-bit SP1 /XP SP3
ons ago, in hardware years, INTEL let lose its X79 platform. Not too different from SandyBridge apart from more cores and two additional memory channels. This platform was immediately relegated to a 3DMark11, 3DMark Vantage and Wprime toy. Not much has changed for the most part, it remains a platform for those particular benchmarks. A simple enough transition to make from P67/Z77 then one would have thought. Well, as history would 10 The OverClocker Issue 23 | 2013
reveal, this wasn’t the case. Far from it as most vendors plainly put, failed at producing competent X79 motherboards. This is right across the board; each vendor had odd and quirky problems with their offerings. In a way this just made it easier for the one vendor who had working boards to stand out. There are no prizes for guessing that this was ASUS. Not only were they the first to offer a true overclockers X79 board, the ROG team managed to pretty much set the standard for the X79 platform. Be it the Rampage IV Extreme, the Formula or the Gene as we have here. They all stood and continue to stand head and shoulders above everything else . Simply put, if you want to buy into the X79 platform right now, don’t kid yourself by looking anywhere other than at what the ROG boards have to offer. So why then would we bother with a seemingly ancient motherboard from
a family that is well reputed to be exquisite? Simply because even after all this time, the Rampage IV Gene is one supremely impressive motherboard. At $280 it isn’t cheap in comparison to Z77 boards, but please be mindful of just how expensive the platform is. X79 boards have always been premium products and in relative terms, the RIVG is well priced. More so than INTEL’s X79 offering which was in every way inferior to what the Gene offers, but cost anywhere up to $100 more. What does this diminutive board give you then? Well ASUS will tell you about the SupremeFX III audio controller and all related circuitry that that ensures superior, clean audio playback. A host of software encoding and decoding features such as X-Fi® Xtreme Fidelity, THX TruStudio PRO, EAX Advanced HD5.0 and others. All good and well, it is no secret that ASUS knows audio better
“Simply put, if you want to buy into the X79 platform right now, don’t kid yourself by looking anywhere other than at what the ROG boards have to offer.” All results were obtained at 4600MHz on an un-optimized Windows7 64-bit and Windows XP SP3. These are our results, yours may vary so only use these as a guideline for a similarly configured system.
ASUS Rampage IV Gene
ASRock X79 Extreme9
Super Pi 8M
Aida 64 Copy
Aida 64 Latency
than any other vendor in this market. They’ve proved that comprehensively with the Xonar products. Great for gamers and those who care about that kind of thing, but for overclockers, the magic is somewhere else. It may seem a small area to put so much focus on, but it can never be stated enough and that is the thoroughness of the ASUS ROG BIOS. In a word, it’s “incredible”. Making it perhaps not easy, but simple to navigate and tune your settings. No other BIOS from any vendor can claim to be this detailed yet remain so simple. This is where all the magic happens. As many competitors can well enough produce a motherboard that is peerless electronically, so few if any can produce a BIOS like this. Be it the MEM Tweaker’s paradise, the overclocking profiles or the vast number of tuning options with well written explanations. It all comes together to make for an easy board to work with. Getting up to speed with the RIVG much as it is with the Formula and Extreme is a piece of cake. You simply select a profile and start tuning from there, to the
capabilities of your CPU and memory. It is this quiet simplicity and attention to detail where the Gene board distinguishes itself from many others. One may argue that performance is near identical to other boards when you eventually get them to work correctly. That may be the case but consider that when you’re dealing with SNB-E CPUs, it’s relatively easy to reach the maximum frequency; in fact sometimes it can very well be done with chilled water setups or dry ice. Neither of which we would consider exotic cooling. That in no way though diminishes what this board and its brethren are capable off. There’ll be no OC-Key here and no VGA-Hotwire, but hey, you do get what you pay for. In as far as maximizing CPU clocks, you’ll not find much of a difference between the Rampage IV Gene and the Extreme. For single card competitive overclocking on the platform, you may as well buy this board. Sure you’ll have to sort out your own mods and controlling schemes for your graphics card (No Hotwire), but given the price differences, it just may not
be worth paying almost $200 more for the Extreme. This one then is an impressive motherboard, that can’t be faulted in any way. The Rampage IV Gene is the best mATX X79 board money can buy. [ TheOverclocker ]
Summary Think of the Rampage IV Gene as a mini Rampage IV Extreme that’s been, because that’s exactly what it is. You lose out on a few features, but for the most part it retains the essence of that board and as such it is mighty impressive in all respects. One of the best boards every produced.
Would you buy it? Without hesitation
Issue 23 | 2013 The OverClocker 11
OCZ VERTEX4 512GB SSD RRP: : $479.99 | Website: www.ocz.com
Test Machine • Intel Core i7 3970X • ASUS Rampage IV Gene (3404) • CORSAIR Dominator Platinum 4x4GB DDR 2666MHZ CL10 • Cooler Master Silent Pro M2 1500W • Windows 7 64-bit SP1
n as much as SSD prices have come down, the high capacity drives such as this one are still prohibitively expensive for most users. One could argue that there are plenty of graphics cards that retail for more than this, but it is always easier to motivate for a graphics card than it is an SSD. The odd thing here is that the performance difference to be had by switching to an SSD or switching to a much faster SSD will be more pronounced than it ever could be when switching from an HD7950 to an HD7970. It just comes down to how 12 The OverClocker Issue 23 | 2013
we as enthusiasts relate to our hardware and what we consider important. With that said, there are those who despite using an SSD for their primary storage would like to install all their productivity suits and/or games on an SSD as well. With the ever increasing install sizes of applications and games it’s far too easy to fill up a 128GB drive and even 240/256GB drives are being exhausted quicker than say one or two years ago. It’s thus only understandable that 512GB drives are more desirable. Not only do they offer better performance than their 256GB counterparts, they obviously offer larger capacities allowing you to store more. OCZ then like many others have large capacity SSDs but here is one that many of us may be able to justify as it strikes a delicate balance between price and performance. You can get a cheaper and supremely fast CORSAIR Neutron GTX 480GB drive, but as the name suggests. It’s a 480GB drive whereas this here
is a 512GB drive. The price difference between the two being $20 as well, which should already tell you something about the performance of the Vertex4. If however you’ve not figured it out, the OCZ Vertex4 is fast. It’s actually very fast. Look not to the OCZ Vector 256GB driver we reviewed in the last issue as that is just unmatched by any driver we are aware off. Look instead at the Vertex 4 as the second best thing to that. It’s slightly cheaper but the performance isn’t that far off the pace. $480 odd is a lot of money to ask for a drive, there are fewer drives that can claim to be this fast at this price. Best of all, you’re not being charged such a premium price for an SF-2281 powered SSD, but one that features OCZ’s own in-house INDILINX Everest 2 controller. You are promised a 5 year warranty, and more relevantly, almost uniform performance across regardless of the kind of data you’re putting on the drive. So
All results were obtained at 4800MHz on a normal install of Windows 7 64-bit. These are our results, yours may vary so only use these as a guideline for a similarly configured system
4K Write (QD32)
Maximum IO response time (ms)
OCZ Vertex 4 512GB
Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB
Corsair Neutron 240GB
INTEL 335 240GB SSD
there are no major disparities between compressed and uncompressible data performance. The particular drive we tested featured sixteen 32GB 25nm INTEL MLC Flash NAND chips and 1GB of DDR3 DRAM to act as cache. We can imagine that the smaller capacity drives have less cache, but performance should be relatively linear should the 512GB be a stretch for you. What we found in performance should hold true for the 256 and perhaps 128GB drive as well. With some nifty firmware tuning, along with the components mentioned above, OCZ have produced a stellar drive. The only thing that could be troublesome for the OCZ Vertex 4 is oddly enough the Vector drive because if outright speed is what you’re after, you’re better off with the Vector. Even in its 256GB guise it manages to outpace the Vertex4 in OCZ’s line up. Having said that we will
argue that the performance differences between these drives is academic rather than practical, so that should be considered before a purchasing decision is made. As far as we’re concerned, this is the drive to beat where capacity, performance and price is concerned. There are other drives that come dangerously close, but we’ve no experience with them. Thus we find the Vertex4 512GB drive to be the right combination. We’d go so far as to state that you can’t really do significantly better than the Vertex4, despite all this time on the market. Should $480 be too much for you, do consider the 256GB variant. You’ll lose some of the appeal, but you’ll still get great performance. In this day and age, where it’s hard to buy a truly disappointing SSD, the Vertex4 is even more impressive because it manages to stand out above so many others. [ TheOverclocker ]
Summary The 512GB Vertex4 may cost a little too much, but consider its performance and you’ll realize that the price is justified. Despite, the existence of some hot competition from other vendors, the Vertex4 delivers mighty impressive performance and secures itself as the second fastest drive we’ve ever tested here.
Would you buy it? If we needed a high capacity high performance drive, we’d look no further than the Vertex 4. So yes, we’d buy it.
Issue 23 | 2013 The OverClocker 13
CORSAIR H100i ERP: $109.99 | Website: www.corsair.com
Test Machine • INTEL Core i7 3970X • ASUS Rampage IV Gene(3404) • CORSAIR Dominator Platinum 2x4GB DDR 2666MHZ CL10 • OCZ Vertex 4 512GBSSD • Cooler Master Silent Pro M2 1500W • Windows 7 64-bit SP1 /XP SP3
nitially when we received this cooler, it was the first to come from CORSAIR’s refreshed line up. The H110 had not been announced. So this was their premium water cooler in the Hydro series. Several weeks ago the H110 showed up and has since taken over the reigns as the end all be all of water cooling solutions from CORSAIR. Still, we reckon that there are far more people with the cases and real estate to make use of the more traditional dual 120mm radiator of the 14 The OverClocker Issue 23 | 2013
H100i than that of the H110. Not only that, but the H100i has software control which the H110 does not. This is very important in the context of gamers and power users who may not always want the fans spinning at full tilt as it can be very loud and rather annoying. You could always use the BIOS on your motherboard to regulate the fan speeds, but it’s better to just use the provided software and set the fan speed to your liking without having to muck about in the BIOS. So then what makes the H100i different from its predecessor? Well, it’s not much actually. After all, you’re dealing with a maintenance free water cooling loop and they are by and large the same. Gone are the ribbed and stiff pipes of the H100, in their place rubberised high volume tubing. These not only allow better water flow but they can be twisted a lot more meaning installing is actually easier
than ever before you. We certainly prefer this tubing over the previous solution and would plead with other vendors to follow suit who may still be thinking of going with the more traditional route. This is just better for everything. The water block itself has been improved, to what extent remains unclear as we are not able to compare the two blocks side by side, but suffice to say we’ve no reason to doubt CORSAIR’s claims and from the performance we measured, there may be some merit to this. Be it the same base was used or not, we appreciate any improvement in cooling we can get, especially if it does not needlessly increase the noise levels. More about the CPU block, it is now easier than ever before to install on to the motherboard. CORSAIR always had the best system for installing their water cooler. It was simple,
“ The entire units is built to very high standards, you need not be told this but it’s evident in things such as the packaging and instruction leaflet all the way to the performance.” straight forward and robust. In contrast to many other systems where the back plate was prone to damage because the threaded metal inserts would eventually destroy the plastic mould. Great examples of this are on competing Thermaltake and ANTEC water cooling kits. You’ll find none of that on the CORSAIR H100i as it further simplifies what was an already basic installation. The entire unit is built to very high standards and, you need not be told thins but it’s evident in the packaging, the instruction leaflet, the ease of use and obviously the performance. The brackets for the CPU block are magnetized so you can pretty much install the system in the case while it’s upright. The magnetic bracket just settles into place, aligning itself correctly and you can tighten the thumb screws from there with ease. As much as we do like this CPU cooler however, it has one annoying caveat and that’s the number of cables which have come as a result of the software control. There are leads for the USB cable, so if you have a push and pull system setup you end up with a lot of cables which makes cable management a
nightmare. This would have worked better if CORSAIR had managed to use a single cable to neaten it all out. Other than that, it’s a solid design with obvious enhancements from its forerunner. Where performance is concerned, you’ll be hard pressed to tell the difference between this cooler and the H100. Yes it’s cooler by a few degrees, but for the most part they are near identical. It’s always hard to measure accurately and with precision just how different two coolers are. As we’ve said before, you’re not going to be able to gain an extra 50MHz when moving from a good air cooler to a water cooler. This is even more so with the H100i versus the original H100. With the 3970X at 4.8GHz (1.34V) the highest temperature we recorded with the H100i was 64’C. The H100 at the same settings was keeping the CPU at 66’C. Not much of a difference as far as we’re concerned and one that actually falls within the margin of error. Still, at worst it’s just as good as the original cooler and at best it genuinely does offer better performance in which case, the purchase is warranted. We aren’t sure if CORSAIR will continue to
sell the H100, but even if they did and you were ready to purchase, consider the H100i or the H110 for that matter, they are both better in almost all regards. [ TheOverclocker ]
Summary Small tweaks here and there have allowed CORSAIR to improve on the H100. The H100i may have the software as its biggest selling point, but we find that it’s in everything else where it makes notable improvements making it unnecessary to even consider the H100. The H100i is a mighty fine CPU cooler indeed.
Would you buy it? There aren’t many coolers that can claim to be better. So we’d certainly buy the H100i
Issue 23 | 2013 The OverClocker 15
ASRock 990FX Extreme9 ERP: $159.99 | Website: www.asrock.com
Test Machine • AMD FX-8350 • MSI NGTX680 Lightning (313.96) • CORSAIR Dominator Platinum • 2x4GB DDR 2666MHZ CL10 • OCZ Vertex 4 256G SSD • Cooler Master Silent Pro M2 1500W • Windows 7 64-bit SP1 /XP SP3
MD’s 990FX and 950SB truly have to go. We do understand that there’s not much for them to add, but we’d like to see native USB 3.0 and PCI-Express 3.0 as well. As it is, it makes it difficult for vendors to make truly inspired boards using the chipset. The CPUs have made some tangible strides in making the AMD 990FX platform compelling, but on the chipset side. We essentially have the same chipset from the middle of 2011, which wasn’t too different from what they brought out in 2010. So if ever AMD was in doubt about refreshing their chipset, we’d like to weigh in 16 The OverClocker Issue 23 | 2013
and say it’s long overdue. That however is a situation we can do nothing about and as it stands this looks to be the chipset for now and forever more. So what are vendors to do then to sell more of these boards based on the chipset? Well, you could either build the best 990FX board possible at a given price point like the Crosshair-Formula-Z or be a little less ambitious and offer the 990FX Extreme9 such as we have here. What may initially sound as a negative experience is actually nothing of the sort. You see, we are fully aware of the limitations that are imposed on vendors in as far as making truly compelling motherboards for the platform, but we do believe there are some things that can and should be done to help differentiate the boards more overtly. On the Exteme9, we have what can only be considered a high end board, but sadly one that doesn’t come to the party with all the toys it could
have had. We levelled similar criticisms at the Formula-Z but here they are that much more pronounced and needed we might add. Before we even get into the performance and all things related, we’d like to say that on a premium product such as this. We expect to have everything useful that is on a Fatal1ty board, with the sole distinction being that this board actually works. For all intents and purposes, this is a much better motherboard and as such we expected more. For instance, a dedicated audio controller would have done the trick, one with all the bells and whistles as found on the X79 Fatal1ty Champion board. We’d have also appreciated a Wi-Fi dongle, PCI-Express DIP switch or perhaps voltage measuring points. In other words, we’d have liked to see a board that’s a little more featured, if only because the native platform is so barren. Performance then is as you’d expect, because the Extreme9 Is slower than the ASUS
All results were obtained at 5000MHz on an un-optimized Windows7 64-bit and Windows XP SP3. These are our results, yours may vary so only use these as a guideline for a similarly configured system.
Super Pi 8M
Heaven Wprime 1024 Xtreme Preset
ASUS Crosshair V Formula-Z (5GHz)
ASRock 990FX Extreme9 (5GHz)
“On the Exteme9, we have what can only be considered a high end board, but sadly one that doesn’t come to the party with all the toys it could have had.“ Summary board in all the tests, but the differences in performance are minor enough for us to not factor them into our general consensus. We had a bit of a problem initially with setting the memory to 2400MHz; however that could have easily been the combination of our memory and the board. We quickly changed sets and it was sorted and everything was as expected. The one area where ASROCK does excel lately is in the BIOS layout and features. This BIOS is for obvious reasons not as comprehensive as the one you’ll find on the OC Formula, but it’s designed around the same concept. We may not care much for the sparkling stars, but save for that it’s very good. Everything is laid out logically and navigating it becomes second nature even if you’ve never used an ASROCK board before. It just makes the entire process a lot more pleasant. Be it you’re configuring the system for your gaming needs or in preparation for your frequency records, the
BIOS is straight forward. The Dehumidifier option is a nonstarter as we can’t figure out how power cycling the system can in anyway help when you’ve cold bugged or sufferi ng from humidity as the name would suggest. If anything we’d think you’d best avoid that option entirely as you run the risk of damaging your hardware. Alas, it is there for some reason or another. Where ASROCK can make some improvements is in some of the explanations for the various options. “Config the feature of spread spectrum” is not something we’d be expecting from the outfit after so many years. Ultimately its attention to such minor detail amongst others that prevent this board from being an absolute must have, leaving the door open for competitors. Fortunately its software and it can be easily remedied. Overall, a solid board that’s certainly worth the investment if you’re looking.
ASRock much like other vendors finds itself in a situation where they want to sell AMD boards, but the chipset just doesn’t offer that much. So the basic feature set is near identical to others boards at this price range. Where we do feel ASRock could have made their product stand out is in the package. There was nothing stopping the Extreme9 from including a Wi-Fi dongle or adapter and the same audio solution found on some of their Fatal1ty boards.
Would you buy it? It’s cheap enough to warrant a second look. If the Formula-Z was too much of a stretch, we’d consider this board
[ TheOverclocker ] Issue 23 | 2013 The OverClocker 17
your motherboard for Liquid Nitrogen I’ve always loved pictures of overclocking setups bare without any insulation on the containers, all frozen up. These kinds of pictures are cool looking and inspiring to me. Going back to the old days when I would see pictures of Team Japan overclocking legends, I was amazed that they could run LN2 without any insulation at all and using only paper towels/ tissue for absorbing condensation. Living in a crazy humid environment, this method usually didn’t work for me using a bare untreated motherboard, as it usually resulted in a lake of water on the board. So I always opted for as much insulation as possible to be on the safe side, not caring about how pretty the system looked. Being in a less humid lab setting and not wanting to spend tons of time insulating
18 The OverClocker Issue 23 | 2013
anymore, I’ve learned what the absolute minimum you can get away with is. In this issue of TheOverclocker, I will show you how I prepare a motherboard for extreme overclocking on LN2/DI without any insulation on the containers. It’s permanent, quite easy and if the units being used are on the blingy side, it’s a nice way to show them off frozen at demos and events during live benching. As usual you’ll need masking tape for painting, some flexible protective circuit board lacquer such as Plastikote or CPL, petroleum jelly (Vaseline is good), foam insulation tape, paper towels (“shop towels” are best as they are REALLY absorbent and wick up water nicely), Q-tips for applying grease to small components, some scissors to cut out the foam tape and towel gaskets.
STEP 1 WARNING: This prep method will be PERMANENT and provide you with long term protection for the motherboard against condensation when done right. Forget about an RMA though. First we need to tape up all slots; connectors and any other places on the motherboard you DO NOT want to spray such as the
CPU socket, memory slots, PCI-E slots, peripheral, fan connectors as well as voltage read points. In addition unscrew and remove the CPU socket latch before taping off the socket itself. Picture 1
STEP 2 PWM heat sinks must be removed
but the MOSFETs cannot get any spray on them as it will affect their ability to cool via the heat sink. We can use some grease to make this easy after everything is taped up by putting some light grease on the end of a Q-tip and applying a thin coating on the entire top of each MOSFET. This will ensure that the spray will not stick to the top of the MOSFET
Issue 23 | 2013 The OverClocker 19
STEP 4 once dried, but you can still get the legs protection from shorting. Pictures 2 and 3
STEP 3 The board is now ready to be sprayed. It’s always better to do multiple light coatings as opposed to fewer thick ones. Do one side at a time until the board is completely cured. Flip it over and do the same the other side. I will usually apply 3 coats as that seems to be just
20 The OverClocker Issue 23 | 2013
right. The lacquer spray is flexible, so it will make a nice flexible bond when fully cured that won’t crack or peel as long as you follow the steps detailed in the later part of this guide. Before putting the PWM sinks back on, be sure to wipe off the grease you applied to the top of the MOSFETs. There will be a "skin" of lacquer that will come right off. Only the top of the MOSFET surface should be totally clean. Pictures 4, 5 and 6
As an important protective step, foam tape pieces must be cut to form a barrier against the LN2 splashing on the board as this can crack the CPL coating and leave the board vulnerable to moisture related failures. I usually don't stick it down and just leave the backing on the tape before putting it on the board. This is better as if the tape gets splashed with a lot of LN2, it won't freeze and crack the lacquer coating it’s stuck to underneath. Pictures 7 and 8
Before mounting the container, be sure to make a socket paper towel gasket with some really absorbent paper towel such as "blue shop towels". This helps greatly in catching moisture runoff that falls down to the socket area during heating up of the container. We don't do anything to the pins or area underneath the pins as it can lead to detection issues with memory etc. So it's good to avoid water dripping down in there always. Pictures 9 and 10
All that is left for the final step is to mount the container, pull the system down and go for it. The container will totally freeze up and really look cool while you are benching. Youâ€™ll not need to worry about any condensation issues. You can wad up some paper towel around the base of the unit for extra protection when warming up and also to keep frost from forming in and around the socket. As long as the unit stays totally frozen, there will be very little water. What there is will
be handled by the towels. I bench a few lab boards repeatedly using this method and both are still running perfectly after a combined 30+ LN2 sessions on them. As usual, be sure to use lots of air circulation around the socket area to keep falling LN2 vapor from freezing the memory and PWM areas. Good luck and have fun! Pictures 11 and 12
Issue 23 | 2013 The OverClocker 21
COOLER MASTER Seidon 240M ERP: $94.99 | Website: www.coolermaster.com
Test Machine • INTEL Core i7 3970X • ASUS Rampage IV Gene (3404) • CORSAIR Dominator Platinum 2x4GB DDR 2666MHZ CL10 • OCZ Vertex 4 256GBSSD • Cooler Master Silent Pro M2 1500W • Windows 7 64-bit SP1
s coolers evolve with each generation, they stay very close to each other in performance. That is to say, from the first generation all in one coolers 22 The OverClocker Issue 23 | 2013
to now, they have migrated together in performance. Taken for granted by many of us, but still widely misunderstood by the vast majority of “gamers” is the real or perceived effect of all in one water cooling. Moving from a good to great air cooler or any of these systems is not likely to net you any extra speed on your CPU. Upgrading from an NH-D14 to the H110 is unlikely to gain you 50MHz let alone 100MHz. So what we are looking at with such coolers is more than just idle and load temperatures. Essentially we are looking for convenience. Imagine if
you will you’re testing a lot of hardware, binning CPUs, testing NB or IMC. The ease in which these coolers come off is almost as important if not more so than outright cooling capacity. This is where, the divergence between overclockers and power users in needed in the utilitarian purposes of the coolers they buy. For overclockers and for us here at TheOverclocker, we are swayed by simple and efficient installation of these heat sinks. We can imagine that those who test large quantities of CPUs as well (let’s find the right one shall we –Ed) would want a system that comes
“We kept tabs on the cooling performance for about an hour with the system under load and found that it’s not that far off from the H100 which is our reference cooler.” apart in seconds and can be put together with equivalent haste. Such unfortunately isn’t the case with the Seidon like many other solutions for several vendors.. The installation mechanism, while notably better than on many competing products, is still a little long winded. We are all for copying things that work and the mounting system that CORSAIR has on their Hydro series works well, this one not as much. However we do understand that this is primarily for users who will rarely need to uninstall the unit once setup. As a semipermanent installation then, it’s not bad at all. How efficient is this cooler for the price you’re paying? Well, it’s rather good at its designated function. We kept tabs on the cooling performance for about an hour with the system under load and found that it’s not that far off from the H100 which is our reference cooler. In fact, for all intents and purposes it produced near identical numbers. That is, our 3970X under full load reached 68’C at its warmest. Some very good performance there and no doubt better than we had expected from the Seidon. We do suspect that with some settling of the TIM, the temperatures could be marginally better, but for the most part it did its job in a stellar manner. As a suggestion to Cooler Master we’d like to see a beefier radiator as the standard one is fairly thin which obviously isn’t helping the cooler efficiency.
We sincerely hope that with the next outing, Cooler Master considers a radiator that’s a few mm thicker. Not only to separate it from the plethora of near identical 240mm dual radiator offerings but to offer improved performance, with quieter or lower rpm fans. With all that said, at $95 the 240M is priced keenly. Yes it’s a mere $15 cheaper than the H100i, but for those who are on a stringent budget, perhaps this just may be enough of a reason to have them stick with the Seidon 240M. As for the noise levels mentioned earlier, we found that the 240M could do with some improvements. Not in so much the pump making a noise, but the fans. At max tilt they are unbearable and the performance gains are marginal for it. This also holds true for the system operating at nominal fan speeds. It’s louder than it should be which somewhat defeats the purpose of installing water cooling for many people. It’s nothing a quick change of fans can’t fix, but this is a unit from Cooler Master and we would have expected quieter, more efficient fans. In our short time with the Seidon 240M, what we found is that despite the vendor’s esteemed reputation amongst enthusiasts and power users alike. Cooler Master hasn’t really done anything to make their offering in this increasingly crowded market special. With many other options around, one has to wonder why some more care was not taken into designing this cooler, if not
for performance but at least aesthetically. It works exactly as advertised but that’s about it. Why buy this cooler when there are possibly others which offer the same performance for a small price premium and perhaps others at a lower price. It’s neither here nor there and it leaves us feeling rather uninspired. We certainly wouldn’t advise anyone against it, but we would encourage some more deliberation before committing to the purchase. [ TheOverclocker ]
Summary Looking for a basic 240mm all in one unit? Well you should start here and perhaps stop here depending on your budget and needs. It’s not the best in the business but it’s competent enough in our books. A few changes here and there could make this into a real contender in the high end cooling game. The Seidon 240M delivers the goods at $95 then.
Would you buy it? At the right price sure thing, if we’ve a little more to spend though, we’d consider something beefier.
Issue 23 | 2013 The OverClocker 23
INTEL 335 240GB SSD ERP: $194.99 | Website: www.intel.com
Test Machine • Intel Core i7 3970X • ASUS Rampage IV Gene (3404) • CORSAIR Dominator Platinum 4x4GB DDR 2666MHZ CL10 • Cooler Master Silent Pro M2 1500W • Windows 7 64-bit SP1
F-2281 powered drives. What haven’t we said already about such SSDs? This is the default controller these days and if you’re not sure about a drives’ internals, chances are its powered by one of these. They have become ubiquitous in the market, that even people who are not by any measure technocrats are familiar with them. These are not bad controllers per say, as they do depending on configuration allow for drives to have completely different
24 The OverClocker Issue 23 | 2013
characteristics from one another. On the low end you’ll get off the shelf solutions which pretty much produce the kinds of results we first saw when the controller made its debut. On the opposite end of the spectrum you may find drives such as the KINGSTON Hyper X 3K which are amongst the upper echelon of consumer grade SSDs. This capacity to cater and be tailored to different markets is possibly one of the controller’s strongest selling points. We have had more than our fair share of such drives, but there’s no indication that they will stop anytime soon. They sell and consumers demand them, so we best get used to it. In as far as INTEL is concerned the 335 series drives are as with the 520, powered by this controller. We’d like to tell you something interesting here in about the hardware but we simply can’t. There’s no DRAM to speak of for caching and the only remotely interesting facet of this drive is the 20nm NAND
that INTEL has gone with. What that means in essence is that the NAND lasts a shorter time than the larger lithography NAND but INTEL assures us that the drives are still good for 1.2Million hours. Add a 3 year warranty to that and you’re looking at once again, a fairly off the mill drive. If you’re looking at top notch performance, well you’ll not find it here. It’s not to say the drive is slow though, as we recorded sequential read performance higher than what we did with the Vertex4, also in the issue. That’s some stellar performance there in that discipline, but after that the praises stop. From there on it behaves much like a generic drive with sequential write numbers lower than 250MB/s and a 4K Write that is particularly low at 97.82MB/s (less than one third the performance of the CORSAIR Neutron 240GB). We also found the IOPS performance somewhat average but it could be that we
“This capacity to cater and be tailored to different markets is possibly one of the controller’s strongest selling points. “
All results were obtained at 4800MHz s on a normal install of Windows 7 64-bit. These are our results, yours may vary so only use these as a guideline for a similarly configured system
4K Write (QD32)
Maximum IO response time (ms)
OCZ Vertex 4 512GB
Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB
Corsair Neutron 240GB
INTEL 335 240GB SSD
were spoiled by the 520 drive which boasted particularly good performance. Despite all the numbers, what one must be mindful of is the selling price of this drive. At $195 it stops being a mediocre to average drive and becomes quite attractive in the right usage scenario. This is not one for the enthusiast but more for those wanting to migrate from traditional magnetic storage to an SSD. So you can either use this drive in a LAN PC, in a test bench for your 3D Benchmarks, or in a HTPC. None of these contexts necessitate the need for an overtly fast SSD and the INTEL 335 will do just fine. More appropriately though, we’d imagine that if you’re one looking to upgrade a notebook that you may have had for a while, this is the easiest way to do it, cheaply and effectively. Just be sure that your notebook can actually fit this drive as it’s not 7mm in height like some of the newer drives but a full 9.5mm. Indeed ‘tis an
odd packaging decision then considering the evangelism for Ultra books. For those who are feeling a little more adventurous you could try your hand at installing this on your PS3, to help load times and such, but we think that spending $200 on a marginal upgrade for a $300 console isn’t wise. It is however interesting. In closing we, state once again that this isn’t a high performance drive, so do not look to it for performance over your existing LSI powered drive as you’re likely to be disappointed. It’s just an affordable entry into SSDs offering decent performance and enough capacity to be useful. It’s hard to be overly critical of the drive at this price point. We do not recommend it for more power users, but for everyone else do consider it thoroughly as you could do a lot worse than this drive for significantly more money. [ TheOverclocker ]
Summary The INTEL 335 240GB SSD isn’t the quickest drive on the block. Not by any stretch of the imagination, but that doesn’t mean it’s slow either. Slightly above average for an SF-2281 powered drive, but with that it does come in at a very attractive price.
Would you buy it? We’d shop around a bit first and consider some other options before committing to this drive. Not bad though.
Issue 23 | 2013 The OverClocker 25
MSI N660 HAWK
RRP: N/A (around $250) | Website: www.msi.com
Test Machine • INTEL Core i7 3970X • ASUS Rampage IV Gene(3404) • CORSAIR Dominator Platinum 2x4GB DDR 2666MHZ CL10 • OCZ VERTEX4 512GB SSD • Cooler Master Silent Pro M2 1500W • Windows 7 64-bit SP1 (FW 313.96)
e don’t often review mid-range graphics adapters here at TheOverclocker. We, for the most part - pretend they do not exist and focus primarily on the $399 USD GPUs and up that all truly competitive overclockers concern themselves with. That hasn’t changed and is unlikely to in the foreseeable future. With that said, it is very apparent just how many overclockers on HWBOT use the cheaper graphics cards. When we last checked there were over 3,000 submissions made with the GTX 560 Ti. 26 The OverClocker Issue 23 | 2013
Granted this is the GTX 660 we are looking at here with around 300 submissions. It does highlight the fact that, there are some overclockers who either prefer overclocking the lower end cards for hardware points and trophies. Or, as we’ve known for a while, the more favourable pricing of these lower end cards means a lot more people have access to them. Regardless of the motivators, it’s clear that there is a market for these in the overclocking ecosystem. MSI is most certainly aware of this and thus have produced a stellar card in the N660 HAWK. This is essentially a Lightning GTX660 card, but for whatever reason MSI has gone with the HAWK name. With that you’ll get the MSI Afterburner software that allows you to change the usual Core Voltage, Power Limit, Memory and Auxiliary Voltage. You’ll also get and most importantly the GPU Reactor. MSI will tell you about their Military Class
III components, but all they are essentially is hi quality capacitors and MOSFETs. The card is designed for sub zero cooling, at least more so than any other GTX 660 on the market. As a competitive overclocker, you’ve little to no choice but to buy this card if GTX 660 overclocking is what you’re after. This one is just that much more refined than any other one on the market, for the reasons stated previously and more. As with all MSI overclocking graphics cards, be mindful of that fact that the normal* MSI Afterburner can only take you so far. You’ll need an unlocked version to truly tap into the potential of the card amongst a few modifications you may have to make to the card physically. Add NVIDIA’s limitations to what can actually be done with software and we’d put to you that you’re better off with just the soldered mods and use the software for adjusting clock speeds only. You’ll
All results were obtained at 4800MHz on an un-optimized Windows7 64-bit. These are our results, yours may vary so only use these as a guideline for a similarly configured system.
MSI NGTX680 Lightning
MSI N660 HAWK
MSI N660 HAWK OC
3DMark Fire Stream
not only have an easier time (depending on who you know) finding the mods, you should in theory have more control over the card. That is just about it for the overclockers as far as this card is concerned. For the gamers, the N660 HAWK offers near GTX 660 Ti performance, if only because of the very high speed memory and factory OC. It isn’t going to blow your socks off, but it’s sufficient enough to put up a good fight against the more expensive reference GTX 660 Ti. Unfortunately, this card isn’t available everywhere. It’s of limited availability in the markets it’s in and in others just not at all. Where you can find it the pricing may be too close to that of the GTX 660 Ti - which begs the question of why buy this when for $20 to $30 more you could buy the MSI N660Ti (Power Edition). It’s a tricky situation and one that has maybe disadvantaged this card in some ways. Nonetheless this is still a nifty
Hitman:Absolution (Ultra 4xAA)
GPU Score: 38944
Hardware (GPU+CPU): 9215
GPU Score: 27584
Hardware (GPU+ CPU): 6417
GPU Score: 29173
Hardware (GPU+ CPU): 6812
graphics card. Do not be put off by the results as those are against the NGTX680 Lightning and of course against that card, very few will manage to impress. Look at it for what it is and realize that there’s some fun to be had here with a little bit of overclocking for the gamers, and even more so for the overclockers. It’s equally impressive in the hands of either and we’d go so far as to say it would be a shame to not run this card at 1.2GHz or more, which shouldn’t be a problem as it’s a mere 50MHz above the default boost clock. The availability of this card may be a problem for some, but if you are in region where it is available and the high end graphics cards are simply not an option. Do give the N660Hawk a look as it’s better than what you may have suspected. It was certainly more impressive than we were willing to give it credit for before testing, so go on and get buy the card, you’ll not regret it. [ TheOverclocker ]
Summary As far as GTX 660 cards are concerned, this is easily the best in the lot. It walks a fine line between 660Ti performance and being priced out of relevance. Fortunately it manages to fall on the right side. Be it you’re looking for hardware points or an affordable gaming card. You can’t do better than the N660 HAWK where the GTX660 is concerned.
Would you buy it? Of course we would. It’s the best GTX660 on the market.
Issue 23 | 2013 The OverClocker 27
IT’S AN ODD
WORLD! Why the DIY market simply can’t maintain these old ways.
our company isn’t what you say it is. It’s what you customers believe it to be!” – A profound person.
There’s no hiding from the truth that faces this industry. The truth has been starring at us for several years now and while it was easy to ignore it, turning a blind eye isn’t working anymore. The apparent need for many companies to diversify into different spheres is a clear indication of the shrinking or rather increasingly saturated markets. It’s not necessarily that end users have less money to spend per say (this is true in part no doubt), but it’s probably that there’s very little to incentivise the same spend as before. Take for example the multitudes of vendors that have gotten into AIO cooling solutions, gaming keyboards, mice, mouse mats, gaming headsets and headphones. There are more competitors than there is room. The oddest thing about this is that virtually every vendor sights the same reason for entering these markets which is, “New revenue streams and higher margins on peripherals”. This may be a viable strategy under certain conditions; however that isn’t the case if there are 50 competitors where there were previously 15. In reality as a 28 The OverClocker Issue 23 | 2013
vendor you’ll likely end up in the same situation that pressured you into seeking other markets outside your primary business model. In essence you’ve not solved the problem, but merely attempted to avoid dealing with it by casting your already limited resources to other ventures. Chances are that the same inadequacies that made it difficult to sell your wears will be present in these new ecosystems. Ideally any venture into new territories should not be underpinned solely by the need to cushion an increasingly thinning bottom-line. That in itself doesn’t guarantee failure, but going about these new business interests with no sensitivity to this is going to yield very little. It’s also in some ways, cheeky to your potential customers in the following way. As a vendor you’re assuming that whatever brand power you had in your native market is as compelling as it is in this new landscape. Most importantly, you’re making the assumption that you necessarily have something better to offer than those who have been in the business significantly longer. It may be a positive attitude to have, but it doesn’t make it a realistic or useful one for that matter. Here are two examples which are very contradictory to each other. One vendor made a genuine and earnest
effort and succeeded. The other, well let’s just say there are a lot more of these. Vendor (A) several years ago began making sound cards. Not budget or entry level cards, but true high end and gaming audio cards. Fast forward to today and they are virtually unmatched in that department. From gaming products to true audiophile grade DACs; their family of audio products is remarkable. Vendor (B) or rather Vendors (B), decided to make gaming keyboards, mice, headphones and mouse bungees. Some went on to make USB flash drives, SD cards, portable hard drives, etc. This list is endless and as long as the number of companies that fall into this category. Not all of them are mediocre in these devices, some are quite successful, but for the most part that’s less than a handful. The rest are neither here nor there, making either uninspired products or mediocre products at best. This happens primarily because; many vendors have it in them that marketing their wares is something that is dictated at the end of their development cycle. In essence, anything can and should be manufactured. As long as it can have a price attached to it, it can be sold. This may be true in some other business models and economies,
Issue 23| 2013 The OverClocker 29
but as far as the DIY market is concerned, it isn’t so. Most products and brands associated with them serve one or two purposes. They either justify their cost to the customer through their function, or their brand identity is so strong it makes a statement about that individual by merely having purchased said product. Serving any one of these purposes is fine, however serving neither is a problem as you can imagine. Price may be a strong incentive for customers to buy your products, but price is not something you can put into your products, but rather something that anybody can dictate to you. Simply put, there’s always someone who can sell a similar enough product for less. Thus, it’s imperative that vendors be in tune with what it is their end users want, not their distributors. It’s absurd to be concerned with what the distributor is willing to sell and isn’t willing to sell. They are not the source of the money you make. The end users who walk into brick and mortar stores and buy online are where the money comes from. This massive disconnect and absence of discourse between vendors and their end users is a major part of this problem.
SELL, SELL, SELL What does selling components or products to end users have to do with sales? Nothing! It sounds asinine, but it’s true. The sale of a product is a single transaction. It is not the end all, be all of the relationship between a vendor and the end user. In fact I would argue that, the part of selling, is confirming a commitment made long before the sale is even considered. To get that commitment however takes some doing on the part of the vendor. In essence, your marketing gets people to commit to a product. Your sales people would then monetize that commitment. So if the marketing fails, then the chances of that subsequent conversion taking place are severely diminished. Vendors often forget that for end users, there’s always another option. Always! It seems that in product development, the people with the least influence are the ones who are the closest to the consumer. 30 The OverClocker Issue 23 | 2013
That is, any marketing department is always going to be more in tune with end users than any sales or engineering team. Yet, the opinions of marketing teams are considered last and deemed of least importance. The engineering/backroom teams dictate what a company can make and what they are making. The sales teams then force or persuade their distributors and then finally the marketing teams must sell what’s already out in the channel. It takes no measure of genius to figure out that this entire progression of events and processes is backwards. Obviously, there are times where the process has to follow this peculiar trajectory but that in no way implies that this is appropriate for any and all contexts. It’s knowing when this is applicable and when it’s not that results in a vendor that’s in touch with where their money comes from. In essence a vendor which is able to provide relevant and compelling products to end users. This is especially true for items that are recursive such as CPU coolers, motherboard, graphics and such. I’ve noticed that very rarely, if ever do vendor research what it was exactly that swayed the purchasing decisions of consumers one way or the other. This is vividly evident in the very dubious press releases and marketing campaigns that litter the internet daily. A classic example is just how hard it is for vendors to come to grips with the fact that many consumers aren’t concerned about the robustness of a particular MOSFET, capacitor or how long it can maintain its designated function inside a 50’C hot box. There are many such campaigns which obviously sell what their respective engineering teams sold them. Forgetting that these “features” have absolutely no meaning to the customers; they are pushed as the most salient points of a graphics card or motherboard.
Often I find a vendors’ rhetoric is that, it shows the quality of their workmanship and that users want to be assured that their components will last 10 years or some such drivel. Consider the absurdity of that argument for a minute. These vendors are hoping these very end users they are trying to impress will buy every new generation of their motherboard or graphics card, which is almost every 8 to 12 months. Why would a 10 year lifespan interest them? I mean not to undermine these technical merits, but they are points that can’t be sold nor should they be. They are not points that are going to result in “sales”. One can imagine then, the difficulty that many marketing people in this industry
Issue 23| 2013 The OverClocker 31
“Your company isn’t what you say it is. It’s what you customers believe it to be!” – A profound person. face when they are tasked with selling such features to a buying public that doesn’t care. Perhaps it would be wiser to actually figure out what it is that end users of specific demographics are most concerned about and tailor the products around that. At any rate, it has to simpler than trying to write a four hundred word press release about a reference graphics card with a 20MHz overclock.
ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK A profound shortcoming of many vendors is the assumption that they are “world-leading”. Not only is it not possible for all of them to be “world-leading” it’s a vacuous statement. There’s a certain amount of delusional thinking that’s needed to be at the forefront of any undertaking. However, this must be tempered with large doses of reality. A truly progressive vendor will borrow good ideas from the competition and improve upon them where there is room. There’s a reason why your competitor is doing better than you are. It may simply be because of marketing, but sometimes it’s because they have a better offering. In truth, I’ve found that the vendors with better products often have better marketing as well. There’s no causality there but there is a certain measure of correlation. For the challenge isn’t pandering to the customers you already have, who have some affinity towards your brand. It’s managing to convert a customer who was committed to 32 The OverClocker Issue 23 | 2013
your competitor. The only way to do that is to offer a truly better product in as many ways as possible. You go about that, by simply mimicking what works and making it better, while you discard what doesn’t. This is another area where it seems engineers are proving to be very inadequate. For any team of engineers to refuse implementation of what is obviously a useful feature is ridiculous. More so if this refusal to implement said feature is because “they deem it unimportant”. Why would a potential customer move to this vendor’s products based on what the engineers think is important? You have to appreciate the irrationality of this somewhat. I would think an engineering team’s purpose is to design what is needed, not what they feel is needed. Again, it’s ok to be mildly delusional, but ultimately the reality of the task at hand must prevail.
TO KNOW THY COMPETITION To truly beat a competitor, it requires one to be very critical of their own shortcomings. It mandates that one looks in earnest at where they can improve and make strides towards proficiency. With that, a watchful eye on the competition must be kept at all times especially if they are in a better position as far as brand value, market penetration, volumes etc. For instance, if you plan on making audio equipment, it would be great if you knew exactly who are the key players in that market are. For example, consider earphones retailing for $90 to $120 USD. In
that price range, you’ll likely be competing with Skullcandy, SMS Audio, SOUL, BOSE and other prominent brands. As a computer DIY vendor, it’ll take a lot more to convince the general public to buy your product than price or features. More than anything, it’ll need a successful marketing campaign married somewhat to good quality audio. In this market you’re dealing with a lot more branding than when you’re competing with cases and CPU coolers. This means your product either has to be exceptional or you need to make the customers you already have from your core business work for you. So the individual that uses your case, your cooler and your PSU for example has to somehow be compelled to use your earphones as well. That is, your brand needs to be strong enough to undermine the celebrity status of many of the headphone companies mentioned above. Anything short of that will further undermine the brand because all it looks like is yet another PC company getting into a market they have no business being in.
OVERCLOCKERS AND GAMERS – NOT SO DISTANT COUSINS It’s a generally thought that if hardware can survive the strain overclockers put it through, then it should be more than capable for gamers. This is true for the most part and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. What may not be obvious though are the needs overclockers
have versus those of gamers. A misconception is that there’s a huge disconnect between gamers and overclockers. This isn’t true simply because the vast majority of overclockers actually got into overclocking via gaming. In fact some continue to have gaming as part of their everyday lives. How is it then that many of the vendors I’ve spoken to have very little understanding or knowledge of services such as EA’s Origin, UBISOFT’s Uplay or the biggest of them all, STEAM? Is it not the equivalent of not knowing about HWBOT, or some years back XtremeSystems? If as a vendor you wish to use overclockers to sell your wares to gamers, then does it not make sense to know the services that gamers use? In fact STEAM has very useful statistics about the gaming habits of users which could prove very useful in structuring marketing campaigns and possibly product development. Moreover, these services and the statistics provided can help formulate a more realistic idea of what it is their end user is like, allowing the vendor to create more focused products and selling them the right way to an audience that’s already paying attention. NVIDIA and AMD offer game bundles with their GPUs (Well NVIDIA’s bundle is woeful at best but
that’s another story), however that is not a consistent offer and such game keys will stop being offered as they are used up in inventory. The better approach as add-in board partners is to bundle these game licenses via download codes, independent of AMD and NVIDIA. Would that not create value on the side of the vendor rather than the GPU manufacturer? If need be, have end users, register their hardware so they can gain access to STEAM or Origin codes. I have previously heard that the pricing may be an issue, but I put to you this. Any gamer who is spending $199 or more on a graphics card will not be turned away by a $10 premium on a title that is actually worth having. One may then say, “$10 titles are generally not good.” Well, this isn’t true because indie games are big right now and many of them are retailing at around this price. The title isn’t the issue, but creating value is. There’s isn’t much additional value you can create with another HDMI-DVI dongle. As for the overclockers, well there isn’t much you can do for these individuals. The bundling of 3DMark or any other benchmark isn’t likely to affect purchasing decisions. It is hardware that’s going to make all the difference here. Small things like labelled read points, sites for attaching trimmers and the like would be greatly appreciated.
There’s no need for the trimmers to be included in the package, but just small labels here and there would do the trick. It may not seem like much but it would be adding value to the graphics card. Best of all it doesn’t cost more.
AN ESCAPING THOUGHT There are many more issues here that I’ve not mentioned or have even thought about. The point being made is that, there’s a severe lack of pragmatic and creative thinking in the industry. What looks to be an industry in its twilight years is merely the demise of ideas and practices that are no longer applicable in today’s marketplace. It’s not a problem of selling as such but one of knowing what to sell and how to go about it. Some consolidation is inevitable for sure, but the demise of an entire industry isn’t necessary. In closing, I’ve chosen to speak in general in the above editorial and not specifically mention any vendor or service provider. Whatever shortcomings I have highlighted are synonymous with more than one company. It’s the parity in the inadequacy of approaches that’s important, rather than the specific pitfalls. Here’s hoping this all changes going forward, changes for the better. [ -Neo Out! ]
“There’s no hiding from the truth that faces this industry. The truth has been starring at us for several years now and while it was easy to ignore it, turning a blind eye isn’t working anymore.” Issue 23| 2013 The OverClocker 33
GREECE, FINALL E
very year, since 2009, HWBOT organizes the biggest and arguably the most prestigious online overclocking competition during the last month of the year. The competition goes by the name of Country Cup and revolves around national overclocking teams. The thing is: everyone can join the national team and contribute to the country's ranking - all you need to do is overclock the right hardware and, boom!, you're in the national team. As said, the Country Cup series started in 2009 with two consecutive wins for Romania, followed by the first victory for Poland in 2011. This year, Greece finally took their first crown after finishing fourth in 2010 and a close second in 2011. Poland, last
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year's victors finished second and Bulgaria finished on third place for the second time in the history of the Country Cup. This year's edition was a bit shorter in duration than last year’s edition, but only featured six different stages instead of the usual seven. The stages of this year’s Cup, held from November 22 until December 30, required the countries to overclock a variety of hardware, including some old and rare items as well as a couple of more recently released platforms. As the Country Cup tradition dictates, each stage requires a number of different overclockers to combine results to form the best possible country average. The best average (highest or lowest depending on the benchmark) wins the stage. The point
distribution was equal for each stage, making every stage as important as the next one. 25 points for the winner, 18 for the runner up and 16 for the second runner-up all the way down to two points for number 17. Every participating country, read: enter one score, was awarded at least one point and therefore getting an official Country Cup rank!
STAGE 1 – 3DMARK11 TRINITY FULL OUT The first stage of the competition was based on the AMD Trinity platform. No, not the usual “let’s-play-IGP” as HWBOT was already hosting a couple of vendor-supported Trinity competitions featuring the IGP, but a proper full-out all-in max-the-score concept. Use as
ntry Cup 2012 Y VICTORIOUS! much GPU horsepower as you can and see how the Trinity platform weighs up against the Intel-based monster systems out there. For this stage, only one score was required to complete the team’s “average”. In the end, it was Greece that took the crown in the first stage with Aristidis, ex-number one of the HWBOT Xtreme Overclockers League, pushing his A10-5800K to 5.88GHz and combining it with three Radeon HD 7970 graphics cards only cooled with water-cooling. Aristidis held off Poland’s Xtreme Addict who came less than a hundred points short despite having a CPU that clocked past 6GHz and a triple GPU Crossfire LN2 GPU configuration. Bulgaria ended up third with an even more impressive CPU, clocked at 6.1GHz. Even though
overclocking is mostly about hardware, tweaking and optimizations still play a significant role!
STAGE 2 – 3DMARK03 NVIDIA SLI CHALLENGE A bit more challenging perhaps than the AMD Trinity stage was Stage 2 where the overclockers had to push older Nvidia graphics cards to the maximum in a 2xGPU SLI configuration. The requirement for this stage was to form the best possible average score using configurations based on three different GeForce generations. The stage was limited to the GeForce 7, GeForce 8 and GeForce 9 series, restricting it to older hardware and preventing the new (read: expensive)
high-end graphics cards to take over the competition. The required skill set needed for overclocking is unique for each generation and type of hardware. In other words, it’s not because you are very good at overclocking the latest GTX 680 that you’ll also easily take down records in the GeForce 7, 8 or 9 classes. Different architectures, different problems. Poland took the win in this one, combining excellent scores of Xtreme Addict, Ivanov and Johny_b, beating Greece (Mortisboy, Varachio, Stelaras) and Germany (Crazzzy85, Der8auer, Matti OC).
STAGE 3 – 1155/2011 BCLK The third stage was, in terms of set up, quite similar to the second stage. Again, three different overclockers
Issue 23 | 2013 The OverClocker 35
had to form a country average, this time focusing on the highest BCLK validation with LGA1155 and LGA2011 platforms, but with different CPU architectures. This is actually just a very complex way of saying: push the BCLK of your Sandy Bridge, Sandy Bridge-E and Ivy Bridge processor as high as possible. A seemingly easy stage, but with surprisingly great results! Greece scored the best average, thus getting ranked number one. Indonesia came in second this time, scoring only 0.30MHz higher than Belgium. The most impressive result of this stage was undoubtedly Tiltevros‘ (Greece) X79 overall reference clock frequency record of 179.16 MHz. An amazing result that takes away a bit of the spotlight that 36 The OverClocker Issue 23 | 2013
Finnish overclocker Luumi should get as he managed an impressive 163 MHz earlier in the competition. Russian overclocker S_A_V managed the highest LGA1155 submission, hitting 115.84 MHz, which is about 1MHz short of the LGA1155 BCLK record.
STAGE 4 – AMD SUPERPI 1M With thirty-three countries entering the fourth stage of the Country Cup, the AMD SuperPI 1M stage was the most competitive (or most popular) this year. The task was pretty simple: obtain a SuperPI 1M result with five different AMD platforms, distinguished based on socket type. Looking at the results in previous AMD online overclocking competitions it cannot be called a surprise – but
actually it still kind of is – that the win went to Bulgaria. For some reason, Bulgarian overclockers are very strong when it comes to fine-tuning AMD systems. They took the gold, by quite a large margin, holding off Greece and Indonesia. The winning line-up consisted of: lkozarov, Mollov, More, GunGod, and of course I.nfraR. ed, each of them setting a top three score in their hardware class. Very impressive!
STAGE 5 – LOW-END NVANTAGE The second to last competition stage was without any doubt the most difficult one in terms of finding the right gear to compete. The stage configuration was not very complicated: try to get the best
“As the Country Cup tradition dictates, each stage requires a number of different overclockers to combine results to form the best possible country average. The best average (highest or lowest depending on the benchmark) wins the stage.” possible average 3DMark Vantage Performance score with a GeForce GT 220 GDDR3, GeForce GT 320, GeForce GT 430, GeForce GT 530 and a GeForce GT 630 DDR3. Especially the GT 320 and GT 530 proved to be a difficult challenge as both are OEMonly editions. Practically, this means that EBay and other sources of second hand hardware had to be checked to find the hardware. Difficult – yes, annoying and frustrating – sure. But, the Country Cup is just that: not your regular overclocking competition, but designed to challenge overclockers in every way possible. Including the hunt for the right hardware! Again it was Greece that took the win in this stage, outscoring Bulgaria and Indonesia. Together with the top three, Poland
was the only country to find all five necessary parts to compete. Greece did grab a well-deserved win, though, as they used an external PWM (EVGA Untouchable) for a couple of cards. That is extreme!
STAGE 6 – S775 SUPERPI 32M The last and final stage of the competition was again one with older hardware: LGA775, five in total. Figuring out which components to use wasn’t that difficult: E8700, E8600 and all the other Wolfdale CPUs. Bulgaria did just that, forming a line-up of E8600 all the way down to E8200, but only came in third. Greece took a slightly different approach, including also an E7600 and came in second. But the big winner of the sixth stage was
Poland, which didn’t only use the rare E8700, but also figured out the exotic Xeon E3120, the server counterpart of the E8500, could be used to compete. Nifty and smart! On average, Poland was about twelve seconds faster than runner-up Greece and twentytwo seconds faster than third place Bulgaria. Impressive, that’s for sure!
IN CLOSING With a record high participating countries in this year’s Country Cup, HWBOT and its staff are very satisfied with the competition. Just like every year, the level of competition was – unlike what people would assume judging by the amount of old hardware – very high again. And we can say that not only speaking about Issue 23 | 2013 The OverClocker 37
the competition internally, but also when comparing the competition results to the rest of the database. With forty-seven new hardware class records – 139x top five, and a highest ever X79 BCLK frequency record, it’s impossible not to congratulate all the overclockers participating in this competition with their excellent performance. Apart from the couple of complaints about the fifth stage, there was not much controversy in this Country Cup either, which is always a pleasant experience for the staff. With thirty-five countries participating, this was also the most global wide overclocking competition ever hosted at HWBOT. This year’s surprise is probably Sweden, entering the top fifteen 38 The OverClocker Issue 23 | 2013
for the first time in the Country Cup history. United Kingdom was leading the competition for a while, but could eventually not reach the top five overall. The top spots were for the traditional teams: Bulgaria, Poland, Indonesia, Belgium and, yes, Canada, each of the teams and their overclockers putting great work and skill into the Cup. In the end, however, there can only be one winner and this year that is Greece! With the strong, die-hard core of Greek overclocking completed with a lot of enthusiasts the Greeks have proven over and over again that it is one of they are one of the leading countries in overclocking. A tremendous big applause goes out to the Greek line-up: Aristidis, Demac,
George_oc, GoriLLakoS, Kintaro, Mortisboy, Phil, Stelaras, Tiltevros, Varachio and Zafiropo. Well done! We also like to thank our partner Kingpincooling for providing a couple of pretty awesome cooling pots for the winning teams. We are currently following up on the prize distribution and shipping – apoligies to the winning teams for the delay. As for the last lines of this report, I’d like to once again congratulate every participant for their efforts and results in this competition and invite you all to the next year’s edition of the HWBOT Country Cup 2013. But first: let’s focus on the next Team Cup coming in February! ‘Till the next time! [ Pieter –Jan “Massman” Plaisier ]
The Walking Dead RRP: $24.99 (PC) | Website: www.telltalegames.com
ou are Lee Everett, history teacher turned convicted murderer. Following your sentencing, you find yourself in a cop car en route to your new home, freshly renovated to have an aesthetic that’s shockingly similar to a prison. Only you never make it there. The world goes to shit in a heartbeat. Your car is wrecked on the side of the highway, and you awaken to find yourself injured and alone in a world where the dead have risen to overwhelm the living. After barely surviving your first series of terrifying encounters with the walking dead, you find another survivor: a young girl named Clementine, whose parents were out of town when the zombie apocalypse came a knockin’. Together, you plan to survive all this. This is The 40 The OverClocker Issue 23 | 2013
Walking Dead, and it’s one of the most important video games of the last few years. Not to be confused with Activision’s The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, it’s based on the comic book series of the same name – which you likely already know has spawned a TV series as well. True to Telltale Games’ previous offerings, The Walking Dead is an episodic point-and-click adventure series that’s split across five episodes. While it can’t be called a “game” in the strictest sense, because there’s very little by way of traditional gameplay mechanics or challenge, it’s the story that makes it uniquely alluring. Each episode features various plots and sub-plots, with an array of simple puzzles appearing within.
The bulk of the game is really focused on character development and interaction, and the effect that all of this is having on the group of survivors that Lee and Clementine join. As such, you’ll spend a good deal of time engaged in conversation with the various characters, discovering more about them, choosing whether or not to be completely honest with them about your chequered past, and making incidental dialogue choices that may seem innocuous at first, but later may come back to haunt you. Other than that, there’s not really much to it: there are action sequences, but they’re sparse and generally boil down to things like quick-time events that see you mashing keys/buttons as directed on-screen, or very basic point-
“The Walking Dead is an episodic pointand-click adventure series that’s split across five episodes.”
and-shoot segments. To the game’s credit, however, these sequences often manage to be startlingly tense – often sufficiently conveying utter desperation – especially when they catch you unawares. As I said before though, this is not about the action, or the puzzles, or anything of the sort: The Walking Dead’s strength lies in its story, and in that respect, it’s an absolute triumph. We’ve had some truly significant video game narratives appear these last couple of years, but none quite like this. Perhaps it’s because it feels so human. Maybe it’s because its characters are masterfully written and meaningfully developed. I think though, that it’s the bleakness of it all that makes it extraordinary. This is a game that is so carefully Issue 23 | 2013 The OverClocker 41
hopeless, so purposefully grim, that it stands well above any other video game storyline that comes to mind. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as persistently miserable as I have playing it. It’s an odd reason to revere something that resides within an entertainment medium primarily focused on delivering maximum fun with minimal emotional consequence, but that’s exactly why it’s unique. As you walk the path of its consistently depressing journey, you’ll make a number of choices. Not necessarily moral choices, but choices that’ll affect the nature of your experience. And while they don’t change the story’s course, they do have lasting effects that’ll eat at you. As I alluded to earlier, it might be something as simple as a dialogue choice you make, or it could be the result of a panicked split-second decision during a frantic scene wherein the game puts pressure on you with a rapidly dwindling timer. Either way, it’ll leave you with plenty to think about. You’ll meet a number of interesting characters with unique personalities along the way, and you’ll find yourself growing to either love or hate them – but dominant amongst all the dynamic relationships that absorb you throughout is the one shared by Lee and Clementine. Clementine
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“You’ll meet a number of interesting characters with unique personalities along the way, and you’ll find yourself growing to either love or hate them...” is the heart of The Walking Dead, the embodiment of hope amidst sheer hopelessness. She’s often the driving force behind moments of piercing tenderness in amongst the stark misery of the rest of it all. Watching their bond strengthen from its awkward beginnings to the emotionally potent exchanges they have later is remarkable. It’s the kind of virtual relationship that you very rarely see in this industry dominated by modern military manshoots and alien-infested corridors. If I were forced to point out any gripes I have with the game, I’d glare directly at a few technical fumblings. You’ll encounter minor stuff like flashing textures which are easy to overlook – but something far more serious that immediately springs to mind is one instance when a character model
disappeared from the game world entirely in an incredibly jarring way. Stuff like that is so much more conspicuous in a game so emotionally fuelled. I also think it’s time Telltale found a new engine for its games. While I really like the game’s stylised graphic novel look, I can’t help but wish that it was a bit more visually agile, especially to augment the emotional displays of its digital characters – although the great voice acting does an excellent job of offsetting this. For the most part at least, because there are moments when the voice work for certain characters teeters on the edge of pantomime. Otherwise, there’s nothing I really feel the need to complain about. It’s difficult to point out exactly why The Walking Dead is something you should play when so much of what makes it the brilliant game that it is lies in its fiction, where anything I say runs the risk of being a massive spoiler. If you want a
game that’s packed with intense action, or challenging puzzles, or complex game mechanics, or any of the stuff you’d traditionally expect from games, be warned that you will likely hate this game. But, if you’re feeling adventurous, and you want something that will offer an entirely different experience, The Walking Dead is definitely worth a look. It’s an outstanding piece of interactive storytelling. [ Dane remendes ]
Would you buy it? Yes. It’s easily one of the best stories gaming has ever told.
9/10 Issue 23 | 2013 The OverClocker 43
ASUS ROG Xonar Phoebus RRP: $189.99 | Website: rog.ausus.com
ow do you build a complete gaming PC? Is it simply a matter of buying the most expensive hardware you can afford, or is it something that requires a little more care? We could argue that, spending as much as possible will eventually net you a great machine (maybe not experience per say) but for the wiser amongst us, it takes a little more than that. You can build a truly marvelous gaming PC without a dedicated sound card or audio controller, but I would say that isn’t a complete system. At least it’s not delivering the best possible experience for your investment. Often, audio is overlooked and understandably so, because hardware accelerated audio is all but done for. So what remains 44 The OverClocker Issue 23 | 2013
are software solutions which the modern day processors are more than able to handle. So why would one bother investing this kind of money in a sound card? Well, the answer is simply because it sounds fantastic. Discreet sound cards of this caliber (of which there aren’t many), offer a genuinely superior auditory experience than anything you may find integrated on a motherboard. Yes, this includes gaming motherboards with semi decent audio solutions. $190 may seem like a lot of money to spend on a marginal improvement in audio fidelity. However, I’d like to argue that more often than not we spend our hard earned cash on considerably smaller gains, upgrading SSD’s, graphics cards, power supplies and
what have you. With a sound card like the Phoebus, you’ll appreciate the improved audio quality immediately and once you do, you’ll unlikely be able to go back to onboard solutions. There’s a solidity, punch and clarity that you get with the Phoebus that is just absent from many competing sound cards, including some from ASUS itself. For gaming purposes you could opt for the Essence cards which retail for around the same price, but offer better performance (at least on paper), but you’d miss out on some key features that only the Phoebus has. One such nifty little device is the ROG Control Box. This control box can act as a microphone or a noise cancelling device. It has simple things like volume control, a mute button
and obviously Headphone-out/ Microphone-in connectors. Sounds gimmicky I know, but once you use it, it’s actually very convenient if only because the noise cancelling feature works very well. There’s quite a bit to this sound card that I’ll not be able to get through in this body of text, but suffice to say this is a great package. The control box, only adds to the value, however I’m aware that some feel that a better price, minus the control box would do the trick. ASUS may be promoting Xonar GX3.0 as a selling point, but it’s not really useful anymore because EAX and other such hardware sound enhancement techniques are only found in legacy games. So with each passing year this feature becomes even more irrelevant. So do not let that influence your purchasing decision. What should though amongst many other things is the built in headphone amplifier, the warm sound and just how versatile the sound card is, be it when playing games, listening to music or watching movies. The Xonar Audio Center is basic, but none the less straight forward while the Dolby Home Theater V4 software is a little more detailed. Our experience with it leaves me
unmoved as it doesn’t do much to improve what is an already impressive signal. I personally chose to leave it off and can’t say I missed it. You’ll have to find out what works for you, but it doesn’t hurt having it as part of the package. As said above, there’s just too much to go into in this small space I’ve been allocated, but I for one grow increasingly more impressed with the Phoebus. It’ll be hard to go back to on board audio after this. As a matter of fact, I think this one may just be on my shopping list.
EMI shielding which you find on all self-respecting audio cards these days. It’s supposed to block interference and it probably does, however I’m not sure many people would notice the difference if it were absent.
of the older 4-pin MOLEX on some of the other ASUS sound cards. This connector is certainly better for this kind of thing than the 4-pin.
Full 7.1Channel output support with SPDIF digital output as well. Should you have a real 5.1 channel headset, the Phoebus will work exceptionally well with it provided the headset is halfway decent.
Control box with noise cancelling for your microphone. You can use it as a microphone directly should you not have such a headset as well. This box supposedly suppresses anywhere up to 50% of the ambient noise that would otherwise be picked up by the microphone. [The OverClocker]
The CMI 8788HD audio processor goes by the name of Oxygen Express on the Phoebus. It’s identical to the Oxgen HD apart from being a native PCIExpress part. It supports the usual bells and whistles including 192 KHz sampling rates and 24-bit resolutions.
Phoebus is powered by a 6-pin PCI-Express power plug, instead Issue 23 2013 The OverClocker 45
CORSAIR Obsidian 900D RRP: $349.99 | Website: www.corsair.com
f you presently believe you have a big computer case, you’d best think again. At CES earlier this year CORSAIR released the 800D’s successor, aptly named the 900D or Godzilla if you will. If anything warrants the “bigger” number it would have to be the size of the case. It’s massive, certainly the biggest case I have ever seen to date. The proportions almost look ridiculous, but then again - this is a $350 case so tiny isn’t what I was expecting. My current favorite right now is the COOLER MASTER COSMOS 2. Does the 900D look anywhere near as cool? No, Most certainly not. Don’t’ get me wrong, the 900D isn’t an ugly case, it’s just that it’s not designed in the same way that the COSMOS 2 is. There are no curves, no lines, essentially it’s just a box. That however does not mean it isn’t 46 The OverClocker Issue 23 | 2013
an exquisite chassis . Think of it in the same way you would a Rolls Royce Ghost. (At $350 USD yes it’s the Rolls-Royce of the PC DIY Market) That will better help you understand what the 900D is. The finish is impressive, there are no edges to cut yourself on, all the buttons feel solid and the aluminum front makes for one of the best front panels I’ve ever seen. This case grows on you despite its somewhat mundane aesthetics the first time you see it. There are a ton of features I could mention here but that’s in the features break down and besides, you could easily read that on the website. What I’d rather tell you is that if you’re planning on building the ultimate gaming or power machine. You’ve little choice but to consider at the 900D. Just in
EDITOR’S CHOICE AWARD
real-estate it trumps everything else there is, while housing most of the features that are present in all other CORSAIR cases. It’s the culmination of size and features presented to you, you’re in some ways forced to like it. I didn’t have any XL-ATX boards to install into this case, but suffice to say the standard ATX board I did install looked ridiculously small inside. Much like how a micro-ATX case would look inside the 800D. So reserve this case for those new generation X79 boards from the tier one vendors. Throw a couple or more GeForce Titans in there and you’ll still have more than enough space, to deck out the case with several radiators and fans. When you’re done it’ll weigh a ton but then again this isn’t a LAN box, this is for the Man pad. The only thing I would suggest
5 2 3
for the 900D is four USB 3.0 ports and not just two because all the high end motherboards will have at least two headers for USB3.0. Other than that, I’ve no complaints and in fact, as I was writing this I realized just how much this case impressed me. The looks could have been better, but hey with a case of this quality and price I can forgive the absence of aesthetic inspiration as it’s in near perfect in every other way.
Push a button at the top and the side panel comes of easily
Push this button above and you can get to your PSU or two,
This panel comes off to reveal a dust filter and another place where you can install a triple radiator should you so wish
radiator and such without having to open up the entire case. Pretty useful actually.
Front panel with a total of six USB ports. As I said before, I wish four of these were USB3.0 and only two were traditional USB2.0 alas six is still better than four in total on most cases
right at home here - or the more recent EVGA dual socket boards.
Amongst the many places where you can install fans or radiator(s). As stated above, if you deck this case out with the maximum number of radiators and PSUs you’ll likely not be able to carry it anywhere. [The OverClocker]
Most vendors claim a tool and screw less drive mechanism, then go on to have you mounting your drives on trays using screws. There’s none of that nonsense here. These are the real deal.
It may not look like it, but there is plenty of space here, as this case fits every single enthusiast motherboard on the market today regardless of size. The old GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 would feel Issue 23 | 2013 The OverClocker 47
Issue 17 2011
April 2011 | Issue 14
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THE SECOND COMING!
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ASUS MARS II
Gam me Revvieew
AMD FX 8150
WE CHECK OUT BULLETSTORM.
WARHAMMER: SPACE MARINE 40,000 REVIEW! pg.22
ASUS CROSSHAIR IV EXTREME
TRANSCEND AXERAM PC3-19200 DUAL CHANNEL KIT
GIGABYTE GEFORCE GTX560 TI SUPER OVERCLOCK
SAMSUNG GALAXY TAB 10.1 WiFi 16 GB REVIEW!
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board to silence them all?
HWBOT COUNTRY CUP Reviewed
AMD HD7970 Lifestyle
THE ELDER SCROLLS V: SKYRIM
Intel 3rd Gen i7 Power, Performance, Perfection.
INTEL Z77 MOTHERBOARD BATTLE ROYAL Reviewed
GIGABYTE GV-N68OC-2GD Interview
BRAZIL’S FINEST “RBUASS” SPEAKS Lifestyle
KINGDOMS OF AMALUR: RECKONING
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Issue 20 2012 rev 2.0
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We cover the most prestigious hardware event in our massive eight page feature!
KINGPIN’S Z77 LN2 GUIDE Reviewed
ASUS MAXIMUS V EXTREME Reviewed
GIGABYTE’S Z77 UD3 Worth rapping about?
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