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Team USA Emerges In Round One of Overdrive

Day One Ends, Day Two Begins

We picked everyone up from the hotel at 8:30 AM and resumed the competition spot on at 9:00 AM. Because the event took place outside, we had had to clean up the night before, chain all of our LN2 dewars together in the parking lot, and deploy all of the gear first thing in the morning.

With half of a score board’s worth of results in the bag, we started day two with even more strategy. Team 5G was now firing on all cylinders and the results started flying from the team’s 5 GHz+ Core 2 Duo and nitrogen-cooled GeForce GTX 280. In fact, 5G even held a few first-place results for a time.

But because Ironmods had established solid baselines and was able to spend its second day fine tuning, every top score seemed to fall within hours of being posted. The strategy was simple, but it worked: post scores for everything on Day 1, focusing on processor benchmarks and air-cooled GPU tests. Shift full attention to the volt-modded GTX 280 on day two and really crank through improved 3D numbers.

The Ironmods guys were getting it from both sides, since the OCForums crew had great luck with its motherboard/processor combination. Instead of cold-bugging at -80 or -90 degrees Celsius, like the other guys, its platform was hitting -115 and -120 degrees before locking up. The result was strong WPrime, Super PI, and pifast numbers. Like Ironmods, OCForums saved its GPU testing for Day 2. Very quickly, the team started improving on the results generated the day before.

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Pouring into the styrofoam cup is easier.

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Team 5G tuning and tweaking.

As Ironmods started in on its LN2-cooled 3D scores, the competition really got heated—or should we say super-cooled? Using liquid nitrogen and a custom-manufactured copper pot, the guys were able to get their graphics card down to -186 degrees Celsius, facilitating some great clocks. The only frustration was that they couldn’t apply extra voltage. No matter what they tried, turning up the juice on our GTX 280s would cause a brown-out, attributed to insufficient power on the PSU’s +12V rail. We’ll work with our guys to solve this in time for the finals next month.

By mid-day, and after a rush on McDonald’s, Team 5G was fully competitive on the board, OCForums had a solid second place position, and Ironmods was having trouble keeping its platform running. The weekend’s stress was seemingly too much. Admitting the motherboard was fried and grabbing a second to replace it would have cost a 5% penalty, so the group held onto its existing scores, believing them to be ample.

As we approached 5:00 PM, the official end of the competition, 411 Overkill had long since thrown in the towel and 5G was ready to call it a day, but OCForums knew that if it could beat just two of Ironmods’ CPU-based results, it’d clinch the trip to France. The group spent the final five minutes edging closer to Ironmods’ SuperPI 1M score with everyone crowded around its bench.

And The Winner Is…

With two days of intense competition behind us (in addition to 25 In-and-Out Double-Doubles animal style, 25 Big Macs, fries from both esteemed establishments, 10 pizzas, two sit-down dinners, and cases of Red Bull), we were ready to tally up the scores from each of our tests. Not surprisingly to anyone who had been doing the math in their head, the overwhelming victor turned out to be Team Ironmods.

We had a great time hosting the competition, learning about the ins and outs of working with (and drinking) LN2—seriously, don’t try it at home. We have a better idea of how hardware can excel in an air-cooled environment, then crash and burn in an extreme situation. And we now more thoroughly appreciate why someone would want to take a perfectly-functional $500 GPU or $1,000 CPU and tweak the heck out of it for the sake of competition. We’ve seen overclocking at its very limits—and we can’t wait to send off Team USA to the finals in Paris next month!

Check out Chris Angelini’s LN2-filled interview with the winners. Overdrive Overclocking Competition U.S. Winners.

  • Nice article, makes me want to consider water cooling, sort of. No really, I enjoyed reading the whole thing. Thanks Tomshardware for another great article.
  • miahallen
    Thanks for the great write up BOM...GO IRONMODS!!!