Over the years we have used (or wasted?) plenty liters of liquid nitrogen during intensive overclocking sessions. We consider it so normal that we don’t even question the practice anymore. But sometimes we forget that the majority of the overclockers use plain air and water cooling solutions. For this group, Xyala reached out to three top extreme overclockers and asked them a bunch of questions about the purpose and cost of liquid nitrogen.
Enjoy the interview with Der8auer, Vivi and Rbuass!
Question: Why would an overclocker change to liquid nitrogen cooling?
Vivi: Overclockers always want more performance and a higher overclock. They know the only way to get it is with better cooling. To eliminate the cooling problem, you use liquid nitrogen as it can take the component to its coldest and/or best operating temperature. Then you are free to go for the highest possible overclock.
Rbuass: I also believe it is a quest for more performance. Many enthusiast overclockers feel that if they want to do better scores, they don’t want to be limited by the enthusiast-grade cooling anymore. So in search of the maximum, they gather all their courage and go extreme!
Der8auer: We all started as normal overclockers using air- or water cooling. However there is always the point where you hit the thermal limit of your setup. You can raise the voltage of your CPU or GPU but you won’t be able to clock higher. The conclusion is that you need a lower temperature to achieve better results. Participating in HWBOT rankings means competing with the rest of the world so in order to improve your ranking you have to step up to a better cooling solution such as dry ice or liquid nitrogen.
HWBOT: So in conclusion it seems that everyone pretty much agrees that the search for better scores and higher rankings is the main reason for switching to liquid nitrogen.
Question: What aspects of an LN2 cooling solution do you believe are most important when considering a purchase?
Vivi: First make sure you have access to dry ice or liquid nitrogen, because a container is useless without active extreme cooling. Secondly, do some research for which pot is better for the cooling you will use. There are containers designed for dry ice and others designed for LN2. In most cases they are backwards compatible, though.
Speaking more specifically, what are the things you look for in (extreme) cooling gear? Anything we should look for, or try to avoid?
Vivi: Surface area and weight is the most important for me. I prefer a heavy pot over a light one, because I have access to LN2 which has super-fast heat transfer capabilities, so it can cool down a heavy pot with good surface area fast. This is best for any light and heavy load benchmark. For dry ice, I would use a lighter pot with more surface area because dry ice can’t cool down a big pot quick enough during load.
Der8auer: Extreme overclocking is quite critical as you have a lot of side effects. High voltages or condensation water can easily kill your hardware if you are not well prepared. In terms of preparation it doesn’t matter which cooling solution you use. Dry ice, LN2 and different pots. You always have to prepare your hardware carefully to achieve good results and have fun.
How do the cooling materials influence or affect your extreme overclocking experience?
Vivi: Copper is the strongest and best material to use as it transfers heat fast and holds load. Aluminum is cheap, it transfers heat fast, but doesn’t hold load. It is sufficient for some dry ice cooling solutions, but not preferred by professionals.
Rbuass: The pots have a very important influence for me. For example, I use the Kingpincooling F1 Dark for platforms like Ivy Bridge-E because it is very heavy and therefore holds the temperature better. For Haswell, I use the Gemini though, because on that platform the temperature is very critical and you need a good pot to control the temperature perfectly.
How much do you usually on the gear?
Vivi: Honestly speaking, you only need to buy a good pot once. So about USD $250 per a year, which is the price of one container.
Rbuass: For me the biggest cost of extreme overclocking is not so much the cooling gear itself, but the hardware. I used to spend a lot of money before, but now fortunately the company I work for (Corsair Brazil) is helping me out. It depends on the platform I’m using too. For example, it was very difficult for me to sustain a multi GPU overclocking hobby, because I had to buy all my liquid nitrogen and of course the components not produced by Corsair. As you know, components are very expensive in Brazil (editor’s note: for example 63% of the Playstation 4 USD $1,800 price tag in Brazil is tax and import). For the last three months however, Corsair is helping me a lot with the components it doesn’t produce, like mainboard, processor and video cards. Of course it’s not “full support”, because I can’t bin unlimitedly (editor’s note: not many can, not even Hicookie or K|ngp|n). But it’s nice to have the company by my side, I really like it!
What brands or products do you usually go for?
Vivi: Kingpincooling for the F1 Dark CPU pot and Tek-9 Fat GPU pot and Der8auer ECC for the Raptor 3 GPU pot.
Rbuass: The Kingpincooling F1 Dark for high-end CPUs (like LGA-2011), and the Kingpincooling Gemini for mainstream CPUs (like LGA-1150). The Tek-9 Fat for single and dual GPU and Tek-9 slim for more than 2 cards.
What is the price of ln2 in your country
Vivi: USD $1.7 per liter. It is quite relax, but if you buy without an account it will cost you USD $3 a liter.
Rbuass: The LN2 price is for Brazil is very high, about USD $4.5 per liter. To understand the meaning of that value, you have to know that the minimum salary for a working person in Brazil is about USD $320 (editor’s note: comparable to most Eastern European countries). That means for the majority of the Brazilian people, it takes a month’s work to earn maybe USD $70 for spare cash. This is just enough maybe one decent 3D benchmarking session. I feel sad because my people don’t have a better situation. If we didn’t have the hardware taxes and the high LN2 costs, I am sure we would see a lot more extreme overclockers in Brazil. What people do now is have joined sessions to split the costs. It makes the overclocking session cheaper and more fun!
Der8auer: The price in Germany highly depends on good contacts to suppliers. If you send a random email to big companies you will end up with about EU €2-4 per liter. Currently I pay about EUR €1.50 per liter, including the delivery.
HWBOT: Thanks for the interview everyone!