Author: Pieter-Jan Plaisier
In a couple of weeks, undoubtedly many hardware enthusiasts will lay their hands on GIGABYTE’s upcoming completely new type of mainboard: the X58A-OC, a board built for overclocking. The team responsible for this peculiar board has, through various leaks on the official blog or the dedicated microsite, given you, the end-user, already a bunch of reasons why you should buy this board. In this editorial, I try to explain the reason behind my decision to buy this mainboard, how this type of mainboard is also appealing to, for instance, crunchers and why this purchase is based on a long-term vision on how hardware vendors should deal with the different enthusiast markets. Here’s my personal analysis of the X58A-OC ‘situation’.
Before I get started with this editorial and presenting you my personal reasons for buying this mainboard, let me get one thing very clear: I am not getting paid to write this article. In fact, this editorial is nothing more than my personal view on the launch of this mainboard and how it could affect the manufacturer of this product or any other manufacturer of hypothetical future products. At the end of this article, I will also try to give a couple of arguments that should make clear the sole purpose of this text is to explain how I believe this board can change the overclocker’s future.
As always, feel free to comment on any of the paragraphs of this editorial if you think I’m wrong, right, incomplete or just mental. Okay, let’s get started.
Overclocking, the historical perspective
Just for fun, open your instant messenger and ask any of your overclocking friends (or enemies) how they got into overclocking. Chances are high most of them will reply that they used to play games and wanted more gaming performance for the same amount of money. More bang for the buck, as trained hardware reviewers would say. So, as many of the gamers (still) are not wealthy enough to just go out and buy new hardware anytime they lack a bit of performance, they started overclocking their processor, video card and other parts of the system. Some of the overclockers eventually continued overclocking purely for achieving a higher benchmark score. Agreed, not very useful in real-life, but neither is collecting stamps or sky-diving. It is fun, however, to experience how with each increase in frequency your ‘rating’ goes up. We can’t underestimate the adrenaline rush of breaking an existing record, any hardware or benchmark, after days of fine-tuning the hardware, the operating system and drivers.
The overclocking community has been a niche market since the absolute beginning. For manufacturers who, for obvious reasons, wanted to address this small market a choice had to be made. The question was simple: how do we integrate features that overclockers want into our current product line-up? As the overclocking community is, historically speaking, a subgroup of the gaming industry, it seems like a very logical step to add the overclocking features to the product line-up designed for and targeted at the gaming community.
And that’s how it went down: ever since manufacturers decided overclockers are like gamers, the vast majority of the hardware tweakers have been paying for all those fancy gaming features we probably never use. Just look at the high-end products currently available, the features marketers promote and the high price-tags they come with.
I wonder, though … are we, overclockers, really similar to hardcore (video-) gamers?
The answer to this question is, in my humble opinion, definitely no. Since the rising of the multi-core processors, the real-life relevance of overclocking your processor has been decreasing. After all, where in the past you only had one processing core dealing with the multiple active applications, you now have several processing cores to deal with all your applications. Looking at it from a different point of view, it also seems that the hardcore gamers (those who are making money in competitions) are actually more interested in a stable configuration than in one which is just a tad faster. Actually, overclockers don’t really care about the practical relevance of the hardware’s overclocking capabilities anymore. They care about the benchmark score output. They care about their score’s efficiency (results in relation to operating frequency). At HWBOT, they care about how to improve their team’s ranking by overclocking previous generation of hardware. They care about the hardware’s ability to finish the benchmark.
So what are we then?