Overclocking champ draws a crowd at CeBIT

Throngs of techies watched Nick Shih deep-freeze an Intel chip so it could run at 5.6GHz rather than its regular 3.2GHz clock speed.

Nick Shih pours liquid nitrogen to keep a processor supercooled and maximally overclockable at CeBIT.
Nick Shih pours liquid nitrogen to keep a processor supercooled and maximally overclockable at CeBIT. Stephen Shankland/CNET

HANOVER, Germany--I'm not sure exactly when overclocking computers became an end unto itself rather than a means to an end.

But I'm glad it has, just for the sheer entertainment factor of watching people take extreme measures to get their machines to run faster than they're supposed to. Plenty of techie types also are enthusiastic, judging by the throng at the CeBIT show here who gathered to watch No. 2-ranked overclocking expert Nick Shih in action.

Shih held the overclocking crown for 18 months straight. He knows his business cold, so to speak. To seriously overclock a processor without major overheating problems requires elaborate cooling equipment.

Motherboard maker ASRock sponsored Shih to see how fast he could crank a CPU. He got an Intel Core i7-3930K processor up to 5.6GHz. Ordinarily the processor is clocked at 3.2GHz with a 3.8GHz turbo boost mode.

Shih's technique involves liquid nitrogen, a huge tank of which was on hand at the show. Using a blowtorch to trigger a burst of evaporation, he got one chip down below -200 degrees Celsius even though the boiling point of liquid nitrogen is -196 degrees Celsius.

About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.


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