Overclocking is becoming an increasingly big business in the computer hardware industry in the same way that gaming is and has been for the last twelve to eighteen months.
Motherboard manufacturers starting to release products specifically designed to break world records and overclockers are even getting involved in the development of some of the 'gaming' motherboards as well. The reason for this is that if there is one group of individuals in the industry that really pushes hardware to the absolute limit, it's the extreme overclockers amongst us.
If something doesn't work, they're likely to pick up on it before most other enthusiasts because they're pushing the hardware right to the ragged edge. And what's more, many of them are knowledgeable enough to know exactly what needs fixing, too. This is invaluable feedback for motherboard manufacturers and we're starting to see those that take the enthusiasts' market seriously seeking help from a number of the world's top overclockers.
With that in mind, MSI is the third of the big manufacturers to host an overclocking championship, the Master Overclocking Arena 2008, which has been running over the course of this year with various regional qualifiers held across Europe and Asia. Strangely, the USA wasn't included in this year's competition but we're assured that they will be a part of the event next year since quite a few of the world's top overclockers are based in North America.
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Following the regional qualifiers, MSI whittled the entrants down to just thirteen teams, who were all invited out to Taipei, Taiwan, to take part in the inaugural Master Overclocking Arena Grand Final. We were there to watch events as they unfolded – at the time we'd promised to report live from the show, but following a horribly sleepless journey over to Taipei and after taking in what was going on during the event, we felt that there was a much more interesting slant on proceedings that warranted an article of its own.
The event was held down in downtown Taipei city, near to the Guanghua computer market, which is a very familiar part of the city for me. It was open to the general public, but the lacklustre weather throughout this trip was probably the reason why spectators weren't there in numbers.
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Before proceedings kicked off, the thirteen teams were given a rules briefing – this covered everything from what the competitors were and were not allowed to change to what constituted a valid score submission. Once the rules had been outlined and the competitors (or warriors, as MSI called them) were clear on what they were allowed to do, they set about drawing their ‘weapons’.
In order to maintain fairness, there were fourteen different sets of hardware and each team selected their core components—the processor, motherboard, memory and graphics card—by drawing out of a hat. The remaining components were not drawn at random because they were not going to have any significant impact on performance (or overclockability, for that matter).
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After all of the competitors had drawn their hardware, they headed off to their designated workstations to get started on their morning of preparation ahead of the afternoon’s benchmarkfest.