Competitive Overclocking: The GIGABYTE OC Lab and HWBot.orgby Ian Cutress on June 19, 2013 4:00 PM EST
In order to show that competitive overclocking is not just for madmen with a desire to play with liquid nitrogen, I wanted to get some insight into how a website like HWBot works and why companies like Gigabyte want to get involved with competitive overclocking. Truth be told the competitive overclocking community is actually quite small, whereas the casual forum overclockers can actually be quite large. There is a lot to be said for overclocking guides and plenty of new enthusiasts wanting to get extra performance for free from their hardware.
As part of the weekend I managed to get hold of Pieter-Jan Plaisier, the Project Manager for HWBot, and Dino Strkljevic, Gigabyte Technical Marketing Manager for Australia and ask them a few questions.
Pieter-Jan Plaiser / Dino Strkljevic
HWBot Project Manager / Gigabyte Australia
Ian Cutress: Many thanks for letting me interview the both of you. To start with, (to PJP) can you explain what exactly is HWBot?
Pieter-Jan Plaisier: HWBot is a website that tries to promote and help grow the overclocking community through rankings, competitions and fun statistics!
IC: HWBot employs how many people?
PJP: Currently we have four people officially working for the website, two of them dedicated to HWBot. We have one software developer and then me, doing the PR, relations, the website, the forum and stuff like that. We have a dedicated team of up to 12 or 15 volunteers that go through the reported submissions and help on the forums and help with all kinds of stuff.
IC: How many users does HWBot have?
PJP: Around 40,000 registered users, and over 750,000 submitted results as of a few weeks ago.
IC: How do people get started on HWBot? What is the main reason for people joining?
PJP: I think the reason people join today is the same as before – people start to learn overclocking on forums or through friends and then eventually they end up submitting their results to HWBot. They get the bug from friends and join maybe to enter a competition and submit results with their 24/7 PC and get drawn into it.
IC: Can anyone compete?
IC: What makes HWBot a competition?
PJP: It can be difficult to see the rankings as a competition per se, because first of all the rankings are not limited in time, so any result you make from back in the past until today, if it is still ranked high for the hardware it will still generate the same amount of points as it did five years ago depending on whether or not you maintain that position. So I would say that the league rankings are more of a ranking of how you have performed over time, with the most recent results often being the ones with the most points.
We have specific competitions such as the Country Cup and the Team Cup which are more limited in time like a competition.
IC: Can you explain a little about the league system?
PJP: So there are two aspects to a benchmark submission: you have the benchmark application, and then you have the hardware that the benchmark application was used with. So when you submit your score, you essentially submit your score into two different rankings. Firstly you have the global ranking, which is just the highest score for the benchmark, and then you also have the hardware ranking, which is the same but limited to the system hardware you are running. For each score you can obtain global points and hardware points while competing against other users – the global points have a higher weighting because you are essentially competing against everyone, and the hardware points are just for within your hardware class. The leagues then are a ranking based on an algorithm of your best global scores and hardware scores.
In total we have five leagues. Firstly the Overclockers League and the Enthusiast league are both continuous leagues – the enthusiast league is limited to ambient cooling whereas the overclockers league is just full out and you can use whatever cooling and hardware you want. Then we have the Teams League which is essentially a community ranking between groups of users. The Hardware Masters League is just about hardware points, and then we have the Pro OC Cup which is a limited-time competition between teams of up to five overclockers.
IC: How do you see HWBot developing?
IC: Can you discuss a little about the relationship between HWBot and Intel XTU?
PJP: In January 2012 we got in touch with Intel to see if there was any room for cooperation, and we started talking about something we could do on the end of social networking for overclocking. At Intel they had a tool called XTU which is a generic overclocking tool for Intel based platforms, and for a couple of months we went back and forth discussing what could be the integration between HWBot and XTU. We ended up with this idea that we could use the XTU overclocking profiles and embed them on HWBot so people could share their overclocking settings through our engine.
As the development went on we saw that this could actually be something interesting. I think the most interesting part of XTU is this function that we call ‘Analyze’ – what XTU basically does is when you run the XTU benchmark (which is a performance indication rather than a benchmark), it ties that to a BIOS profile. So it says that for a certain CPU ratio, for a certain BCLK or voltage setting you get a particular score and it uploads it to HWBot. Once you upload it will rank your score on a graph indicating how far you are from the top setting and bottom settings so you can visually see how good your overclock is and you can see, for example, that there might be a hundred people with the same system that went 400 MHz higher so there must be some room for improvement. I think that the function should be interesting in getting people involved with the overclocking community because it gives you a very easy path to get to know overclocking and to get introduced into this world of HWBot.
IC: So today we are in Gigabyte’s HQ in Taiwan with an event in the OC Lab. Can you explain HWBot’s relationship with Gigabyte?
PJP: We’ve been working with Gigabyte since 2009, and essentially Gigabyte gives us the room to support the overclocking community. In terms of what they request from us, they are very free – they don’t really ask for much specifics apart from the Gigabyte based competitions. We help Gigabyte understand what is happening on HWBot – we give them all sorts of statistical information; we help them run competitions on HWBot and in return we get the support to keep our site up and running.
IC (to DS): So now to Dino – can you please explain to our readers what you do?
Dino Strkljevic: Hi everyone – my name is Dino and I am Gigabyte Marketing Manager for Australia and New Zealand in my main role, but what I generally do regarding the overclocking community is the second part of my job where I work for HQ and manage the relationships with overclockers. I monitor forums and overclocking trends, and also provide feedback on people to support (for example) as well as work closely with quite a few different key reviewers. I work with Massman (PJP) as well, and as he mentioned stats – I use stats to make some decisions on a few things we implement internally and we make informed decisions on how to support the community and support HWBot. Also I have fun with these overclocking events and support the hobby I started before I joined Gigabyte.
IC: Can you explain how the relationship with HWBot came about?
DS: At that time I didn’t work at Gigabyte when it officially started but I was one of the key people that Gigabyte consulted about whether they should do that sort of thing and what I thought of it. Gigabyte after about 2006 were thinking about their products and started with the whole Ultra Durable line, and that sort of got them thinking about what they are making and why, also regarding how they could get the word out around that they are making all these improvements. Because if you are just making improvements and you don’t reach to people then it could be pointless – sure it would reduce your RMA rates but you have to communicate that to the right people.
So around 2007 or so they [Gigabyte] did some trial runs of GOOC [Gigabyte GO OverClock] – one in Sydney and one in Indonesia and a few other places so that was one of the first things where they thought “Hey we’ve got this group of really hardcore guys that are into this technology – they know all the little bits and pieces on how things work and they influence the wider community with their recommendations.” So I think that is one of the reasons how they started sort of thinking about this idea of ‘let’s make some competitions’.
At that time HWBot started evolving on forums where they would go to the forum and say ‘Look, why don’t you create a thread and we’ll automatically feed it into our system so if you submit results on your forum they will automatically go to our website’. That really got people into the competitive spirit and people started to spend a lot of free time to push their rankings on the local forums and that really got people into this whole competitive spirit of binning hardware and trying to outdo their mates. The decision was made to move the forum based threads and activity to direct submissions which sort of globalized it a little bit more.
Gigabyte saw that as a benefit to reach out to a global community of enthusiasts, people that have something in common with whatever Gigabyte was doing at the time and to improve their products. That is essentially how the relationship got going because Gigabyte had something in common with HWBot and associating itself with a website so widely known and accepted (because there was nothing really bringing the community together before) and HWBot is the glue that gels the overclocking community. Obviously being part of that Gigabyte gets to learn about the community as well as increasing its visibility. Also HWBot has some really good information which helps Gigabyte understand the community and helps to make good decisions based on the information that they receive. There are quite a few aspects to the relationship but this is the way I see it from my point of view.
IC: So to what extent has working with HWBot helped improve the products that Gigabyte sells?
DS: It basically added on the work that was already sort of started – like the idea behind GOOC of bringing people together with competitions and HWBot has a lot more global appeal as there are a lot more people there. Gigabyte learns a lot about the community (through HWBot) about what they want. HWBot is not just HWBot – every forum still has a HWBot thread and teams and there is a lot of discussion about hardware. That information is really important for manufacturers – I know Gigabyte is a lot more flexible in those decisions to change and implement a lot of the ideas and it fed back through Massman and people like me who were in direct contact with Gigabyte to improve the products every generation and you’ll see something that was crucial in the community.
IC: How do you see the relationship between Gigabyte and HWBot evolving?
DS: That’s a difficult question – obviously Gigabyte and HWBot have worked very close from ‘the start’. Gigabyte was one of the first companies to lift their hand up and say that they want to support the community and this kind of hobby so obviously as long as there is a focus on enthusiasts. We’ve even got a specific product line now for enthuisasts and overclockers with a couple of motherboards for this type of community so obviously there is that market there for the company to concentrate on so that brings in money for R&D and marketing and everything else so as long as the community is there big companies like Gigabyte will support it.
IC: That is great, many thanks to both of you for the interview!
As a competitive overclocker myself, I find this hobby of mine absolutely fascinating. I have had some mild success personally, hitting near the top of the enthusiast league for several years, achieving success in local competitions and I currently hold a number of UK records. I joined HWBot before I really got into enthusiast hardware, and through HWBot I joined the local UK team and luckily I had a chance encounter at a Gigabyte overclocking event with an AnandTech editor which started my writing career.
While the competitive overclocking itself is fairly small, there are always much smarter people than I developing new ways to get the best score and push the hardware to the limits. Having companies like Gigabyte able to support the community in more ways than one, such as with HWBot.org or by developing hardware fit for purpose, is a welcome addition to the arsenal and allows the midfield to compete in many different categories.
Is coverage of competitive overclocking something that excites any of our readers? In the past we have mentioned one or two ‘maximum frequency’ results in Pipeline but almost every other week I get an email in my inbox regarding an overclocking contest where new records are broken. Events like Computex bring out the big guns to break every record possible and with new platforms every few months, such as Haswell, Kabini or Richland, every competitive overclocker wants to reach new heights of performance if it allows. If AnandTech readers are interested, I would very much enjoy reporting such events to everyone. Let me know if this interests you!