TR's 10th: The evolution of overclocking, more winners chosen

As we look back on ten years of TR, it's fascinating to see how hallmarks of the enthusiast community have changed over the past decade. Take overclocking, for example. Back in the day, overclocking was a black art practiced only by seasoned enthusiasts. Pushing one's processor beyond its default speed usually required fiddling with motherboard jumpers, purchasing so-called Golden Finger Devices for early Athlons, or even making physical connections on the CPU package using a pencil. But we all did it, either in pursuit of the best possible performance, or more often, simply to exploit the "free" clock-speed headroom available in many mid-range and low-end processors.

The Celeron 300A was the first of many CPUs to virtually guarantee overclocking success. Intel's 1.6GHz Northwood Pentium 4 was also popular among overclockers, as were AMD's Barton-core Athlon XP 2500+ and Opteron 165. You could still end up with a lemon that wouldn't budge much beyond its stock speed, of course, but more often than not you got a healthy clock speed boost without having to do much more than use a competent aftermarket cooler.

As one might expect, overclocking was expressly forbidden by CPU makers. Their concern, at least officially, was that slower CPUs would be remarked as faster models by unscrupulous vendors who would pocket the profit, leaving consumers with systems that might not be entirely stable. But nothing AMD and Intel did to deter overclockers managed to curb the practice, no doubt because motherboard makers were all too willing to work around whatever barriers the CPU makers put in place to prevent it.

We've watched AMD and Intel slowly warm to overclocking over the years. In fact, both companies now offer select CPU models with unlocked upper multipliers that make it easy to increase clock speeds. Motherboard makers have also vastly improved the overclocking options available not only in the BIOS, but also through Windows-based utilities—the days of fiddling with jumpers are long gone. Many new mobos can even overclock a system's CPU automatically, making it trivial for uninitiated newbies to chase higher clock speeds.

If you were overclocking back in the day, chances are you were also messing with your system's memory. Enthusiasts were often forced to run memory at higher-than-stock speeds to keep pace with the faster system bus speeds required for CPU overclocking. DRAM also provided us with another set of performance variables to explore, tweak, and, for some, obsess over. Before long, memory vendors were selling specialized DIMMs with cherry-picked chips capable of handling faster clock speeds, higher voltages, tighter timings, or some combination of the three.

Corsair made a name for itself producing enthusiast-grade memory modules, and the company didn't stop at seeking out tweaking-friendly chips. Lighting came next, starting tentatively with LEDs that denoted memory activity, and culminating with XMS Xpert modules that featured programmable 10-digit displays—perhaps the most glowing example of enthusiast excess at its very best.

You won't find a spectacular light show attached to any of Corsair's current memory products. Instead, recent offerings have focused on cooling performance, something that powered lights don't exactly help. Corsair has also expanded its product lineup to include more than just memory modules. The company now produces enthusiast-oriented cooling systems, power supply units (two of which have been Editor's Choice winners), solid-state drives, and even a monolithic enclosure. Plus, all manner of flash drives, one of which we've found to be virtually indesctructible.

Corsair's kicked in a stack of hardware for our anniversary giveaway, including 20 4GB flavors of its Survivor flash drive, 10 PC tool kits, three Hydro Series H50 water coolers, two P128 solid-state drives, one Obsidian case, and an 8GB Dominator DDR3-1600 memory kit. And breathe—or maybe scroll down a little and pant.

The flash drives and tool kits are up for grabs for our forum moderators, who work tirelessly to keep our forums rid of spam, flame wars, and other undesirables. You know who you are—PM Inkling in the forums to claim your prize. First come, first served, so get your PM in right away if you want one of the Survivors.

We've also randomly selected seven winners from over 1,000 entries for the other prizes. These winners will be able to choose between the memory kit, coolers, SSDs, and enclosure. This time, it's first drawn, first served. Congratulations to Nicholas Kain, Tony Chaing, Peter Eppestine, Jonathan Heckendorn, Ben Funk, Peter Paskowsky, and James Ransom, in that order. You've got mail, folks. Please respond to claim your prizes.

If you aren't among today's winners, we still have three days of giveaways to go, culminating in our grand prize, consisting of the parts needed to build a reasonable approximation of the Sweeter Spot rig from our most recent system guide. If you haven't already, you can still enter the giveaway for a shot at the remaining prizes.

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