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Overclocking has always been somewhat of a taboo to a majority of users – whether it is voiding the warranty, overworking the components (that can potentially damage if incorrectly done), or just plain noise and heat. It also requires a bit of technical skill, too; adjusting CPU/GPU clock frequencies, ratios, voltages, and memory timings becomes a time consuming – and in some cases, tedious – process.
The practice has been around for almost 20 years now, and while there has been significant growth in the past, a large influx of flashy consumer products threatens to derail the path for the younger generations ahead. Fortunately, desktop PCs will have a foreseeable future, and the bubble for tech users is continuously provided with fresh material and products to keep them going.
Now more than ever, motherboards and graphics cards have adapted to the needs of power users and have provided higher build qualities and increased feature sets to help get the most from their systems.
Still, what good are all these features if the learning curve is too steep?
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Just as the number of overclocking options has increased over time, so have more websites and forums cropped up over the past few years to help users understand all the intricate details and settings available to them in next-generation technologies. Don’t know what a VDROOP is? Load up a search engine (or ask here!) and have multiple sites ready to not only give you detailed information about what it does, but also detailed electrical engineering data to fully grasp its benefits. It’s an ever-evolving community that salivates at the thought of new platforms and products to fully dissect and understand.
Overclockers have also embraced this elite competitiveness akin to how most car enthusiasts treat drag racing, with global tournaments that face the best of the best to win thousands of dollars in cash prizes and trips around the world. These events are even broadcast in the same way as major racing events, as recently demonstrated by MSI’s Master Overclocking Arena 2011 in Las Vegas – fittingly held at an indoor race track.
Most importantly, anyone can participate in these competitions and, with the right hardware and knowledge, they can make a name for themselves among their peers. This in turn makes manufacturers push the limits of engineering to provide any additional headroom to be placed in the good graces of these users.
Overclockers are not only extremely knowledgeable; they are also a very important voice for the industry in general. When an enthusiast builds a PC for his friend or family member, he will assuredly pick the product he believes provides not only the best value, but performance as well. Capturing this enthusiast segment for any company means the whole product line benefits from it. This plays a very important role for any marketing strategy and, therefore, is a key reason why so many products heavily focus on the benefits of overclocking.
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In an effort to increase and grow this influential enthusiast segment, which is currently about 5% of market share according to most internal discussions, there needed to be a way to provide a quick and easy means to feel the benefits of overclocking without overwhelming the general consumer.
The answer has been a plethora of great tweaking options for anyone to get the most out of their PC system: one-touch overclocking, the expanded UEFI BIOS (for a graphical friendly approach to an old PC staple), and now even wireless overclocking from your cell phone or tablet PC.
This “wow factor” approach is a key way to introduce a whole new generation of users into the world and mind of an enthusiast – utilizing training wheels to get them started on the path of becoming a power user and unlocking the full potential of what can be done on a PC as opposed to any other consumer electronic. Combined with the help of guides and forums (such as our own Hardware Secrets), it provides the possibility to grow that 5% into something more, and ultimately help to push new courses of innovation.
Following the inordinate amount of success Apple has seen, component manufacturers have been placing a majority of marketing focus and attention on full system products such as tablets, notebooks, touch screen PCs, and other mobile devices. This takes away a lot of emphasis from their bread and butter (motherboards/graphics cards) and leads to a lack of innovation, due in part to all the hype and excitement that surrounds these finished products as opposed to individual features for component products.
Looking at this from a business standpoint, it makes a lot more sense, as consumers do not want to endure the complexity of new technology and spend more time learning all the advanced features to get the best value out of the product. Giving them a gradual path of progression gives them an incentive to spend more time with the product without feeling overwhelmed.
It is now the time to take a step back and realize that if the industry can be more open and friendly to beginners, that the market as a whole can increase, and we all can help usher in a new generation of enthusiasts. This in turn leads to businesses looking at innovative ideas dedicated for this segment as a sound decision.
The computer component industry is definitely a competitive one – fighting over the power users that have strong buying influence within their personal groups and companies they may work for. However, this constant battle was previously over a dwindling customer base as consumer electronics became more intertwined with what our self-built computers used to exclusively do.
Simplifying overclocking is one step that needs to happen for us to really bring back the magic that helped mold us into the PC enthusiasts we are today. A lot of momentum has been gained since the introduction of overclocking almost 20 years ago in terms of performance and complexity, so it is definitely in our best interest to keep trying to sustain, and even grow, this important segment to our industry.
As an enthusiast, what kind of features or technologies would you like to see added to components that would also be embraced by the mainstream consumer? Share with us in the comments section!