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May 2005 Top Dawg Challenge Winners

The latest Top Dawg Challenge sponsored by Western Digital is history; the results are in and the prizes have either been received or are on their way to the winners. There were two categories in this contest: Overclocked AMD and Overclocked Intel with prizes awarded to the top three contestants in each category. The first place prize in each category was a 74GB WD Raptor, second place in each category won a 36GB WD Raptor, and third place in each won a WD Raptor Shirt and Cap. There were also four random drawings giving away two 36GB WD Raptor hard drives and two WD T-shirt and cap combos.

Competition was hot and friendly. We had 75 pages of posts in the forums for this contest with 117 contestants trying for the top spot, many of them entering multiple times as they got their system tweaked just a little more. Having the fastest drives made today provided by Western Digital as prizes sure got the contestants revved up for this contest.

Winners in the AMD Category

AMD Gryph Shogan191 Lou
Score 3565 3518 3101
Motherboard DFI nF4 SLI-DR DFI SLI-DR DFI Lanparty SLI-DR
System AMD FX-55 AMD FX-55 AMD Venice 3800
Drives 4x74GB WD Raptor RAID 0 4x74GB WD Raptor RAID 0 4x36GB WD Raptor RAID 0
Graphics EVGA 6800GT ATI 2xChaintech 6600GT
Memory OCZ 4200 EL PQI OCZ Platinum Rev. 2
Cooling VapoChill LS VapoChill LS Gigabyte 3D Rocket Cooler
Computing for... 10 years 5 years 2 years

Gryph took the top spot in the AMD category and was the overall leader of the contest with his DFI motherboard chosen for its overclocking abilities and running an AMD FX-55 processor overclocked from the stock 2.6 GHz to 3.4 GHz (set at 284x12). The CPU was cooled by a VapoChill LS phase-change system. His RAID 0 setup used four Western Digital 74GB WD Raptors, an overclockers dream.

He is self-taught in computing and says he's been "playing around with computers since 1995." He has been overclocking from the start of his computing experience. He overclocks because he likes the challenge of seeing how much he can get out of each piece of hardware. A car mechanic for 14 years, Gryph carried his troubleshooting talents over to computer repair 2 years ago. He doesn't keep many used parts lying around as he usually gives his old parts away as used computers to his nephews. Gryph, there are some people in the forums who'd like to be your nephew.

Besides PC Pitstop, Gryph does extensive research at sites such as Xtreme Computing Systems Online Forum and Xtremesystems.org to get a good idea of what he wants before he starts looking to buy his components. He reads online reviews months before the hardware hits the market then waits a month or two after that to watch for bugs, lower prices, or to see if the hardware he had in mind turns out to be, as he says, "a piece of junk." Most of his parts are purchased through a PC distributor where he works. Hope you're getting that employee discount, Gryph.

Besides research, the most important advice for overclocking Gryph wants to share is to do a lot of experimenting with clock speeds, memory timings and BIOS fixes. He runs his computers overclocked 100% of the time with even his regular home computer tweaked up about 10%.

Gryph is still running the same computer that he won the contest with while he waits for the dual-core chips to come out and, of course, for the price to drop. Even with the patience to wait for price drops, he spends around $2000 a year on his hobby and says he'd probably spend four times that if he could. He pretty much has his ideal computer right now with the exception that he'd like to work out a custom phase-change cooling system for the video. Of course, those dual-core chips are on the market now.

Gryph extends his thanks to PC Pitstop and Western Digital for putting on a great overclocking contest. The Western Digital 74GB WD Raptor he won will be put to good use replacing a borrowed hard drive that made up his four disk RAID 0 setup.

Shogan came in at a close second place in the AMD category and second overall. Not bad considering that he first posted in the forums "I'm going to be laying out on this competition but will be ready to rock on the next." Looks like he decided to rock in this contest after all. Shogan also used a DFI motherboard he said, "because it offered the most overclocking tweaks and BIOS settings." His AMD FX-55 processor was set at 300x11 (3.3GHz) for this contest and was chosen because it was the highest clocking CPU at the time. The processor was cooled by a VapoChill LS. He runs overclocked 100% of the time, though not to the extent that he does for competitions.

Shogan used a RAID 0 setup of four Western Digital 74GB WD Raptors. He plans to use the new 36GB WD Raptor hard drive that he won in the contest for his daily-use computer. He doesn't keep many used parts because, as he says, "I have been selling off stuff so I can get more stuff. It's all about being addicted to new stuff and cold temps." Shogan is already selling the processor that he used for the contest to get ready for his "next round of hardware." He divides his computing dollars between NewEgg.com and a local shop where he gets good advice and a helpful attitude from the techs.

He tells us, "My ideal computer is whatever is coming out next month and it would change about every three months if money were no object. That's about all the longer hardware is state-of-the-art these days." Speaking of money, he recently calculated how much he spent on computer parts for the year. "It was a chilling amount. I'd never put it in print. I'd probably spend twice that amount if money were no object," he said.

Shogan is also self-taught in computing and credits everything he's learned to PC Pitstop and its forum members. He started overclocking two years ago trying to increase his Pit scores and does it, he says, "strictly for the fun of it and just to see what the hardware can do." He does quite a bit of research to learn what new hardware is coming out and how well it should perform by visiting hardware manufacturer sites and several overclocking sites such as Xtreme Systems, Overclocking Madness, and of course the Pit.

Lou placed third in the AMD category and third overall for the competition. He took advice from Shogan and SIK_L_CELL from the forums to use his DFI motherboard and is using an AMD Venice 3800 processor with it. His RAID 0 setup using four Western Digital 36GB WD Raptor hard drives were chosen over the 74GB Raptors due to a tight budget. He says, "You have to have a four drive RAID 0 just to be competitive." CPU cooling is done with heat pipes via the Gigabyte 3D Rocket Cooler as Lou says he's been reluctant to mix water and electricity; though he states he'll have to get over that to move forward.

Lou studied programming in college and has been computing a little over two years. He won't claim to be self-taught because "that would be a disservice to the great folks at the Pit who have taught me so much," he says. "Thanks for the help, Pitsters." He started overclocking about a year and a half ago because he "felt he didn't have enough addictions," he joked. Lou's advice for overclockers is to "read what you can and pray." Still running the same rig he used in the contest, he usually runs it overclocked all the time.

Used parts go on the sale block before he upgrades which helps fund his yearly $2500 OC hobby. Lou uses Pricewatch and ZipZoomFly for components and Xtreme Systems, Toms Hardware, and Hard Forums for advice in addition to PC Pitstop.

Winners in the Intel Category

Intel Flewpastu CopyRon Soyo Man
Score 2828 2546 2383
Motherboard ABIT IC7-G Max II ASUS P5AD2-E ASUS P4P800 Deluxe
System Intel P4 3.2 Extreme Edition Intel P4 3.7 Extreme Edition Intel P4 3.2
Drives Maxtor 80GB ATA133 RAID 0 2x36GB WD Raptor RAID 0 3 Maxtors in RAID 0
Graphics BFG 6800 Ultra OC EVGA 6800 Ultra Gainward FX5900
Memory Crucial Ballistix DDR400
256 MB in Dual Channel
Corsair 5400C4 Pro Kingston PC3200
Cooling Thermalright XP-90C Stock Air Cooling Zalman Alu
Computing for.. 10 years 6 years 4 years

The top Intel machine was entered by Flewpastu, using an ABIT motherboard sporting a P4 3.2 Extreme Edition processor overclocked to 3.9 GHz. The CPU is cooled with heat pipes using the Thermalright XP-90C. This setup is what he's still running as of this interview but is looking forward to buying another hard drive to match the Raptor he won in the contest and using them for his RAID array.

Flewpastu says, "I've been screwing up PCs for approximately 10 years with no formal training but can handle any problem I have come across as of yet." Having three other computers in the house to keep upgraded for his kids and building computers for resale keeps his parts bin to a minimum. He says, "I have been overclocking since becoming a PC Pitstop junkie over three years ago;" he overclocks only for bench tests and scores for competitions. His advice is do plenty of research from the case to boards and "trust the Pit forums better than some of the biased reviews". He also advises that you must have decent cooling for overclocking or you won't get far.

Most of his several thousand computing dollars are spent at ZipZoomFly and NewEgg and if money were no object he tells us these companies would see a lot more from him. He spent some of that budget winning this contest as his first win, had a lot of fun, and is looking forward to the next one.

CopyRon took second place for the Intel category with an ASUS motherboard using a P4 3.7 Extreme Edition processor. His RAID 0 setup used Western Digital 36GB WD Raptors and is planning on using the Raptor won in the contest for his RAID array.

He's also self-taught in computers and has been at it six years, overclocking for the last year. He overclocks because he likes "getting the most out of everything," he says, "I have a recording studio and do graphic, audio, and video editing. I don't like to wait."

As for research, CopyRon says he does almost none and goes wherever Google leads him when he looks for information on overclocking. His advice is to go slowly and carefully. He runs his computer overclocked 100% of the time and is still using the same setup he won the contest with. CopyRon says he isn't obsessed with his overclocking hobby and spends about $2000 to build a machine then sells it when he upgrades. Most of his parts come from NewEgg and ZipZoomFly.

The Intel category third place spot was taken by Soyo Man using an ASUS motherboard and a P4 3.2 GHz processor overclocked to almost 3.9 GHz and air cooled by a Zalman unit. He also used a RAID 0 setup for his hard drive. He's undecided between an AMD FX-55 or an Intel P4 Extreme Edition as his ideal computer.

Soyo Man has been computing for four years and is another self-taught tech with some help from from his friend Fewpastu who is also his major parts supplier. Overclocking has been in his computing lifestyle for two years because of the fun and the competitions. His research is done entirely by following the advice given in the Pit. The advice he'd like to give us is to "watch your temps and volts when overclocking."

He only runs his computer overclocked for competitions and is still running the same rig, but has recently upgraded his Internet to DSL.  He keeps the used parts down by selling what he's not using and only spends a few hundred dollars on his overclocking hobby but would spend thousands more if he could.

This has been a fantastic competition and, as it shows in the forums, everyone had a great time. We're looking forward to see what the next challenge brings. These scores can only go one direction in the future...up. As Shogan told us, technology advances every few months and we're seeing some of that in the market now. We can also expect to see prices drop on the not-so-new technology for those who want to upgrade but don't necessarily require the latest and greatest.

A huge thanks to Western Digital for sponsoring this Top Dawg Challenge and providing the awesome prizes. It's fitting that the fasted drives on the planet go to the fastest PCs in the land.

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