Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?

Pushing P4 to 5.25GHz with Liquid Nitrogen 311

SkywalkerOS8 writes "The folks at Tom's Hardware have an article up about their attempt to overclock a Pentium 4 over 5 GHz using liquid nitrogen as cooling. A DivX video is available along with pictures of the custom copper cooling head they made."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Pushing P4 to 5.25GHz with Liquid Nitrogen

Comments Filter:
  • Ads (Score:5, Funny)

    by niko9 ( 315647 ) * on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @07:09PM (#7840282)
    I think they should have splashed some nitrogen on some of those flash ads. Gives me a headcahe just looking at the main page.

    Also makes my Thinkpad screech to a crawl.
  • they should have pored it on good ol' Tom and then put a hammer to him to see if he'd break into little pieces.

    relax im kidding.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @07:30PM (#7840484)
      "Wild" Bill Zollar, my Chem 140 professor told us the story about how ever couple or four years he'd do a liquid nitrogen demonstration. The common freeze it break it variety, which he personally didn't find exciting enough to suit his tastes. So he'd don two latex gloves having filled up the thumb of one with ground beef. He would then dunk the thumb of ground round into the liquid nitrogen while he was talking and then take it out and hit it with a hammer. Appearently, the last year he did it, a chuck of his flash frozen fake finger hit a girl in the head, causing her to pass out! Which in turn got HIM sent to the dean's office, and why he couldn't do it for us, and hasn't done it since.

      Or so the story went (as I recall).
    • That might work, but I bet he'll just reform again once the shards melt again. The only way to dispose of the Tom-1000 is to drop him into molten lava, preferably at a steel plant in California.
  • Oh well, I bet it'll get really good time in Seti.
  • good ole days (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fuck_this_shit ( 727749 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @07:10PM (#7840298)
    reading things like these I'm reminded of the good old days where all you had to do was getting two 333MHz celerons, overclock them to 500MHz by upping the FSB, some socket-to-slot adaptors and *baddabing* you had a total of 1GHz for a bargain while using normals coolers. Was that only 3 or 4 years ago? *sigh*
    • Re:good ole days (Score:2, Interesting)

      by airjrdn ( 681898 )
      Yeah, I've got a celeron 566 that's been running at 933 since the beginning of the 1Ghz days.

      They just don't make 'em like they used to. :)
  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @07:11PM (#7840305) Homepage Journal
    P4 to 5.25GHz with Liquid Nitrogen.

    In other news...

    A rose achieved 3.7GHz and a segment of rubber hose was clocked to 7.5GHz. A red rubber ball, however was unable to surpass 300 MHz befor shattering.

  • 5+ GHz (Score:4, Funny)

    by bmiller949 ( 681252 ) * on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @07:11PM (#7840307)
    The question is, how fast did it play solitaire once Windoze was booted?
    • Re:5+ GHz (Score:2, Insightful)

      by niko9 ( 315647 ) *
      The question is, how fast did it play solitaire once Windoze was booted?

      The real question is; how fast did Windows crash before you even loaded solitaire?

  • by femto ( 459605 )
    I would like to see the same thing done with an Analog-to-Digital converter. It would be fun to be able to direct sample a 2.4GHz WLAN signal!
    • Kind of off topic BUT since you brought it up you don't need liquid nitrogen to do that - we were able to use a really nice spectrum analyzer to downconvert (mixer output) the 2.4 GHz RF signal to baseband and then decoded it with a pretty modest A/D converter (11 Mb/s aint that fast). But even that was overkill we just wanted to be able to see the bits flipping :-)
  • Warts too? (Score:5, Funny)

    by kevcol ( 3467 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @07:13PM (#7840336) Homepage
    I have an Athlon that seems to be growing warts. Will this take care of that as well?
  • by Wireless Joe ( 604314 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @07:15PM (#7840350) Homepage
    Custom copper cooling head? That's a bong if I've ever seen one.
  • Because it's not there.
  • The experiment to see if it can be done is always fun, but I wonder what practicality can come out of this? It's expensive as can be and equipment lifetime costs are high due to frequent failures. I've done some overclocking in my time, but it has always been sort of a hobby thing to see if I could do it. Several years ago I was impressed when I actually got to visit a couple of Cray clusters we had been submitting work to. They had little windows on the ends where you could see liquid (fluorocarbons)
    • I guess I am wondering if there are there any users seriously pushing the limits of commodity hardware by overclocking to extremes?

      I should have said "I guess I am wondering if there are there any users doing serious work on commodity hardware that has been overclocked to extremes?"

    • The experiment to see if it can be done is always fun, but I wonder what practicality can come out of this?

      One of the useful things to come out of this is an idea of what a given chip design is capable of. If you look at the speeds liquid nitrogen cooling reaches at the beginning of a design's life cycle, that's the speed the chip will be selling at at the end of the life cycle.
  • Dualies or Quaddies would be a much better approach than this kind of nonsense. Why have a single (admittedly fast) CPU bottleneck?

    Racing for higher MHz is a mug's game - that's why Intel, IBM, Sony, AMD, etc are moving to multi-core chips.
    • several problems with your approach.

      First: a lot of programs either dont make use of smp or use it very poorly for any number of reasons

      Second: the P4 (and its derivatives) make for a shoddy smp platform because they all share the same memory bus. Amd's dedicated memory bus per processor (with the opteron) gives far better smp performance, and benchmarks of the xeon vs opteron confirm this.

      • a lot of programs either dont make use of smp or use it very poorly for any number of reasons

        I'm well aware of that. I've been enjoying personal homebrew SMP rigs since the days of the P1. My approach has always been if you want it done properly do it yourself. Support has been improving, especially of late.

        Even without programs that intelligently distribute load across the CPUs, you can still use processor affinity to restrict one of the SMP-unaware processes to a single CPU, maxing it out, while yo
  • I can imagine it now, one careless motion and SMASH your CPU is in itty bitty pieces.
  • I wonder if this would be cheaper for short render work than purchasing a faster CPU.

    It would be neat if they had blade servers that had a liquid nitrogen tanks. When a work order is recieved, a truck comes in and fills a liquid nitrogen storage tank. Then it's fed into the blade cabinet. Once all the cpu's in the blade are at running overclock tempature turn the whole thing on.
  • by xC0000005 ( 715810 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @07:22PM (#7840406) Homepage
    This is a amusing article, but kind of misses the point. So one problem with running processors faster is that they get too hot and we can get around that by cooling it with liquid nitrogen. Cool, but CPU heat is just one design element contributing to the effective speed of the computer.

    This is like saying that I should cool my VW with liquid nitrogen so that I can run the engine faster. Sure, I'll pick up some speed, but honestly there are lots of other factors preventing my VW from running at a more productive speed than how fast I can get the engine spinning. The shape (like the bus on a PC), the steering (peripherals), and mostly that the cops don't appreciate me going 328mph through the school zone.
    • You were missing 2 words, Propagation Delay. It takes time for gates to switch, it is independant of clock speed, and for all of the individual delays to work itself down the circuit.
    • According to a mechanic I once knew, the tranny on a VW beetle will bolt directly up to the engine from a Porsche 928. He claimed to have done this once, and the vehicle made it 50 whole miles before all the oil came out the bottom (but it ran like a bat out of hell for those 50 miles, since a VW beetle weighs ~1500 lb compared to ~4500 lb for a Porsche 928). Oh, and it was a *bit* hard on the suspension, and they had to cut a hole in the rear hood for the engine to stick out...
  • FP!
    hmm, maybe i should get one of these. My processor is kinda slow...
  • by pipingguy ( 566974 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @07:27PM (#7840448)

    I'm not sure, but a better use of industrial gases might be this [dansdata.com] and probably would provide more perceived results.

    (speaking as an ex LOX, LH2 and LN2 piping designer, of course, YMMV)
  • Hardware damage! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by starsong ( 624646 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @07:28PM (#7840468)
    Heh, this looks like a lot of fun, but that board's not going to last long. Look at the picture on the first page. See the capacitors next to the socket with little ice crystals growing on them? Those are electrolytic caps; they use a liquid electrolyte which doesn't take kindly to being frozen solid. I'm amazed they didn't split open. Colder isn't always better; some components will simply fail at liquid-N2 temperatures. At least they took steps to deal with condensation.
  • by glenebob ( 414078 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @07:33PM (#7840514)
    With all that fancy talk about tolerances and only one company in the world that could make the aparatus, you'd think it would be bit fancier... Nope, just a coper plate with a copper tube sticking up off of it that you fill with nitrogen, and it cools via evaperation. I could build it with some 2-inch copper pipe, a torch, and some soldier... 5 GHz is cool and all, but come on, is there really the need to make it sound so difficult?
  • I got my Athalon 1.4G to behave like it was cooled to absolute zero!

    Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!
  • Shorts (Score:2, Insightful)

    by king-manic ( 409855 )
    with that amount of ice crystals, I'm surprised it didn't short? I know it's distilled water but you figure minerals from the metallic elements on the silicon would contaiminate it and cause shorts?

    • Solid ice is an insulator, because it does not have moving ions. However, in liquid form, even distilled water does conduct some current because of the autoprotolysis of water molecules.
  • by NeoThermic ( 732100 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @07:39PM (#7840563) Homepage Journal
    Yes, I got 6.58Ghz out of my 1.2Ghz Intel Celeron. Image1 [geocities.com]

    Its a true screenshot. What isn't true is the actual clock... I ran some ASM that had a typo in it, and it somehow accelerated the windows timer, thus making apps see my CPU as something faster.

    Even more amazing is what 3D mark 03 sees. Yes, to that program, I have a 60.1Ghz processor (not a typo)

    Image 2 [geocities.com]

    And I didn't even have to use any more cooling than the laptops normal fan.

    Any Questions? ;)


  • by shanen ( 462549 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @07:44PM (#7840615) Homepage Journal
    This overclocking stuff is REALLY stupid to the point of insanity. My conclusion is that it's a weird fantasy about the lone DIY (do-it-yourself) tinkerer.

    First, consider the economic side. For all of the special efforts and costs needed to cool down, test, and monitor an overclocked CPU, you could just buy a couple more for the same speedup effect. No special anything required. At the same time, there is no real need for all those cycles--we have a glut of cycles now. If it were really cost-effective to overclock and use special cooling systems, then the very few people who actually do need lots and lots of cycles would be using overclocking for their supercomputers--and they don't. They just buy more CPUs and run them the way they were designed.

    The design question leads to the second point. Building a modern CPU is not a hobby for amateurs. It is an incredibly complicated device involving the efforts of large teams of very clever people using very fancy design tools. No one person could even know all the details of a modern CPU. Far too many details. They may know some of the higher level features, or know a lot of detail about a tiny section, but no one really understands all of it. However, they are doing the best they can to insure that it will work reliably, and that includes MANY design considerations that are related to the clock speed.

    So back to my main conclusion: Overclocking is a fantasy of the DIY tinkerer "beating" the experts. Actually, it's nice when it happens, but overclocking is NOT one of those cases. The overclockers fantacize about some form of "delivering more bang for the buck", but they are competing directly against professionals with the same goal. The pros win, especially in Intel's case where their development costs per CPU are almost negligible. As the joke goes, "The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that's the way to bet." The overclockers already lost. (By the way, I think this is also an expecially American fantasy, a kind of "independence" thing, and that there are very few non-American overclockers.)

    One more technical aspect as a fairly concrete example. Overclocked computers can become unreliable. Many overclockers limit their testing to "Does it boot and seem to run the OS properly?" However, the OS is not using the floating point resources the same way that true numeric applications do. The machine may seem okay as far as the OS is concerned, but actually be producing gibberish results. (There was actually a probable example of this published by seti@home. I'm tempted to diverge into the psychological relationships there...)

    Ergo, I've never heard of Intel hiring someone for their expertise in overclocking, and I don't expect to.

    • First, consider the economic side. For all of the special efforts and costs needed to cool down, test, and monitor an overclocked CPU, you could just buy a couple more for the same speedup effect.

      Whilst I also think these overclocking games are mostly a waste of time, I just have to take issue with this claim. Some problems are easy to split up, so you can run them in parallel. Some are considerably harder, and require fancy low latency interconnection designs. Some are inherently impossible to speed

    • by bogie ( 31020 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @09:01PM (#7841231) Journal
      "Overclocking is a fantasy of the DIY tinkerer "beating" the experts"

      Whoah, time to lay off the meds. What do you care if someone wants to get all they can out of a product they bought?

      Your post is a fine foil to dissuade someone from spending $500-$100 on OC'ing equipment. It fails miserably to describe why its bad for the average $25 heatsink buying OC'er. Hell the average Intel overclocker usually just uses the stock HSF. Do you really think you have a case when its so easy to take for example a P4 1.8 and overclock it to 2.4 with no extra money and no ill effects?

      Your right overclocked computer can be unreliable, but that's why benchmark programs exist. If you can save $50-$75 by buying the lower end model and speeding it up what's wrong with that? I also don't really think your entitled to make the call whether someone has enough computing power as well. Am I allowed to tell you that you only need a '83 Yugo because YOU don't need anything more than 80hp?

      These posts against overclocking never hold up and I don't know why you thought yours would.
    • Mmm... I'm not really sure where I stand on this issue. I tend to agree that it borders on the "insane" - but so do most "extreme sports" and loads of other things people do for entertainment, and the sake of record-breaking.

      From the sake of the engineering challenge itself, it seems like a good exercise. If you read the whole article, you'd see where they had a very difficult time getting someone to construct the copper tube with the exact specifications needed. In the end, only one guy (a German coppe
    • Did an overclocker kill your parents or something, or are you just a pompous asshole?

      A few years ago, I (and a lot of other people), bought a Celeron 366A for $70, and overclocked it by changing the frontside bus speed from 66MHz (the default for Celerons) to 100MHz (the default for Pentium 3s), making it run at 550MHz. The fastest available P3 at the time was 550MHz, and it cost something like $500.

      This took about a minute to do, didn't require any extra cooling (except for $2 worth of thermal paste on
  • is it me (Score:3, Funny)

    by segment ( 695309 ) <sil@po[ ]rix.org ['lit' in gap]> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @07:48PM (#7840643) Homepage Journal
    But does "Tom's Hardware" sound like a gay porn site name
  • by Hobophile ( 602318 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @07:54PM (#7840687) Homepage
    I saw this article over lunch today, and when I checked back just now I noticed they'd removed the page of benchmarks. One of the interesting results shown was that the Athlon 64 FX-51 managed to beat this overclocked behemoth in a couple tests.

    Only one or two, mind you, but it still boggles the mind that this Pentium running 2.5x faster than the Athlon chip didn't utterly dominate all comers.

    Given the history of THG and their decidedly negative (some might say Intel-funded) view of the Athlon 64 chips, it's not particularly surprising they'd choose to pull that page, but it does cast further doubt on the continued relevance of what was once a high-quality tech reporting site.

    The few posts questioning this on the THG forums seem to have disappeared in the time it took me to write this. Strange...

    • Bingo - thats the reason I dont go there anymore. They are Intel fanboyz from way back and by experience I come to expect nothing but bias from them. Good catch.
    • I'm not surprised, the P4 is incredibility inefficient always has been. The thing that REALLy gets my goat are these POS Celerons Intel pushs in low end boxes. These cpu's are truely garbage. I'd say the Celeron is the biggest disservice Intel has foisted upon the public. Poor consumers are wasting millions because they are misled into thinking a 2.6GHz celeron is actually faster than a 1.6 Duron.
    • by richcoder ( 539438 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @08:41PM (#7841055)

      I've never noticed the bias towards Intel from THG until your post. I went through all of the processor summaries from the past 2 years and your right! They constantly praise Intel and never pass up the oportunity to take stabs at AMD.

      Also, notice that Intel chips get plenty of there own articles while AMD is always placed in a comparison article that is bent toward Intel everytime.

      • I've never noticed the bias towards Intel from THG until your post. I went through all of the processor summaries from the past 2 years and your right! They constantly praise Intel and never pass up the oportunity to take stabs at AMD.

        One has to wonder if the fact that Intel is spending a bunch more than AMD on PR and freebies has anything to do with it...
    • Funny how some think they can sway public opinion with censorship, huh?

      Subtlety makes all the difference. :)
    • Isn't the 5Ghz mark the point where you're bumping up against Einstein? I.E. - the speed of light becomes a barrier because the electrons physically CAN'T make it from one end of the chip to the other before cycles are wasted?
  • Benchmarks? (Score:2, Insightful)

    Where are the usual pretty Tom's Hardware graphs? What the hell is a 5.25 GHz processor good for, if we can't awe over benchmarks like "time it takes to process a SETI unit" or its score in Sandra 2004?
    • Still partial to a Kernel compile time benchmark... for that matter, a bit more OpenGL benchmarks on XFree86 would also be welcome on their new huge gfx cards test.
  • it was shown that a core voltage above 1,880 volts

    Where the hell did they plug this thing into?
    1. Now this P4 is so fast that you can get a Windows Blue Screen of Death within seconds of booting it up!
    2. Watch it still lose to a Dual G5 in Photoshop bakeoffs.
    3. Check out this line from Page 11: " At this clock rate, however, benchmark tests were no longer possible." In other words, this overclocked beauty doesn't actually work at that speed! If it's too unstable to use for real software, it hardly counts as a real innovation.

  • I can't wait for the posters:

    "Yeah but why would anyone need 5GHz??? That's way too much, I get by with my 286/386/PentiumI/II/III/IBM PCjr and anyone who gets something faster is wasting their money."
  • by michaelmalak ( 91262 ) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @08:24PM (#7840944) Homepage
    From the THG story [tomshardware.com]:
    With just weeks to go to Christmas, the THG crew got together to offer our loyal readers and especially the hardcore geeks among us something really special. Our brainstorming session quickly lead to extreme overclocking.
    Oh the creativity -- it's blinding! A computer hardware website investigating overclocking!
  • What's the point of overclocking to 5ghz, writing an article, and NOT RUNNING ANY BENCHMARKS?

  • by xtal ( 49134 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @09:21PM (#7841383)
    This is basically dumping liquid nitrogen onto processors outside and clocking them up. There's not much of an achivement there. You can soak LEDs in liquid nitrogen and make them do all sorts of interesting tricks too. Whoop.

    Why not wait until someone comes up with a indoor version, properly vented and pumped, with a compressor cycle that you can actually use on a long-term basis? That would be an achivement I'd like to see. Of course, it's orders of magnitude more difficult and dangerous, too.

  • When they figure out how to overclock the human brain, let me know.
  • by reignbow ( 699038 )

    A lot of people have asked about the relevance of this: Basically, there is none. But that's all right. It's a nice story to entertain their readers, and I'm willing to bet it was a lot of fun for them, too. Not everything needs to have a point, you know.

    That said, there's one thing that would still interest me: Now that we've seen them overclock that wimpy Pentium 4 (I hate that architecture! How can anyone build a 20-step pipeline?), let's have some real techno-porn: Liquid Nitrogen-cooled 2x2.0GHz G5 P

  • by blair1q ( 305137 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @10:08PM (#7841763) Journal
    Liquid Nitrogen is cold when it's evaporating. You want it to be cold? Give it a flat surface to evaporate on, and keep pouring on the Nitrogen.

    Basically, if you lay a piece of Saran Wrap on your motherboard, then let the LN2 drip on the CPU constantly, you can cool that bastard to -195.798C.

    Making a big, tall tower just looks like a stupid Freudian mistake.

    Sorry Germans. No wonder they've lost every war they ever started.
  • by mnmn ( 145599 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @10:13PM (#7841798) Homepage
    I wonder if you can attach quad monitors, quad mice and keyboards, and have a lanparty on once CPU. I know the radeon 9800 can go that far and already does miltiple monitors, I know of X projects to use multiple USB mice simultaneously and possibly multiple USB keyboards too.

  • and why the copper pipe? If all you are really concerned with is putting LN2 on the cpu, just use a plastic pipe and seal it well at the bottom. It seems counterproductive to have good thermal conductivity through the thickness of the pipe...

    Unless maybe their pipe has a bottom to it, but that seems wrong as well. Seems to me that the heat would cause N2 cavitation at the bottom of the bath and reduce the efficiency of the cooling. I am not a refrigeration engineer, but this seems like it is hillbilly
  • by swordgeek ( 112599 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @12:12AM (#7842506) Journal
    Hmm. Safety gloves? Protective glasses?

    You can definitely tell that these are computer geeks, and not chemistry geeks. Liquid nitrogen is remarkably safe stuff to play with, unless you're deeply stupid about it.
  • umm... So they are claiming a 5,25 GHz overclock, but it wasnt stable at that speed? Then i'd hardly call it a real overclock, I could propably clock my P4 to 5GHz too but it wouldn't work for more than a few microseconds. If they want to claim that kind of results they better show some long running stresstest/benchmark results too. And why is the stock clockspeed of the CPU covered in all the pics?

The best book on programming for the layman is "Alice in Wonderland"; but that's because it's the best book on anything for the layman.