SLI

An in-depth interview with Vince “K|NGP|N” Lucido.

 
 

By Jimmy Thang

Vince Lucido has just unpacked a brand new GeForce GTX 580. Eager to test out what the new graphics powerhouse can do, Lucido, better known as "K|NGP|N" (pronounced "kingpin"), preps to overclock the card but unknowingly uses the wrong-sized trimmer. An electric zap jets out of the card as smoke billows through the air. The GPU is fried. This just goes to show that even one of the world's premier hardware overclockers can make a rookie mistake.

Normally very meticulous about his craft, K|NGP|N has made quite a name for himself by being one of the pioneer overclockers to effectively use liquid nitrogen as a GPU cooling device. Having gone on to shatter numerous overclocking records as a result, hardware manufacturer EVGA has brought him on board to be their champion GPU representative. His experiences and expertise has allowed him to create a successful business where he now develops and sells his own innovative hardware cooling receptacles to fellow enthusiasts all around the world.

K|NGP|N Despite his myriad accolades, K|NGP|N has stayed very down-to-earth and humble. While the man has received as much fame as a person can attain in one's profession, K|NGP|N isn't interested in any of the global glitz or glamour that his work has brought him. Not one to gloat about himself in the slightest, he would probably shrug these first few introductory paragraphs as nothing more than hyperbole. Regardless of his humility, it would certainly be an understatement to say that K|NGP|N knows his way around a graphics card.

In this exclusive interview with GeForce.com, K|NGP|N shares his personal struggles breaking into the overclocking industry, reveals how much liquid nitrogen he can go through a week, discusses the advantages/disadvantages of the much cooler liquid helium, shares tips on overclocking gaming rigs, and talks about how he has been able to turn his love and passion for what many consider to be a niche hobby into a fruitful, full-fledged career.

GeForce.com: First, let's start off by addressing your nickname. Your pseudonym is "K|NGP|N." Where did that name come from?
Vince "K|NGP|N" Lucido: I used to be a skateboarder and there’s a part on the truck called a Kingpin, a big component of the trucks on a skateboard. I was also really into Kingpin Magazine [a skateboarding magazine] I liked the name and thought it sounded cool. I was in it to win it.

K|NGP|N How old were you when you built your first computer?
I built my first computer in 2001. I started overclocking in 2003.

Wow, so for where you are now, you actually started pretty late in the game.
A little bit. A little bit. I used to be a gamer. Played a lot of first-person shooters. I kind of stumbled into over-clocking because I wanted to get the most out of my computer. Found some over-clocking forums where some guys were pushing the clock speed and tweaking. I then kind of fell in love with it.

Overclocking can be seen as an extremist hobby. A lot of people probably do not get why you guys do what you guys do. What’s the drive behind it?
I’ve always been into extreme things. Been skateboarding and snowboarding my whole life. Everyday computing bores me. Over-clocking just satisfies that desire that guys have to tear something apart and to put it back together. That’s kind of what it was for me.


What do you consider to be your biggest achievement in your over-clocking career?
I broke a hundred thousand on 3D Mark 01 with just an old program; it was pretty big deal when I did it. That was pretty satisfying. Vantage is pretty difficult with Quad SLI. The current rig I'm running is an EVGA classified SR2, which has 2 CPUs, 4 cards, and more.

Conversely you must have attempted many things that failed. Can you give us an example of your worst blunder?
Usually I’m very meticulous and careful when I’m modding the cards but I just recently got a GeForce GTX 580. I blew one of them up as soon as I turned it on because I put the wrong sized trimmer. I was supposed to use a 50K-Ohm on them and I used 50 Ohm instead and the voltage just fried it instantly as soon as I turned it on. That’s probably one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in a while.

Speaking of the GeForce GTX 580—how do you find it vs. the 400 series?
Well, the 580 scales a lot higher. It's thermally a lot better than the 480 so there's more headroom on the over-clock. That's all the way around on air, the card goes a lot higher on air, water, the whole scaling is higher, which is nice for us because [comparatively] the 480 is a little bit hot. It was sometimes tough to deal with on max over-clock but the 580 is just killer. It's just great for extreme over-clocking.

Technical malfunctions aside, what are your favorite over-clocking programs?
I love 3D Mark Vantage, 3D Mark 11 I haven’t run yet. It’s new. I like 3D Mark 01 a lot. It’s a bit old, its uses DirectX 8. It uses old tech, but it's still really fun.

Over-clocking the CPU and GPU require different approaches. Could you talk a bit about that?
Okay. Well, first of all, some CPUs have cold bugs. Some don’t. So the newer generation of CPUs like the Intel K processors, the Clarkdales, they don’t really have cold bugs. You can basically fill the pot all the way up and just max the thing out minus 196. It didn’t use to be the case with the older AMDs, the FXs, the FX 57, 62, were really bad, you couldn’t go minus 50, minus 60C. With GPUs, it’s a bit different because, while the GPU core itself runs pretty hot, you run into issues with insulating on the cards so the PCBs [Printed Circuit Boards] tend to freeze up really bad, so you have to use a lot more preparation to make sure the GPU can handle the extreme conditions.

What kind of preparation?
I use a lot of grease. I use a lot of foam, grease, paper towels; just try to isolate that area where the container is touching the core of the card. To try to seal off the air. I even use blow dryers sometime. I have a blow dryer on high just pointing at the PCB of the card because if I shut the dryer off, the whole card will turn to ice. Because really, other than the PWM area [Pulse Width Modulation], there’s nothing really else getting hot in the card, so the PCB will freeze.

K|NGP|N For most people, overclocking is a hobby. You’ve turned it into a career. How did you manage that?
I make and sell a lot of [copper containers]. I make containers for memory. Liquid nitrogen containers for memory. For GPUs, thin ones for quad SLIs where they're packed together. I make larger GPU containers when you're just testing one card and want to push it all the way. I make varying different CPU containers for different platforms. I think I’ve managed to develop a pretty solid product line and you know, a lot of people all over the world use my containers because they work. I've put a lot of time into R&D [research and development] so that from an over-clocking point of view, they work how they're supposed to work.

Tell us about the liquid nitrogen GPU containers you make.
I have a thin pot and a fatter pot for GPU's. The thin pot, was created when NVIDIA introduced triple SLI, the cards were too close together so I had to take a much fatter gpu container that I made at the time and scale it down and stretch it up so it fits the multiple GPU configuration. That was huge because nobody else had any kind of solution for LN2 at that time. The fat pot is basically just a balls-out, you know, you just want to see how fast you can push one graphics card. It’s got more mass, it’s got more surface area and all the container designs were done through the process of my own over-clocking experiences. A little bit of trial and error over the last couple years.

Some people still think that SLI is overkill, what do you have to say to them?
It’s not overkill at all. Even the 580 GTX with SLI is awesome. It really is; it’s very powerful. Triple SLI isn’t overkill. Quad SLI? (laughs). I don't know. I mean, for benchmarking, for extreme over-clocking, absolutely not. If NVIDIA came out with 5 or 6 way SLI, it could be used.

How much liquid nitrogen do you go typically go through?
It depends. If I’m not over-clocking, I'm not going through any, right? Recently I broke 74k Vantage on the SR2. I went through about, probably the most I’ve ever used is about...maybe 1,200 liters in a week.

That’s quite a bit. (laughs)
(laughs) Yea.

Is liquid nitrogen the final limit to over-clocking? Is there a frontier beyond liquid nitrogen?
There’s liquid helium. I’ve used it; it goes to around absolute zero. It's colder than LN2 but it's very difficult to use and it’s very, very expensive. Very expensive. Like 10 times the cost of LN2.

Wow. How is it more difficult to use?
It boils off a lot quicker because it needs to be kept colder. I’ve used it before so the way you use it is you bring everything down with LN2 and when you’re at the coolest LN2 temp then you start feeding the helium. If you just try to cool the setup with helium right from the start, it will just all boil off.

Is that your winning formula? Helium?
No, because there’s not many hardware components that can go colder than LN2, so you're not going to go anywhere with liquid helium. Systems won’t even turn on.

Because of all this over-clocking stuff, fame has come into your life. Is this what you were expecting? Do you like all the attention you’re getting?
(laughs) it’s uh…it’s cool, but it’s not really what I was after.

K|NGP|N Some people really enjoy the limelight…
It’s not always good, man! There’s haters out there… I think in any kind of competition or anything that’s sort of like a sport, I think guys that are on top tend to be the targets.

You have to take the good with the bad, ight? I mean, celebrities complain about the paparazzi all the time, but yet they have fame and fortune because of it.
Yea, I would never trade it in, man! I’m very thankful for everything I have as far as the over-clocking world. NVIDIA has helped me a lot.

Regardless of the haters, you’ve been able to travel the world quite a bit because of your hobby and have met several other enthusiasts. What has that experience been like?
It’s been amazing, man! I’ve met a lot of different over-clockers from around the world. Particularly Shamino, Peter Tan from Singapore. Awesome guy! Learned so much from him! He’s pretty much my idol. I grew up in the over-clocking world kind of idolizing that guy cause he’s really, really good with electronics. I always thought that’s how I want to be.

Did you feel like you wanted to beat that guy at his own game even though he was your hero?
Oh, yea! I thought there was no way I could touch him when I first started over-clocking, but that was my goal one day was to be able to put up scores with some of the top guys. That’s pretty much what happened.

So it’s a very respectful competitive nature thing going on I take it?
Yea, very much.

You've come along ways since your humble beginnings in this business. What would you say to someone who wanted to break into your industry? What are some tips you could share to the aspiring over-clocker?
Start off slow. Maybe start over-clocking one component at a time before you try to jump into a multi-GPU system because then it becomes really frustrating if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Do you have any tips for PC gamers out there who want to build and over-clock rigs for gaming?
Well, gaming and extreme over-clocking are two different things. Some people like to combine them, but for gaming, I always went for the most stability. Sometimes when you’re really pushing the system to the limit, it won’t be 100% stable. It might be stable enough to run on the benchmarks, but as far as for something to game on and play online against other people, I’d want something that is very stable. I’d probably use water cooling; I think that’s good because it keeps all the components pretty cool.

So nothing too extreme? No liquid nitrogen? (laughs)
No. (laughs) Water cooling is as hardcore as I’d go.

Finally, I'm going to open up the stage for you, is there anything you would like to share with NVIDIA's GeForce community?
Right now NVIDIA has got a really strong position in the graphics market and that's a good thing for GeForce fans. I'm pretty happy about it… Now's just a great time. They launched a new card. They're on top and they're killing the competition.

Vince, thank you for your time.
No problem.

To hear more about Vince "KINGPIN" Lucido and his "cool" hobby, visit his website www.kingpincooling.com.

EDITOR’s NOTE: Some corrections have been made to the interview. 12,000 liters has been changed to 1,200 liters, “fx63” has been changed to “fx62,” and “cold box” has been changed to “cold bug.”



 
 
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