Graphics, Hardware, Interviews

Interview: OC legend Vince "Kingpin" Lucido

It is no secret that cooling is one of the keys to pushing the envelope in extreme overclocking and benchmarking competitions. Nobody arguably makes better LN2 [liquid nitrogen] containers than Kingpin Cooling. If you by any chance wonder why the company is named Kingpin Cooling and Vince’s nick is k|ng|pin, the reason is quite simple – try to register the company using non-standard alphabet character and you’ll be in for a ride. In this extensive interview, K|ngp|n spoke with BSN* while recovering from some very painful tattoo work.

BSN*:  What was your first experience with computers?
k|ngp|n:  It was with an IBM PC, which was quite a while ago, which my parents got me. I fiddled around with it; played some games but the games were super-weak back then. I actually wrote a few little mod programs or little animations which I did when I was younger, like nine or ten. Then I got into action sports like skateboarding and snowboarding and went away from computers for a while.

BSN*:  When and why did you start to overclock? Can you remember what system it was?
k|ngp|n:  When I first got back into computers, I got into Unreal Tournament. I don’t remember where I was; I think I was at a friend’s house. So I went and bought a computer, a HP prebuilt gaming computer. I set up and started playing games, pretty much spent all my time online playing games; 5, 6, 7 hours a day and sometimes even longer. And every once in a while my computer would start running really badly and I started to visit sites like Xtreme Systems and Futuremark. I visited mostly just those sites but I did visit some AMD based sites. It was mostly to get my computer to run as fast as possible.

BSN*:  What prompted you to start using extreme cooling?
Vince at his best - discussing overclocking setups next to LHe tank. Picture credit: Simon Solotko, AMDk|ngp|n:  I really liked phase change, you just set up the unit and you can sit back and relax. Because I was playing games it was more practical, you don’t have to worry about it, you don’t have to babysit the pots but it was not reliable for overclocking. I started getting into cascades and the cascades started breaking. There is always some issue with the load temps, some line breaking. I eventually started to realize that benching out of containers whether they are dry ice or liquid nitrogen [LN2] would be better. But I went to LN2 right away, I did use dry ice but you’re limited, you can only use so much of it. So why even bother? I chose to go with LN2 because I could go as cold or as long as I wanted. I basically could control the temperatures and just keep them at whatever I wanted by a combination of sitting there and babysitting the pot and controlled pouring. I could keep the CPU temp at one degree below where the thing [CPU] shuts off and if it meant 100 more MHz, why the hell wouldn’t I? I then started to work on containers with a lot more buffer on the bottom. Massive, massive buffered designs so the temperature swing would be really slow and I realized it would be really easy to keep within a certain temperature. So, it was just an evolution I guess.

BSN*:  Are there any people in the overclocking community you look up to or respect?
k|ngp|n: There are a lot of guys I have respect for and I hold these guys in thehighest regard:  Guys like Shamino, Giorgio, hipro5 and OPPAINTER, eventhough he’s not very active anymore – the guy was really an inspirationto me in a lot of ways. All of Team Japan pretty much. I mean thoseguys are sick.  Everything they do is sick. Those guys were doingtemperature control long before I was. They just didn’t post about it alot but I can tell they knew what was up. I based a lot of my earlydesigns off of what they did. I consider those guys ground breakers forsure. You’ve got to mention Macci. I got to bench with him for thefirst time at QuakeCon. He’s so cool, such a cool dude – soknowledgeable and technical.  He’s definitely someone I hold in highregard.

BSN*:  Do you have a result or world record that you’re most proud of?
k|ngp|n:  I don’t know man. Some stick out like when I got a 100K on 3DMark 01, that was pretty cool. A lot of my [3DMark] 01 scores I’m pretty happy with because they took a lot of work. A lot of the stuff I’ve been doing with Shamino lately, it’s just been insane. He’s awesome; I absolutely love benching with that guy. It’s just fun benching with someone who’s on the same level, now I’m not saying I’m on the same level as Shamino, he’s a modding god, but as far as me and him benching, we both bench very hard. We’re both pretty much always on the same page. We just work really well together. Pretty much all the stuff with him really sticks out.

Kingpin Cooling – How LN2 cooling is becoming a business

BSN*:  Let’s talk about Kingpin Cooling. Are you devoting full-time to Kingpin Cooling?
k|ngp|n: I’d say it’s almost full-time work, it’s approaching that. I spend halfof the day answering e-mails, answering PMs, packing stuff, going tothe post office and making parts and sometimes I’ll do all that andI’ll stay up all night long. I used to stay up all night longoverclocking but now I’ll stay up all night making GPU units or CPUunits just trying to keep up with everything. I still do mostlyeverything by myself. I have one main guy. He’s like my main man; he’slike my tech machine guy that helps me out with a lot of stuff; likeharder setups and new designs and things of that nature. But for themost part, I’m doing everything and sometimes it can be difficult. Ibarely have time to overclock anymore, which kinda sucks.

Kingpin Cooling lineup: CPU and GPU pots with numerous adapters
Kingpin Cooling lineup: CPU and GPU pots with numerous adapters

BSN*:  Would you say overall your venture is worth it, in terms of your life then vs. now?
k|ngp|n:  I’m not sure yet, to be honest. It bummed me out when somebody would copy one of my pots. Or not really copy it, but make something very, very similar or sort of push it as a cheap knockoff of one of mine. I worked really hard to get to this point and it just pisses me off. Sometimes when that [my pots get ripped off] happens I regret it, but for the most part people believe in the things I make and it always seems to carry through. I mean my business has gone up incredibly, you know not huge or anything. I definitely think that’s beca
use of the bad world economy, but it’s gone up. It’s never gone down, which is a good sign for overclocking in general.

BSN*: The Dragon F1 Extreme Edition LN2 pot is legendary. Can you share your thoughts on the pot?
k|ngp|n:  Once I realized that temperature with LN2 can easily be controlled, by hand and by manual pouring. I started to make my containers with a more and more buffered type of design on the bottom of the base. This is basically designed to keep the temperatures from swinging really fast. The temperature control is unbelievable.

Dragon F1 Extreme Edition set
Dragon F1 Extreme Edition kit

Way more surface area and it’s got so much mass that it’s not swinging all over the place. If you have a processor that requires a specific temperature not a degree colder, especially with Intel CPUs and I see it a lot, then your bench is screwed. That can be avoided with my fine tuning of the Dragon F1 EE pot. That’s how the F1 was born. I knew I had something good when guys that had never used LN2 before were telling me that it was so easy to maintain a specific set temperature on many processors.  Especially quads [quad-core CPUs], like in 3DMark 06 or 3DMark Vantage when you hit the CPU portion of the test, it will fully load all the threads or cores on the chips and that thing heats up. At the time 3DMark06 came out, all the containers around sucked. They were like, not to put anybody’s early work down, any pioneer-type guys, it’s just they [the LN2 pots] weren’t good. I mean, you hit the CPU test and it will just warm up and you are at the mercy of the unit. But with my unit, it was different, because I figured with the base’s mass not only could you control temperatures, but if you added the right amount of surface area you could also get the temperatures to dynamically change as needed. So if the CPU is bucking from putting a little bit more watt, you can put a little bit more LN 2 in and the CPU will run a little higher. It’s 100% about controlling temps.

BSN*: Your newest LN2 pot is Venom. What is the theory behind Venom’s design vs. what the F1 accomplished?
k|ngp|n:   Ok, well, the Venom pots are more about?I needed more horsepower, basically. The F1, with the Phenom II I noticed that when you get around 6.1, 6.2, and 6.3 GHz with 1.8 voltage during those CPU tests it starts warming up. Not a lot, but it’s warming up. A full copper design does not give a chip a chip like the Phenom II what it needs. LN2 isn’t even enough because it can go colder. So even one or two degrees will get you megahertz that equal greater scores. So I just started making pots with?first I tried to find out how much copper was actually needed to do this project and then I started working on the amount of surface area need to get to the point where the CPU doesn’t warm up. It’s basically what you want on your benchmarks, colder temperatures that don’t change. And that’s the best you can do with LN2. If you have an LN2 container that can do that there’s not much more you can do especially when the [CPU] chip is fully loaded up in Vantage, 06 or wPrime, you know, something like that. The shape of the Venom is me basically trying to get as much volume into the inside of the container as possible and that’s why it’s so large. Future revisions might shrink down in some dimensions, but for the most part, it’s going to be almost the same because I know it works. That’s really the most important thing; as long as it works, I could care less about how it looks. Looks is not a primary consideration, it’s more of a secondary or third consideration. Once I get the performance of the pot the way I want I want it and then I’m usually set.

BSN*:  Tell me about the Tek Slim GPU pots…  
k|ngp|n:  My Tek GPU units, I think the number one thing is universality. I don’t know if that’s a word actually.

Tek-5 Slim v5.0 LN2 pots for ATI and nVidia cards, even dual-GPU ones
Tek-5 Slim v5.0 LN2 pots for numerous ATI and nVidia cards, even dual-GPU ones

They’re really universal, because you work with so many different cards and that’s what I like about them. I could make a different pot for every single video card, but I mean, who the heck is going to buy them? So this pot is really, really universal. It’s good, it’s a good pot. It works well, it’s designed to work with cards at very high loads and it gives you that excellent feel of just nice, rock stable temps. The card is loaded up, the pot is full of LN2 it isn’t difficult to control the card. That’s it.

BSN*: And rounding up your selection is the NB-1 Northbridge LN2 pot.
k|ngp|n:  I just wanted to make one because a lot of people have been asking me for them. I wanted something that would work with a nice range of motherboards. So we came up with the classic design that’s pretty universal. It works with a nice range [of motherboards] and I started testing some copper ones, tested some half copper, half aluminum and I tested some full aluminum ones. I found the aluminum ones were pretty dang good. There’s really not a lot of heat coming off of Northbridge chips even at really high voltages. It’s not anything like CPUs. You don’t need that much. That container, it’s cheap and it’s good and that’s really what I set out to do.

BSN*:  Speaking of shape, I’ve noticed several users on XS and maybe elsewhere wonder why your pots are square rather than round.
k|ngp|n:  It’s funny that you say that, some of the other people have said it to me too and I never even think about it man. I mean I just don’t do round pots. There’s really no specific reason for it. I mean in the Venom’s case, that pot is square for a reason. Because I needed to get, I needed to basically the thing to be as big as possible to get such a big area. The only way to do that was with that particular square shape. Obviously, a round shape?you can actually get a round container to actually be bigger, but it wouldn’t fit most of the [main] boards. That’s a problem. So I wanted to make that container as big and as massive as possible with no limit; just full throttle [benchmarking]. So with the F1, I don’t know. I mean that’s the shape that I originally started testing. I have some really early prototypes that are actually round. They don’t work as great but they have slightly different internals so it’s not an apple to apples comparison. I started doing square prototypes and afte
r a couple square prototypes it did really well and I just kinda got a good vibe from it. That’s just how I made my containers plus I have a CNC mill [computer numerical controlled], it’s a lot easier to make square pots than round.


BSN*:  You bench for Team PURE. What is the idea or inspiration behind Team PURE?
k|ngp|n:  It’s been an idea I’ve been kicking around for a long time and I’ve been talking about it with some close friends for a long time. I almost did it a year ago but I decided not to. I didn’t think it was the right time. I basically wanted to get together a group of people and basically show them how powerful a group of likeminded, determined individuals could be. It’s sort of working out that way. It’s pretty cool to see the guys helping each other out in our team forum and helping each other get the last point. Everybody’s really dedicated. You know I’m from Xtreme Systems, I love Xtreme Systems, and I have absolutely nothing against that site. It’s the best tech site ever. It is the best extreme tech site on the net, bar none. But their 3D Mark team was, it’s like a huge 3D Mark team and there’s a lot of people and not many people seem to contribute a lot. Or maybe there just not as into it [benchmarking] as I am, but I know I’m over the top. Most guys aren’t like me. I basically wanted to form a team of guys that were like me and as passionate about benching as I am. It’s not about selling containers; it’s not about promoting my company, nothing like that. Definitely it’s a representation of my company because it’s a sponsored team. I help the guys out with stuff, if they need it. It’s more their team than it is my team. Instead of benching for myself I want to help these guys out and show everybody else how badass of a team these guys can be.  

BSN*:  Is Team PURE an open team? Are there any prerequisites for membership?
k|ngp|n:  The team is closed. I closed it at twenty-three, twenty-four members. I closed because a lot of guys on other teams were pitching a fit about guys coming over to Team PURE. But these guys [Team PURE members] were e-mailing me saying their teams weren’t passionate enough.  This is something that they’ve been waiting for.  I mean, how can you turn down somebody like that?  It wasn’t about me stealing other team’s members. I never did that. I never really approached anybody and anybody I did I said, look if it’s an issue don’t do it. I don’t want to cause problems, for sure, I don’t want guys hating on me just because I wanted to form my own bench team.  This is something I wanted to do, I even wanted to call it PURE.  I wanted to do this for at least a year and a half before some of these other teams were even formed. So I don’t really feel that bad.  That’s it you know? It’s just a group of guys or girls?overclocking is changing there might be some girls who overclock believe it or not.

BSN*:  Would you say that overclocking/benchmarking is male dominated, at least for now?
k|ngp|n:  100%, for sure, it’s definitely male dominated.

BSN*:  What are the biggest changes in overclocking over the past decade?
k|ngp|n:  I would say in extreme over clocking the BIOSes [basic input/output system] and motherboards and hardware in general actually have become more overclocking friendly. Some of these motherboards have a million features on them that are all about extreme overclocking. A year or two ago nobody supported it. And now, it’s like there’s all these overclocking options you don’t have to do the old school crystal overclocking, you don’t have to mess with the PLLs [phase lock loop]. It’s cool, it makes it more palatable for the masses and I think it’s good. It’s cool to go to Microcenter and see an overclocking section.

BSN*:  There’s been some controversy over using Engineering Sample [ES] or non-retail CPUs in overclocking competitions and on Hardware Bot [HWbot] submission. Can I get a comment from you on that?
k|ngp|n:  I don’t think it’s an issue in competitions because competitions are usually nothing more than marketing events for "x" company. They supply all the overclockers with their CPUs, whether they’re ES or retail it doesn’t matter. In that situation it’s really irrelevant because they’re getting [CPUs] samples from the same batch or group of CPUs. I think the issue is guys coming online and bragging about their results using ES CPUs and maybe some guys just are taking it the wrong way. Thinking, you know maybe you shouldn’t brag or boast about having something that technically, far exceeds everything that’s out there available out there in retail. That’s not anything to brag about. That’s really the problem is how some guys chose to handle their results. Some guys got pissed and I knew it was going to happen. But I don’t have a problem using ES, I overclock everything. I don’t really look at it as that [ES or retail CPU]. I just try to do the best with whatever is given to me, whatever I buy. I do buy hardware. Some people everything is given to me but it isn’t. There are some things I have to buy. There’s a limit; there’s just not an endless supply of hardware.

BSN*:  Especially if you’re going to break it, potentially anyway.
k|ngp|n:  I mean for as much as I bench, there’s definitely not an endless supply of hardware. I mean, I kill stuff. When I’m benching really, really hard for weeks and weeks sometimes I kill a lot of stuff. It happens. On HWbot it’s kind of silly to have ESs unless they’re marked ES and there’s some kind of disclaimer. There’s really not a fair comparison to some guy who goes out to the store and buys hardware. Or maybe it’s good; maybe he’s handpicked a couple CPUs. That’s part of it, finding the right hardware, the best hardware that runs great together. It’s all part of it and you know? As far as HWbot is concerned, I don’t think they should be allowed. I like what they’re doing with the checkbox idea to tell if it’s an ES CPU and it doesn’t count for points. If you’re not using to gain points or gain an advantage over somebody else, then there’s really nothing to bitch about.

BSN*:  How do you feel about the potential of extreme overclocking to become a professional competition? Would this be a good thing?
k|ngp|n:  I don’t think so. Overclocking is about sitting in your cave and working with the setup over a long time. Sometimes you have to go through multiple pieces of hardware, whether you like or not. Stuff burns up or it’s not the right part. So you have to bench a lot. It’s not a matter of just setting up the hardware in front of a camera a
nd a bunch of people wearing shirts for the company that’s marketing the event. So it’s a nice photo op; that’s not what overclocking is about. Overclocking is about working on a score for a long, long time until you’ve achieved your goal. To me that’s what it’s about. I wouldn’t be opposed to some super long event. But it’s not really possible to do it that way. They try and jam it all in one day.

BSN*:  What about the Formula One Overclocking Competition?
k|ngp|n:  As far as format goes, I love it. To have a whole month on a benchmark is absolutely perfect, because that’s what you need. That’s how you get the best scores. If a world record gets broken, that’s how it’s going to happen. Guys are going to work really, really hard and it’s cool to see higher and higher scores every day, you know, with the leader boards. All the guys in this contest, I think have proven themselves, one way or another, that they’re capable overclockers. This isn’t just an overclocker’s competition it’s also a manufacturer’s competition. I think that’s what The Overclocker is trying to do, get manufacturers involved and to compete against each other. That’s how we’re going to grow this thing. That’s what this is all about, which team, which manufacturer, which overclockers come through at the end. Each manufacturer excels in one or two of the benchmarks. I think they have it balanced properly. EVGA is really strong in Vantage but I’m not sure about some of the other ones. It’s a pretty fair fight. ASUS has a really strong, powerful card for Vantage so I’m not sure why they’re not officially in it. They definitely seem like they have what it takes hardware wise but they’re not officially supporting it. They’re the only manufacturer that isn’t. This [competition] is what we need. This kind of thing is going to be huge because this might spur the manufacturers into trying to beat each other with better products. We all win in the end with something like that.

BSN*:  How do you feel about the future of extreme PC cooling? Has the market for your products been affected by the economy?
k|ngp|n:  My business is growing, it certainly seems to be growing but I think it would be a lot better if the economy wasn’t so bad. It depends on what happens with cooling technology. There could be other forms of cooling in the future that aren’t anything like this and I guess I’ll have to adapt when that happens. But for now, it seems like it’s good and it’s growing. I’m looking forward to the future, the near future for sure. Right now overclocking seems to be coming out of its infancy stage. You’ve got everybody doing LN2, it’s crazy. Before, nobody did LN2. When I first started doing it, it was a handful of guys. Now, it’s like totally commonplace. You see pictures of guys with their wives and family members. It’s going more mainstream. So it’s cool.

BSN*: This is the most important question: AMD or Intel? I’m just joking, I won’t make you answer that.
k|ngp|n: I’d answer it.

BSN*: Alright, AMD or Intel?
k|ngp|n: I’d probably say right now?awhile ago I would say Intel?but right now I’d say AMD.

Vince overclocking with Liquid Helium. Picture credit: Simon Solotko, AMDBSN*: What is your impressionof AMD’s comeback in terms of extreme overclocking. What has AMD doneright with Phenom II that didn’t happen with Phenom I?
k|ngp|n: I’m so impressed with what they’ve done. It’s amazing on what they’ve done with their processors can go that far [in terms of clockspeed] especially given the history of their processors. The Athlon 64 was one of my inspirations for my early buffered designs. They were AMD chips. All the AMD chips were coldbugged and you had to run them at these ridiculously warm temps and I needed a pot that could do that. But it’s so awesome with these non coldbugged CPUs. That’s what overclocking is all about. Well, it is about efficiency, how tight everything is running and your scores are good for the clocks. It’s more about pushing it than anything else. It’s about getting more clocks, which you can’t deny these processors are nuts. To run them [the CPUs] at full LN2 temps and to have the privilege to run liquid helium, I can’t thank AMD enough. It is insane; it was a dream of mine to do that. Just to see the temps go that low, to see the thing actually scaling, it’s just nuts – the best feeling in the world. That is what overclocking is all about and it doesn’t matter what the scores are. It’s just really, really cool to be a part of that. I really like what AMD is doing. Now if Intel could somehow engineer the coldbug out of their processors. Maybe figure out what causes it, reverse engineer it to get it out of there. Then I would say the same thing [about Intel]. Right now, some of their top CPUs coldbug pretty bad so it can be very frustrating compared to Phenom II benching. 

BSN*: What are you benching currently?
k|ngp|n:  Right now, we’re benching the F1 Vantage rig. So there’s a Classified motherboard [BSN* review of EVGA X58 Classified 760], a Xeon 3540 processor, 2 GTX 295’s, Corsair Dominator 2000’s c7’s, Silverstone 1500 watt PSU. Just one PSU for the whole rig man, it powers it. Quad SLI rig means just one thing – it’s a badass rig.

BSN*:  Thank you for the interview, it was great talking with you. Best of luck to you and Kingpin Cooling. Talk to you later.
k|ngp|n:  No problem, talk to you later.