The Intel Extreme Tuning Utility, known to many PC enthusiasts and overclockers as simply XTU, is a versatile, highly integrated and easy to use benchmark application co-developed by Intel and HWBOT. One of the reasons it was developed was to raise awareness with PC enthusiasts regarding just how easy it is to improve system performance, negating the need to enter BIOS, instead offering a fluid UI that shows you exactly what’s happening under the hood of your PC while offering plenty of options to make improvements.
Perhaps a more important motivation for the development of XTU however, was an attempt to re-position overclocking to appeal to a broader audience, one that included DIY PC builders, enthusiasts and, perhaps most significantly, PC gamers. Overclocking in the traditional sense as many people understood it back at the turn of the millennium, was a highly esoteric pastime enjoyed by a small band of PC enthusiasts who would be willing to spend enormous amounts of cash on high-end hardware that they would push to the absolute maximum in pursuit of performance, even if it ended with blown components getting thrown in the trash. XTU has become pivotal in changing that perception, helping to grow the overclocking scene in way that few could imagine possible.
Introducing The Intel Extreme Tuning Utility
Firstly, what does XTU actually do? In a nutshell XTU allows you to test and tune your PC in real-time to improve CPU and system memory performance. After tweaking the settings of their PC, users can then run a quick benchmark to find out how much performance was gained. Crucially, it also includes integration with HWBOT and OC-ESPORTS so that users can upload a benchmark score to the HWBOT score database and compare it to others. They can even submit the score directly to a relevant competition on the OC-ESPORTS website – all with just a click of a button.
The conceptual and technical development of XTU stretches back around four years or so. HWBOT began working with Intel back in early 2012, discussing benchmarks and plotting arriving at basic integration with the HWBOT database later that year. The app was officially announced and released to the industry in June 2013. Few people in the industry at that time grasped its relevance to the enthusiast PC segment. The app itself lacked full hardware integration. Not all features worked and in truth few motherboards offered genuine compatibility.
At this early stage of in its development one major hurdle that remained was the apps’ integration with the DIY PC motherboard vendors and their products. Implementing XTU as the fluid and easy-to-use benchmark it is today actually took substantial effort from the motherboard vendors, especially in the area of the UEFI BIOS. HWBOT visited HQ offices in downtown Taipei prior to launch to explain that XTU could be a real game changer, one which would transform how mainstream consumers viewed overclocking and system tuning. Several conversations with marketing departments at MSI, GIGABYTE, ASUS and others indicated that XTU integration would actually require a significant workload especially in the area of UEFI BIOS development.
In short, understandably XTU was initially met with both indifference and at times even apathy by engineers and marketing people that already had a full plate in terms of workload. Nevertheless, with Intel on board vendors started to see the significance XTU could have to their products. MSI were first out of the traps, going public with XTU integration in the 2nd Quarter of 2014. Ample promotion from both MSI and Intel meant that people purchasing MSI motherboards now began to realize that they had a way to assess and improve their system’s performance with just a few clicks of a button.
XTU, OC-ESPORTS and the Rookie Revival
From 2014 onward more motherboard vendors began to improve XTU integration and support with their motherboards, with some vendors also starting to realize the value of promoting the app as a value-added feature. One other crucial change that became immediately apparent is that the HWBOT membership and activity metrics were also greatly affected by its arrival. If we compare the number of submissions on the HWBOT website from 2012 to 2015, we see a dramatic shift in the demographic makeup with a massive expansion of Rookie and Novice leagues.
Some simple numbers reveal the sheer scale of these changes. From 2012 to the end of 2015, the active member rose by 500%. Score submission rates also changed dramatically with year on year growth of 342% on average. A quick analysis of the numbers reveals a massive surge in non-extreme overclocking. Numbers of Rookies (fresh members who signed up less than three months ago) and Novices (members for less than a year) exploded in an a wholly unprecedented way.
OC-ESPORTS was launched officially in January 2015 as a competitive overclocking platform curated by the staff of HWBOT. The concept of an Overclocking Season was introduced so that new overclockers could participate within a level and fair competitive ranking system that lasted for only a year rather than the historical rankings on HWBOT. New competitions were introduced that targeted Rookies and Novices as well the creation of the Challenger Divisions that offered a diverse range of overclocking challenges that included affordable hardware, retro hardware and even ARM and mobile overclocking contests.
The role of XTU in making all of this happen cannot be underestimated. Current numbers indicate that around half of all benchmark submission on OC-ESPORTS are in fact XTU submissions. Indeed contests like the Rookie Rumble and the Novice Nimble which run throughout the year on OC-ESPORTS always include one XTU stage, as do many of the vendor sponsored contests and Challenger Division stages.
However the real value of XTU’s role in creating this new and quickly growing class of overclockers, lies in the fact that XTU is in most cases a users first contact with the Overclocking world. It’s crucial to grasp that many Rookies were arriving at HWBOT and OC-ESPORTS via direct contact with XTU. XTU had become a portal the world of competitive overclocking.
Leveraging the Reach of XTU with Enthusiasts
There is no doubt that XTU has in many ways helped created a shift in the demographic makeup of the Overclocking scene. No longer is it merely a showcase for extreme players who are backed by big industry sponsors using LN2 on a stage in Las Vegas. It has grown to harbor a broader group of enthusiasts who enjoy testing and tweaking their systems using water and air cooling, as well as keenly following the Elite and Extreme players who are now, more than ever, becoming the celebrities and role models of the overclocking world.
Back in 2014 MSI was first to invest its resources in supporting the features that XTU offers on its motherboards. Since that moment the HWBOT database has seen a sharp rise in users actively benching on MSI motherboards. What MSI achieved was better engagement with its customers. Selling them a product and then backing that up with access to an app that allowed them to explore the product in new ways while also introducing them to a new world of performance tweaking and overclocking.
The XTU API remains open, and also allows for vendors to add their own company logo. Indeed, GIGABYTE recently created their own GIGABYTE branded XTU and began hosting it on the driver download and support pages of their website as well as inclusion on the driver than DVD that arrives in every motherboard product shipped. The result was an immediate surge in submissions made using GIGABYTE motherboards on HWBOT and OC-ESPORTS.
The Road Ahead for XTU in 2016
2015 was mathematically speaking the most successful year for overclocking ever. More scores were submitted, more overclockers were engaged with more contests and events than ever before. 2016 promises to be even better. 2016 will build on the success of 2015, with more contests for both Extreme and Non-Extreme overclocking, more prizes and more engagement with hardware vendors than ever.
XTU will remain a significant means of reaching enthusiasts who play PC games, build their systems and genuinely care about performance but there is clearly more that vendors can do to further leverage that reach. The XTU API remains as open as ever and even allows for vendors to integrate it into their own benchmarking and tuning software offerings. XTU could potentially be integrated in GIGABYTE’s EasyTune app, or MSI’s Command Center, extending the company’s reach with overclockers while exposing their brand to newer overclockers making their very first steps in the OC world.
About the Author
Stewart Haston has more than a decade of experience working in the technology and PC industry, including marketing positions with various major Taiwan companies. Stewart is employed as Senior Communications Officer at HWBOT.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HWinsights or affiliates. Furthermore, the author holds no investments or stake holdings in the companies referred to in this article.