As most of you know, with most videocards you can apply a simple series of tricks to boost the overall performance a little. You can do this at two levels, namely tweaking by enabling registry or BIOS hacks, or very simply to tamper with Image Quality. And then there is overclocking, which will give you the best possible results by far.
What do we need? One of the best tools for overclocking NVIDIA and ATI videocards is our own AfterBurner which will work with 90% of the graphics cards out there. We can really recommend it, download here.
Where should we go? Overclocking: By increasing the frequency of the videocard's memory and GPU, we can make the videocard increase its calculation clock cycles per second. It sounds hard, but it really can be done in less than a few minutes. I always tend to recommend to novice users and beginners, to not increase the frequency any higher than 5% on the core and memory clock. Example: If your card runs at 600 MHz (which is pretty common these days) then I suggest that you don't increase the frequency any higher than 30 to 50 MHz.
More advanced users push the frequency often way higher. Usually when your 3D graphics start to show artifacts such as white dots ("snow"), you should back down 10-15 MHz and leave it at that. Usually when you are overclocking too hard, it'll start to show artifacts, empty polygons or it will even freeze. Carefully find that limit and then back down at least 20 MHz from the moment you notice an artifact. Look carefully and observe well. I really wouldn't know why you need to overclock today's tested card anyway, but we'll still show it.
All in all... do it at your own risk.
Core Clock: 772MHz
Core Clock: 832MHz
Core Clock: 950MHz
Shader Clock: 1544MHz
Shader Clock: 1900MHz
Memory Clock: 4000MHz
Memory Clock: 4600MHz
Overclocking wise the Lightning will allow to be clocked to roughly 875~900 MHz on the core without voltage tweaking. But if you purchase a card like this, we doubt you'll not be tweaking the living bejezus out of it. So we applied a GPU voltage of 1.2v after which your overclock experience will go up a little.
We reached a stable 950 MHz on the core but did have some leash left. Tweak a little more precise and the 1 GHz barrier will become an option. The downside of the voltage tweak however is a louder graphics card as it will need to deal with more residual heat. Power consumption also jumped up another 50 Watt, but fair enough if you compare a reference card at 772 MHz and take that close to 1 GHz, there's bound to be compromises to make.
The ease of the 950 MHz overclock is really as simple as increasing the sliders and hit apply.
Anyway here's what that does towards overall game performance, the GTX 500 series really likes overclocking and that shows in the numbers.
Above, COD MWF2, maxed out image quality settings as before with 4xAA. With so much GPU power requested by the game, we can actually measure the overclock pretty well.
Above, Battlefield Bad Company 2, maxed out image quality settings as before with 8xAA 16xAF. Here up-to 1920x1200 we run into massive CPU limitation. Once you are freed from that, perf boost upwards alright.
Above, 3DMark 11 - the Performance test and score. As you can see a nice additional bump in this very GPU limiting titles, lovely.
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