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 Rivatuner that you can download here. If you own an ATI or NVIDIA graphics card then the manufacturer actually has some very nice built in options for you that can be found in the display driver properties. Based on Rivatuner you can alternatively use MSI 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.
Our results. Now we left the fan RPM control at default in all circumstances. We reached a very decent overclock guaranteeing better results on all cards. Voltage tweaking did not do a lot at all as most factory overclock products already have a high GPU voltage at default. Here our the results per card tested today:
Inno3D GTS 450 Freezer
Gigabyte GTS 450 OC
KFA2 GTS 450 LTD OC
Palit GTS 450 Sonic Platinum
Sparkle Calibre X450G
MSI N450GTS Cyclone
eVGA GTS 450 FTW
ECS GTX 450 Black
ASUS ENGTS450 DirectCu TOP
Based on our experiences we feel it's safe to say that you can gain the following overlock fairly easily.
Estimated safe overclock
Core Clock: 783MHz
Core Clock: 900MHz
Shader Clock: 1566Hz
Shader Clock: 1800Hz
Memory Clock: 1800MHz (x2)
Memory Clock: 2000 MHz (x2)
We recommend an overclock of roughly 900 MHz on the core and 4000 (effective) MHz on the memory as a 100% stable average and safe overclock.
As a result of the overclock we can report that none of the cards ran into noise issues, none of them will run into heat issues under the condition that you steer clear of additional GPU voltage tweaks. The end result is a nice gain in performance alright.
COD: Modern Warfare 2, maxed out image quality settings as before with 4x AA 16x AF
Above, you can see the overclock results per card. All the way down, the reference card which you can compare to. The overclock will get you anything from 15 to 20% additional performance. Look at the KFA2 card go, nice .. it has 0.4ns memory, allowing the gDDR5 framebuffer to run at 5000 MHz (effective).
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