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 would 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: 732MHz
Core Clock: 732MHz
Core Clock: 800MHz
Shader Clock: 1464MHz
Shader Clock: 1600MHz
Memory Clock: 3800MHz
Memory Clock: 4500 MHz
Now we left the fan RPM control at default in all circumstances. We reached a very decent overclock guaranteeing even better results.
This is a reference card, without voltage tweaking your limit will roughly be 800~825 MHz on the core (1600~1700 on the shader processors). Memory can be clocked at 4400~4500 MHz (effective).
With the 'normal' overclock our temperature now hovers at roughly 79 degrees C under load, and that's okay. dBA levels remain normal, slightly higher at 42 dBA, and that's under full stress. Here's what that does to your overall performance.
Here we have the card with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, maxed out image quality settings as before with 4xAA 16xAF.
But let's make it really heavy on the graphics card -- Battlefield Bad Company 2. We maxed out image quality settings as before with 8xAA 16xAF, way more GPU stringent, and with 8xAA applied we see that even this title benefits nicely from our overclock.
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