|NVIDIA GeForce GTS 450 GF106 Video Card|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Monday, 13 September 2010|
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GeForce GTS 450 Overclocking
NVIDIA's recent GF104 graphics processors proved itself capable of serious overclocking, and the new GF106 is no different. In fact, the GeForce GTS 450 is an overclockers dream. Already sold with an impressive stock clock speed of 783/1566 MHz, NVIDIA's GF106-equipped GTS 450 is 108/216 MHz faster than the GeForce GTX 460. With 1GB of GDDR5 running at 902 MHz (3608 effective) on the GTS 450, the Samsung K4G10325FE-HC05 memory speeds are nearly identical. Putting this into perspective, GTS 450 processor speeds fall between the GeForce GTX 470 and GTX 480 (closer to the former), and it has a much faster memory clock.
Now comes the fun part: overclocking the GeForce GTS 450 is as easy as its ever been. My mission was simple: locate the highest possible GPU and GDDR5 overclock without adding any additional voltage. Hardcore overclockers can get even more performance out of the hardware when additional voltage is applied, but the extra power increases operating temperatures and can cause permanent damage to sensitive electronic components.
Software Overclocking Tools
Back in the day, software overclocking tools were few and far between. Benchmark Reviews was literally put on the map with my first article: Overclocking the NVIDIA GeForce Video Card. Although slightly dated, that article is still relevant for enthusiasts wanting to permanently flash their overclocked speeds onto the video cards BIOS. Unfortunately, most users are not so willing to commit their investment to such risky changes, and feel safer with temporary changes that can be easily undone with a reboot. That's the impetus behind the sudden popularity for software-based GPU overclocking tools.
NVIDIA offers one such tool with their System Tools suite, formerly named NVIDIA nTune. While the NVIDIA Control Panel interface is very easy to understand an navigate, it's downfall lies in the limited simplicity of the tool. It's also limited, and doesn't offer the overclocking potential that AIC partners offer in their own branded software tools. RivaTuner is another great option, developed by Alexey Nicolaychuk, which he then modified and branded for various graphics card manufacturers to produce EVGA Precision and MSI Afterburner. Although they're based on the same software foundation, they're don't offer the same functionality.
EVGA Precision Overclocking Utility (v2.0.0)
Upon startup, the EVGA Precision tuning tool offered a small graph with GPU temperature and usage as well as fan speed percentage and tachometer. The GPU core and shader clocks are linked by default, and were adjustable to 1255/2510 MHz for the GTS 450. Memory clock speed could be adjusted up to 2164 MHz (double data rate), while fan speed stopped at 70% power. Next came MSI Afterburner...
MSI Afterburner Overclocking Utility (v2.0.0)
When I started MSI's Afterburner "Graphics Card Performance Booster", the first apparent difference was the added GPU core voltage option. MSI Afterburner allowed the GTS 450 adjustments up to 1162 mV, while EVGA Precision lacked this option. The GPU core and shader clocks are linked by default, and adjustable up to the same 1255/2510 MHz for the GTS 450. Another difference was available with memory clock speeds, which could be adjusted up to 2345 DDR (compared to only 2164 MHz with EVGA Precision). Fan speed adjustments stopped at 70% power, and the charts (not shown) can be detached and repositioned. It appears that Alexey Nicolaychuk gives overclockers more options with MSI's Afterburner.
Using MSI Afterburner to overclock the GeForce GTS 450, I began overclocking this video cards 783/1566 MHz graphics processor first. As a best practice, it's good to find the maximum stable GPU clock speed and then drop back 10 MHz or more. While the GeForce GTS 450 was stable in several short low-impact tests up to 990/1980 MHz, there were occasional graphical defects. Once put into action with high-demand video games, I decided that 950/1900 MHz with full-time stability is a far better proposition than crashing out midway through battle. Still, a solid 167/334 MHz GPU overclock without any added voltage was very impressive.
Since my agenda was finding maximum performance from the GF106 graphics processor as well as 1GB GDDR5, I had more work ahead of me. NVIDIA clocks the GTS 450 video memory at 902 MHz (1804 MHz DDR - 3608 effective), however these Samsung K4G10325FE-HC05 modules are built for 1000 MHz. After some light benchmarking to see if my memory overclock was bumping up against the module's ECC, I decided that a 98 MHz overclock up to 1000 MHz (2000 MHz DDR - 4000 effective) was most ideal for this project. When the dust settled, the GF106 GPU operated at 950/1900 MHz while memory was clocked to 1000 MHz GDDR5 - allowing me to play Battlefield Bad Company 2 with an overclocked GeForce GTS 450 without stability issues. Now come the results:
On average, my stock-voltage overclock produced a 17% improvement in video game FPS performance (using extreme settings designed for high-end video cards). In games where the GeForce GTS 450 was in close proximity to the Radeon 5770, this overclock helped surpass performance. In other games, the added boost extended a lead over the 5770 and made it possible to enjoy higher quality settings. At this price point, budget gamers need everything they can get.
In the next section, I offer my opinion on Fermi's updated architecture...