Overclocking is a very different role in the computer industry today than it was 10 years ago, when overclocking devices were considered illegal by manufacturers. Back then, even mentioning overclocking could void your warranty, and industry leaders like Intel worked to jointly eliminate it all.
In contrast, processor and graphics card manufacturers today have committed themselves to the practice of promoting high "overclockability" as a feature and using it to sell enthusiastically oriented products at a premium.
Take the popular mid-range GeForce GTX 560 Ti as an example. Base model non-overclocked cards start at ~ $ 229, but it's not that straightforward or straightforward to find as most manufacturers prefer to have their overclocked counterparts push. While the Nvidia spec calls for a core clock speed of 822 MHz, you shouldn't be surprised if outgoing models for that particular series of GPUs run at 900 MHz or higher.
Sounds too good to be true? It is possible. Often times these factory overclocked models cost 10 to 20% more than the standard models and only offer half of this additional performance. The alternative is manual overclocking. Thankfully, it's easy to do as both AMD and Nvidia drivers provide their own custom overclocking capabilities.
Here's another scenario that begs the question of whether it's worth overclocking … You buy a new graphics card, set a budget, and it seems that for another $ 30-60 you can always move on to the next step that works a little better. Or you could save those extra dollars, go for the budget model and overclock it and basically get the performance of the next step.
For this reason, we have selected three graphics cards representing selected price ranges to see how much added value can be achieved by overclocking. For the over $ 100 range, we have the Radeon HD 6750, the GeForce GTX 560 Ti was used to represent the over $ 200 market. At the top of the food chain is the Radeon HD 6970 for $ 300 and more.
Each of these graphics cards is overclocked to its maximum stable frequency using standard air cooling. The comparison is made on the results that were not overclocked, as well as a number of competing products that usually cost a little more.
Our test system specifications are as follows:
– Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition (3.30 GHz)
– x4 2 GB G.Skill DDR3-1600 (CAS 8-8-8-20)
– Gigabyte G1 Assassin2 (Intel X79)
– OCZ ZX series (1250 W)
– Crucial m4 512 GB (SATA 6 Gbit / s)
– Microsoft Windows 7 SP1 64-bit
– Nvidia Forceware 285.62
– AMD catalyst 11.12
The graphics cards tested include (from cheapest to most expensive):
– Radeon HD 6750 (1024 MB) and overclocked with 800/1300 MHz
– GeForce GTX 550 Ti (1024 MB)
– Radeon HD 6850 (1024 MB)
– GeForce GTX 560 Ti (1024 MB) and overclocked with 955/2250 MHz
– Radeon HD 6950 (2048 MB)
– Radeon HD 6970 (2048 MB) and overclocked with 955/1470 MHz
– GeForce GTX 570 (1280 MB)
– GeForce GTX 580 (1536 MB)