It's crazy to think that we've done 24 Ask GN episodes. The very first episode didn't even use our current video set – it was set in the temporary set, which featured a gray sheet against a wall and a folding card table. Content quality and quality of questions have both gone up. Be sure to leave your questions on the YouTube video for inclusion in next week's episode.
We're back today with Episode 24, which addresses diminishing returns on overclocking (and why reducing the clock can improve performance), safe RX 480 temperature targets, PCIe lanes between the chipset and CPU, and limited GTX 1080 AIB partner card differences.
Before proceeding: This endeavor is entirely at the risk of the user, and there is a possibility of “bricking” or permanently damaging the hardware during this process.
In 4GB vs. 8GB AMD RX 480 benchmarking, our testing uncovered improvement in just a few titles – but the improvements were substantial when present. It is no mystery that early press samples of the card allowed for flashing to 4GB, which resulted in a 1750MHz memory clock and locked 4GB of the VRAM. This is reasonable, as media obviously wanted to test both versions of the card, but AMD wanted to limit sampling. We actually liked the way this was handled, given the option between a flashable sample and strictly an 8GB sample.
But there's more to it than that: Consumers have reported success flashing VBIOS from sold 4GB retail samples, resulting in 8GB cards. Let's talk about why AMD's shipping of “locked” cards makes sense, risks, and how to perform the procedure.
The AMD RX 480 “Hybrid” quest we embarked upon revealed some additional overclocking headroom, but also prompted a good opportunity to demonstrate live RX 480 overclocking. We've returned to showcase that today, alongside a top-level explanation of GPU core voltage, core frequency, fan RPM, power % target, and stability.
Note that there are a few disclaimers to be made with any type of overclocking: First, it's likely that any such endeavor voids the warranty, at least if exiting a range permissible by the AIB partner or OEM. That's because overvolting and power increases can potentially cause damage to chips long-term (or even immediately, if no restrictions are in place), and that's especially true on cards where cooling may not adequately cool critical components governing overclocking – like the MOSFETs and other VRM components. That's not to scare anyone away, though; overclocking is fairly safe if following basic rules of small, incremental stepping and using guides (and using OEM-provided software, which often has restrictions for safety). It's just that overclocking is always an “at your own risk” venture, and it doesn't hurt to remind everyone.
This guide explains how to use WattMan to overclock the AMD Radeon RX 480 GPU, showcases voltage (for overvoltage or undervoltage), power target, and some performance metrics.
Futuremark has pushed an update to its popular 3DMark benchmarking software, now adding a proper "stress test" mode to the tool. Previously, the closest option 3DMark offered to a stress test was a looped FireStrike run, which has two issues we've pointed-out in some methodology discussion: (1) The loop-back is interrupted by a brief black screen and restart of the bench, and (2) the test run does not equally load the GPU, and so power draw fluctuates (we saw a range of ~40W on the 1080). Neither of these is ideal for real burn-in testing.
The new Stress Test benchmark runs uninterrupted (up to 40 hours in pro version, 10 minutes in the free version) and should more evenly load the GPU and CPU. To us, the best feature is a frame-rate stability check which issues a pass/fail based upon FPS performance during OC stability benchmarking. In theory, the tool should analyze for FPS consistency, which will give users an idea of potential OC limitations (like voltage or TDP).
After a 1-2 week break through our Asia trip, which included factory tours in China, Taiwan, and then Computex proper, we're back with another episode of Ask GN. This time, we address questions on rumors of the 1080 Ti's release window, the impact of overclocking on component lifespan, and the importance of CPUs in an era of burgeoning GPU loading.
The week's questions are listed with timestamps below the video embed. Be sure to check out last week's episode for more of this content style. Leave questions on the Ask GN YouTube page for inclusion in next week's episode!
Had investigators walked into our Thermal-Lab-And-Video-Set Conglomerate, they'd have been greeted with a horror show worthy of a police report: Two video cards fully dissected – one methodically, the other brutally – with parts blazoned in escalating dismemberment across the anti-static mat.
Judging by some of the comments, you'd think we'd committed a crime by taking apart a new GTX 1080 – but that's the job. Frankly, it didn't really matter if the thing died in the process. We're here to make content and test products for points of failure and success, not to preserve them.
The test results are in from our post-review DIY project, which started here. Our goal was a simple one: As a bit of a decompression project after our 9000-word analysis of nVidia's GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition, we decided to tear-down the GTX 1080, look underneath, and throw a liquid block onto the exposed die. The “Founders Edition” of the GTX 1080 is effectively a reference model, and as such, it'll quickly be outranked by AIB partner cards with regard to cooling and OC potential. The GTX 1080 overclocks reasonably well – we were hitting ~2025-2050MHz with the FE model – but it still feels limited. That limitation is a mix of power limit and thermal throttling.
Our testing discovered that thermal throttles occur at precisely 82C. Each time the card hits 82C absolute, the clock-rate dips and produces a marginal impact to frametimes and framerate. We also encountered clock-rate stability issues over long burn-in periods, and would have had to further step-down the OC to accommodate the 82C threshold. Even when configuring the VRM blower fan to 100% speed, limitations were encountered – but it did perform better, just with the noise levels of a server fan (~60dB, in our tests). That's not really acceptable for a real-world use case. Liquid will bring down noise levels, help sustain higher clock-rates at those noise levels, and keep thermals well under control.
The video (Part 3) is below. This article will cover the results of our DIY liquid-cooled GTX 1080 'Hybrid' vs. the Founders Edition card, including temperatures, VRM fan RPM, overclocking, stability, and FPS. Our clocks vs. time charts are the most interesting.
The first “Ask GN” since leaving for PAX East, we delve into topics exploring voltage configurations for overclocking, AMD's Zen / Polaris architectures and the make-or-break pressure, alternatives to FRAPS in DirectX 12/Vulkan, and upgrades.
The questions are posted below the video with timestamps, as always.
For anyone interested in the final question in the video (paraphrased: “Should I buy Polaris or Pascal and sell my 980 Ti?”), you may be interested in our recent “Polaris & Pascal: Buy or Wait?” content we published.
The GTX 980's entry into laptops – without suffixed “M” demarcation – provided a look at the world of true desktop graphics as integrated on mobile devices. We reviewed MSI's GT72S Dominator Pro G ($2760) with its GTX 980, conducting additional overclocking tests to determine just how far the desktop part could be pushed when crammed into a laptop.
Turns out, it was pretty far. And we're revisiting the subject with Intel's new i7-6820HK and the GTX 970M. This benchmark looks at just how far a laptop CPU and GPU can be overclocked, then runs game FPS and Adobe tests to determine if OCing is worth it. We use The Witcher 3, DiRT, GTA V, Shadow of Mordor, and Metro for FPS tests, then run trace and automated testing for Photoshop and video editing software. A CyberPower Fangbook 4 SX7-300 was used for the benchmark, which is outfitted with the 6820HK unlocked CPU.
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