Ask GN has reached double digits, growing into its tenth episode as you all have continued to provide excellent questions for each video. Last week, in the YouTube comments of Episode 9, almost every question pertained to overclocking in some form or another – SVID toggling, guides for overclocking CPUs, and basics of voltage regulation were all topics of the posted questions.

We decided to make an “Overclocking Special” that strictly discusses the topic of overclocking, addressing some of these basic questions for beginners.

You can find timestamps of the questions below, following the video.

Well, maybe not everything – but certainly the most useful information to a system builder. We've written about how both thermalpaste and CPU coolers work in the past, but figured the topic was worth a revisit now that the site has grown substantially.

In this video and article accompaniment, we walk through thermal conductivity, contact efficiency between the coldplate and IHS, curing & aging, copper vs. aluminum cooling, and more.

The market stability of nVidia’s GTX 980 Ti has given way to the usual suite of ultra high-end overclocking cards. We’ve already looked at the liquid-cooled GTX 980 Ti Hybrid, which won two of our awards and tops our charts, but soon it’ll be time to explore MSI’s new GTX 980 Ti Lightning. PAX saw the first public showcase of the card – concealed behind heavy glass – and allowed for some hands-on.

The Lightning is MSI’s long-running OC line of ultra high-end cards, priced at $800 for the GTX 980 Ti version. A pre-overclock of ~200MHz puts the 980 Ti Lightning in close proximity to EVGA’s liquid-cooled GTX 980 Ti Hybrid, a difference between 1203MHz and 1228MHz (respectively).

A bad power supply can cause a number of issues – in fact, it can even “pop!” and die. Other issues include bad regulation, response to load changes, and poor efficiency. Another consequence is volatile voltage ripple.

We will first cover what voltage ripple is, then how it affects users, and we’ll end by quantifying voltage ripple objectively.

Our recent review of EVGA’s GTX 980 Ti Hybrid landed the card dual-awards on the site, granted for supreme overclocking capabilities and a remarkably low thermal footprint. CES 2015 saw the showcase of a KINGPIN GTX 980something we previewed – for extreme overclocking with unlocked voltage and multiple BIOS chips. World-renowned GPU overclocker KINGPIN yesterday teased photos of his upcoming GTX 980 Ti card by EVGA.

Following our initial review of AMD's new R9 390 ($330) and R9 380 ($220) video cards, we took the final opportunity prior to loaner returns to overclock the devices. Overclocking the AMD 300 series graphics cards is a slightly different experience from nVidia overclocking, but remains methodologically the same in approach: We tune the clockrate, power, and memory speeds, then test for stability.

The R9 390 and R9 380 are already pushed pretty close to their limits. The architectural refresh added about 50MHz to the operating frequency of each card, with some power changes and memory clock changes tacked-on. The end result is that the GPU is nearly maxed-out as it is, but there's still a small amount of room for overclocking play. This overclocking guide and benchmark for the R9 390 & R9 380 looks at the maximum clockrate achievable through tweaking.

All these tests were performed with Sapphire's “Nitro” series of AMD 300 cards, specifically using the Sapphire Nitro R9 390 Tri-X and Sapphire Nitro R9 380 Dual-X cards. Results will be different for other hardware.

Working with the GTX 980 Ti ($650) proved that nVidia could supplant its own device for lower cost, limiting the use cases of the Titan X primarily to those with excessive memory requirements.

In our GTX 980 Ti overclocking endeavors, it was quickly discovered that the card encountered thermal bounds at higher clockrates. Driver failures and device instability were exhibited at frequencies exceeding ~1444MHz, and although a 40% boost in clockrate is admirable, it's not what we wanted. The outcome of our modest overclocking effort was an approximate ~19% performance gain (measured in FPS) for a selection of our benchmark titles, enough to propel the 980 Ti beyond the Titan X in gaming performance. Most games cared more about raw clock speed of the lower CUDA-count 980 Ti than the memory capacity of the TiX.

Our initial review of the $650 GTX 980 Ti, published just over twelve hours prior to this post, mentioned an additional posting focusing on the card's overclocking headroom. The GTX 980 Ti runs GM200, the same GPU found in nVidia's Titan X video card, and is driven by Maxwell's new overclocking ruleset.

Maxwell, as we've written in a how-to guide before, overclocks differently from other architectures. NVidia's newest design institutes a power percent target (“Power % Target”) that increments power provisioning to the die to grant OC headroom. Unfortunately, this metric can't be exceeded beyond what the BIOS natively allows (without a hack, anyway), and means that we're sharing watts between the core clock, memory clock, and voltage increase. Overclocking on Maxwell offers some granularity without making things too complicated, though it's not until we get hands-on with board partner video cards that we'll know the true OC ceiling of the 980 Ti.

This post showcases our GTX 980 Ti initial overclock on the reference cooler, yielding a considerable framerate gain in game benchmarks.

This article topic stems from a recent reader email. Our inquisitive reader was curious as to the nature of variable clock speeds, primarily asking about why GPUs (specifically nVidia's) would sometimes log slower clock speeds than the overclock settings; similarly, speeds are occasionally reported higher than even what a user OC reflects.

Variable clock speeds stem from boost settings available on both AMD and nVidia architecture, but each company's version differs in execution. This brief post will focus on nVidia Boost 2.0 and why it throttles clock speeds in some environments. None of this is news at this point, but it's worth demystifying.

GPU overclocking changed with the release of Maxwell's updated architecture. The key aspects remain the same: Increase the clock-rate, play with voltage, increase the memory clock, and observe thermals; new advancements include power target percent and its tie to TDP. We recently showed the gains yielded from high overclocks on the GTX 980 in relation to Zotac's GTX 980 Extreme and the reference card and, in some instances, the OC produced better performance than stock SLI pairing.


This GTX 980 overclocking tutorial will walk through how to overclock nVidia's Maxwell architecture, explain power target %, voltage, memory clock, and more.

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