Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN Overclocking Review

We follow-up with a full evaluation of overclocking the NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN. We will find out how fan speed and temperature affect the clock speed, then we will take it to the extreme with voltage tweaking to see how fast we can get our TITAN and the performance increase as a result.

Introduction

On February 21st, 2013, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN was revealed and reviewed. We initially looked at single-GPU performance of GeForce GTX TITAN as well as 2-way SLI performance in several games. One category we did not get to test in detail, due to time constraints, was overclockling with the GeForce GTX TITAN. We briefly looked at overclocking in the initial evaluation, but we had been wanting to follow-up with a more detailed look at overclocking, our experiences, our highest overclock and the performance advantages that follow. We have finally been able to do that with GeForce GTX TITAN and are providing our full evaluation of overclocking with GeForce GTX TITAN today.

In our original evaluation we concluded that our TITAN was running at 914MHz in real-world frequencies. However, with further evaluation we have actually found that it operates lower than we initially thought after prolonged gaming. What we didn't have then, that we have now, are some new power hungry and demanding games to test with TITAN. We also have spent time gaming in each scenario tested below, for 30 minutes, to find the real-world operating frequency and to find our highest stable overclock.

We need to stress, the overclocking results here are taken from a strenuous bout of gaming, at least 30 minutes spent in each game, and using today's most power hungry and graphically intensive games. This presents a sort of "worst case" scenario for overclocking with TITAN. This will give you a conservative look at what to expect after spending time gaming on TITAN for long periods of time. After all, we want an overclock that works at all times, for prolonged periods of gaming.

GeForce GTX TITAN GPU Boost 2.0

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Before we show you all of our experiences, we need to re-iterate what is new with TITAN. NVIDIA introduced GPU Boost 2.0 with GeForce GTX TITAN. New to GPU Boost 2.0 is a temperature control that will cap the frequency and voltage to keep the GPU locked in at a certain thermal threshold. This means it can hold back on clock speeds to keep the temperature in check while also keeping the fan at a low RPM isn't an issue. This is in addition to the cap that already exists in place in terms of power target. With GTX GeForce TITAN, temperature and fan speed will affect your real-world clock frequency in games to a great degree, as we are about to show you.


GeForce GTX TITAN Default

What we are going to do first is figure out what the real-world frequency is in games before we even overclock. This is important because we need to know where we are starting from clock speed-wise. GPU Boost is able to change the frequency and voltage to keep the GPU at 80c by default. This could mean that in demanding games the GPU clock frequency could be held back, even potentially under the default GPU Boost clock speed frequency, and close to the base clock. We have to find this information out first before we overclock.

Beyond this initial test of real-world frequency we are about to show you, there are two ways to look at increasing the frequency on TITAN without even overclocking. You can sacrifice sound and go with a "loud" approach by increasing the fan speed, this should give you higher real-world frequencies in-game before even attempting to change the GPU Offset for overclocking. The second option is to go with a "hot" approach, and raise the thermal cap of 80c to a higher allowable degree, also potentially allowing the frequencies to result in higher speeds without touching GPU Offset. We are going to explore all of these methods below, before we even think about overclocking.

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In the above images we are looking at EVGA Precision X 4.1.0 at stock default settings with GeForce GTX TITAN. You'll note the fan is set to "auto" and the Power Target is at 100 and the Temp Target is at 80c. These are all default settings. The next thing we simply had to do was load up our games and see what the real-world frequencies were while gaming. We took photographs of the result so you can see for yourself what we experienced.

Please note that in each picture below the results depicted were taken at exactly 30 minutes of gaming in that game. We simply played each game for 30 minutes, then took these pictures, which shows the stabilized real-world frequencies and temperature and voltage. As you look at them, note the default stock frequency settings for a GeForce GTX TITAN. The base clock is set at 837MHz and the Boost Clock is set at 876MHz.

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The results of the default real-world frequencies are quite revealing. In Crysis 3 the frequency settled to 862MHz at 80c. Tomb Raider settled to 875MHz at 80c. Far Cry 3 settled to 875MHz at 80c. Sleeping Dogs settled to 862MHz at 80c.

What this tells us is that to keep the temperature at 80c, the clock speeds are being kept at GPU Boost clock, or even slightly under in the more demanding games. Crysis 3 and Sleeping Dogs seem to be so demanding that GPU Boost runs the clocks a bit lower to keep the GPU temperature at 80c. At the fastest speed, 875MHz, the GPU is running right at the default GPU Boost clock speed, no faster.

This gives us a place to start, a baseline for our overclocking. We know that with no changes we are starting with a clock speed around 862-875MHz. Now, there is something we can do about this, before we even touch overclocking. We can manually control the fan speed, keeping the GPU cooler, and potentially giving us higher clocks. Or, we can raise the temperature cap, allowing the GPU to get hotter, also possibly giving us higher frequencies before we even overclock. On the next page we are going to attempt these things. First we are going to raise the fan speed, and see how that affects clock speed. Then we are going to raise the thermal cap, and see what that does. Then, we are going to combine both together with raising the Power Target, and see what that does.