If you want to achieve a decent overclock, you’re going to need the right utilities and drivers. As with almost anything else, it’s a matter of using the right tools for the job. The problem is that the drivers especially are in a constant state of change, with user interfaces being altered and features being added or dropped. That means third-party tools are always racing to keep up, and a graphics card maker’s own overclocking utility may break from one driver to the next. Gone are the times where you could just update your graphics drivers whenever you were doing some “spring cleaning” in your system, anyway.
If you play current 3D games, you’re more or less forced to keep your drivers up to date. ATI releases a new version of its Catalyst driver suite every month, and each one features new bug fixes, improvements, and optimizations for games. A good example of this is the game The Last Remnant. Thanks to CrossFire optimizations, the performance of dual-card configurations has actually improved by a factor of three. Games based on the Unreal 3 engine also require the drivers to be optimized for them, and it may take a Catalyst release or two to get there. Since many top-tier games such as Bioshock, Mass Effect, and Stranglehold use this 3D engine, keeping up with driver updates is imperative.
MSI’s Radeon HD 4870 card comes with its own overclocking tool called D.O.T. (Dynamic Overclocking Technology). You can’t download it directly from MSI’s support page, nor is it included on the driver CD. Instead, it is integrated right into MSI’s modified driver. At the time this article was written, the most recent release was version 8.542. Meanwhile, ATI had already released Catalyst 9.6. The trouble is, you can’t mix and match. If you upgrade to a newer non-MSI driver, you lose the D.O.T. feature.
Trying to be clever, we downloaded MSI’s own version of the 8.603 driver from the Radeon HD 4770 product page. Installing it onto a fresh system yielded the same result as using the ATI version--no D.O.T. tab with overclocking features. When we tried to upgrade to that version from the modified drivers that came with our HD 4870, the D.O.T. tab remained. However, none of the changes we made affected the actual clock speeds, in effect rendering the tool useless. Thus you’ll have to choose between using the most recent driver release with the newest bug fixes and improvements on the one hand and having the D.O.T. feature at your disposal while being stuck with an older driver on the other. No doubt MSI will upgrade its modified release, but it’s likely that it will always lag behind ATI’s latest official ones.
- CPUs Have More Headroom
- Keeping Cool (Enough)
- Graphics Chips And Our Test Setup
- MSI’s D.O.T.-Enabled Driver
- Overclocking The ATI Card Via D.O.T.
- Benchmarks: ATI And D.O.T.
- Overclocking Using RivaTuner And Tray Tools
- Benchmarks: ATI And Catalyst 9.6
- Overclocking: Nvidia And D.O.T.
- Benchmarks: Nvidia And D.O.T.
- Overclocking: Nvidia With CoreCenter And AirForce
- Benchmarks: Nvidia And GeForce 186.18
- RivaTuner And Precision
- Effects Of Overclocking: ATI
- Effects Of Overclocking: Nvidia
- Overall Performance
- Performance Per Watt
- 3D Performance (Sorted By Anti-Aliasing)
- Conclusion: It’s A Tie