Comparison: Factory-Overclocked Versus Reference Graphics

Conclusion

The following chart compares the overall result (frames per second) across all benchmarks with the maximum power consumption at peak 3D workload conditions. It’s important to take these results with a grain of salt, as no 3D board runs at peak load at all times, and also because the power consumption readings apply to the entire test system. The reference card does well here, which does not say anything about its overclocking capabilities. Overclocking clearly increases performance, but it is apparent that basic GPU overclocking is only half of the equation. You will only get noticeable performance gains if you also add video memory tweaks to your overclocking ambitions. A 4% performance increase for an extra 7 W seems reasonable.

A better overall performance result leads to a better bang for the buck, which is why all overclocked products look better in the benchmarks. Effectively, this is all about a reference board against factory-overclocked cards, which cost an additional $50-100. Is it worth spending the extra money, knowing that the overclocking benefits will be limited at default voltages? For enthusiasts, this is going to be debatable. MSI's dual-fan cooler does help enable cooler GPU operation, despite the slight factory overclock. The card even generates less noise. If you were to buy a comparable aftermarket cooler, you’d have to install it separately and you would be working on a reference PCB layout as well. At the same time, it's important to remember that the extra $100 you pay suddenly puts you in the neighborhood of a GeForce GTX 480, which is faster by default and can also be overclocked.

In the end, you’re getting an overclocked product with better cooling, better performance, lower noise, and functional 2D profiles (the higher factory clock speeds ensure that the card throttles GPU and memory clock speed when it runs in 2D mode). Overclocking GPU and the memory on your own typically leads to increased idle clock speeds and substantially higher idle power consumption. Our cross check shows that you’ll be getting similar results on factory-overclocked cards from other vendors as well. It doesn't make sense to go for such a card from a performance standpoint, because of a disproportion between performance gain and additional cost. Enthusiasts might still want to consider a higher-clocked card, though. As always, the last bit of performance comes at much greater cost.

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27 comments
    Your comment
  • chrissmartin
    i will buy a normal card with good cooling and overclock it.
    5
  • rohitbaran
    Too less performance gain (4-5 FPS) for the too much extra price paid ($50-$70) along with too much increase in power consumption (30-40 W. Better to buy a reference card unless you want the best no matter what the price is.
    3
  • Mark Heath
    I like the idea behind the article and I'm glad that there's been some testing done on it, but I don't really like the article itself.

    There are references to how much the reference card is overclocked by, but there is no clear section about it, you started off with some of the summary charts, instead of putting them after the initial tests and you kept switching what cards you were comparing, with less warning than I would like..

    Plus there's that 2GB 5850. Is that really a 2GB 5850, or is it actually 2GB 5830, because it kept getting beaten by the 1GB 5850..
    1
  • Onus
    When I buy a new GPU, I look for one who's reference clocks make it "good enough" as-is; but I do look for a better / quieter cooler.
    1
  • mrhoshos96
    great article but u should have compared the reference against the sapphire vapor-x
    0
  • Tesla1483
    Quote:
    In order to their products apart, third-party vendors take reference GPUs...


    I'm guessing they meant "In order to SET their products apart..."
    Seriously, it's the first sentence in the article. Does no one proof read anything here? Isn't that like the first thing you learn when you want to become a writer? Sorry, rant over.
    8
  • youssef 2010
    "This cooling concept works pretty well, as it not only provides effective graphics component cooling, but it also helps to remove warm air from the inside of your PC. "

    The reference 5870 has a vent on its side so, it doesn't completely remove the hot air from the case but recirculates a part of the hot air back into the case
    0
  • duk3
    It's a 5850, look how close the framerates are.
    The amount of ram doesn't really matter at these resolutions.
    1
  • LLJones
    The cards just do not offer enough gain. If you can afford the overclock edition at a premium, then save up a little more and get the next card up or buy two of the next lower cards. The $1000+ dual 5870 from Asus shows what a complete waste of money some, not all, super OC cards are.

    Try this, put together a really really really premium card component wise, and then don't put any cooling on it. Let me decide what I am going to do for cooling and companies can save on packaging, shipping etc due to no cooler.

    If your really aiming at the OC crowd and not just playing a game of marketing, then you know the first thing someone does is to rip off your factory cooler to replace it or at the very least put quality thermal compound on it.
    4
  • dEAne
    I like this article, thanks tom.
    0
  • bildo123
    jtt283When I buy a new GPU, I look for one who's reference clocks make it "good enough" as-is; but I do look for a better / quieter cooler.


    Best suggestion, wait for the manufacture to slap on some after market cooling and pay the extra for something useful. It wasn't like this in the past, but now-a-days they like putting on HSF setups that do a relatively poor job.
    0
  • kirillian
    You may not have noticed silicondoc, but this past year, NVIDIA really hasn't been bringing its A-game to the table, mostly trying to use marketing to make up for its failures...right now, Red really is performing better in a price/performance setting. There's really little that any honest individual can do to deny that, fan or Red OR Green...it's not Tom's Hardware that's falling down, it's NVIDIA at the moment. Maybe the next gen will be better, but no one knows yet.
    0
  • kirillian
    kirillianThere's really little that any honest individual can do to deny that, fan or Red OR Green...


    Edit: ...fan of Red OR Green...
    0
  • Adroid
    I have started buying cards from vendors that warranty overclock like EGVA. I paid 159$ for a GTX 260 216 core after rebate well over a year ago, then when I am gaming I use the EVGA precision tool to overclock it to the higher priced cards core / shader speed.

    Its funny because mine will do the exact speed as the factory "superclocked" card's settings at the press of a button - all under lifetime warranty.

    My card before this one was a Radeon, I'm a total unloyal customer. I'm sure they have some similar deals, but EVGA has definetely earned my business when it comes to Nvidia stuff...
    0
  • firedust
    I definitely would have liked to see the 460 on here. So far the reviews have been very good.
    0
  • itpro
    Wow, you nVidia uberfans really get your panties in a bunch over nothing! The premise of this article was valid: Comparing factory over clocked cards against standard cards. Yes, they chose to compare a mature product in the 5870 rather than a brand new to market nVidia, but the premise was still valid.

    Yes, some of us DO prefer ATI cards over nVidia. So what? For the last two years nVidia has done little more than offer up old cards with new model numbers on them trying to convince us that they were still a competitor, while ATI pushed the envelope in performance, price, and power efficiency. Even now, when nVidia has finally gotten their new chipset out the door and is finally offering a competitive performing card they are still too expensive for what you get and use enough juice to heat a small home.

    If nVidia spins your wheels, then that is fine with me. Personally, I have had more than enough of their crappy drivers and overheating cards to last me a life time.
    1
  • d-block
    What kind of moron puts a 5870 in a 32 bit machine? That test pc setup is complete garbage.
    2
  • Sykar
    d-blockWhat kind of moron puts a 5870 in a 32 bit machine? That test pc setup is complete garbage.

    more to the point, who the hell in their right mind buys/uses a 32-bit OS anyways?
    2
  • randomizer
    Anonymous said:
    What kind of moron puts a 5870 in a 32 bit machine? That test pc setup is complete garbage.

    What kind of person thinks it would make a difference?
    0
  • Poisoner
    silicondockirillian, you sad, sad person. Every website in the world has declared the GTX460 the current best bang for the buck PERIOD. You talk about honesty, yet you post the most blatantly dishonest crap of the day one from the red team could cook up. What a sick joke. Just forget it, live in your insane fantasy world of lies and be happy. My God.



    Wow, you must be off your meds. Tom's just posted an article about the awesome SLI scaling of the 460, although it was a week late. I also believe that the lastest graphics card chart came before the GTX 460, although the other GF400s are on the chart.

    As far as the 480 and the 470, I don't think they use that much more power than previous generation cards, or create that much more heat either. I'd say that EVERY review site under rates the higher end Fermi cards. No one seems to get that besides gaming, they are absolute folding MONSTERS. If I folded, I wouldn't use anything less than a 470. To bad nVidia doesn't have an AMD chipset that was in my price range when I was buying a motherboard.
    -1