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Analysis: Overclocking

Radeon HD 5770, Radeon HD 4890, And GeForce GTX 275 Overclocked
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The individual results, as well as the impact of the various clock speed settings, are covered individually in the sections for each graphics card. Here we want to try and summarize the most important conclusions from the benchmarks.

It'd seem that the results are clear. Overclocking sometimes allows your graphics card to reach the performance of the next highest class of GPU. At default speeds, MSI’s GeForce GTX 275 Lightning was only one or two percent shy of the GeForce GTX 285. However, once it was overclocked, the MSI card had no trouble beating the GTX 285 at stock speeds. Just bear in mind that you'll also pay more for overclocked versions of the most aggressive cards, so before you buy, make sure you aren't indeed paying for the higher-class card, too.

There is no faster graphics chip in the Radeon HD 4800-series to which we could compare the Radeon HD 4890. The performance boost from overclocking is almost twice that of the Nvidia card though, demonstrating this card’s potential. The following table shows the overall score (in FPS) for the reference cards and our test candidates.


Cumulative FPS
MSI N275GTX Lightning Max OC (GTX 275 1,792MB)1,838.5
GeForce GTX 285 (1,024MB)1,795.0
MSI N275GTX Lightning (GTX 275 1,792MB)1,769.1
MSI R4890 Cyclone SOC Max OC (HD 4890 1,024MB)1,750.6
MSI N275GTX Lightning No OC (GTX 275 1,792MB)1,694.4
MSI R4890 Cyclone SOC (HD 4890 1,024MB)1,689.6
GeForce GTX 275 (896MB)1,677.1
MSI R4890 Cyclone SOC No OC (HD 4890 1,024MB)1,543.4
Radeon HD 4890 (1,024MB)1,523.6
ATI Radeon HD 5770 OC (1,024MB)1,433.5
ATI Radeon HD 5770 (1,024MB)1,332.9
Radeon HD 4870 (512MB)1,327.1


Aside from the higher default clock speeds, is there any incentive for buyers to choose an OC Edition over a normal card? MSI’s GeForce GTX 275 certainly has some advantages compared to the reference design. For one thing, its cooler is more effective, while also running quieter. MSI’s OC Edition of the GeForce GTX 275 never exceeded 42 dB(A), even set to its highest overclocked speed, whereas Nvidia's reference cooler reached 44.2 dB(A). Thanks to MSI’s optimized cooler design, heat was also not an issue, reaching a mere 76 to 78 degrees Celsius under load, while Nvidia’s reference design struggled to keep the GPU at 92 degrees. In short, this card offers better performance than the reference design while still running cooler and quieter.

Things are a little different where MSI’s Radeon HD 4890 is concerned. Although its huge cooler can handle the higher clock speeds and resulting greater heat output, it does get louder than the reference model when running at full blast. Also, power consumption skyrockets when the card is overclocked. Our system’s power consumption jumped from 312 watts using the stock Radeon HD 4890 to a sobering 390 watts with the overclocked OC Edition. Thus, the GTX 275 OC Edition wins in a direct comparison, since it achieves a better cumulative frame rate, produces less noise, and stays cooler.

Below you’ll find one final chart that ranks the cards' efficiency. We take the cumulative frame rate (in FPS) and divide it by the system power to determine how many frames we get per watt. As you can see, the Radeon HD 5770 is the clear winner here. Also of note is that the overclocked cards score better than their siblings running at reference clock speeds.

Graphics Card and Chip Class
FPS
Watts
FPS per Watt
ATI Radeon HD 5770 OC (1,024MB)1,433.52316.21
ATI Radeon HD 5770 (1,024MB)1,332.92255.92
MSI N275GTX Lightning (GTX 275 1,792MB)1,769.13325.33
MSI N275GTX Lightning Max OC (GTX 275 1,792MB)1,838.53505.25
MSI N275GTX Lightning No OC (GTX 275 1,792MB)1,694.43255.21
GeForce GTX 285 (1,024MB)1,795.03485.16
Radeon HD 4890 (1,024MB)1,523.63124.88
Radeon HD 4770 (512MB)971.61994.88
GeForce GTX 275 (896MB)1,677.13514.78
Radeon HD 4870 (512MB)1,327.12884.61
MSI R4890 Cyclone SOC Max OC (HD 4890 1,024MB)1,750.63904.49
MSI R4890 Cyclone SOC (HD 4890 1,024MB)1,689.63804.45
MSI R4890 Cyclone SOC No OC (HD 4890 1,024MB)1,543.43484.44

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Top Comments
  • 16 Hide
    wickedsnow , November 24, 2009 9:52 AM
    While I normally refrain form ever commenting on video card reviews. I could not resist this.

    I agree with falchard (to a degree) that while i don't think the review is biased, I do think something is not right about it. In most of the games listed, the 4890 (1024 version) is not only loosing to the gtx260 192 AND 216 versions, but loosing by a huge margin. I own both cards myself in 2 machines that are the same (except the videocards) and 99% of the time, the 4890 spanks my other rig. (with an evga SSC gtx260 core216).

    I'm not saying anything is biased (just a reminder) I am saying something just is not right. PSU not big enough, wrong drivers,... etc etc... no idea.
  • 12 Hide
    falchard , November 24, 2009 9:12 AM
    Benchmark suite is kind of gimped again. Every game selected except Fear 2 is designed to gimp ATI hardware. I guess its ok if you are comparing ATI to ATI, but when you say the GTX275 is a better buy over the HD4890 based on this review its completely biased. You didn't even come close to portraying the HD4890 in any sort of fair comparison.
  • 11 Hide
    quantumrand , November 24, 2009 6:12 AM
    I'm really disappointed that they aren't any benchmarks from the 5870 or 5850 series included. Why even bother with tha GTX 295 or 4870x2 and such without the higher 5-series Radeons?

    I mean if I'm considering an ATI card, I'm going to want to compare the 5770 to the 5850 and 5870 just to see if that extra cost may be justified, not to mention the potential of a dual 5770 setup.
Other Comments
  • 1 Hide
    amdgamer666 , November 24, 2009 5:22 AM
    Nice article. Ever since the 5770 came out I've been wondering how far someone could push the memory to relieve that bottleneck. Being able to push it to 1430 allows it to be competitive to it's older sibling and makes it enticing (with the 5700 series' extra features of course)
  • 1 Hide
    Onyx2291 , November 24, 2009 5:30 AM
    Damn some of these cards run really well for 1920x1200 which I run at. Could pick up a lower one and run just about anything at a decent speed if I overclock well. Good ol charts :) 
  • 9 Hide
    skora , November 24, 2009 5:47 AM
    If you're trying to get to the next cards performance by OCing, shouldn't the 5850 be benched also? I know the 5770 isn't going to get there because of the memory bandwidth issue, but you missed the mark. One card is compared to its big brother, but the other two aren't.

    I am glad to see the 5770 produce playable frame rates at 1920x1200. Nice game selection also.
  • 11 Hide
    quantumrand , November 24, 2009 6:12 AM
    I'm really disappointed that they aren't any benchmarks from the 5870 or 5850 series included. Why even bother with tha GTX 295 or 4870x2 and such without the higher 5-series Radeons?

    I mean if I'm considering an ATI card, I'm going to want to compare the 5770 to the 5850 and 5870 just to see if that extra cost may be justified, not to mention the potential of a dual 5770 setup.
  • 5 Hide
    presidenteody , November 24, 2009 6:26 AM
    I don't care what this article says, when the 5870 or 5970 become available i am going to buy a few.
  • 0 Hide
    kartu , November 24, 2009 6:27 AM
    Well, at least in Germany 4870 costs quite a bit less (30-40 Euros) compared to 5770. It would take 2+ years of playing to compensate for it with lower power consumption.
  • -3 Hide
    kartu , November 24, 2009 6:30 AM
    "Power Consumption, Noise, And Temperature" charts are hard to comprehend. Show bars instead of numbers, maybe?
  • -3 Hide
    arkadi , November 24, 2009 7:08 AM
    Well that put things in prospective. I was really happy with 260gtx numbers, and i can push my evga card even higher easy. To bad we didn't see the 5850 here, it looks like the optimal upgrade 4 gamers on the budget like my self. Grade article overall.
  • 0 Hide
    B16CXHatch , November 24, 2009 7:08 AM
    I got lucky with my card. Before, I had a SuperClocked 8800GT from EVGA. I ordered a while back, a new EVGA GeForce GTX 275 (896MB). I figured the extra cash wasn't worth getting an overclocked model particularly when I could do it myself. I get it, I try to register it. The S/N on mine was a duplicate. They sent me an unused S/N to register with. I then check the speeds under one utility and it's showing GTX 275 SuperClocked speeds, not regular speeds. I check 2 more utilities and they all report the same. I had paid for a regular model and received a mislabeled SuperClocked. Flippin sweet.

    Now they also sell an SSC model which is overclocked even more. I used the EVGA precision tool to set those speeds and it gave me like 1 or 2 extra FPS is Crysis and F.E.A.R. 2 already played so well without overclocking. So overclocking on these bad boys doesn't really do much. Oh well.

    One comment though, GTX 275's are HOT! Like, ridiculously hot. I open my window in 40 degree F weather and it'll still get warm in my room playing Team Fortress 2.
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , November 24, 2009 7:40 AM
    With the 5970 out there seems to be nothing else about graphic cards that interests me anymore :D  Its supposed to be the fastest card yet and beats Crysis too!
  • -3 Hide
    Anonymous , November 24, 2009 7:48 AM
    Excellent article [hindered by poor chart].
  • 12 Hide
    falchard , November 24, 2009 9:12 AM
    Benchmark suite is kind of gimped again. Every game selected except Fear 2 is designed to gimp ATI hardware. I guess its ok if you are comparing ATI to ATI, but when you say the GTX275 is a better buy over the HD4890 based on this review its completely biased. You didn't even come close to portraying the HD4890 in any sort of fair comparison.
  • 16 Hide
    wickedsnow , November 24, 2009 9:52 AM
    While I normally refrain form ever commenting on video card reviews. I could not resist this.

    I agree with falchard (to a degree) that while i don't think the review is biased, I do think something is not right about it. In most of the games listed, the 4890 (1024 version) is not only loosing to the gtx260 192 AND 216 versions, but loosing by a huge margin. I own both cards myself in 2 machines that are the same (except the videocards) and 99% of the time, the 4890 spanks my other rig. (with an evga SSC gtx260 core216).

    I'm not saying anything is biased (just a reminder) I am saying something just is not right. PSU not big enough, wrong drivers,... etc etc... no idea.
  • -8 Hide
    notty22 , November 24, 2009 10:21 AM
    The 5770 does not perform well. Its overpriced right now. All playable numbers, but the Nvdia cards spank it for the same money.
  • 0 Hide
    brisingamen , November 24, 2009 11:17 AM
    the 5770 has great overclocking potential with the stock cooler, with a good cooler the numbers could be phenominal and in crossfire situation really be nice, also not to mention it is direct x 11, and can do things both the 4890 and 275 cannot. deals will be availible on the 5770 sooner than any of the higher models. im considering getting two and overclocking the shinanigans out of them, the 275 spanks nothing with its old tech, IQ matters.
  • 0 Hide
    sparky13 , November 24, 2009 11:32 AM
    I think a better 4890 to use instead of the MSI would be the Gigabyte 4890 OC model I have in my system right now. That MSI cooler is decent but the way it's secured to the GPU is just pitiful.

    http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/forum/hardware-canucks-reviews/24770-value-meets-performance-hd-4890-cards-gigabyte-msi-19.html

    The Gigabyte comes w/a Zalman cooler and is Factory OC'd to 900mhz. I pushed it to 975mhz it it didn't break a sweat. Idle temps hover around 30-34 C. Under load it rarely breaks 52 C. The Zalman is a beast. It stays quiet too, barely audible under my tricool LED fans on low setting. I reccommend it to anyone looking for a GPU in the 170.00 range.
  • 4 Hide
    scrumworks , November 24, 2009 12:00 PM
    falchardBenchmark suite is kind of gimped again. Every game selected except Fear 2 is designed to gimp ATI hardware. I guess its ok if you are comparing ATI to ATI, but when you say the GTX275 is a better buy over the HD4890 based on this review its completely biased. You didn't even come close to portraying the HD4890 in any sort of fair comparison.


    I haven't seen a single review from the author that wouldn't be somehow made selectively nvidia biased. Last Remnant, HAWX DX10.0, no HD5870/HD5970 are just quick examples. Reviewers should stay absolutely neutral in these matters and arrange proper conditions for all parties.

    I won't analyze any deeper of the results but it seems like Radeon's don't perform quite as well as they should perform in many other reviews.
  • 1 Hide
    cinergy , November 24, 2009 12:08 PM
    notty22The 5770 does not perform well. Its overpriced right now. All playable numbers, but the Nvdia cards spank it for the same money.


    I guess they are if you don't care about DX11 and lower power consumption readings. I think AMD can easily drop HD5x00 prices after supply starts exceeding demand.
  • 7 Hide
    cknobman , November 24, 2009 12:44 PM
    nice article.............that is if your in the nvidia camp. Gotta love your sponsors right???

    Guess I need to go to anand or tweaktown to get a non nvidia biased review.

    Dont come back giving me some crap about you cant help what games favor nvidia because you can......dont include them in a damn review of ati cards!!!!!! How come you just so happened to exclude every game that favors ATI???

    Your a tool and a fool Kreiss!!
  • -4 Hide
    siliconchampion , November 24, 2009 1:56 PM
    Whoa, people, people!

    Perhaps in stead of flaming the author out about his choice of Nvidia favoring titles, perhaps you could make some helpful suggestions of game titles you would like to see benchmarked...

    Personally, I would love to see some CoD4 and MW2 benchies, but that's just me.
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