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Asus Matrix Platinum GeForce GTX 980 Review

Overclocking Asus' Matrix Platinum GTX 980

When it comes to overclocking, we’re typically at the mercy of luck. There are no guarantees that you’ll get any headroom beyond what a manufacturer specifies. But you’d be a fool to spend extra cash on a card like this one and not at least try. To that end, we want to know what Asus' Matrix Platinum can really do.

In order to unlock this card's advanced features, you have to install Asus GPU Tweak. Included on the bundled disc is version 2.7.5, and at the time of testing, that was the newest build on Asus' support page. However, if you manually select your GPU model from the site's drop-down menu, 2.7.8.1 appears. This is the version we used for our review.

When you first launch the software, you see your typical GPU Boost and Memory clock adjustments, as well as controls for the fan speed settings, which are set to Auto by default.

On the left, you find monitors for GPU temperature, processor utilization, VID usage, FB usage, fan duty cycle (in percent), fan speed (in RPM), GPU Clock (MHz), Memory Clock (MHz), Memory Usage (MB), Power target status, memory temperature, power temperature, GPU voltage, Memory voltage, PEX_VDD, Line Load and a 3.3V reading. At the bottom, there are four profile buttons to save your settings, along with a power savings and gaming preset. Selecting power savings drops the GPU Boost clock down to 1292MHz and leaves the memory at its stock frequency, while the Gaming option sets the core to 1362MHz and memory to 7050 MT/s. When a profile is saved, the option to Burn it appears. This writes your settings to the BIOS.

Since we’re out to push this card to its limits, we’re going to need some additional options. Hit the Settings button and you'll bring up the tab below, which contains the utility's more basic options.

We really want the Tune tab, where we can pick and choose the variables to monitor, including PEX_VDD Voltage, Memory Voltage, VRM Clock and 3.3V voltage. GPU Tweak automatically detects when a Matrix Platinum card is installed and selects them for you.

These features are most useful with LN2- and high-end water cooling-based setups, where you might be pushing the graphics subsystem's limits in unconventional ways.

At the end of the day, though, we were still constrained by air cooling. Adjusting the card's power limit to 125% caused instability. At 110%, the maximum stable GPU Boost setting was 1430MHz. But with a 125% power target, the highest stable clock was 1390MHz.

After studying the log file from GPU-Z, it appears this particular card is not stable beyond 1480MHz. Any time the GPU frequency went beyond that, we'd see artifacts and texture breakdown. Adjusting the power limit simply allows the GPU to hit a higher clock rate, which ends up causing issues.

With the GPU frequency as high as we could push it, we moved on to get the most out of the memory. This did not disappoint. It’s a real shame the GPU wouldn't hit more aggressive levels because we managed a stable 2038MHz (8150MT/s) with the 4GB of GDDR5 memory.

In the end, a 1329MHz base clock, 1430MHz GPU Boost setting and 2038MHz memory with a 110% power limit yielded the highest stable overclock with Asus' included cooling solution.

That adds up to a respectable 89MHz increase on the already-accelerated base clock and 88MHz on top of the factory GPU Boost rating. In-game, the frequency usually sits around 1455MHz, but occasionally touches 1480MHz, which translates to a 138MHz GPU Boost peak increase.

Considering we barely touched the power limit and still managed a notable overclock, there could be headroom left for enthusiasts willing to invest in water-cooling hardware.

Kevin Carbotte is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He writes news and reviews of graphics cards and virtual reality hardware.