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Graphics Overclocking: Getting The Most From Your GPU

Overclocking Using RivaTuner And Tray Tools

Riva Tuner

RivaTuner only supports ATI cards indirectly, but you can still adjust the frequencies and the fan speed. Depending on the card and driver version you use, you may run into some trouble, though, since adjusting the clock speeds may also change the 2D profile on ATI cards. Normally, a Radeon HD 4870 runs at 500/900 MHz (GPU/Memory) in 2D mode. If you overclock the GPU in 3D mode by increasing its clock speeds, the card may not be able to drop back down to its 2D clocks. If it gets stuck in (overclocked) 3D mode, you’ll be faced with higher power consumption (as much as 15 Watts) and a louder fan as well. You can also use RivaTuner to create your own software-based fan speed profile. In the case of our MSI R4870-MD1G, that wasn’t necessary, as its automatic fan speed regulation worked as advertised.


RivaTuner gives you a wider range of frequency options that can also be used to underclock your card, reducing its power consumption. While AMD sets the lower limit for the card’s clock speeds to 750/900 MHz (GPU/Memory), RivaTuner allows you to run your card as slow as 375/450 MHz, reducing power consumption by up to 18 Watts. The fan speed remained the same in 3D mode, but GPU temperature dropped by 5 degrees Celsius.

While we didn’t encounter any problems with our card, other combinations of cards and drivers may have trouble bumping the video memory back up to its original level when 3D load is applied. Looking at the default profiles, we realized that MSI’s ATI card always runs onboard memory at its full 3D speed, even in 2D mode, instead of slowing it down when the card is idle. Since this is a well-documented problem, your best approach is to try how your own hardware reacts to any changes you make.

2D ModeClock Speeds (GPU/Memory)Watts 2DTemperature 2DdB(A) 2D
MSI R4870-MD1G500/90018246.036.0
Underclocked w/ Riva Tuner375/45016041.036.0

ATI Tray Tools

ATI Tray Tool is another interesting utility, and it was written specifically with ATI’s Radeon graphics cards in mind. Sadly, underclocking did not work. Although the appropriate frequencies showed up on the slider, any changes were ignored and the sliders reset to their original positions.

The ATI Tray Tools come into their own where overclocking is concerned, though. They even offer a built-in test feature that checks for artifacts resulting from exceedingly high clock speeds. You can also adjust the voltages from within the Tray Tools, which can help stabilize an overclock. However, you should only make any sort of change here if you are absolutely certain you know what you’re doing and realize you are risking damage to your card. Even without a voltage increase, it’s entirely possible a component may not be able to take the additional strain resulting from higher frequencies, and this risk is only exacerbated when more voltage is applied. So just be aware that you’ll almost certainly void your warranty as soon as you start using your card outside of its intended specifications.

  • dingumf
    What the hell, I thought this was a guide to overclocking the GPU as the title reads "Graphics Overclocking: Getting The Most From Your GPU"

    Then at the end Tom's Hardware screws me over and writes "Conclusion: It’s A Tie"

    Isn't this a tutorial?
  • they tell you how to overclock using CCC or riva tuner, or evga precision, they also tell you, overclocking = more performance at the cost of more power. what else do you want?
  • dingumf
    joeman42What is really needed is a "continuous" OC utility that can detect artifacts during actual use and adjust accordingly. I've noticed that my max OC tends to change each time I test and depending on the tool I test with (e.g., atitool, gputool, rivatuner, and my favorite, atitraytool). Some games, l4d in particular, crash at the slightest error. Others such as COD and Deadspace are somewhat tolerant. Games like Far Cry 2 and Fear 2 don't seem to care at all. It would be nice if the utility could take this into account.As for the tools themselves, Atitraytool has far and away the best fan speed adjuster, the dual ladder Temp/Speed is a model of simplicity. Plus, it can automatically sense a game and auto OC just for the duration. Nothing like this exists on the NV side (you must explicitly specify each exe). Unfortunately, I am on a NVidia card now and Rivatuner is pretty much the only game in town for serious tweaking. IT IS A DESIGN DISASTER! random design with no discernable structure. A help file which consist solely of the author bragging about his creation, without explanation as to where each feature is implemented or how to use it. And no, scattered tooltips is not an acceptable alternative. It took forever to figure out that I needed to create a fan profile and then a macro and then create a rules to fire the macro which contains the fan profile just to set one(!) fan speed/temp point (and repeat as needed). Sorry for the rant, but I really hate Rivatuner!
    Oh hello. That's what OCCT is for.
  • nitrium
    Rivatuner works just fine with the latest drivers (incl. 190.38). Just check the Power User tab and under System set Force Driver Version to 19038 (or in the articles case 18618) - no decimal point. Be sure that the hexidecimal display at the bottom is unchecked. All Rivatuner's usual features can now be accessed.
  • masterjaw
    I don't think this is intended to be an in-depth tutorial like dingumf perceives. It's just for people to realize that they could still get more from their GPUs using tools.

    On the other hand, I don't like the sound of "It's a tie". It looks like it is said just to show neutrality. ATI or Nvidia? It doesn't matter, as long as your satisfied with it.
  • quantumrand
    I must say, the HD 2900 is a great card. I picked up the 2900 Pro for $250 back in 2007 and flashed the bios to a modified XT bios with slightly higher clocks (850/1000). The memory is only GDDR3, but with the 512bit interface, it really does rival the bandwidth of the 4870. I can get it to run Crysis at Very High, 1440x900 with moderately playable framerates (about 25fps, but the motion blur makes it seem quite smooth). Really quite amazing for any 2007 card, let alone one for $250.
  • quantumrand
    Just a bit of extra info on the 2900 Pro...

    The Pros were bassically binned XTs once ATI realized that the card was too difficult to manufacture cheaply (something about the high layer count it takes to make a 512bit PCB), so in order to sell their excess cores, the clocked them lower and branded them as Pros. Additionally, they changed the heatsink specs as well, adding an extra heatpipe. Because of this, the Pros could often OC higher than the XTs, making them essentially the best deal on the market (assuming you got a decent core).
  • Ramar
    Overclocking a GPU generally isn't worth it IMO, but sometimes can give that extra push into +60fps average. Or to make yourself feel better about a purchase like myself; one week after I bought a 9800GTX they came out with the GTX+. A little tweaking in EVGA Precision brought an impressive 10% overclock up to GTX+ levels and left me satisfied.
  • manitoublack
    I run 2 Palit GTX295's and have had great success with palit's "Vtune" over clocking software. I believe it works with cards from other vendors as well. Easy to use and driver independent.

    Cheers for the great article
    Conclusion: It’s A Tie

    I didn't know they were in competition until I read that.....I too thought this was about overclocking a GPU in general, not which card you should buy. Once again Toms throws that little barb at the end to stoke the fires.

    I think they do this constantly to get more website hits.. If the can get a good ol' fanboy war on every article, they will get people coming back over and over again to add fuel to the fire. After all, the more hits they get, the more they get paid from their sponsors. Which BTW, seam to be taking up more real estate then actual content on this site these days.