Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Overclocking the HD4870 and GTX280

Ok, it's time post up some of my initial overclocking results done under stock air cooling. Both were done in a nice and toasty room with the heater on. Naturally this isn't very overclocker friendly but it sure beats hypothermia.

Test Rig:
E8400 @ 4000mhz (445x9)
Gigabyte X48-DS4
Corsair Dominator 2x2gb @ 1066mhz 5-5-5-12
Palit GTX280
Connect3D HD4870
WD 74gb Raptor
Corsair HX-1000
Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit

First up is the 4870. With the previous excitement over the 4850, i just couldn't help myself and cracked open the box faster than you can do something fast... (err?).

The stock cooler on the 4870 is a dual slot hsf which exhausts heat outside of the case. It performs decently enough and is not audible over my SS phase unit... but that's not very hard! Actually it's extremely quite during general use and even while gaming. Fortunately it does not have that annoying whirrr sound that so many crappy little vga fans have. Under the plastic over is a lovely little copper based heatsink with two heatpipes. Here's a picture of the naked heatsink mounted on my HD4850.

Excellent, now that boring crap is out of the way, it's time to overclockzor (yes i just said overclockzor). Here's a tasty picture to wet your appetite.

I was able to acheive some decent clocks using air cooling. I used Crysis and 3DMark Vantage to test stability and i managed to get a clock speed of 850mhz on the core. I managed a suicide run at 870mhz but i got slight artifiacting in some spots. Here's a screenie of Vantage at 850/900.

I didn't overclock the memory at this stage because we all know how silly the idea of air cooling is...

Ok, enough of the red stuff. Time for the GTX280 goodness.

I managed to pick this baby up at $540 which i thought was a decent price. I originally tried to stay away from the GT200 series of cards, but with the massive price drops i couldn't resist.

There was one thing that came to mind after unpacking the GTX280... HOLY FUCK SHE'S A BIG ONE. Yep, she's a big one. I had to hire a crane just to load up to the test bench. But you don't buy this card if you worry about those things. This card was designed to double your electricity bill, help you bulk up, compensate for a small willy and i guess speed too. Enough taking the piss, here's a picture of it next to my PSU box (yes, i know the HX1000 is shit hot but please, look at the video card).

And now a shot of her crunching away. This thing is big, mean and intimidating. Do not leave your PC unattended if you have children, i hear they double as grizzly bears.

As you can see, the GTX280 uses 1x6pin PCI-E and 1x8pin PCI-E. It seems like something silly to point out but there are plenty of angry new GTX280 owners out there who can't use their cards yet because most companies are too tightarse to include a molex to 8pin coverter. So remember kids, make sure your PSU has at least 1x6pin and 1x8pin connectors or pre-purchase a molex to 8 pin coverter!

Now we have that out of the way and i've run out of lame nvidia bashing jokes, it's time to start overclocking. The program i used to overclock this card was the EVGA Precision overclocking tool. Yes i'm aware i'm using a Palit card, not EVGA, but this tool is great! I've never liked the very popular Rivatuner because frankly, it's just full of crap i just don't care about. I want to overclock, maybe check temps sometimes... that's it! Evga Precision is super straight forward - OC core/OC Shader/OC Memory and temp display. The GUI is very easy on the eyes too. Infact, i like it so much i'm even going to share a picture!

Ok, hopefully you've cleaned up and cleared your desk of any tissues so we can continue.

Unfortunately being limited to stock air cooling and having a card with an already monster-like heat output, we were never going to have much overclocking headroom. I managed to get a meazly 80mhz overclock from the gpu. Even then, i noticed some slight (very slight) artifacting sometimes during Vantage. This doesn't fill me with much confidence for the card after seeing the HD4870 easily hit 100mhz on the core. However all hope is not lost, after some decent cooling (i hope the mcw60 fits over the massive gpu) and volt mods, anything is possible. Here's a screenshot of a Vantage run at 680/1100 (stock mem). I managed to break 10k here which was pretty amazing for such a modest overclock on the video card and cpu.

Another thing to note is the smoothness that the GTX280 seems to have. The extra power just manages to break the struggle that the HD4870 experienced in Vantage and Crysis. Maybe it was all in my head (trying to justify $540), but i could definitely feel that extra oomph there.

Overall i was impressed and disappointed with the way these cards performed on air. The GTX280 is Nvidias current flagship cards and although it's a monster in its own right, i expected more overclocking headroom to be there. The HD4870 made me feel like there's just needs to be a little more there, but for $300, it's a bloody steal. Thankfully ATi have brought back some seriously ass kicking cards (R300 again anyone?) and have forced nvidia to dramatically restructure their pricing. I remember not too long ago buying the X800XTPE for nearly $900 which was more than i paid for both the GTX280 and HD4870. In conclusion.. BUY BOTH (so you can overclock and kill one of them - it's fun).

Here's a little teaser of what's to come next time...

Yep, and it isn't even modded yet...

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