GeForce4 Overclocking !

GeForce4 Overclocking ! - Page 1

 Overclocking The GeForce4 Ti 4600
When fast isn't fast enough...

By Dave Altavilla

What self respecting PC Enthusiast wouldn't take a brand new graphics card technology and push it to its limits?  Well, perhaps there are a few conservative types out there that would rather take the "in warranty" and stable path of stock clock speeds.  The HotHardware Team however, like many in our field, takes pride in exploring the outer limits of new hardware that hits our labs.  In this quick analysis, we plan to show you just what the GeForce4 Ti 4600 can do with a little help from the "coolbits" clock frequency control panel tab.  We didn't perform any crazy over-the-top modifications to our GeForce4 Ti4600 either.  Rather, we intended to show you a simple setup and overclock that can be achieved by the average user without too much effort.

Now, with that said, we'll insert our standard disclaimer here.  As if you didn't know, overclocking voids your warranty and all GeForce4 cards are not created equal.  Our experiences here will be somewhat typical, if you were to work with a GeForce4 Ti 4600 card based on the nVidia reference design with the same stock heat sink / fan combo and card cooler setup we used.  Speaking of which, let's give you a feel for the simplicity of our setup and how it works.

HotHardware's Test System
Pentium 4 Northwood and the i850 w/ RDRAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti 4600 Reference Design Card (identical to the Visiontek GeForce4 Ti 4600)

  • Pentium 4 Northwood CPU - 2.2GHz

  • Abit TH7II-RAID - i850   (The ever fabulous Abit P4 i850 board - HotHardware's Official P4 board of choice!)

  • Zalman FB-165 Cooling Fan - Available at Plycon

  • 512MB of Samsung PC800 RDRAM

  • Dual IBM 30 Gig Drives - RAID 0

  • Sound Blaster Live Value

  • Windows XP Professional

  • Direct X 8.1 (standard with WinXP)

  • NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti 4600 128MB Reference Card

  • NVIDIA Detonator 4 reference drivers version 27.30

  • Intel chipset drivers version 3.20

The setup
Nothing fancy but effective...

Click images for full viewing


The GeForce4 Ti 4600

Zalman FB-165 Card Cooler

Zalman FB-165 Card Cooler

Clock Frequency Control

335/750 Max Overclock

Well then, we're not talking Rocket Science are we?  The Zalman FB-165 is a very simple bracketed 80mm fan setup and it is a piece of cake to install.  Just screw it in with two of the slot screws that hold your graphics card and adjacent PCI slot and you are set.  Then just plug in the three pin power connector on to a free site on your motherboard.  As you can see, our highest maximum stable overclock was 335MHz core and 750MHz memory clock speeds.  We've setup our testing with three reference points however, stock speed, 320MHz core / 700MHz memory and 335MHz core / 750 memory.  For sure, the middle 320/700 setting should be stable with or without the Zalman fan.  Again however, your results may be different.  Let's look at some numbers.

Benchmarks - 3DMark 2001 SE, Quake 3 Annihilator and DronZe
Where the rubber meets the road

Let's check the scoreboard first with MadOnion's new 3DMark 2001SE.

At first glance it looks as if there is not much of a gain to be had overall with the overclocked GeForce4 Ti4600, even when maxed out to 335/750.  Although this may look like a meager 3% gain on the surface, you have to remember that 3DMark 2001 really doesn't reference an "absolute zero" score.  If you test with any kind of decent modern graphics card, you'll most likely score in the 2 - 5K range, even with a low end card.  So as a result, a 400 point gain here is more significant than it looks.

Did you ever think you would see the Quake 3 engine exercising the GeForce4 so heavily?  The Annihilator demo from our friends at 3DCenter, completely saturates the graphics pipeline with a heavily loaded death match scene with just about every bot that has ever been designed for the game, coming at you at the same time.  At 1600X1200 resolution, we see the GeForce4 Ti 4600 gain about 10% over all, at the top end of our max clock speed.


** Note:   In this test, 4X Anisotropic Filtering was used to stress the GeForce4 Ti 4600 more heavily

At stock speed, the GeForce4 Ti 4600 absolutely tears through DronZe.  We decided to enable 4X aniso filtering to turn things up a notch.  Here we see the same 10% gain at the highest overclocked speed versus stock speed.  At the 320/700 overclocked speeds, we still see a gain of around 6%.



Core Speed Vrs. Memory Speed - Where are the largest gains to be had?

By now you may be wondering which gives you the most "bang for your buck", an overclocked core or overclocked DDR SDRAM memory.  We'll take a look at that next.

3DMark 2001SE clearly shows no gain whatsoever, when you overclock the core but not the memory.  Conversly, the benchmark shows almost the same level of performance, with just the memory overclocked, as with both memory and core at maximum speed.  Pixel and Vertex Shaders obviously need bandwidth to perform, when running a DirectX 8.1 compliant engine, like the one used in 3DMark 2001SE.  But what about legacy titles or OpenGL games that don't use the shaders.  We're glad you asked.

Here we see a definitive gain when overclocking the core.  However, the gain is much more significant still, when overclocking the memory.  You need to keep something in perspective however.  The core could only scale 11% higher in our test.  The memory speeds scaled about 14% higher, from stock to max clock speed.  Regardless, the GeForce4 Ti 4600 seems to have its main bottleneck (if there ever was one) with respect to memory bandwidth.


We certainly had a little fun with this piece.  We hope you were able to garner something useful from the tests and scores we assembled for you here.  The GeForce4 Ti 4600 is truly an amazing product.  There is no other 3D Graphics Card on the market that can match its performance currently.  So why overclock then?  We'll respond to that question with a resounding, "why not".  Just remember, you're on your own when it comes to overclocking.  Is it safe?  For the most part as long as you are reasonable in your expectations and use common sense.  We'll take an average of 10% higher frame rate every day of the week, thanks very much.  Until next time, clock on brothers and sisters!


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