If you’re looking at buying a new or upgrading an existing graphics processing unit (or “GPU” for short), there are two numbers that will appear on its box or specification sheet: GPU Clock Speed and Memory Clock Speed. They can be confusing when it comes to choosing what’s best for your needs. Let us clear up some confusion about these terms so we can get started!
What’s GPU Clock Speed?
A GPU Clock Speed refers to how fast the GPU processes instructions. The faster this number goes, the more instructions per second it’ll process. It is measured by the MHz rating found in most video settings menus, such as Nvidia Control Panel or AMD Catalyst Control Center.
Having a high Clock Speed means that its performance will be better in all kinds of situations, gaming, rendering, etc… However, the Clock Speed itself isn’t the only important thing to keep in mind, the GPU’s Memory / VRAM is also important, especially for gaming with high graphical settings. Overall though, GPU Clock Speed is still the most important factor to achieve high FPS when gaming or when trying to get as much performance as possible from your graphics card.
Let’s talk about how you can increase your clock speed even more than the default values by overclocking.
Does overclocking improve GPU Clock Speed and memory?
Overclocking your GPU means increasing its operating voltage beyond stock levels. Increasing voltages increases frequencies, allowing more operations to occur per cycle. Overclocking is essentially taking advantage of available headroom for extra power efficiency gains. While it does lead to increased temperatures and thus throttling if not properly cooled, it can still allow your GPU to operate closer to maximum potential. On average, you’d notice improved performance once you reach 60-70% of full capacity. Of course, everyone’s mileage varies and it depends entirely on your cooling solution. We’ve covered plenty of ways to cool your GPU efficiently, however, we never recommend any extreme overclocks, as such, just an extra fan or two inside your computer case should be enough to keep the graphics card temperature low even with a decent overclock.
It is worth noting that overclocking is an extremely risky business, particularly if done incorrectly. If you’re unsure how to proceed, you should first watch some videos on how to overclock.
Some tips for overclock:
As far as improving GPU clock speed, yes, you can tweak this. First, try raising it incrementally by small percentages until you hit that sweet spot. Make sure you keep an eye on your temperature and test the new settings before proceeding with further overclocks.
Just keep tweaking until you meet your desired result.
Note however that doing so voids warranties and could cause damage to components. Additionally, consider your surrounding temperature. Raising voltages too high can melt plastic components.
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How To Find Your GPU Clock Speed
It goes without saying that finding out the exact clock speed of your current GPUs is pretty easy nowadays thanks to some great software such as GPU-Z. Although this program doesn’t provide any additional information beyond showing its own results, it works well enough for our purposes here. First off download the latest version from https://www.techpowerup.com/gpuz/ and launch the application once installed.
This program will show you all the information about your Graphics Card.
Now that we’ve gone through the basics, let’s talk about how the clock speed affects games.
How Does GPU Clock Speed Affect Gaming?
Well, essentially the faster your GPU gets pushed past its stock speed, the higher the chance of getting higher frame rates. On average, increasing your clock speed by 10% will give you 2 extra frames per second. Increasing it by 20% will result in 6 extra frames per second, 30% = 12fps, 40% = 16fps, 50% = 20fps, 70%= 28fps, 80% = 32fps etc.. Obviously going as high as possible is always ideal but keep in mind that this means increased heat production thus requiring stronger cooling solutions. Also, remember that every model is unique and therefore won’t perform equally well across the board. That being said, the general rule applies across the majority of cases.
One thing worth mentioning is that some manufacturers artificially limit your ability to increase clock speeds due to proprietary technologies used within their chipsets. They usually call this feature something similar to Max Frequency Ratio Control or FRC for short. Essentially what happens here is that whenever your GPU reaches a particular percentage of its maximum rated frequency, it automatically reduces itself to avoid damage. Other manufacturers allow users to manually adjust their clock speeds closer to their limits to improve stability. These companies include ASUS, Gigabyte, HIS, Palit, Sapphire, Samsung, XFX, Zotac, Biostar, Gainward etc…
Hopefully, this helped shed light on what your GPU clock speed actually means and how it affects your gaming performance. While the term is thrown around quite often, it really shouldn’t be taken lightly considering the amount of power involved. Remember that there is a small possibility of damage occurring if you push your GPU beyond its intended range and take precautions accordingly. Always check temperatures beforehand as well. And lastly, try to stick to reputable brands when purchasing video cards. There are tons of knockoff versions floating around eBay that offer nothing special aside from low prices. Good luck and happy gaming!
John has been a gamer since the early age of 7, playing a huge variety of single-player games, and MMOs, and even participating in LAN Tournaments for FPS games such as Counter-Strike Global Offensive. Ever since he found his passion in gaming & in technology in general, he has continuously increased his knowledge in software, programming & hardware and is now working at TechReviewTeam helping readers, answering questions, writing articles & reviews for the team.