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From the X-Bit Labs glossary: “Extreme overclocking – the process of increasing the operational frequencies of the graphics processor and the local memory of a graphics card, usually far above the frequencies recommended by the manufacturer of the card. Extreme overclocking always involves increasing the voltages of the GPU and memory by manual modification of the power circuitry to ensure higher stability of the card at high frequencies. Extreme overclocking may crash the card completely, and by modding the card you automatically lose your warranty”.

Our today’s article is dedicated solely to our extreme overclocking experience with newest and most powerful graphics cards.

As you know, nearly every processor and memory chip can work at a frequency higher (and sometimes much higher) than the nominal frequency, usually after a slight increase of the voltage. In spite of the consequences, enthusiasts go for extreme overclocking to get extra frames-per-second in their favorite 3D games. They modify the power circuitry of the card (volt-modding) to get more voltage for the GPU and memory. Volt-modding adds stability to the card when it is working at high frequencies, but also brings in the risk of sending your card into the other world, since it works in a much harsher thermal environment. An inveterate extreme-overclocker would show you a collection of “dead hardware”, but this only makes the game more exciting. But what if you are lucky and the modded graphics card works alright? How much of the extra performance do you usually get?

Extreme Overclocking Experience: Our Guinea Pigs

This time we decided to experiment with the top solutions available in the today’s graphics market, the latest-generation graphics cards on GeForce FX 5950 Ultra and RADEON 9800 XT. The first guinea pig should be well known to you as we have already described it in detail in one of our previous reviews (see our article called NVIDIA GeForce FX 5950 Ultra against ATI RADEON 9800 XT: Shader Wars).

As for the RADEON 9800 XT, we preferred a SAPPHIRE RADEON 9800 XT ULTIMATE Edition card. What’s so exceptional about this card? It features an impressive cooling system, which simply begged to be tested in and out in our lab. We will start working with it shortly. Right now, take a look at the card as it arrived into our test lab:

A simple package of a moderate size with the picture of an alien is an example of good taste – no gaudy eye-wresting colors, only silver, black and deep-blue. There is a transparent window at the backside of the package through which you can cast a glance inside to see the following items:

  • Sapphire RADEON 9800 XT ULTIMATE Edition graphics card;
  • User’s manual;
  • Coupon for a full version of Half-Life 2;
  • DVI-I-to-D-Sub adapter;
  • S-Video-to-RCA adapter;
  • RCA cable;
  • S-Video cable;
  • Power splitter for attaching additional fans;
  • Zalman ZM-OP1 fan;
  • CD with drivers;
  • CD with Sapphire Redline;
  • CD with CyberLink PowerDVD XP 4.0;
  • 2 CDs with a full version of Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness.
 
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