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GTX 1080 Ti Overclocking Guide

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Category: Video Cards
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Overclocking GTX 1080 Ti Guide: Introduction

Welcome to the  NVIDIA GTX 1080 Ti overclocking guide! In this article, I will be covering everything from NVIDIA's infamous Boost 3.0 technology to the actual overclocking tutorial. While this does mainly apply to the 1080 Ti, the core concepts and basic principles of overclocking will apply to the GTX 1060, 1070, 1080, and the Titan X / Xp, which are all in the same Pascal GPU family. I suggest, to get the most out of this guide, that you do not skip around, because I refer back to things I already discussed earlier on. It is not the end of the world, but you may find yourself frustrated with the seemingly strange results you are getting. While this is only a suggestion, it's going to make you look like a genius around your friends who didn't take the time to look up an easy-to-understand how-to guide. Now, before we start, here is your generic disclaimer, enjoy!

 

DISCLAIMER!

WARNING! Overclock at your own risk. Overclocking a video card can void your warranty and cause other problems down the road! OverclockersClub cannot be held responsible for the information provided below. Please, if you have any questions, jump onto the forums and ask away! Overclock at your own risk!

 

Suggested Software:

GPU-Z

MSI Afterburner

HWMonitor

Unigine Heaven Benchmark 

 

Per Brand:

EVGA: EVGA Precision XOC

Zotac: FireStorm Utilty

MSI: MSI Afterburner

Gigabyte: Xtreme Engine Gaming

ASUS: GPU Tweak II

 

Video Tutorial Guide:

For this guide, I decided to create a pair of complementary videos. In the first video, I discuss NVIDIA Boost 3.0, which can be found in written form right below this section and how it changes the playing field as far as overclocking goes. The second video solely focus on the overclocking part and how-to with MSI Afterburner software found on the second page. As always, if you find these video helpful, make sure to leave some feedback and let us know how we are doing! It is very important so that we make better content in future articles.

 

 

 

Understanding NVIDIA GPU Boost 3.0:

NVIDIA has completely changed the way we think about overclocking with the third iteration of NVIDIA Boost technology - Boost 3.0. The idea NVIDIA came up with is simple: to get the best performance out of the box without having the consumer do any of the leg work. Traditionally, clocks speeds were of a linear design, in the sense that if you have X frequency then the voltage must be Y amount. The linear number is projected across the board and could be thought of as a staircase with a set amount of space between each step. Each step would be a set frequency and voltage with nothing in between.

In the past iterations, NVIDIA video cards would get three power states: one for idle, one for 2D mode, and one for 3D mode with set power and voltage parameters. Fast forward to the current Pascal GPU generation and you have a whole different definition of what idle and 3D mode is. Gone are the generic X and Y offsets; in their place we have Boost 3.0, which allows the card to dynamically change the voltage and frequency based on a new set of parameters. These mainly revolve around Power Draw, Thermal Limit, and Voltage Limits, and you will hear these terms used quite often. These terms read just like they are intended to do. Power Draw deals with how much wattage or total power draw the video card is allowed. Thermal Limits deals with keeping the GPU within range so as not to damage the video card from excessive heat. Lastly, the Voltage Limits dictates how much voltage the GPU is allowed. With all these safety features in place, NVIDIA has implemented a set up that allows for the maximum performance without the user having to deal with traditional overclocking woes of potentially damaging the video card. That or unstable clock speeds.

 

 

Pictures courtesy of Nvidia

 

Along with Boost 3.0 comes some heavy restrictions from NVIDIA, which all ABP (Authorized Board Partners) must comply with. While it is great to see high out of the box performance without user-end tweaks, these limitations do not help overclockers from getting the maximum usage out of their Pascal GPU. Each of the three parameters have their own drawbacks. NVIDIA is locked the GPU to a maximum of 1.093v with no work around besides physical modification or owning an EVGA K|NGP|N and using the LN2 BIOS.

Second is power draw limits, which aren't technically set in stone by NVIDIA, but most video cards do not allow 120% above stock. Each vendor has a default 100% that usually is within the 250 watts range. Because of the locked GPU voltage, the extra power is generally not needed, as even with a mild overclock for gaming, these cards barely hit 110% under full load. Compute workloads is a different story, as they tend to draw more power, but yield a lower stable load frequency.

Last but not least are the Thermal Limits, which by default is set to 80 °C and can be raised to 90 °C. However, from my own observations, NVIDIA has another set of parameters not listed, because even having the system in a watercooled loop, the frequency would drop for no seemingly good reason besides a heavy work load. This makes me conclude that there is a secret thermal limitation that isn't controllable. To make matters worse for veteran overclockers, the BIOS is encrypted, so the chances of a modded BIOS to remove these Boost features are slim to none.

There is, however, an XOC BIOS that came from an ASUS card that turns off all the Power and Thermal Limits and raises the voltage to a maximum of 1.24v. Even if you do not have an ASUS video card, you can cross flash the BIOS on most cards because they all have the same default parameters. I do not suggest doing this as the performance gains are minimal for the risk you take. You can overload a Founders Edition VRM fairly easily if you put it under an intense compute workload.

More on this later, but for a final note and for anyone who has been looking at the EVGA Kingpin 1080 Ti and seeing Vince "K|NGP|N" crazy overclocks of 2600MHz, it is because he is using LN2 (liquid nitrogen) and has a lot of voltage mods applied. That in itself is not sustainable for everyday use. It is true that you will have a higher out-of-box overclock with a custom PCB card, like the EVGA K|NGP|N or MSI Lighting Z, but with some extra bit of time, you can get any card within arms reach of all the high end brands, as there is a limit to what you can achieve outside of LN2.

 

Stable System:

Before overclocking any component in a system, you must think about how much power the system will draw. "How much power do I need?" is a common question across all computer forums, and really the answer isn't a generic X amount. Make sure before overclocking anything, and just for the sake of the computer components, that you have a good power supply. This can be the difference between stable computer and one that performs poorly, or even one that shuts down during a gaming session. A quality power supply with lower wattage can go much further than a cheap, 1000 watt off brand. I've seen it plenty of times. Just because it's labeled 1000 watts does not mean it can output 1000 watts sustained. A good brand and quality build will output its labeled amount 24/7 without flinching.

That being said, you still should calculate how much power draw the video card may need. An easy way is to add up each PCIe cable (6-pin or 8-pin) and wattage supplied by the motherboard. These cables are also known as PEG cables (PCI Express Graphics). By specifications, the motherboard should not supply more than 75 watts per PCIe slot, while each 6-pin PEG supplies 75 watts and 8-pin PEG supplies 150 watts. The NVIDIA Founders Edition GTX 1080 Ti with a single 8-pin and 6-pin PEG connectors should not use more than 300 watts under full load. Realistically, the card does not pull in more than 220-260 watts, because of the voltage limits explained in the Boost 3.0 section. NVIDIA lists the GTX 1080 Ti as a 265W Thermal Design Power (TDP) card and my own experience of running two 1080Ti FE cards, I only saw the power supply pulling 567 watts from the wall. This is not a guideline, however, but I think most 600 watt power supplies should be able to handle one card without any problems. That is unless you plan on going above the 1.093v NVIDIA specifications.

 

 

The Idea of Overclocking:

After a year of dealing with NIVIDA Boost 3.0 and previously writing a GTX 1070 OC guide, I can finally say I have a firm understanding of how it works. It is still strange to think of overclocking an overclock. Sounds confusing, but that is essentially what this guide is for. As I explained above, this Boost 3.0 really throws a wrench in the system for veteran overclockers, as even your overclock isn't set in stone. It is seemingly fluid and that is something you will also encounter while tweaking your final overclock. I do like the idea of NVIDIA giving every user a large advantage of what could have been low performing stock cards. This setup allows for the video card to "overclock" itself while keeping the system within safety limits. Out of the box, most users will see around upwards of an 1850MHz boost clock for the FE card and 1950MHz for many of the non-reference video cards without having to do anything. Every brand does have a set core and boost clock, even though you will rarely ever see it that low. However that is a baseline, as above that, if the card is not stable, it is not a big deal. The companies making these video cards didn't say it would run at those speeds anyways. What we as overclockers are doing is just adding to the current boost number, which is what is fairly confusing since not all cards perform the same.

This is important, because even when you are trying to apply a higher overclock, it may downclock for any number of reasons, from thermal limits, lack of voltage, or power draw. As stated above, NVIDIA has locked the GTX 1080 Ti voltage to 1.093v. It does not matter what brand you have, you cannot exceed this without hard modifications to the card. That means your maximum overclock cannot surpass 2.2GHz because of how Boost 3.0 works once again with thermal, power, and voltage limitations. Most cards will not exceed 2012MHz for a 1080 Ti, as that's the average number I've come across browsing different forums. Remember, this is a very big GPU die with 12 billion transistors in a small area. It is hard to expect the same overclock as a 1070 or even 1080.

Alright, I'm almost ready to dive into the actual overclocking part of the guide. Just remember, even if you cannot exceed what was already provided, anything over what the supplier listed is technically an overclock. Getting a 1860MHz Boost clock out of the box meant NVIDIA gave me an 270MHz boost overclock without having to lift a finger. For my card and model, which is an EVGA 1080 Ti FE (Founder Edition), it does not support anything higher than listed specs of 1582MHz boost clock, so keep that in mind when overclocking your own card.




  1. GTX 1080 Ti Overclocking Guide: Getting Down To Basics
  2. GTX 1080 Ti Overclocking Guide: Getting Down To Numbers
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