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GTX 1080 Ti Overclocking Guide

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Getting Down to Numbers:

Now that we are all on the same page about Boost 3.0, the overclocking portion of this guide will make a lot more sense. In this guide, I will be using the popular third party software MSI Afterburner, along with Unigine Heaven Benchmark for its looping feature. Even though I am using an EVGA-branded NVIDIA card,  all the overclocking software that I've come across gave me very similar results. However, extra features in some software are generally locked off from other brands. Most notable would be the EVGA Precision XOC auto-overclocking portion of the software, which is tailored made for overclocking EVGA cards, will not work with other brands. This does not mean you will not be able to get the maximum performance by using a different company's software, it just means the quick OC option is usually not available.

After using a few different overclocking software, they all gave me the same results, and really, in the end, the layout of each setting is the only major difference between them. It may be best to follow along with me using the Afterburner software and than afterwards once you feel confident, you can switch to the software provided by the company that made your video card. That way you can still refer back to this guide for a reference point.

Before getting too far along, after opening MSI Afterburner make sure to set an aggressive fan profile and proceed with setting the Power Limit and Temperature Limit to the maximum. This will not harm the card, as it is only extending the already cautious limitations that NVIDIA has implemented. For the voltage control, even though the limit is 1.093v, it can still have an impact on a higher overclock. I suggest leaving it at defaults and once you have your final overclocking numbers, see if that extra voltage helps. Some users have reported an actual decrease in performance and overclock with high voltage, while others said it made that last few MHz stable. By default it is grayed out and you need to go into the settings to unlock the option to use it. I did not for this guide, because stock settings of 1.063v was enough.





Step 1 - Memory Overclock:

When it comes to overclocking video cards, first I like to find the maximum memory speeds, since it is generally more forgiving and less factors to deal with. The GTX 1080 Ti memory only comes in one form, which is GDD5X and made by Micron. From looking at many different results across the Web, the overclock is extremely wide, but it seems a limit of 11,950Mhz is the highest I've read about. With 11,000MHz as the starting value, it's hard to say what individual overclocks will be. Also be aware this is Double Data Rate  (DDR). This means 400 is really 800 when looking at Afterburner or other monitoring software.

To start this memory overclock, I suggest running Unigine Heaven benchmark in the background while raising the frequency. Start at 100MHz and continue slowly at 50MHz jumps. Memory is a lot more forgiving than the GPU overclock, so if you start to see artifacts, flickering, or have a crash, write that number down and back it off by 25-50MHz. Try it again and leave it looping for a while. Remember, these overclocks shouldn't be for benchmarks only, but in a stable gaming session, too. For my card, I was able to get up to 400MHz and about 10 minutes into running this benchmark, the screen started to flicker and then the system crashed. Running it for a second time at a 375MHz OC for another 10 minutes left me confident that it was stable enough to move on and revisit it later. So, after you get that stable number, write it down and set the memory back to stock so it does not interfere with the GPU overclock.




Step 2 - Core Overclock:

For the GPU core overclock, it will be a very similar process as the memory. Open your favorite benchmark program in windowed mode so you can watch it while adjusting the clocks. The GPU core is far less forgiving than memory and a large step will only lead to crashes or strange numbers. Since the video card can downclock for any number of reasons covered in the Boost 3.0 section, your overclock may not match up with what you input. Going from 50 to 65MHz may lead to zero changes in the current overclock. Because of these variables, core overclocking isn't as simple as the memory. You must find the sweet spot between maximum heat, power target, and simply going too far. This is something I needed to fine tune over and over until I had a stable overclock, not just for gaming and benchmarks, but using the card 24/7 while running compute programs.

I highly suggest going 5-10MHz at a time. Since you cannot pass 2.2GHz anyways, it will be a short trip. Set the Core Clock slider to +25 and then slowly move it up 5-10 at a time until you see artifacts or a hard crash. Because of the way Boost 3.0 operates, you may see the numbers reflect differently. You'll notice the slider starts at zero without the ability to set your core or boost clocks. That's normal. NVIDIA took care of that and has already decided what is best for the card. This slider just adds on top of what is already decided. However, on occasion you can set the clocks higher than stable and not crash right away because of how the card already handles the boost feature. By that I mean, by example, if you add +300 and the voltage is locked at 1.093v, the card will either crash because of a lack of voltage at that frequency or auto-downclock until it's stable.

It is a strange concept, but the Boost is doing exactly what it is designed to do, which is allow for the maximum clocks without compromising stability. This method of overclocking is not as stable, as the card will be teetering on the edge. It will eventually crash the system, if not right away. My final maximum overclock in this section was +154, which landed the card at 2012MHz. With 1.093v, I was able to get 2037MHz stable, but the temperature and power draw increase was not worth the negligible impact from slightly high clock speeds.




Combine the Two:

Now that you have every thing written down, it is time to combine the two into one overclock. I've found if you apply those top numbers that was achieved independently, you will find often that it is not stable. Because of how Boost 3.0 plays a role in this, the memory overclock actually increase the total power draw and with the core frequency increased, too, not everything will play nice. So, to start I suggest backing off the desired overclock by 10-25MHz and run a few benchmarks and games. If it's stable, great, you can try for some higher overclocks. However, I think a lot of people will find that the numbers achieved independently will not be stable for long sessions.





Geeking Out:

Memory and GPU Voltage Limitation:

Because NVIDIA has wrapped up the Pascal GPU for the most part and the AIB partners have released all the enthusiast level video cards, I wanted to talk about, more or less, the definitive voltage limitations and workaround for this. Only three cards I know of have a special built-in LN2 BIOS, which removes or raises the voltage limit above 1.093 and get around that hard limit. These cards are the GALAX Hall of Fame Edition, EVGA K|NGP|N, and MSI Lightning Z, all of which have very limited runs and by the time this article comes out, they most likely are already sold out.

Unless you are willing to physically mod a card, you are stuck with the rest of us that can't break this voltage barrier. Some of the higher end cards do have memory voltage tweaking abilities, but for the most part it does not seem to make a diifference outside of L2N benchmark runs. That extra 100MHz on the memory will yield nothing for the average gamer. Everything I've been reading from these crazy people that are willing to try high GPU voltages is that unless you have the 1080 Ti in a watercooled system, even 1.24v is hard to keep cool and the temperatures are not ideal for long term use. The Pascal is hungry and can eat 400 watts the second you release those power and voltage limitations. This is why I suspect NVIDIA put the parameters in place to prevent people from really exceeding the 250-300 watt range. Especially when AMD continues to get flack for high wattage cards that perform less than ideal for the large power draw. I think it is a mixture of marketing and making the video card idiot proof.



Yes, you are reading this right; undervolting the card is a real thing. Why would someone do this, you ask? Well, some people like to play around with new gadgets and found that a fair share can actually run at a lower voltage and achieve the same clock speeds. On a rare occasion, over 2000MHz at 1.00v. I suspect those cards are also really good overclockers and are the gold standard of hitting the silicon lottery. It just so happens that these cards can achieve the same clock speeds of other cards that need 1.063v to do the same thing. The only reason to do this if you wanted less power draw and heat. The downside is the card isn't running at its maximum potential.



The XOC BIOS was intended for ASUS Strix cards using LN2 for what, I can only assume, was for an overclocking event(s). However, it made its way onto the Internet and is not very safe to use. Fun to play around with, but not safe if you value the card's longevity. This BIOS removes the power and temperature limitations. Sounds great, right? Well, on top of that it sets the voltage to 1.24v. You lose control of any power draw settings and must hot-wire readouts to the board to get any indications of what the current values are even at. Like I said, fun to play around with, but who knows what the long term damage is going above 1.093v. The GPU is far too new to guess, although from LN2 articles I've read, the Pascal GPU is very sensitive to voltage and sometimes less yields better results. Really, please do not flash your nice, new card with this BIOS unless you already do this type of stuff and have a watercooled set up in place.


Shunt Mod:

This mod physically alters the video card and is only for the most extreme people. I think it is interesting to know about this stuff, but I never suggest it to anyone who isn't already into crazy stuff like the XOC BIOS already. Basically, this mod lowers the target power limit by tricking the BIOS into thinking it is drawing less power than it really is. By shorting the shunt resistors (5MO / 5 Millamp Ohms), you can get the BIOS to see a lower total power draw and allow that 120% to be higher. Although if you do this too well, the card will go into safety mode because the BIOS thinks something is wrong. If you really want to do this, I suggest Googling it and following a guide for that.

However, the main reason why I bring it up is because when people did remove just the power draw limit with their maximum overclock, cards that were stuck at 2050MHz shot up to 2100 or 2150 in some benchmarks. It just goes to show how strange Boost 3.0 is and how much NVIDIA has truly limited these cards. So, buying a card with a 130% power draw limit will generally yield higher overclocks, simply because of the power draw limitations. My personal opinion, from a technical standpoint, is that outside of benchmarking that extra 50MHz isn't going to warrant an extra $100, which provides an extra frame per second, more or less. If you buying it because it looks cool and have features you like, then that gives an extra reason to get it.

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