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More on the Upgrade to Sandy Bridge and Overclocking for S3D Gaming

March 12th, 2011 · 7 Comments · Other S3D Tech

A few days ago I’ve written that my second GeForce GTX 580 video card has died, but now thanks to support from Nvidia I got the issue resolved and a replacement card, so I’m back with a working SLI setup and thus I was able to finish testing with the new Sandy Bridge platform. In the previous article Intel Sandy Bridge Plus SLI for Stereo 3D Gaming with 3D Vision I’ve compared the older Asus Sabertooth P55 motherboard with an Intel Core i5 750 processor overclocked at 4GHz along with the two GTX 580s in SLI to the newer Asus Sabertooth P67 (Sandy Bridge) motherboard with Intel Core i5 2500K running at 5 GHz. In the previous tests however the focus was the CPU and motherboard and what benefits are there in terms of performance increase for gaming in 2D (plain 3D) as well as in stereo 3D mode. But I’ve went further by overclocking the two GTX 580 video cards and repeated the tests to measure the additional performance increase you can get besides just overclocking the processor and changing the platform…

The two GeForce GTX 580 video cards in SLI were with GPUs overclocked from 772 MHz to 950 MHz or that is 170 MHz increase of the default frequencies for both. And the working frequency of the memory was overclocked from the default 4008 MHz to 4850 MHz which is a bit pushing it, but is easily achievable when using water cooling, because operating temperatures remain quite low even under high load for long time. Of course the system is already with an overclocked Intel Core i5 2500K processor running at 5GHz and in the tables below you can see a comparison between the results achieved with the processor at default and at 5 GHz with the video cards not overclocked and with 5GHz with the VGAs also overclocked.

Starting with popular synthetic benchmark 3DMark 2006, the performance increase here is quite small after overclocking the GPUs, but that is to be expected as this test is more CPU dependent than GPU limited. The newer 3DMark 11 that is heavily relying on the video card is showing much better performance increase as expected…

After overclocking the video cards in the game tests in 2D mode (plain 3D) the increase is not that significant, but here we already have high enough average framerate with about 100 fps for the more demanding games and even more with not so heavy titles.

Moving to the game benchmark in stereo 3D mode, after overclocking the two video cards and with the processor at 5GHz almost all games are hitting average framerate of 60 fps per eye, except for Just Cause 2 and Metro 2033. These two titles that are a bit more demanding when played with high detail settings do show much higher performance increase after overclocking the GPUs as compared to overclocking the CPU only. But still with them you may need to sacrifice a bit of extra details or effects to get an average fps of about 60 frames per eye in stereo 3D mode, not that with an average of 40 fps per eye these games are unplayable, on the contrary, but yo would expect a bit more with such a high-end system that is also decently overclocked to get the maximum performance out of it for stereoscopic 3D gaming in Full HD resolution with maxed out detail levels and even some AA enabled in games to smooth out the edges…

Still I can say that I’m pretty happy form the additional performance increase after the upgrade to the new Sandy Bridge platform, and now the new B3 revision of the Sandy Bridge chipsets are becoming available, so you can safely do the upgrade as well. The new K-series i5 and i7 processors offer better overclockability than the previous generation, but still when talking about gaming, you may be able to get better performance increase with a higher-end video card, or by adding a second video card in SLI, than by just pushing the CPU frequency or increasing the number of cores. Because the truth is that still most of the latest games still cannot yet take advantage of more than one CPU core, but they can fully utilize the additional video performance that a more powerful video card can offer. So if you are just gaming in stereo 3D mode, then it may be more worth to upgrade your GPU than to go for a Sandy Bridge upgrade, but if you already have a high-end GPU or even more than one, then upgrading the processor and the motherboard can still be a good choice. And although most games can’t fully utilize the total performance that a new multi-core processor can offer, there are a lot of applications that can do that and you are probably using quite a few of these as well, for example software for video editing and conversion.

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