AMD Overdrive

The first utility we're going to look at is AMD's OverDrive utility. This utility is automatically included with AMD’s Catalyst software suite. OverDrive is AMD’s take on overclocking and is designed to work with all AMD based graphics cards, so let's take a look and see what OverDrive has to offer.

First off, before you can use OverDrive you are prompted to review and accept AMD's license agreement. This agreement states that operating your video card outside factory settings may damage your product and potentially lead to other problems. AMD will not offer support for the utility and they mention the use of this utility may void your video card's warranty. Simply put, AMD warns you that when using OverDrive, you do so at your own risk.

After accepting the license agreement, you are given full access to the utility. Starting at the top of the utility there are six indicators. These indicators are used to monitor GPU activity, GPU core clock speed, memory clock speed, power limit, GPU temperature, and fan speed in real-time. AMD did a fine job with the design and layout of these indicators as they will play a vital role when overclocking your video card.

Moving down the page the first thing that catches our eye is the big and colorful 2D heat map. The 2D heat map uses a point and click interface on an X and Y graph. The X line represents the card's power limit, while the Y line represents the GPU's core clock speed. You can use the mouse cursor to hover over the heat map, which will display the values before you select them. It’s a pretty neat touch and it's easy enough to use, but in practice, I found it was much faster to manually key in our selections (in the fields to the right of the heat map) instead of using the 2D heat map.

In the past year OverDrive has been updated to take advantage of AMD’s most recent iteration of PowerTune. This version of PowerTune is found on all Bonaire, Hawaii, and Tonga based GPUs; among other features it introduces fine grained power states, which has an influence on how OverDrive looks and behaves. When overclocking any of these GCN 1.1 and later GPUs you’ll notice that AMD partially abstracts the real GPU clock speed by using percentages, which is aimed at making overclocking easier to understand despite the clock speed-varying antics of PowerTune occurring under the hood. However for GCN 1.0 based cards, AMD continues to use the absolute GPU clock speed, as this is how OverDrive operated when these cards originally shipped and they don’t have the clock speed variability of newer GPUs. Meanwhile the power limit setting for all cards operates on a percentage basis, typically allowing up to a 20% or 50% increase depending on the card.

These generational differences also have an impact in how fan speed controls work on some cards as well. Available to manufacturers and enabled on some 290 series cards, AMD allows for both the card’s maximum temperature and the card’s maximum fan speed to be controlled, with OverDrive providing the necessary settings for this. Otherwise when using a previous generation of GPUs or cards where the manufacturer has decided not to enable these features, we get a more traditional setup where the fan speed control adjusts the immediate fan speed to a fixed percentage, with no temperature controls.

In the end, OverDrive offers a relatively simple way for users to overclock their AMD based video cards. I also like the fact that OverDrive is automatically included when installing the AMD Catalyst Control Center, as the use of a third-party utility is not needed. AMD is the only manufacturer to build an overclocking utility into its control panel and driver set, which is definitely a plus.

One last note is that I think AMD video card owners that are just learning the basics of overclocking should start with OverDrive before growing into other utilities. It's a great starter that helps users get a feel for overclocking and teaches the fundamentals as well, and it's difficult to do anything that will immediately damage your GPU. With that being said, I don't think experienced overclockers will consider OverDrive as the preferred utility. I say this because there are many utilities in this round-up that offer more extensive features such as voltage adjustment and in-depth monitoring and logging. Not having at least one of these features tends to be a deal breaker for many experienced overclockers, who usually want more control and features.

Introduction to Video Card Overclocking Utilities Sapphire TriXX
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  • arcaena - Wednesday, October 08, 2014 - link

    Could you possibly also include Zotac's utility? They're becoming somewhat more popular since they've got 900 cards in stock, and I've heard relatively little about their software. Reply
  • Wixman666 - Wednesday, October 08, 2014 - link

    Unless you are hard up for a card, never buy Zotac. They're available because everyone steers clear of them, and for good reason. Shortest warranty and awful support... forget ever getting a rebate, either. Reply
  • arcaena - Wednesday, October 08, 2014 - link

    Their warranty is shorter if you don't register the card, yeah, but it's as long as or longer than other warranties for the same cards. I haven't had anything wrong with their support, either, but I guess YMMV.

    Besides which, how would any of that affect their OC utility?
    Reply
  • nathanddrews - Wednesday, October 08, 2014 - link

    Nothing wrong with Zotac... at least none of the cards I've purchased. Reply
  • Hrel - Wednesday, October 08, 2014 - link

    I've had nothing but positive experiences with Zotac, got my rebate super fast. Never had an issue with the card over 5 years that I've had it, so I can't speak to support. Well made card though. Reply
  • StevoLincolnite - Thursday, October 09, 2014 - link

    Good thing I live in Australia.

    It doesn't actually *matter* what brand you buy from a warranty and support perspective as at a minimum... Everything has a 1 year warranty and it's the seller who has to handle the warranty here.

    It's after you exceed the 1 year mark where things can get interesting, but personally by that point I use it as an excuse to upgrade anyway.

    With that said, I'm still rocking dual Radeon 6950's unlocked into Radeon 6970's and it *still* handles every single game I throw at it.
    Reply
  • fluxtatic - Thursday, October 09, 2014 - link

    I'd be insulted if anyone offered less than a year warranty on a video card. I think the minimum I've seen on the last 3 or 4 I've had have been three years. Reply
  • hechacker1 - Wednesday, October 08, 2014 - link

    As far as I can tell, it's a reskin of MSI Afterburner. I don't know if it offers any Zotac specific features, but it's updated far less and has just basic overclocking features. I actually like it for its simplicity. Reply
  • Michael Wilding - Wednesday, October 08, 2014 - link

    I did take a look at Zotac's FireStorm utility. It's a pretty straight forward and easy to use piece of software. It hasn't got much attention as of yet, but maybe in the future we can take an in-depth look. Reply
  • sweeper765 - Wednesday, October 08, 2014 - link

    This is more of an OC utilities roundup. I thought there would be a comprehensive guide of how to get the most out of your gpu. Reply

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