Underclocking is not something that usually crosses the minds of gamers. Games rely heavily on processing speed, so optimizing it is essential. Many of our readers, though, will find that underclocking their GPU can be beneficial in some scenarios.
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Overclocking components is a solution we’ve suggested before for improving performance. A CPU bottleneck, for instance, might be resolved by overclocking. While underclocking will not improve performance, it does have many other advantages.
When playing graphics-intensive games, for instance, the GPU temperature can rise to dangerous levels. One possible answer to this issue is to underclock the computer.
The first section of this tutorial discusses whether or not underclocking a GPU is worthwhile. In this article’s second part, we’ll take a detailed look at the steps required to underclock a graphics processing unit.
What Does a GPU Do?
Graphics processing units (GPUs) have quickly risen to prominence as a crucial component of modern computers, both in the home and in the workplace. The graphics processing unit (GPU) is used for a wide variety of tasks due to its parallel processing capabilities. While graphics processing units (GPUs) are most commonly associated with the gaming industry, their use in other fields, such as video editing and AI, is on the rise.
The original purpose of GPUs was to speed up the display of 3D graphics. They improved their functionality as they became more adaptable and programmable over time. This paved the way for more complex lighting and shadowing techniques, allowing graphics programmers to create more engaging visual effects and realistic scenes. Additional workloads in high performance computing (HPC), deep learning, and other areas began to experience dramatic acceleration thanks to the use of GPUs by other developers.
GPU and CPU: Working Together
The graphics processing unit (GPU) developed as a supplementary device to the CPU (central processing unit). Graphics processing units (GPUs) are optimized for accelerating computer graphics workloads, while central processing units (CPUs) have continued to deliver performance increases through architectural innovations, faster clock speeds, and the addition of cores. Knowing how the central processing unit (CPU) compares to the graphics processing unit (GPU) can be useful when searching for a new computer.
GPU vs. Graphics Card: What’s the Difference?
There is a subtle difference between a graphics processing unit (GPU) and a graphics card (or video card), despite the fact that these terms are often used interchangeably. A graphics card is an expansion board that contains the GPU, much like a motherboard contains the CPU. The vast majority of hardware necessary for the GPU to operate and communicate with the rest of the system is included on this board.
There are two primary varieties of GPUs, namely integrated and discrete. An integrated GPU is one that is built into the same component as the central processing unit (CPU). A discrete GPU is a dedicated graphics processing unit (GPU) chip that comes with its own circuit board and plugs into a PCI Express slot.
Integrated Graphics Processing Unit
Integrated graphics processors (GPUs) account for the vast majority of products sold today. What exactly are integrated graphics, and how do they function in your PC? Computers with a central processing unit (CPU) that includes a dedicated graphics processing unit (GPU) on the motherboard can be smaller, more lightweight, and more efficient.
Intel® Iris® Plus and Intel® Iris® Xe graphics are at the cutting edge of integrated graphics technology, which is where Intel® Graphics Technology comes in. Computers equipped with Intel® Graphics are able to provide users with a more realistic visual experience while also remaining energy efficient and lasting longer on a single charge.
Discrete Graphics Processing Unit
Integrated graphics processing units (GPUs) are capable of handling many popular computing tasks. A discrete GPU (also known as a dedicated graphics card) is better suited for the task at hand when a lot of resources and performance are required by the application at hand.
These graphics processing units (GPUs) increase processing power but also increase energy consumption and heat output. The performance of discrete GPUs is typically at its peak when they are provided with their own cooling system.
Thanks to their increased programmability, modern GPUs can be used for tasks beyond simple graphics processing.
What Are GPUs Used For?
A twenty year ago, graphics processing units were mostly used to speed up real-time 3D graphics applications like games. As the 21st century began, however, researchers in the field of computer science began to see the potential of GPUs to tackle some of the world’s most challenging computing problems.
Due to this discovery, the era of general-purpose GPUs was born. These days, graphical methods are used to solve a wider variety of issues. The increased programmability of modern GPUs allows them to speed up a wide variety of non-graphics rendering applications.
GPUs for Gaming
Hyperrealistic graphics and expansive, intricate game worlds have increased the computational demands of today’s video games. Graphics processing is under increasing pressure from newer display technologies like 4K monitors and high refresh rates, as well as the popularity of VR games. Graphics processing units (GPUs) can render both 2D and 3D images. Gameplay can be experienced at a higher resolution, faster frame rate, or both with improved graphics performance.
GPUs for Video Editing and Content Creation
Long rendering times have been a problem for years for those working in the creative industries, including video editors, graphic designers, and others, because they consume too many computing resources and slow down the creative process. With the advent of GPUs and their parallel processing capabilities, rendering video and graphics in higher resolutions has become much more efficient.
Intel’s CPUs and GPUs are both top-notch, providing uncompromised performance. Improved performance and additional features are now available to gamers and content creators thanks to Intel® Iris® Xe graphics. Intel® Iris® Xe integrated graphics are optimized for 11th Gen Intel® CoreTM processors and are a great fit for Ultra-thin and light laptops. Intel’s first discrete graphics product in 20 years, Intel® Iris® Xe MAX, is included in some high-end laptops.
Featuring advanced graphics performance and media capabilities, Intel® Iris® Xe MAX lets you enjoy uninterrupted, immersive gameplay in 1080p resolution from virtually any location. This was accomplished on a thin and light laptop. To add to that, when using 11th Gen Intel® CoreTM processors, Iris® Xe MAX discrete graphics, and Intel® Deep Link Technology, you can achieve 1.4X AI1 performance and 2X better performance encoding single stream videos2 than with a 3rd party discrete graphics. 3
GPU for Machine Learning
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are some of the most promising uses of GPU technology. Workloads that benefit from the GPU’s highly parallel nature, like image recognition, can experience tremendous acceleration thanks to the GPU’s extraordinary amount of computational capability. In conjunction with central processing units (CPUs), GPUs are essential to the success of many deep learning technologies currently in use.
Intel® GPU Technologies
When it comes to personal computers, Intel has been at the forefront of graphics processing technology for quite some time. Latest Intel® Iris® Xe graphics and Intel® UHD Graphics, found in our 11th Gen Intel® CoreTM processors, allow for 4K HDR, 1080p gaming, and other high-definition visual delights.
Intel also provides the Intel® Iris® Xe MAX graphics for laptop users. Our first discrete GPU for PCs is built on the Intel Xe architecture, giving you access to improved performance and cutting-edge features for your content creation and gaming.
GPUs in the Data Center
Intel® Xeon® processors, which are used in data centers, feature integrated graphics that can support stunning visuals.
The Intel® Server GPU is a separate offering from Intel. Using the Intel® Xe Architecture as its foundation, this general-purpose GPU was made to scale indefinitely to meet the rising demand for high-density, low-latency services like mobile cloud gaming, media streaming, and video encoding.
Why You Might Underclock a GPU
In theory, a GPU’s performance will suffer if you run it at a lower clock speed. Nonetheless, it may have some positive outcomes as well. Thus, you should think carefully about the benefits and drawbacks of underclocking your graphics card.
First, we’ll take a peek at the upsides of lowering your GPU’s clock speed.
An Underclocked GPU Will Overheat Less
This is the most significant benefit of running a GPU at a lower clock speed. Overheating PC components is a major concern for computer users. This is because prolonged exposure can reduce the lifespan of the components (the GPU in this case), even if the components do not overheat to the point of shutting down.
It’s possible that some games’ graphics settings will require a very powerful graphics card to run smoothly. This is especially true of today’s triple-A games because they strive for photorealism (even though effects like ray tracing, while beautiful, put additional strain on the GPU).
GPUs that are two years old or more often experience overheating issues. Even the most expensive models have this limitation. Newer releases may be pushing the limits of older technologies, even if they were impressive at the time.
People who play video games on laptops often face the unpleasant problem of their machines overheating. Overheating and premature deterioration are common problems for laptop GPUs because of limited ventilation and the inevitable buildup of dust.
When a GPU’s clock rate is lowered, it consumes less power and generates less heat. To that end, it could be the best option for you if you want to keep your graphics card working for as long as possible.
Keep in mind that there are a variety of things you can do to prevent your PC’s GPU and other components from overheating while you play.
Underclocking a GPU Reduces Power Consumption
Your graphics card’s power consumption can also be reduced by underclocking it.
If you use a desktop computer, this could help you save money on your electricity bill. Two profiles can be stored in your GPU’s memory, one with the GPU underclocked and the other without. You can then alternate between the two as needed.
To put it simply, modern GPUs are built to be as efficient as possible. Because of this, it’s unlikely that switching between profiles will significantly improve your GPU’s idle power consumption.
However, power consumption is a major issue for laptop users, especially those who play games while on the go. In this respect, an underclocked graphics chip can be of great assistance, as it may allow gamers who are frequently on the go to keep playing for longer.
Remember that there are other options for decreasing the strain on your GPU. If you turn down the settings (especially the ones that are hard on the GPU) and/or slow down the framerate, you can reduce the workload on the GPU and save some power.
An Underclocked GPU Runs Quieter
Finally, an underclocked GPU does not make nearly as much noise as a fully powered GPU. Even a small amount of underclocking can have a huge effect on the amount of noise a GPU produces, and the difference can be startling.
Everyone, from those who use desktop computers to those who rely on portable ones, can benefit from this. When traveling on public transportation, underclocking the GPU could mean the difference between being able to play a game without disturbing others and having to turn down the volume on your computer because of noise complaints.
Underclocking a Graphics Card May Stabilize the System
This is a culmination of the previous advantages. When a central processing unit (CPU) or graphics processing unit (GPU) gets too hot, the system tries to cool it down by increasing the speed of the cooling system. At this point, the fans will start to spin at maximum speed.
To prevent the GPU from shutting down, the system may use thermal throttling if the fans (or liquid cooling system) are unable to cool it down. This is a potential source of system instability.
Inconsistent performance is a common result of thermal throttling. There will probably be frame rate drops, and the game will look choppy. In most cases, this can be avoided by operating the GPU at a lower clock speed.
What Are the Drawbacks of GPU Underclocking
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of how to underclock your GPU, let’s take a look at the potential drawbacks you might encounter.
Underclocking your GPU, contrary to widespread belief, will not cause damage or instability to your GPU. You are merely slowing down the GPU’s clock speeds. When it comes to your GPU’s lifespan, underclocking can only help.
Nonetheless, you should be aware that underclocking diminishes performance. The typical decrease in effectiveness is approximately 1:1. This means that the performance of GPU-intensive tasks will drop by about 20% if the graphics card’s clock speed is reduced by the same amount.
It’s not always a bad thing, though. Consider a game where 180 FPS is the norm; now imagine that number drops to 90. Even with a 144 Hz monitor, a 20% drop would still allow you to get 144 FPS. However, if your screen’s refresh rate is lowered even further, you might be able to forego even more power in exchange for a cooler and steadier setup.
How to Underclock a Graphics Card
Your GPU’s base clock speed is built in. Thereafter, specialized software can be used to either accelerate or slow down this rate. This can be accomplished with a variety of programs, such as the following:
- Microsoft Precision Boost for MSI
- Its NVIDIA Inspector
- Optimizing the ASUS Graphics Processing Unit
- NZXT Cam
- Precision XOC by EVGA
As MSI Afterburner is widely recognized as the gold standard in this field, we will be using it throughout this tutorial. Also, some of the aforementioned programs are only compatible with certain GPUs, while the Afterburner should be able to modify any GPU. But fundamentally, the method stays the same regardless of the app being used.
Keep in mind that you can overclock or underclock your GPU with the help of MSI Afterburner and the other programs we’ve already discussed. Overclocking your GPU can cause it to become unstable or even cause it to fail, while underclocking poses no serious risks. Because of this, you should move forward cautiously and at your own risk.
Here is a detailed walkthrough of using MSI Afterburner to reduce your GPU’s clock speed.
Install and Set Up MSI Afterburner
First, get MSI Afterburner installed. You can get Afterburner from MSI’s official website or any of the many reliable mirrors on the web. The MSI website is the place to go if you want to be sure you have the most up-to-date version.
Launch Afterburner once it has been installed, and double-check that the appropriate graphics card has been selected. While the software will typically auto-detect your GPU, it may be configured to instead keep tabs on your computer’s integrated graphics processor. To switch between GPUs, go to the settings menu on the left and make your selection there.
Change the Clock Speed
Keep in mind that MSI Afterburner is a comprehensive monitoring tool with a wide range of customization options. It’s important to be cautious when making changes to the game if you’re not an expert.
The ‘Core Clock Speed’ is the only thing you need to worry about when underclocking your GPU. The GPU’s clock speed can be lowered by sliding the meter to the left, and raised by doing the opposite.
Try to minimize the underclocking slider’s movement while keeping an eye on your GPU’s temperature and performance. If you want to adjust the temperature and power consumption to your liking, it’s best to do so gradually, by about 5 percent at a time. Taking the slider all the way down will severely impact performance.
A Brief Word on Undervolting
Undervolting is not the same as overclocking, but it has many of the same advantages. Not only that, but there are ways to keep your GPU from overheating and reduce its power consumption without sacrificing performance. In the case of laptop GPUs, this is especially true.
Undervolting your GPU, however, is more involved than underclocking. Even though making a mistake won’t destroy your hardware, it could lead to instability and failure.
Even though undervolting a GPU is outside the scope of this guide, you should try underclocking first. Many problems can be resolved simply by slightly underclocking the GPU.
Finally, keep in mind that the effects of underclocking, overclocking, and undervolting on your GPU will always be minimal but perceptible. If you’re not happy with your current GPU, it might be time to upgrade.