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Graphically rich benchmarks like Unigine Heaven, which loops GPU intensive workloads and reports clocks and temperatures, can be useful for testing the stability and performance of an overclocked graphics card.

With that done, overclocking a graphics card (go.pcworld.com/ overclockgc) involves firing up a looping benchmark like Unigine Heaven and then increasing the core clock speed of your graphics card until the benchmark crashes. Then you reduce clock speed a bit and run it for a few hours to verify stability, continuing to reduce clock speeds if necessary. (Adjust the card's power limit using the same technique.) We were able to push our RX 480's clock speeds up to 1,330MHz, or about a 5 percent increase, before we ran into stability issues.


When it comes to the per-state voltage controls, it's best to focus your efforts on the highest three clock states, where the RX 480 spends most of its time during intense gaming sessions. State 7 is the boost state of the RX 480, where the clock speed in WattMan is set to 1,265 and the voltage is set to 1,131. The maximum voltage that WattMan can set for any given state is 1,150. If you want to overclock the RX 480, setting State 7's voltage to 1,150 will improve stability while you raise clock speeds.
But before we dig in, make sure that you have the Voltage Control toggle for both the GPU and the Memory in the Manual control position. If these aren't both in Manual mode, your voltage adjustments won't have any effect, in a bizarre WattMan quirk. The process for under-volting once again involves opening up a looping benchmark and letting it run while you incrementally reduce voltages. Eventually you'll lower voltages too far and the benchmark will crash. Increase your RX 480's voltages slightly from that point and then run the benchmark a few hours to verify stability. In our testing we were able to lower voltages for the top 3 states down to 1050 millivolts (mV) while maintaining stock clock speeds, which is an 81 mV savings over the default settings. Radeon Crimson's Frame Rate Target Control (FRTC) (go.pcworld. com/frtc) feature can also help you save even more power by capping the maximum frame rate of your GPU, so your graphics card won't pump out more frames than your monitor can display. Why let your GPU render frames you'll never see? Take the power savings instead.

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Finally, AMD's WattMan lets you define the RX 480's most noticeable characteristics. You can manually set minimum and maximum fan speeds, a minimum acoustic limit, and maximum and target temperatures.

AMD's stock settings for all of these are actually pretty good, but you can tweak them to your heart's content. If you're overclocking, you'll probably want to increase the RX 480's target temperature by three to five degrees to reduce potential thermal throttling while the card cranks away at higher clocks. Likewise, you'll want to raise the target fan speed from the default 2,200 revolutions per minute (rpm) maximum to ensure your RX 480 stays cool under the increased heat. But don't take this too far, because the RX 480's blower-style cooler sounds like a ferocious hair dryer when it's spinning at 100 percent fan speed. From the Text Qualifier dropdown list, select None, because the records are not enclosed with single or double quotes. 6. And last, click Next. 7. In the next dialog window (Step 3 of 3, on this page), Excel gives you the option to change the format of each column. The first column is selected by default. Notice the header says General. General works for all numeric fields. Because this is a text field, click the Text button to change this format. 8. Click anywhere in the second column, and the highlight moves to that column. If the selected format of General is incorrect, click the correct format for that column from the options above. In this case, Text is correct format. Repeat this process through all the imported fields. Then click the Finish button. 10. Now the boss wants the months separated. First, insert a column beside the Modern Months column so the parsed data doesn't overwrite the information in column G. 11. Move your cursor to column G. Now select Insert > Insert Sheet Column. 12. Highlight the second field, Modern Months, in column F, and follow the instructions above to separate this one field into two fields. Note that the custom delimiter is the slash key. 13. Change the columns from General to Text and click Finish. Now the months are in two columns instead of one.


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AMD-supplied software isn't completely new: Prior to WattMan, AMD offered its less robust OverDrive tool since about 2007. (Older Radeon graphics cards still default to OverDrive, even if you install the latest Radeon Crimson software.) But while OverDrive offered control over clock speeds, the PowerTune limit, target temperatures, and fan speeds, it used a rather limited slider-based interface. Additionally, OverDrive's controls weren't very granular and lacked important features like core and memory voltage control, individual clock state control, and real-time graphing of all of these performance variables. These issues forced most overclockers to turn to robust third-party software like MSI's Afterburner and EVGA's Precision X instead. But AMD's Radeon WattMan remedies all of these shortcomings. Here's how to use it. Working with WattMan is dead simple. Open up AMD's Radeon Settings app and click the Gaming tab, then click Global Settings, and finally click the Global WattMan tab. You'll be greeted by the interface shown below.

Best of all, if you see something weird on the graph--like a big clock speed drop--hovering your mouse over the issue will bring up the stats for that specific point in time. If you're trying to troubleshoot a cooling or performance problem, WattMan's graphing feature is a godsend. A thoughtful twist on this performance-tracking feature is the ability to use it globally or with only specific applications. AMD's per-app Profile settings allow you to use WattMan to profile performance while a specific game is running for up to 20 minutes at a time. Select the game you want to profile, enable the Histogram option for it, and
A histogram tracking the Radeon RX 480's behavior in Far C y Primal's specific Profile WattMan settings. WattMan will begin recording when you launch the game. This application-specific profiling ties in nicely with the rest of WattMan's overclocking capabilities, which can also be applied on a per-game basis. With the Profile WattMan tools located inside each game's specific settings in Radeon Crimson, you can overclock your RX 480 in the games that need more horsepower and bump the target temperature down in less strenuous titles.


WattMan's powerful granularity is the application's biggest strength, and that strength is most apparent in its clock speed and voltage controls. Like the power management technology found on modern CPUs, AMD's PowerTune management engine switches between seven performance states, which are defined by unique clock speeds and voltages. Using the WattMan tool you can configure each of these seven states to your own personal preference.

For most people, that means overclocking the top clock state into the highest possible stable speed, up from the RX 480's normal 1,266MHz boost state. But before you do that, you'll want to increase the card's power limit as much as possible. The power limit slider dictates the amount of power that your graphics card will allow itself to draw. If you increase it, you can reduce power consumption­related throttling--which can lead to higher stable overclocks--and if you decrease it you can reduce overall power consumption.

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