Finally Nvidia has given us a graphics card based on its Fermi technology for less than a ton. AMD has had this end of the market sewn up in DX11 terms for around a year now, so it's about time. The GTS 450 has been priced and specced to go directly up against the Radeon HD 5770.
In vanilla trim it's a very close race with both cards having the lead in some benchmarks and falling behind in others. When you look at the GTS 450's overclocking chops, however, you'll realise that you can really push this card past what the overclocked HD 5770 can achieve.
We saw the Asus Top edition of the GTS 450 with a huge factory overclock, beating the MSI HD 5770 Hawk in practically all areas. So, with a little luck, some judicious tweaking and an aftermarket cooler, we should be able to push this new kid on the block to impressive heights.
And the graphics card is possibly one of the easiest components of your machine to overclock the hell out of. They are robust enough that even when you push them to the very limits, they'll still come back for more.
Overclocking can shorten the life of your GPU, but likely as not the graphics card is the one component that everyone can replace with the minimum of technical knowledge, and it's also the component that's likely to be upgraded the soonest.
So, live fast, die in obsolescence is our motto for graphics cards. And in the mean time you can get the sort of performance out of your sub-£100 card that you'd be paying another £50 more for only a couple of months back.
Things are set to change again soon with AMD's HD 6000 series cards imminent, and the volume segment of the market in its sights. For now though, cook the clocks of your wee Fermi and enjoy the ride.
How to overclock the GTS 450
1. No matter which manufacturer's GTS 450 you have slotted lovingly into your PC, there's only one application we'd recommend and that's MSI's excellent Afterburner. Simply download the software and the manual, and the hard work can begin.
2. Well, I say hard, but GPU overclocking applications such as Afterburner make everything an absolute doddle. Its clear, simple GUI and detailed hardware monitor help to make the process as simple as possible.
Both Asus and EVGA have their own tools, but Afterburner is the clearest and easiest to get hold of. If you do have one of MSI's cards then the application will give you full access to the voltage tweaking elements of your card.
3. If not you can still do all the memory, core clock and shader shenanigans you need to get more from your card. Voltage tweaking is probably the easiest way to shorten the life of a GPU, so be wary.
As well as the actual tweaking software you'll need a stress tester. There's no point hitting 1GHz on the core clock in Windows alone without testing if it will in games too. Unigine's Heaven 2.1 Benchmark is a beast, but that takes a long time loading.
A better bet is FurMark. You can leave this application running on your Windows desktop as you tweak, helping you look out for artefacts as you go. So let's get tweaking.
First, we'll attack the memory clocks. Step the frequency up by 5-10MHz and apply the settings, then check the FurMark window for signs of artefacting, for at least a couple of minutes, and then step it up another notch. Keep doing this until signs of artefacting begin to rear their ugly heads.
4. Once you hit the limit, step it back a notch and do some more stress-testing using Heaven 2.1 Benchmark.
5. Now, reset the memory slider to its default position and start over with the Core/Shader clock slider. Essentially, it's the same drill as with the memory clock.
Once the Core limit is found, bring up the memory clock to the previous stable overclock and stress test with both clocks. You may find with both clocks up high you get more artefacting.
To solve this issue you need to figure out which of them is giving you the problem, and drop the relevant slider. But how can you tell?
If it's a memory problem, that will manifest itself as solid blocks of colour, and if it's a processor problem then you'll see either pixel-sized dots or bright flashes.
Once you've nailed the artefact problems, hit 'Apply at startup' and you're finished.