When you buy a graphics card, you’re usually quickly bombarded with a number of specifications, and the GPU clock speed is one of them. The sheer number of specifications can get quite confusing for a beginner because they usually don’t explain much, it’s mostly numbers and letters that don’t directly tell you the performance of the card.
Once you understand exactly what the GPU clock speed and other specifications mean, then picking up a graphics card becomes far easier. This is because you’ll understand which graphics card is worth your time, and it’ll prevent you from making a bad purchase.
When looking at a graphics cards specification, you’ve probably realized there’s quite a few clock speed metrics, there is the Memory Clock speed, and the Core clock speed. In this post, we’re going to explain why each metric is important, and the influences it has on performance, additionally, we’re going to explain what boost clock speed is.
Why Is The Core Clock Speed Important?
The core clock speed is one of the most important metrics to describe a graphics card’s performance, the other metric would be core count. The core clock speed is important because when gaming, even an increase of 100MHz can make a noticeable difference in frames per second, this is because the core clock speed and FPS almost have a linear correlation.
Increasing the core clock speed means each core is working at a faster rate and processing graphical information such as terrain, geometric, and textures much faster. The core clock speed is usually measured in (GHz), and the RTX 3080 has a core clock speed of 1.44GHz.
Overclocking the core clock speed will always result in higher frames per second, and it’s quite easy to overclock your graphics card. With MSI Afterburner, you can increase your core clock speed very quickly, but obviously don’t go over the top because you might experience instability issues. But it’s worth noting, once overclocked, your CPU and other components will have to work slightly harder.
So, if a game you’re playing is just almost playable, you’re reaching frames of around 45 FPS, a decent overclock can push you towards 60FPS quite easily. This is why overclocking the core clock speed is highly beneficial, and if you’re serious about gaming at the best possible frame rate, there’s no avoiding it.
Why Is Memory Clock Speed Important?
The memory core clock speed is just as important as the core clock speed, it refers to the frequency of the VRAM which is the memory of the GPU. The VRAM stores all the graphical information for the GPU processor to process, so the faster the VRAM, the faster it can store and replace data in its memory.
When gaming, the VRAM is being utilized and you may not realize how but each texture and other graphical data is being stored here. Games that are sending highly detailed textures can affect the performance of the graphics card by causing stuttering inconsistencies, this means the FPS will spike occasionally. Increasing the Memory/VRAM Clock Speed can smoothen out these inconsistencies, resulting in better gameplay.
Also, increasing the memory clock speed can make playing at higher resolutions much easier, because higher resolutions require more VRAM. So if you’re looking to play at 4K, but don’t have enough VRAM, then increasing/overclocking the memory clock speed may help with keeping games playable.
Memory Vs Core Clock Speed
The difference isn’t clear at first, but the memory clock speed refers to how fast the VRAM can send and receive data from the GPU processor, and the core clock speed refers to how fast each core can work and process information. Increasing these numbers will almost always result in faster performance in games because it’s pushing the graphics card to work harder.
For raw performance, the Core Clock Speed is more important and can result in faster results with performance. This isn’t to say the memory core clock speed isn’t important, because a slow memory core clock speed can result in a game being unplayable, but the core clock speed is responsible for most of the performance.
If you compare identical 1:1 graphics cards, increasing the core clock speed will provide more performance compared to increasing the memory clock speed. But one cannot have one without the other, the memory clock speed is dependant on the core clock speed and vice versa.
Does Boost Clock Speed Matter?
When buying a graphics card, you’ve probably noticed the base core clock speed and the boost clock speed. The boost clock speed refers to an automatic process where the graphics card boosts the clock speed to the rated boost clock speed. Sometimes you may actually reach higher than the rated boost clock speed, but you’re guaranteed at least what is said on the box.
With some graphics cards, you can expect up to a 400MHz in boost, this can make a massive difference in games. Graphics cards such as the RTX 3080 which has a base core clock speed of 1.44GHz can reach a boost clock speed of up to 1.9GHz.
Usually, the boost core clock speed depends on a few factors, the temperature/airflow, and the quality of the chip. If the temperatures inside the case are too high, then the boost might not be as high as expected, heat will throttle the graphics card. And not all GPUs are made the same, some graphics cards will perform slightly better.
In conclusion, the clock speed of a graphics card is one of the most important metrics to watch out for, we recommend always purchasing a graphics card that has decent boost clock speeds so you get the most out of gaming.
The core clock speed makes the most difference in gaming, this is because it scales linearly with the FPS, so overclocking the core clock can result in noticeable differences when gaming. The boost clock speed is like a turbo boost for the graphics card, and it activates whenever there is a heavy load.
The memory clock speed refers to how fast the VRAM can send and receive data from the GPU processor. Slower VRAM speeds can result in instability issues which can make a game unplayable. Overclocking the VRAM allows for the memory to send and receive information much quicker allowing for you to play at higher resolutions easier.