ATI X1900 and X1800 Series Overclocking Guide

Howto by Ahmad @ 2006-05-05

You may think you are experienced, or have overclocked before and therefore may think this guide is of little use to you, but I would have to say that you are incorrect. This guide is for both the experienced and inexperienced overclockers. Some parts may be boring for those experienced in the art and they may skip to the highlights and key points of performing this task.
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The Tools and 2D/3D Mode

The Tools

Unfortunately, because this card is still quite new and because of the way ATI has decided to allow us to mess with their cards, writing an application for overclocking the x1K Radeons correctly is tricky.

As a result of this, there are only two applications currently available: ATITool and what’s known as ATI Overclocker (AO). There are a few others that support clock changes (like Systools, ATI Tray Tools, and a few others), but unfortunately those are useless without AO or ATITool (you will see why once you are done with this tutorial).

There is also a new feature ATI has introduced to overclockers: software voltage adjustments. That’s right folks! There will be no need to hardmod (volt modifications with resistors) your video card to go the extra mile; it can all be done from the comfort of your desktop

Madshrimps (c) VS Madshrimps (c)

Both ATITool and AO do the job, but for this guide I have decided to use ATITool. AO is very easy to use, but it does not support one voltage setting which is very important (VDDCI) and it also lacks temperature monitoring. In addition, AO will relax memory timings when you change the memory frequency, unlike ATITool which keeps them constant. I will quickly highlight the benefits below:

  • More relaxed timings means higher memory frequency
  • A higher memory frequency is good for games (generally)
  • More aggressive timings result in better benchmark numbers (3DMARK)

    This means you won’t go as high with ATITool on the memory as you will with AO, but ATITool will ultimately give you the better benchmark numbers. Once you feel comfortable with ATITool, you may try AO and do your own performance comparisons.

    2D/3D Modes

    This is where ATI has changed things in their “[over]clocking” approach. In the x1K series video cards, ATI has made a differentiation between 2D and 3D modes. What this means is: running in 2D uses different frequencies and voltages on the video card than running in 3D. This was introduced to help lower power consumption while idling (ie. 2D mode). This makes writing an overclocking tool tricky because now the programmer has to account for both settings. Luckily for us, there is a way around this. ATI uses the service it calls “ATI Hotkey Poller” aka “ati2evxx.exe” (perhaps that’s what it started out to be).

    Its main function now, with an x1K card, is to detect a full screen 3D application, and to raise the clocks and voltages up to full speed. For an x1900 the 2D clocks are 500MHz on the core/GPU (graphical processing unit) and 600MHz on the video card’s memory. Voltages are 1.175v and 2.089v respectively (as configured by software). The 3D clocks and voltages for an X1900XT by default are:

  • 625MHz on the core @ 1.425v
  • 750MHz on the RAM @ 2.089v

    The X1900XTX is similar and only varies in the frequencies (650MHz/774MHz) from the X1900XT.

    The table below lists the default GPU and MEMORY speed for the different X1800 and X1900 models, the value is in the last column GPU/MEM.

    Madshrimps (c)
    Screenshot from HWBot Videocard Database

    Now we can eliminate this confusion by shutting down that service (“ATI Hotkey Poller” - ati2evxx.exe) via Task Manager, or we can disable it entirely from inside the Windows Services management (Start > Run > services.msc). Once this service has been shutdown or disabled, the x1K video cards will no longer increase clock speeds and voltages once a 3D application has been detected, and your video card will use the “2D mode” settings you have specified (which translates to 500MHz/600MHz by default). The 2D mode settings will be the settings we will overclock with ATITool (or AO).

    How to use ATITool is up next ->
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    Comment from aqlumen @ 2006/05/10
    After you overclock with with ATI Tool are you still able to play a video?

    I've tried using the method (with different voltages and settings, of course) on my X1800XT but when I push the core above 640, video locks up--whether using WMP or MP Classic.

    None of the reviews I've seen ever mention playing video after all the overclocking. There's an open debate on this over in the Rage3D forums.
    Comment from jmke @ 2006/07/07
    just a warning to always keep an eye on your GPU core temps while overclocking, if it gets too hot, you might cause permenant damage
    Comment from PsyBorg @ 2006/07/07
    I wrote to ATI about some Crossfire difficulties I was having, and they suggested that the problem was I had dual 12V rails. They told me that I needed to have a single 12V rail with over 25A. I have a total of 36A over the dual 12V, so would I have to combine the rails, or would a single work? Also, I can't find a splitter for the PCI-E Power cord, an 8-Pin Splitter so I CAN use a single rail. Any suggestions?
    Comment from Gamer @ 2006/07/07
    I needed to upgrade a 550watt high power supply to get these cards to work overclocked.
    I also had 36Amps ( I think) on the 12 volt rail, but it didn't work.
    A Zippy 700 did the trick.

    upgrade your PSU.
    Comment from PsyBorg @ 2006/07/07
    I've got an Enermax Liberty 620W. It should be working fine with Dual 12V/22A for a total of 432W/36A
    Comment from Gamer @ 2006/07/07
    yonah setup with Crossfire needs 500watt to opererate in non overclocked state, has been tested here.
    Comment from PsyBorg @ 2006/07/07
    its a 620 Watt PSU minimum power, with a max of 700W. I meant that exclusively over the 12V Rails there is 432 Watts availible. Here's the stats:
    Comment from jmke @ 2006/07/07
    single 12v maxxed out at 22A, simply not enough
    Comment from PsyBorg @ 2006/07/07
    Is there a way to combine the rails? Or do I have to get a new PSU?
    Comment from jmke @ 2006/07/07
    no I don't think you can combine them unfortunately
    Comment from PsyBorg @ 2006/07/07
    Can you suggest a PSU that would work? I need at least 600W. -_- that PSU was new too...
    Comment from jmke @ 2006/07/07
    Originally posted by Gamer

    A Zippy 700 did the trick.
    and Silverstone 700 also worked fine in tests; there are also high rated PC Power&Cooling models available...

    as long as it has 30A+ on a single 12v line
    Comment from Carni4 @ 2006/07/24
    Nice guide.

    I was putting a rig together for a friend of mine (he fried his old P4 setup ) with a x1900xt card and an amd s939 3700+/4000+, 2gb pc4000 ram, 1 sataII HD.

    We were thinking of an Antec Performance TX1050B case which has a Smartpower 500W PSU.

    Will this be enough for stock speeds? No OC. Website says it only has 17A @ 12V line...

    My guess is it wont work...
    Comment from piotke @ 2006/07/24
    Will work.
    Comment from jmke @ 2006/07/24
    will work, but not much for extra hardware
    Comment from Rutar @ 2006/07/24
    it has two 12V rails and 500W total, that should be enough for non CF/SLI systems