Graphics Cards Guide
Overclocking is a popular way for many computer users to squeeze more performance out of their graphics cards for little or no cost. Unfortunately, for the uninitiated, overclocking might seem like a daunting task. On the other hand, however, the seasoned overclocker might find overclocking tiresome and troublesome, because it requires the user to open specific programs and it can't be done on-the-fly. Why isn't there a faster, pain-free way to tweak my graphics card settings?
Luckily, Zotac thinks they have the answer - the Zotac NITRO OC Controller. An overclocking controller that allows you to tweak your graphics card clock speeds on-the-fly.
Seeing the Zotac NITRO OC Controller for the first time, many of us mistook it for a portable media player, thanks to its large screen. Still some others thought it was a handheld gaming device. It was only until upon further inspection that we realized that what it actually was.
The large display on the NITRO OC Controller displays all the important information you need, such as core, shader and memory clock speeds, as well as fan speeds and temperature. All these can be clearly read, even from a distance.
However, given the large size of the screen, we reckon Zotac could have further improved upon the NITRO OC Controller by having it display the exact temperature and fan speeds. Right now, the temperature and fan speeds readings are represented by a gauge that has no precise readings. When the temperature goes up, you can see gauge rising and turning red, but you have no idea what the actual temperature is. We found this to be rather frustrating and not very useful.
What we loved about the NITRO OC Controller is its ease of use. All you have to do is to hook it up to your computer's USB port, install the drivers, run the FireStorm program, and voilà, you can start your overclocking.
Overclocking your graphics card is equally simple (it only has three buttons, how hard can it be?). The NITRO OC Controller allows you to tweak your graphics card's clock speeds as well as fan speed, and to do that, you navigate your way around the interface by way of the three buttons.
Another thing to note is that the NITRO OC Controller only allows you to adjust your clock speed settings by 5MHz increments. This should be fine for most users, and certainly for us, but for precision freaks, 5MHz might not provide the fine control desired.
In our tests, we found that changes to clock speeds on the NITRO OC Controller are speedily reflected on the graphics card itself with only a few seconds lag, which is acceptable. Sadly, given the fine performance of the NITRO OC Controller, Zotac recommends that users only pair the NITRO with Zotac GeForce series graphics cards.
In summary, the NITRO OC Controller does what it is supposed to do with little hiccups. Overclocking is as easy as they claim, but the readout on the display would really be more helpful if they showed the precise temperature and fan speeds instead. Also, the NITRO OC Controller is undone by its astronomical retail price. At US$99, it is even more costly than some graphics cards. Ultimately, this is really a gamer's luxury accessory.