Nvidia likes to say its GeForce GTX 900M series GPU is the most advanced graphics card for notebooks, but the company's still not sure about overclocking it.
Earlier in February, Nvidia removed the ability to overclock the mobile GPU in a driver update--a move that upset hardcore gamers. Now, it has reversed the decision. On Thursday, Nvidia said the ability to overclock would come back to the GTX 900M series via a driver update in March.
The impact on you at home: Nvidia's reversal is good news for anyone who likes to push their GTX 900M-enabled gaming laptop to the limits and crank up gaming frame rates from ho-hum to "buttery smooth and beyond." It's also a smart move for Nvidia from a PR perspective considering the GTX 970 debacle from just a few weeks ago. The 970 and 900M issues aren't directly related, but both are examples of company-created problems that disappointed Nvidia's user base.
With the 900M series overclock, Nvidia was understandably concerned about laptop owners dealing with melted keyboards or burned out motherboards if they pushed GPU limits too far. But truthfully, any gamer dabbling in the dark arts of overclocking should understand it involves at least some risk to the health of their PC.
What is overclocking?
Overclocking is a way to boost the performance of your graphics card by pushing it beyond officially sanctioned clock speeds. That may sound like a dicey endeavor, but modern desktop graphics cards are made to throttle performance back when they approach unsafe temperatures, making overclocking much safer than it was a decade ago.
But laptops are another matter. One of the keys to overclocking is making sure that your system doesn't get too hot. That's easier to do inside a spacious desktop PC where you can install custom cooling setups. Notebooks, however, are more problematic since components are carefully packed into a confined space where every inch counts and cooling systems must be carefully planned out.
In fact, Nvidia says the ability to overclock its notebook GPUs was a bug that it never intended to allow due to the constraints of laptop designs.
"Overclocking is by no means a trivial feature, and depends on thoughtful design of thermal, electrical, and other considerations," an Nvidia customer care representative said in an Nvidia support forum post earlier in February. "By overclocking a notebook, a user risks serious damage to the system that could result in non-functional systems, reduced notebook life, or many other effects...Our intent was not to remove features from GeForce notebooks, but rather to safeguard systems from operating outside design limits."
What a difference a few weeks makes. On Thursday, another Nvidia rep. on the same topic thread said the overclocking feature--no longer classified as a bug--was coming back.
Nvidia plans to add overclocking in its driver update release for March. Anyone who can't wait that long can roll back to driver version 344.75, which will restore the mobile GPU's overclocking glory immediately.