AMD’s Downclocking Issue Explained

By | February 6, 2016

Many AMD end users have expressed frustration at their graphics cards’ core clock “downclocking” below its maximum clock rate while playing games. This shift in clock speed is also often matched with a decrease in frame rate. As a result, many users believe that the reduction in clock speed is the reason for the low frame rate, and become upset.

AMD’s Powertune is a power saving technology that dynamically adjusts the clock rate of the graphics cores as needed, in order to only consume as much power as needed. This way power consumption is lower, meaning less heat is generated, and ultimately means fans don’t need to run as fast, which allows for a silent gaming experience when playing less graphically intensive games such as League of Legends, that don’t stress the GPU.

When an application is met by a bottleneck such as the processor, I/O, or RAM, or an artificial limit such as V-Sync or a FPS cap is hit, the GPU will downclock, as it is not needed 100%, due to waiting for other operations to complete. Most of the time, FPS drops are caused by CPU bottlenecks; however, because the reduced clock speed occurs at the same time(as a result of the bottleneck), it can be very misleading, and cause users to believe the fps drops are caused by the GPU downclocking.



When playing Tera Online, an MMORPG that is frequently bottlenecked by the CPU due to poor optimization, my r9 380x downclocks between 500 and 900 mhz throughout gameplay


Of course, that doesn’t mean the downclocking is perfect and working as intended. AMD’s Powertune might be downclocking too aggressively, resulting in reduced performance in games or even stuttering, which creates a negative experience. Hopefully AMD will release a driver update or a statement addressing the situation.

In the meantime, you can use a third party utility called ‘clockblocker’ that allows you to lock the core clock of your graphics card to its maximum intended speed. We have not tested this application and cannot guarantee it’s functionality, however most users have reported positive results. Using this application is very similar to disabling core parking in the CPU, as you’re effectively disabling a power saving feature in order to be ensure maximum possible performance.

3 thoughts on “AMD’s Downclocking Issue Explained

  1. Matt

    You’re explaining a completely separate issue from the one people are complaining about.

    This is the problem:
    With Catalyst drivers a game with VSYNC OFF runs at a stable 100-120 FPS. GPU clock and usage is rock solid at 100% because 100-120 is all the GPU can provide.

    With Crimson drivers and the exact same hardware – the same game will constantly fluctuate down to sometimes as low as 40-50FPS. That’s because the GPU clock/usage looks like a seismograph.

    There is no bottlenecking problem. Going back to catalyst instantly fixes the problem as does clockblocker which keeps the gpu clock at 100% like how it used to be on catalyst. The issue is AMD’s driver, not external limiting factors.

    1. dfdf

      What’s wrong with 50fps? that’s your target not your bottom end.

      also. DUH, fram limiting has been around forever.

      1. Matt

        Maybe if you’re living in 2010 or play games on a playstation…

        144hz displays exist for a reason. There is a massive difference between 50fps and 75-144fps. Not to mention depending on the hardware and game, massive fluctuations like this could constantly be throwing people in and out of freesync range for their displays which actually makes the whole experience even worse.

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