What is the Core Clock Speed of a Graphics Card?

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What is Core Clock

Sometimes, the best way to explain things is in relation with other things. To explain what the core clock of a GPU is, it’s been helpful for us to distinguish it from boost clock and memory clock. Graphics cards (or more specifically GPUs) have different clock speeds that affect performance. If the work you like to do involves graphically intensive tasks, the GPU clock speed is one of the most important specs to look for when choosing a laptop or graphics card. In this article, we’ll discuss the difference between GPU core clock speed, GPU memory clock speed and a GPU’s boost speed.

Core Clock Speed

Measured in MHz (megahertz), a GPU’s core clock speed is the optimal speed set by the manufacturer at which visual data is processed. The set core clock speed takes into account factors like thermal headroom and cooling. It affects how many FPS (frames per second) at which you can play games.

A higher core clock speed, however, provides better frame rates so you can play games on higher settings (think fast-twitch AAA titles).

Memory Clock Speed

Memory clock speed is important for image quality and resolution – it essentially affects how fast graphics are displayed on a computer screen. This becomes extremely important for activities like gaming. If the GPU doesn’t have enough memory, the graphics on the screen will be choppy or laggy.

Memory clock speed measures how fast the GPU’s memory can read and write data. It also affects the game’s resolution and textures (and of course the FPS) – a higher speed is necessary for the smoothest performance.

Boost Clock Speed

If you’re going to boost the core clock speed of a GPU, remember to balance the memory clock speed to maintain high image quality.

Higher clocks allow for a higher level of performance. And a higher clock speed makes all the difference in the world for graphically intense games and programs. A GPU’s boost clock is a reference to how fast the GPU can go above its core clock speed with sufficient cooling – this determines whether you get more FPS at any given time on average compared to just the core speed.


The core clock speed can be increased in one of two ways: 1) by adding more graphics cards to your system, or 2) by overclocking the existing graphics card.

Overclocking the graphics card allows an increase to both the core clock and memory clock speeds. Therefore, boost clock speed is the speed of a GPU obtained after overclocking.

But overclocking a GPU may not be worth it in the long run since for each percentage point gained through overclocking means roughly a doubling in system power consumption levels. And higher power consumptions levels increase cooling demands. All of which could end up shortening the lifespan of the graphics card.

Many gamers like an overclocked GPU for the more seamless visual gaming experience it delivers. Overclocking works by providing additional voltage to the GPU. And although there is a limit to how much you can increase and decrease the voltage going to the GPU. Incremental tweaks make for some big gains.

Theoretically, if you can keep your gaming machine cool enough, you can reach speeds higher than the suggested boost clock speed.

Although challenging, overclocking a GPU is straightforward using third-party utilities, like MSI Afterburner. But before you do anything, make sure to research the GPU model you own to avoid any catastrophes (overclocking is not recommended for beginners).

The Graphics Card and GPU

While we’re also guilty of using the terms GPU and graphics card (video card) interchangeably, there is a subtle difference. A graphics card is an add-in board containing a GPU much in the same way a motherboard contains a CPU.

This board (the graphics card) includes a raft of components helping the GPU both function and connect to the rest of the system. There are two basic types of GPUs: integrated and dedicated.


An integrated GPU doesn’t come with its own card. Rather, it’s embedded with the CPU, sharing system resource like RAM. The GPU in most laptops is integrated, which allows for a thinner lighter portable computer, reduced power consumption and lower system costs.


A dedicated GPU is a distinct chip mounted on its own circuit board and is typically attached to a PCI Express slot. While many applications can run strong with integrated GPUs. Resource heavy applications with extensive performance demands require dedicated graphics.


Although best known for their capabilities in gaming. The GPU (graphics processing unit) is used in a wide range of applications, including graphics and video rendering.

GPUs were originally designed to accelerate the rendering of 3D graphics. As applications for the GPU broadened, it came to complement the CPU (central processing unit).

CPUs have grown to deliver performance increases through architectural developments, faster clock speeds, and most recently the addition of cores. All geared toward the processing of data within a computer system

GPUs on the other hand, have a special focus on the acceleration of computer graphics workloads. And all innovations are in service of that singular activity.

Some of the best graphics cards for gaming are from NVIDIA and AMD.

In Closing

GPUs have evolved to deliver benefits in the world of computing with new possibilities in gaming, content creation, and even machine learning. Core, memory and boost clock speeds are all indicators of the speed range of a GPU. Higher speeds equal better performance. If you’re a gamer, you understand the importance of a good hardware setup for the best gaming experience.

For any visually intensive task, you’re going to want a fast GPU. To get better performance, some users opt for overclocking the GPU. GPUs can be integrated with the CPU on a motherboard or dedicated on a graphics card with its own resources. Most modern GPUs have a silent core clock speed. But an overclocked GPU will produce more heat and noise.