Overclocking and Performance
EVGA didn’t just build a gaming notebook, they built an enthusiast notebook as well. Along with the high end performance specifications, the SC17 includes everything you need to overclock your system, starting with the 6820HK Skylake processor. To compliment it is a UEFI implementation that matches the features and capabilities of EVGA’s own motherboards.
Though I am only showing you a couple of screenshots from the BIOS, the user has complete control over voltages, timings, multipliers and more. It supports full mouse and touchpad capability as well, making it easy to navigate. If you want, you could absolutely overclock through this interface.
But using the new EVGA Precision X Mobile software is likely the best route. This single application allows you to control both the processor and the GPU settings, giving you complete control over the important parts of your system’s performance in one place. You can go full manual control or take advantage of the presets that EVGA has built-in that include automatic “super clock” mode to jump up the CPU and GPU frequencies.
By hitting just a single button in the software, or using the keyboard shortcuts on the arrow keys, our processor jumped from 3.2 GHz under a full load to 3.8 GHz! And that is with all eight threads pumping through our POV-Ray rendering benchmark. For the GeForce GTX 980M, EVGA sets the GPU clock offset to +76 MHz and the memory offset to +200 MHz, getting us a solid jump in performance of about 7-9%.
Clearly we know that the EVGA SC17 is going to be a gaming and computing powerhouse with these components at the helm. The Core i7-6820HK is one of the most powerful processors in the mobile space, and it closely matches performance of full sized desktop rigs. The GTX 980M nearly equals the performance of the GTX 970 on the desktop, so we know where our gaming performance should rest, too. Let’s take a look at a couple of benchmarks none the less.
With a score of 1486 PPS (pixels per second) at stock and 1788 PPS with our overclocked settings, the EVGA has impressive performance in both modes. But getting a 20% performance boost from a simple software switch, albeit with some additional noise and power consumption, is a great option for those of you doing work on the go.
Our 3DMark Fire Strike Extreme scores are great, hitting 4375 out of the box, about 500 points below that of a desktop GTX 970. Overclocked with the +76 MHz GPU clock offset and +200 MHz memory clock offset results in a boost to a score of 4682 (4849 graphics score), an improvement of just over 7%.
Now, for our gaming benchmark, we have to talk about the screen resolution. Yes, the SC17 has a 4K screen which would be really hard for the GTX 980M to render anything but the most basic of games at (natively). As a result, both EVGA and I recommend that you run games at 1920×1080 instead – this is a resolution the GTX 980M can address well, and it also maps evenly (1:4) with the screen itself.
I selected a couple of recent titles to demonstrate the power of the system, proving that, with this CPU and this GPU, you can power the best titles at 1080p.
Rise of the Tomb Raider is one of the most impressive looking PC games in the last several months, but the GTX 980M in the SC17 is able to push it at 1920×1080, at Very High settings, with an average frame rate of 54 FPS stock, and it bumps up to 58 FPS or so when overclocked! Maybe more importantly, the minimum frame rate increases from 39 to 46 FPS.
Grand Theft Auto V is another impressive title that is able to run at 55 FPS at 1920×1080 stock, and 59 FPS when we go with the SC17 integrated overclocking tools. The minimum frame rate makes unchanged in this case though.
Here’s an interesting test in light of the hype surrounding VR, I decided to run the SteamVR Performance Test on the EVGA SC17. At stock settings, the resulting score of 5.9 put the system into the “Capable” category, where an upgrade was recommended. Pushing into the overclocked results we got a score of 6, the minimum score to hit Valve’s VR Ready state! Note that, despite the GPU showing as using the Intel HD Graphics 530 in these screenshots, we did force the GTX 980M into running through the test by setting the profile in the NVIDIA Control Panel.
While gaming, there is no getting around the fact that the SC17 can create some noise. With the CPU and GPU both going full tilt, the fans spin up and generate the necessary air flow to keep the chips cool, but at the expense of sound. While it’s definitely there and noticeable, it’s not obnoxious and is more or less what we expect from any high end gaming notebook today. Skin temperatures on the wrist rest of the system were warm but useable, though the area above the keyboard where the hot air was exhausting was definitely hot to the touch.
While overclocked, the fan do spin higher, so you will hear and feel an increase in heat and noise, but that is to be expected as well. One drawback that I noticed in EVGA’s design thus far is that, even in Windows, when overclocked, there was some annoying fan speed stepping you could hear – the fans would jump back and forth between a couple of speeds rather than find a consistent middle ground.
Another note for gamers – GeForce Experience kept recommending the resolution of 2048×1152, a 16:9 resolution that does work for games, but I would recommend you scale back to 1920×1080 just for ease of use and to prevent any potential resolution hiccups with any single title.