Reference Graphic Card vs Non-Reference Graphic Card – ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW

Reference-Graphic-Card-vs-Non-Reference-Graphic-Card-ALL-YOU-NEED-TO-KNOW

Reference Graphic Card vs Non-Reference Graphic Card – ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW

Before we get into the term Reference Graphic Card vs Non-Reference Graphic Card, we will first understand the difference between Technology Partners and Manufacturing Partners. Technology Partners are the one who invent technology. Some examples of technology partners are Nvidia and ATI Technologies (AMD) whose focus is to research and develop technologies.
Manufacturing partners are those who purchase these technologies and delivers products. ASUS, Zebronics, XFX are some examples of manufacturing partners. Lets take up an example to understand clear way. Nvidia and ATI develop technologies(graphic cards with technology like PhysX, Eyefinity, TXAA, CUDA etc) and sell to manufacturing partners who manufacture the graphic card itself.

Reference Graphic Card vs Non-Reference Graphic Card

Reference Graphic Cards are those manufactured which strictly comply the specifications of the technology partners. The specifications include the architecture, chipset, GPU, memory, cooling system, design, and even the minor components used in building the graphic cards. GeForce GTX TITAN and GeForce GTX TITAN Z from Nvidia are examples of reference graphic cards. Even these graphic cards are manufactured by manufacturing partners, but with the specifications that comply to technology partners.

Non-Reference Graphic Card are those graphic cards which are modified version of the reference graphic cards. The manufacturing partners make changes (to reference graphic cards) to the design, cooling system, PCB design etc and sell them in the market as non-reference graphic cards. The usual changes in non-reference cards include changes in physical design(size) and cooling system (Fan Sink or Liquid Cooling System) to improve the overall performance of the graphic cards.

Advantages and Disadvantages

It is always the performance which decides whether a graphic card is performing well or not. Sometimes reference graphic cards delivers higher performance and sometimes non-reference graphic deliver higher performance. We can come up with the final answer only by comparing the benchmarks of the graphic cards. Usually reference graphic cards are believed to be stable in terms of hardware, temperature, drivers etc. The reason is that they are developed in such a way that they consume normal power and deliver their optimal performance. But the non-reference graphic cards are overclocked a little higher than normal clock to deliver their best performance which in turn produces more temperature and heat. So the non-reference graphic cards(not all graphic cards) have much better cooling system.

Availability

Some graphic cards are available in both reference and non-reference model, while some are available only in reference model.

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3 thoughts on “Reference Graphic Card vs Non-Reference Graphic Card – ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW

  1. kris meaney

    If reference cards have better cooling system then why do reference models overheat compared to non-reference models. It seems that reference models, with AMD at least, have only 1 fan while non-reference have 2 fans and so do not overheat like the reference version.

    Reply
    1. admin@280392

      Reference Graphic Cards are those manufactured which strictly comply the specifications of the technology partners. Non-Reference Graphic Card are those graphic cards which are modified version of the reference graphic cards. Manufacturing partners usually overclock the reference graphic cards which requires additional power and of course it dissipates more heat. In order to dissipate the additional heat, manufacturer will improve the cooling system. Cooling systems are improved in many ways. In some cases, manufacturer will add additional fan sink or increase the size of the existing fan sink to drive the additional heat. This make the fan sink to run at higher RPM(in most cases) which increases noise from graphic card. In my view, reference cards are stable with optimal performance and noise, while non-reference cards are over-clocked, gives better performance but with increased noise. I have seen many non-reference ATI cards which are over-clocked to deliver better performance, but with more heat generated. Personally, I own Alienware 17 and I had an option to choose between Nvidia and ATI Radeon when I bought it. I opted for Nvidia because I did not wanted the noise and heat. It is better to read reviews, compare the benchmarks(for performance) to know the pros and cons of the graphic cards.

  2. Mike

    In reality, the only time a reference GPU makes sense is in a small form factor case, like a HTPC, a small cube case, or a steam box, as it blows the heat out the back. Non reference coolers will always perform better then a reference blower assuming you have half decent airflow in your case. That being said, the author is a Alienware user, and Alienware cases are notorious for having very few fan mounts(despite a rather large case), and being on a custom Micro-ATX PCB, meaning they are stuck with reference GPU(s) if they want to SLI/CF.

    Another thing to take note of is non reference designs, like say a windforce, or twin froza GPU’s use higher binned chips(if you believe what they advertise). Meaning chips are divide in what is stable, and unstable at certain voltages. If one line of products are getting the high binned chips, that means one line of product is getting the low binned chips, so not only are you getting a worse cooling solution(which means the RPM of the fan has to be higher, which means it is louder) in a reference design, but you are also getting the chips that didn’t meet the standards of the non reference design PCB.

    The only logical time to pick a reference card over a non reference card, is when heat in the case could be a problem(like a small form factor cases, and the reason for this is the reference design is a blower fan, which exhausts the heat out the comically small area with holes in it in the IO of the card itself.

    Reply

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