Articles: Cooling

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Testbed and Methods

The tests were performed in a closed system case. Our testbed was configured as follows:

The graphics card is equipped with a reference cooler featuring a plastic casing, aluminum heatsink and a PWM fan:


We thought that 1 GHz GPU frequency wouldn’t be enough to properly test the cooling efficiency of our testing participants, therefore, we overclocked our graphics card to 1.1 GHz without adjusting its voltage in any way:

The testing programs were installed under Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1. We used DirectX End-User Runtimes libraries (from November 2010), as well as AMD Catalyst 12.3 graphics card drivers. We used five runs of Aliens vs. Predator game in 2560x1600 resolution and with maximum image quality settings, 16x anisotropic filtering but without antialiasing, which should allow to load the GPU heavier:

With the settings we used this test loads even a powerful graphics accelerator very heavily, but can’t damage it, which could be the case with FurMark (that is why we decided not to use this benchmark fully in our test session).

We used MSI Afterburner utility version 2.2.0 Beta 15 to monitor graphics card temperatures and frequencies and GPU-Z version 0.6.0 utility:

The tests were run at least twice. The temperature stabilization period between the two test cycles was about 10-12 minutes. The ambient temperature was checked next to the system case with an electronic thermometer with 0.1°C precision that allows monitoring the temperature changes over the past 6 hours. During our test session room temperature stayed around 25.5-25.6°C. We used our in-house controller to adjust the rotation speed of the fans. The reference cooler on the AMD graphics card featured a PWM-controlled fan, which allowed adjusting its rotation speed automatically.

The noise level of each cooler was measured between 1:00 and 3:00 AM in a closed room about 20 m2 big using CENTER-321 electronic noise meter. The noise level for each cooler was tested outside the system case when the only noise sources in the lab were the cooler and its fan. The noise meter was installed on a tripod and was always at a 150 mm distance from the cooler fan rotor. The tested cooling systems were placed at the edge of the desk on a sheet of polyurethane foam. The lowest noise reading our noise meter device can register is 29.8 dBA and the subjectively comfortable noise level in these testing conditions was around 36 dBA (do not mix it up with low noise level).

Now let’s check out the results of our tests.

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