Articles: Graphics

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Power Consumption, Heat Dissipation, Noise, Overclockability

We measured the power consumption of the 55nm GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 graphics card on the following testbed to see if it is more economical than the older 65nm version:

  • Intel Pentium 4 560 CPU (3.6GHz, LGA775)
  • DFI LANParty UT ICFX3200-T2R/G mainboard (ATI CrossFire Xpress 3200 chipset)
  • PC2-5300 SDRAM (2x512MB, 667MHz)
  • Western Digital Raptor WD360ADFD HDD (36GB)
  • Chieftec ATX-410-212 PSU (410W)
  • Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate SP1 32-bit
  • Futuremark PCMark05 Build 1.2.0
  • Futuremark 3DMark06 Build 1.1.0

The 3D load was created by means of the first SM3.0/HDR test from 3DMark06 running in a loop at 1600x1200 with 4x FSAA and 16x AF. The Peak 2D mode was emulated by means of the 2D Transparent Windows test from PCMark05. This test is important as it simulates the user’s working with application windows whereas Windows Vista’s Aero interface uses 3D features.

Click to enlarge

The G200 chip and the GeForce GTX 260 card have become more economical thanks to the 55nm tech process. The difference is small in idle mode, but the card’s power draw in 3D mode is only 34 watts. Thus, G200b-based solutions have surpassed the Radeon HD 4870 1GB in this respect. ATI should think about ways to improve the power efficiency of its products, especially dual-core ones.

The load is distributed unequally between the two external power connectors of the new version of the GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 as opposed to the older version that uses the PCB design and power circuit developed for the GeForce GTX 280. The connector that is nearer to the end of the card is loaded by 10-13 watts more. Anyway, this is no reason to worry because the load is far lower than the permissible 75W.

The 55nm version of the GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 has the same frequencies as the 65nm version: 576MHz for the main GPU domain and 1240MHz for the shader domain. The EVGA GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 Superclocked card is pre-overclocked by the manufacturer to 625/1350MHz but we decided to overclock the card more to check out the frequency potential of the G200 chip after its transition to 55nm tech process. Without any special means (such as volt-modding or replacement of the cooler), we achieved frequencies of 715/1541MHz for the graphics core and 1150 (2300) MHz for the memory chips. That’s not bad for a 1.4-billion-transistor chip, especially as our 65nm version of the GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 could only overclocked to 650/1400MHz. The frequency gain is 10%, which may make the card competitive to the GeForce GTX 280 that has 240 ALUs, 80 TMUs and 32 RBEs against 216, 72 and 28 such subunits of the GeForce GTX 260 Core 216.

We monitored the graphics card’s frequency with RivaTuner:

The 55nm and 65nm versions have the same GPU temperature at the same frequencies. This must be due to the simplified cooler of the former card. Anyway, when we overclocked the EVGA card more, the top GPU temperature was not higher than that of the GeForce GTX 280. Note that every GeForce GTX 200 card automatically lowers the GPU clock rates to 300/600MHz and the memory frequency to 100 (200) MHz in 2D mode to keep the temperature and noise lower.

Although the EVGA card’s cooler is somewhat different, it produces the same amount of noise as the reference GeForce GTX 280 cooler. This is also due to the rather high level of noise from our testbed at large (43dBA with a passively cooled graphics card inside). Anyway, Nvidia’s cooler is still one of the best in the industry, combining high cooling performance with low noise. It is not exactly silent, but the hissing of its airflow is not irritating at all.

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