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Power Consumption, Temperature, Noise

Nvidia claims in its marketing materials that the GeForce GTX 580 features higher energy efficiency compared to its predecessor and also had a lower TDP. Of course, we need to check this out in practice. So we took our sample of the card and measured its power draw on our standard testbed configured like follows:

  • Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 CPU (3GHz, 1333 MHz FSB x 9, LGA775)
  • DFI LANParty UT ICFX3200-T2R/G mainboard (ATI CrossFire Xpress 3200 chipset)
  • PC2-1066 SDRAM (2x2 GB, 1066MHz)
  • Enermax Liberty ELT620AWT PSU (620W)
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate 7 64-bit
  • CyberLink PowerDVD 9 Ultra/"Serenity" BD (1080p VC-1, 20 Mbit)
  • Crysis Warhead
  • OCCT Perestroika 3.1.0

The new testbed for measuring electric characteristics of graphics cards uses a card designed by one of our engineers, Oleg Artamonov, and described in his article called PC Power Consumption: How Many Watts Do We Need?. As usual, we used the following benchmarks to load the graphics accelerators:

  • CyberLink PowerDVD 9: FullScreen, hardware acceleration enabled
  • Crysis Warhead: 1600x1200, FSAA 4x, DirectX 10/Enthusiast, "frost" map
  • OCCT Perestroika GPU: 1600x1200, FullScreen, Shader Complexity 8

Except for the maximum load simulation with OCCT, we measured power consumption in each mode for 60 seconds. We limited the run time of OCCT: GPU to 10 seconds to avoid overloading the graphics card's power circuitry. Here are the obtained results:

 

So, the GeForce GTX 580 does not have a lower peak power draw in 3D applications compared to the previous flagship model. Well, we could hardly expect that as the new card has more subunits enabled as well as higher clock rates. However, it is quite impressive that the developers have managed to keep the power consumption of the new card within the limits set by the GeForce GTX 480.

Judging by the load on the individual power lines, we can see that the 8-pin power connector is indeed necessary. Its load may be as high as 13-15 amperes in 3D applications, which is beyond the recommended limit of 150 watts. You can also note the behavior of the card in the OCCT:GPU test as the graph is indicative of the protection mechanism Nvidia implemented in the GeForce GTX 580 to safeguard it against overload in stress tests like OCCT or FurMark which may damage the graphics card by putting it under unrealistically high load. The protection mechanism seems to be something like Intel's Thermal Throttling and makes the GPU skip some clock cycles. This supposition is confirmed by the fact that the fuzzy doughnut in OCCT:GPU was rotating in a jerky manner when we launched that test on our GeForce GTX 580.

The electrical parameters of the GeForce GTX 580 are better than those of its predecessor in the other modes. By the way, the result of 70 watts when playing HD video from a Blu-ray disc is not quite right. As the power consumption graph suggests, the card doesn't drop its clock rates immediately and this peak value is in the first part of the graph. The card's power consumption lowers in the video playback mode down to 30-35 watts after a while.

The GeForce GTX 580 has also become more economical in idle mode even though not as good as the AMD solutions with their PowerPlay technology. On the other hand, the new card from Nvidia looks splendid against the Radeon HD 5970 in this respect.

Nvidia’s new cooling system is very good, too. Despite the increased clock rates and 512 active ALUs, the GPU temperature of the GeForce GTX 580 is never higher than 86°C whereas the GPU of the slower GeForce GTX 480, which has a large heatsink with five heat pipes and direct-contact technology, is as hot as 91°C under the same conditions. The evaporation chamber is obviously more effective while being more compact. The temperature of the new flagship is lower in idle mode, which is due to the improved power management system. All in all, we are quite satisfied with the thermal parameters of the reference GeForce GTX 580 considering that it is a top-of-the-line product.

The high-performance heatsink with evaporation chamber makes the GeForce GTX 580 far more comfortable in terms of noisiness. The card is virtually silent in 2D mode. Our testbed producing a background noise of 38 dBA, we could not hear the sound of the GeForce GTX 580 amidst the noises of the other components such as system fans, PSU fan, HDDs, etc. The card’s fan was rotating at 1300 RPM, according to MSI Afterburner.

Of course, it is next to impossible to make such a premium-class solution absolutely silent as it dissipates over 250 watts of heat. Therefore the fan accelerates when you launch 3D applications, up to 2940 RPM, and the noise level goes higher, too. However, even after running OCCT:GPU for a while, the graphics card remained quite comfortable in terms of noisiness, being but slightly louder than the GeForce GTX 470 and Radeon HD 6870. The reference cooler of the GeForce GTX 480 is far inferior in this respect.

Thus, the GeForce GTX 580 features an excellent combination of electrical, thermal and noise characteristics. The only thing left for us to find out is how well it performs in modern games.

 
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