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Power Consumption and Noise Level

Generally speaking, power consumption of a high-end graphics card is hardly important for a hardcore gamer or performance enthusiast: they all use large computer cases with exceptionally powerful PSUs, a number of hard drives and optical drives, therefore, even noise level of a graphics card’s cooler will hardly be important for them.

The things are a lot different in performance-mainstream, mainstream and entry-level graphics cards worlds. When it comes to affordable add-in-boards we have not only power consumption constraints, but we also have space constraints, as small computer cases may be too small for boards like the Radeon X1950 Pro, not talking about the Radeon X1950/X1900 XT that are heading towards $229 price-point. Therefore, moderate power consumption is something important when it comes to the GeForce 8600 GTS/GT.

As usually, we plugged in the GeForce 8600 GTS into our special testbed equipped with connectors for measuring instruments to check out the new product’s power consumption. Our testbed configuration remained unchanged:

  • Intel Pentium 4 560 CPU (3.60GHz, 1MB L2)
  • Intel Desktop Board D925XCV mainboard (Intel 925X)
  • PC2-4300 DDR2 SDRAM (2x512MB)
  • Samsung SpinPoint SP1213C HDD (120GB, Serial ATA-150, 8MB buffer)
  • Microsoft Windows XP Pro SP2, DirectX 9.0c

The measurements were performed with a Velleman DVM850BL multimeter (0.5% accuracy).

We loaded the GPU by launching the first SM3.0/HDR graphics test from 3DMark06 and running it in a loop at 1600x1200 resolution and with enabled 4x full-screen antialiasing and 16x anisotropic filtering. The Peak 2D load was created by means of the 2D Transparent Windows test from Futuremark’s PCMark05 benchmarking suite.

Power consumption of the Nvidia newcomer seems to be inline with that of the GeForce 7900 GS. Even though the GeForce 8600 GTS is made using 80nm process technology and sports 289 million of transistors, whereas the predecessor features 278 million and is produced using 90nm fabrication process, power consumption of the newcomer is a bit higher compared to the ancestor. Still, 47W is definitely not a lot and considering that there are 32 stream processors working at 1.45GHz inside the 8600 GTS, power consumption that is 18W lower compared to the Radeon X1950 Pro may be considered as remarkable.


Click to enlarge

Traditionally, we decided to find out how loud the cooling system of the GeForce 8600 GTS is compared to its rivals. As always, we used digital sound-level meter Velleman DVM1326, which has a resolution of 0.1dB and allows measuring noise level in a range up to 130dB with A or C weighting.

We minimize the influence of external factors by performing the measurements at night and with closed windows; the background noise level is about 36dBA then. The sound-level reading is about 41-42dBA at a distance of 1 meter from the test platform when a graphics card with passive cooling is installed in it (which is an increase from figures measured earlier, as we started to use 1kW power supply unit, which is pretty noisy itself). These are the two reference numbers we base our judgments upon. The noise is measured when the system case is open.

Just like when measuring the maximum currents, we check out three operating modes – Idle, Peak 2D load, and Peak 3D load – which are described in the previous section.


The GeForce 8600 GTS with 47W power consumption hardly requires robust cooling, but unfortunately our Asus EN8600 GTS turned out to be noisier compared to other graphics cards. Even though the board maxes out its cooling fan speed right after the computer starts, it then reduces its speed and even under high load does not rise it up. Still even on moderate speeds the novelty seems noisier compared to its predecessors. So, cooling system of the 8600 GTS is not as good as all coolers employed by Nvidia in the recent years, nevertheless, it cannot be called really noisy too.

 
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