Cooling System, Temperatures, Noise and Overclocking
The WindForce 3X cooling system resembles the famous products of the Swiss maker Arctic from its face side, but its reverse side shows that it’s an original solution that combines an evaporation chamber, two 8mm heat pipes, and slim aluminum fins.
The pipes are soldered to the evaporation chamber and press-fitted on the pipes.
Some of the heat is transferred to the external heatsink by the heat pipes but most of it is removed via the fins above the cooler’s copper base.
The whole arrangement is cooled with three 11-blade 73mm fans (the 80x10mm form-factor). They are fixed within a metallic frame and covered with a decorative faceplate.
The fans are manufactured by PowerLogic (the PLD08010S12M model). They run on sleeve bearings.
The maximum speed is specified to be 3000 RPM but we measured it to be 3240 RPM. Each fan is supposed to deliver an air flow of up to 24.45 CFM at up to 27 dBA of noise. The speed of the fans is regulated automatically via pulse-width modulation.
We checked out the card’s temperature while running Aliens vs. Predator (2010) in six cycles at the highest settings (1920x1080, 16x anisotropic filtering and 4x full-screen antialiasing). We used MSI Afterburner 2.2.0 Beta 7 and GPU-Z 0.5.5 as monitoring tools. This test was carried out with a closed system case (you can view its full configuration in the appropriate section of the review) at an ambient temperature of 20.5°C.
Let’s see how well the WindForce 3X cooler does its job.
Maximum fan speed
With its fans regulated automatically, the cooler keeps the CPU temperature as low as 72°C, which is an excellent result for a top-end single-GPU graphics card. The temperature is also no higher than 68°C at the maximum speed of the fans (3240 RPM). What more could we expect from a cooler? Well, perhaps a comfortable level of noise. Let’s check this out, too.
We measured the level of noise using an electronic noise-level meter CENTER-321 in a closed room about 20 sq. meters large. The noise-level meter was set on a tripod at a distance of 15 centimeters from the graphics card which was installed on an open testbed. The mainboard with the graphics card was placed at an edge of a desk on a foam-rubber tray.
The bottom limit of our noise-level meter is 29.8 dBA whereas the subjectively comfortable (not low, but comfortable) level of noise when measured from that distance is about 36 dBA. The speed of the graphics card’s fans was being adjusted by means of a controller that changed the supply voltage in steps of 0.5 V.
For the comparison’s sake, we’ve added the results of AMD’s fastest single-GPU card, the Sapphire Radeon HD 6950 Toxic Edition, into the next diagram:
You can see that the difference in noise is large enough and the Gigabyte product is obviously superior in this respect. The cooler of the Sapphire card doesn’t reach the comfortable limit of noise even when working at the minimum speed and even though it is quieter than the reference Radeon HD 6970’s cooler. As opposed to it, the WindForce 3X cooler of the Gigabyte card is comfortable at speeds up to 1550 RPM, its fans proving to be high quality. We can add that this cooler is installed on some other Gigabyte cards such as the GV-N570OC-13I and GV-R695OC-1GD.
The Gigabyte GeForce GTX 580 SuperOverclock was overclocked back at the factory, so we didn’t expect it to be able to speed up any further. However, the GPU and memory of our sample were stable at 935/1870 and 4860 MHz, respectively.
We carried out our overclockability test at the default voltages. When overclocked, the GPU got hotter by 3°C, reaching 74°C. This is still very low for a GeForce GTX 580.
The speed of the fans increased to 2940 RPM, i.e. almost to the maximum, when the card was overclocked.
Gigabyte offers the exclusive OC Guru tool for setting up each of the card’s parameters.
Besides the standard settings of frequencies and fan speeds, it offers monitoring options and can also change the supply voltage of the GPU and memory chips. It can even calculate the amount of power consumed by the card.
The power consumption calculator didn’t work correctly, though. It would report no more than 100 watts under high loads, which is downright impossible for a GeForce GTX 580.