We measured the level of noise using an electronic noise-level meter CENTER-321 in a closed and quiet room about 20 sq. meters large. The noise measurements were taken outside the system case, when the only noise source was the cooling system and its fans. The noise-level meter was set on a tripod at a distance of 15 centimeters from the graphics card cooler fan rotor. The mainboard with the graphics card was placed at the edge of a desk on a foam-rubber tray. The bottom limit of our noise-level metering device 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 cards’ fans was changed with the help of a special controller supporting 0.5 V voltage adjustment increments.
For comparison purposes we included the noise measurements of a reference AMD Radeon HD 7970 and of one of the quietest graphics cards of this class – Sapphire Radeon HD 7970 OC Dual-X. The vertical lines on the graph indicate the fan rotation speed range for automatic mode during our temperature tests for default coolers before we replaced the thermal interface with ARCTIC MX-4. Let’s see which graphics card of the three turned out the quietest:
First of all, it must be noted that every card with original cooler is quieter in this test than the reference AMD Radeon HD 7970 cooler. That’s good, yet we expected more from the IceQ X2 and IceQ. The fans of the top-end HIS cards work at 1620 RPM even in idle mode, which is already above the subjectively comfortable level. Even though the HIS 7970 IceQ X² GHz Edition and HIS 7950 IceQ X² Boost Clock are barely audible inside a computer case in 2D mode, we can’t call them silent. And there’s no silence and comfort at all when these cards accelerate their fans to 2650 RPM in 3D mode.
The automatic regulation range of the cooler installed on the HIS 7850 IceQ Turbo X lies lower compared to the IceQ X2, yet that cooler isn’t silent in 3D mode, either. Its fan rattles quietly even at low speeds, making itself always audible. This problem was observed with each of our two samples of the HIS 7850 IceQ Turbo X, so it must be peculiar to the entire series. Compared to the HIS coolers, the Sapphire Radeon HD 7970 OC Dual-X sounds softer and provides more acoustic comfort. HIS is yet to find the balance between fan speed and temperature or change its fan supplier.
We measured the power consumption of our testbed equipped with different graphics cards using a multifunctional Zalman ZM-MFC3 panel which can report how much power a computer (without the monitor) draws from a wall outlet. There were two test modes: 2D (editing documents in Microsoft Word or web surfing) and 3D (three runs of the Metro 2033: The Last Refuge benchmark at 2560x1440 with maximum image quality settings, but without antialiasing).
Besides the today’s testing participants and a CoressFireX configuration with two HIS 7850 IceQ Turbo X graphics cards, we also added the results of our power consumption tests for for ASUS GeForce GTX 660 Ti DirectCU II TOP. Let’ see what we got:
There’s nothing extraordinary about these numbers. The configuration with one Radeon HD 7850 is the most economical, consuming a little more than 360 watts at peak load. The system with an overclocked GeForce GTX 680 is second best. The difference between the two top-end cards from HIS is about 20 watts. The CrossFireX configuration built out of two HIS 7850 IceQ Turbo X cards consumes 100 watts more than the system with only one such device. Every configuration needs about the same amount of power in idle mode, so we want to single out the CrossFireX tandem in which the second card is simply turned off in 2D mode. A high-quality 550-watt PSU would be quite sufficient for every PC configuration covered in this test.