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Power Consumption, Temperature, Noise and Overclocking

Since we got our hands on a graphics card based on the new Nvidia GPU, we couldn’t help checking out GF104 power consumption. So, we performed a series of corresponding tests using our standard platform:

  • 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 limit the run time of OCCT: GPU to 10 seconds to avoid overloading the graphics card's power circuitry. In this test the clock frequencies of our Gainward GeForce GTX 460 GS GLH were lowered to the reference values: 675/1350 MHz for the chip and 900 (3600) MHz for the memory. Here are the obtained results:

We had no doubt the new GPU would be much better than the GF100 in terms of power consumption. The difference between the GeForce GTX 460 and 465 is huge. Interestingly, the GeForce GTX 460 switches into the power-saving mode when playing HD video sooner than its senior cousins. Its power consumption is high for only a couple of seconds and then the card drops its GPU voltage and frequencies, lowering the load on the PCI Express slot and the farther power connector. As a result, the average power draw in this mode is a mere 20 watts or far below the peak level. The second power connector, located near the PCB edge, is always more loaded than the other one, but the load is never higher than 75 watts, which is the recommended maximum for a 6-pin PCIe 1.0 connector.

The new card looks good compared to the other GeForce series products as well as to the AMD solutions. It cannot match the Radeon HD 5770, of course, and is inferior to the junior RV870-based solutions in 3D mode, yet its result of 141 watts is much better than the GeForce GTX 465’s 224 watts! Thus, the GF104 is indeed an economical solution that looks competitive to the AMD products in terms of power draw. But you should keep it in mind that this GeForce GTX 460 card features a unique PCB design and power system, so the reference card from Nvidia may behave differently.

The Gainward card being equipped with a nonstandard cooler, you shouldn’t extrapolate its results in terms of GPU temperature to every other GeForce GTX 460. Still, we can note that the Gainward GeForce GTX 460 GS GLH has an efficient cooler that keeps the GPU temperature below 72°C despite the hot weather and the pre-overclocked frequencies. This is an excellent result but we can’t guarantee that the reference card is going to be that good in that respect, too. And like with every cooling system of similar design, you should make sure your system case is properly ventilated. Even though the GF104 is not as hot as its senior cousin, it is hot enough to overheat in a cramped and stuffy computer.

For the same reason we cannot extrapolate the noise characteristics of Gainward’s version of the GeForce GTX 460 to the reference sample. The ambient noise being 36 dBA, the noise at a distance of 1 meter from our testbed with the Gainward card inside was only 41.7 dBA. This is an excellent result. In fact, the card’s cooler is quieter than the GeForce GTX 275’s reference cooler which is considered among the quietest. The card’s noise is a whisper of the air passing through the heatsink. Other coolers of similar design usually produce the same sound. The card is not irritating to the ear even during long gaming sessions. We must also note that, despite the hot weather, the card did not increase its noise under load and was equally quiet in both 2D and 3D applications.

We were not successful in our overclocking attempts. Although we increased the memory frequency to 1025 (4100) MHz, the graphics processor, pre-overclocked to 800/1600 MHz by Gainward, refused to speed up any further. So, we decided to benchmark the card at the frequencies of the reference sample from Nvidia as well as at its own default frequencies.

 
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