Articles: Graphics

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Power Consumption, Heat Dissipation, Noise, Overclockability

The Palit GeForce 9800 GTX+ cards both have a 55nm G92b core, so we can see the benefits of the thinner manufacturing process. We measured the power consumption of the graphics cards on the following testbed:

  • AMD Athlon 64 FX-55 CPU (2.6GHz)
  • EPoX EP9-NPA+ SLI mainboard (Nvidia nForce4 SLI)
  • PC3200 SDRAM (2x512MB, 200MHz)
  • Western Digital Raptor WD360ADFD HDD (36GB, SATA-150, 16MB buffer)
  • Chieftec ATX-410-212 PSU (410W)
  • Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit
  • Futuremark PCMark05 Build 1.2.0
  • Futuremark 3DMark06 Build 1.1.0

The 3D load was created by means of the first SM3.0/HDR test from 3DMark06 running in a loop at 1600x1200 with 4x FSAA and 16x AF. The Peak 2D mode was emulated by means of the 2D Transparent Windows test from PCMark05. This test is important as it simulates the user’s working with application windows whereas Windows Vista’s Aero interface uses 3D features. Some enthusiasts criticize this interface for loading the graphics card even in 2D mode but there is in fact no difference when DWM is turned off.

Click to enlarge

So, we can see a great improvement over the 65nm version of GeForce 9800 GTX+. The difference is almost 34 watts. The new tech process proves to be advantageous for the end-user. Note that the card with Palit’s own design consumes less power than the card with Nvidia’s reference design. The difference isn’t big, though.

The card with the nonstandard cooler proved to be better than the card with the reference cooler in terms of temperatures. Its GPU temperature was 51°C in idle mode and 58°C under load. The reference cooler kept the GPU temperature at 55°C and 70°C, respectively. The GPU is beyond any danger anyway as it can work even at 90°C without any harm, yet the nonstandard cooler is superior, obviously due to its more advanced heatsink. But what cooler is the quieter of the two?

We measured the cards’ noise with a digital sound-level meter Velleman DVM1326 using A-curve weighing. The level of noise at a distance of 1 meter from the working testbed with a passively cooled graphics card inside was 43dBA. We’ve got the following results:

So, both cards are quite comfortable in terms of noisiness. They are not exactly silent, yet you can hardly hear them because there are a lot of other noise sources in a gaming system such as hard drives, PSU, CPU cooler, and system fans. It is only in a completely silent computer that you will be able to hear the hiss of the fan of the Palit card. This fan is working at its minimum speed almost always because the 55nm G92 generates much less heat than the 65nm version.

We also tried to overclock the cards. The reference-design card managed to speed up from its default 738/1836MHz GPU and 1100 (2200) MHz memory frequencies to 792/1944MHz and 1250 (2500) MHz, respectively. The card with Palit’s own PCB design was stable at 770/1890MHz GPU and 1200 (2400) MHz memory frequencies. Thus, the simplified PCB design and nonstandard power circuit worsened the card’s overclockability despite the more efficient cooling. We benchmarked the reference-design card at the overclocked frequencies. As you can guess, the overclocked card with the unique design would be slower than it, but faster than at the default frequencies.

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