In the six months that have passed since out last study of power consumption of graphics cards Nvidia has released a series of products that have established it as the manufacturer of the most power-economical desktop GPUs as well as the provider of GPUs with the most appealing performance-per-watt ratio (if you put aside the quad-SLI system :)).
If you compare competing graphics cards on ATI’s Radeon and Nvidia’s GeForce GPUs, you will nearly always find that the latter consume less power than the former. If you are looking for the most economical graphics card with all modern features supported, then the GeForce 7300 GS consuming only 16W of power is a remarkable solution.
The power consumption factor is most important when it comes to top-end expensive products because an upgrade to the level of GeForce 7900 or Radeon X1800/X1900 may call for the purchase of a new power supply, making you spend even more money. With typical mainstream and entry-level graphics cards it doesn’t matter much that this card consumes a little more than that one: they all have a very modest power draw, and a good 250-300W power supply will suffice to use any of them.
Silence-oriented systems, like Home Theater Personal Computers (HTPCs) make an exception. Another exception is poorly balanced systems from computer manufacturers who install power-hungry dual-core CPUs into small system cases and have to pick up the rest of the components with as low power consumption as possible.
While it’s all clear with power consumption, Nvidia’s cooling systems call for improvement in more cases than one.
If you value silence, the GeForce 7900 GTX is the most appealing choice. It is very quiet and remains such nearly always. The Radeon X1800/X1900 cards and the GeForce 7950 GX2 are less appealing in this respect as they speed up their blowers to high speeds in 3D mode. However, since no hardcore gamer has his system running full-power 24/7, and uses it for 2-3 hours a day only, then the noise level may not be the top priority criterion.
The GeForce 7900 GT with a cooler of Nvidia’s design is the least comfortable to use graphics card today. Although its power draw is considerably lower than that of the Radeon X1900 GT, the latter is much quieter, especially when working in Windows 2D applications.
The standard fan of the GeForce 7600 GT is louder than the fan of its main opponent Radeon X1800 GTO.
As for the mainstream and value graphics accelerators, it all depends on the manufacturer’s desire to equip his product with a passive cooling solution, or to save some money by installing something louder and cheaper. Therefore, we would refrain from making any conclusions in this case.