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Faster, Louder, Higher: Noise Level and Power Consumption of Radeon HD 2900 XT

Traditionally, we measured the level of noise produced by the graphics cards’ coolers with a digital sound-level meter Velleman DVM1326 (0.1dB resolution) using A-curve weighing. At the time of our tests the level of ambient noise in our lab was 36dBA and the level of noise at a distance of 1 meter from a working testbed with a passively cooled graphics card inside was 43dBA.

We got the following results:



As we see, the Radeon HD 2900 XT is not a quiet graphics card to say at least. Even though it may not be as noisy as some other graphics cards, such as Radeon X1800 XL with the first version of the cooler, it is definitely much noisier than the main rival: GeForce 8800 GTX. Moreover, our Radeon HD 2900 XT did not slowed down its fanspeed after speeding it up after high load, which means that the board remains noisy even after high performance cooling becomes unnecessary (e.g., after exiting 3D applications).

Even though the cooling systems seems to be efficient, we are not satisfied with its acoustic levels and working algorithms and hope that AMD will improve them with future driver/BIOS releases.

We also traditionally measured power consumption of the new board using our special testbed with the following configuration:

  • Intel Pentium 4 560 CPU (3.60GHz, 1MB L2);
  • Intel Desktop Board D925XCV mainboard (i925X);
  • PC-4300 DDR2 SDRAM memory (2x512MB);
  • Samsung SpinPoint SP1213C HDD (120GB, Serial ATA-150, 8MB buffer);
  • Microsoft Windows XP Pro SP2, DirectX 9.0c.

The mainboard in this testbed was specially modified: we connected measurement shunts into the power lines of the PCI Express x16 slot and equipped them with connectors to attach measuring instruments. We also added such a shunt to a 2xMolex → PCI Express adapter. The measurements were performed with a Velleman DVM850BL multimeter (0.5% accuracy).

We loaded the GPU by launching the first SM3.0/HDR graphics test from 3DMark06 and running it in a loop at 1600x1200 resolution and with enabled 16x anisotropic filtering. The Peak 2D load was created by means of the 2D Transparent Windows test from Futuremark’s PCMark05 benchmarking suite. The results follow below:



Even though the GeForce 8800 GTX is not a chip that loves to save energy, the Radeon HD 2900 XT consumes even more: 161W is a new record for our lab. In fact, ATI claims that the Radeon HD 2900 XT can consume 215W, which is even more than we got, therefore, a noisy cooling system is not a surprise…

 
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