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Cooling System and Noise Level

The IceQ X cooler is rather simple in design. It has a copper base with nickel-plated heat pipes, an aluminum heatsink and a plastic casing with one fan.

The two central pipes are 8 millimeters in diameter. The two outermost ones are 6 millimeters. The central pipes transfer heat to the edges of the heatsink while the other pipes work its middle.

This should be effective because the temperature at the fringe of the heatsink is supposed to be lower whereas the heat pipes use direct-touch technology. On the other hand, the IceQ X cooler has only one fan right above the middle of the heatsink, so its air flow first goes to the heatsink's center and only then to its periphery.

There is a small aluminum heatsink installed on the power circuit components. The memory chips are cooled by means of an aluminum plate with thermal pads.

We guess the cooling of the chips will even improve if you take off that plate. The PCB would also get more air for cooling in that case.

The air flow is produced by an 11-blade 92x12mm fan (its impeller is 85 millimeters in diameter).

The fan is ADDA’s AY09212MB20ABA0 model and runs on a dual ball bearing.

The speed of the fan is PWM-regulated within a range of 85o to 3550 RPM. It has a startup voltage of 2.8 volts and a peak power consumption of 2.5 watts.

We checked out the card’s temperature while running Aliens vs. Predator (2010) in five cycles at the highest settings (1920x1080, with 16x anisotropic filtering and 4x full-screen antialiasing). We used MSI Afterburner 2.2.0 Beta 12 and GPU-Z 0.5.8 as monitoring tools. This test was carried out with a closed system case at an ambient temperature of 26°C. We didn’t change the card’s default thermal interface.

Let’s see how efficient HIS’s cooler is with its fans being regulated automatically and at their maximum speed:


Automatic mode

Maximum fan speed

The fan accelerates to 1830 RPM in the automatic mode, the GPU temperature rising to 76°C. At the maximum speed of 3550 RPM the GPU was no hotter than 61°C. That’s a good result for a Cayman chip, even though in a cut-down version. Now, let’s see how noisy the cooler is.

We measured the level of noise using an electronic noise-level meter CENTER-321 in a closed room about 20 sq. meters large. The noise-level meter was set on a tripod at a distance of 15 centimeters from the graphics card which was installed on an open testbed. The mainboard with the graphics card was placed at an edge of a desk on a foam-rubber tray.

The bottom limit of our noise-level meter 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 card’s fans was being adjusted by means of a controller that changed the supply voltage in steps of 0.5 V. We’ve included the results of the Sapphire Radeon HD 6870 Dirt 3 Edition and the Sapphire Radeon HD 6970 Dual Fan into the next diagram. Here are the results (the vertical dotted lines indicate the top speed of the fans in automatic regulation mode):

Alas, we can’t say that the HIS Radeon HD 6930 IceQ X is quiet because its fan is never below the comfortable level of 36 dBA, even at the minimum speed of 850 RPM. Perhaps we were unlucky to get a defective sample, but the fan of our card was rumbling and roaring at any speed. The beating of its misbalanced impeller added to its sound at low speeds. So, even though the HIS IceQ X works at a lower speed than the coolers of both Sapphire cards in automatic mode, the latter are much quieter and more comfortable for the user.

On the other hand, the reference coolers of Radeon HD 6950 and 6970 cards are even louder, so the IceQ X is quite a good alternative to them.

Overclockability

Although the HIS card is in fact based on a defective Cypress chip, its overclocking potential proved to be high. Our sample was stable at a GPU clock rate of 920 MHz (+22.7% to the default value) and a memory clock rate of 5720 MHz (+36.2%).

The reference Radeon HD 6970 works at 880/5500 MHz and our sample of the HIS card could beat these frequencies. We'll see soon if it will be able to deliver higher performance in tests. Let's take a look at the temperature of the overclocked card:

The peak GPU temperature grew by 4°C whereas the fan accelerated by 100 RPM, reaching 1930 RPM. That’s a very good result.

Power Consumption

We measured the power consumption of computer systems with different graphics cards using a multifunctional panel Zalman ZM-MFC3 which can report how much power a computer (the monitor not included) draws from a wall socket. There were two test modes: 2D (editing documents in Microsoft Word and web surfing) and 3D (the benchmark from Metro 2033: The Last Refuge at 1920x1080 with maximum settings). Here are the results:

 

The systems with different AMD-based graphics cards are very close to each other in power consumption. For example, the Radeon HD 6930 configuration needs only 20 watts less than the HD 6970 configuration whereas the system with the least advanced Radeon HD 6870 needs a mere 15 watts less. Notwithstanding the six-core CPU, each configuration can be powered by a 500-watt PSU.

7970. Well, this difference can hardly be noticed in your electricity bill anyway.

 
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