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Noise Levels and Acoustic Performance

The noise level of each cooler was measured between 1:00 and 3:00 AM in a closed room about 20 m2 big using CENTER-321 electronic noise meter. The noise level for each cooler was tested outside the system case when the only noise sources in the lab were the cooler and its fan. The noise meter was installed on a tripod and was always at a 150 mm distance from the cooler fan rotor. The tested cooling systems were placed at the edge of the desk on a sheet of polyurethane foam. The lowest noise reading our noise meter device can register is 29.8 dBA and the subjectively comfortable noise level in these testing conditions was around 36 dBA (do not mix it up with low noise level). The fan(s) rotation speed was adjusted in the entire supported range using our in-house controller by changing the voltage with 0.5 V increment.

For comparison purposes during our tests of the proprietary MSI, PowerColor and XFX coolers we included the noise measurement results for a reference AMD Radeon HD 7870 graphics accelerator. The vertical dotted lines indicate the ranges where cooling fans worked in automatic mode (the colors correspond to the appropriate graphics cards).

Let’s take a closer look at the obtained results:

The quietest of all was the XFX Radeon HD 7770 BE. It does generate very little noise, and in 3D mode you can barely hear the graphics card against the background of a quiet system case. The second place goes to MSI Radeon HD R7870 Twin Frozr 2GD5/OC, which does lose substantially to the XFX card. At the same time, both these graphics cards are completely inaudible in 2D mode, which is not the case for PowerColor PCS+ HD7850. Unfortunately, this card’s fan is quite noisy, it crackles in certain speed range and is pretty unstable. As a result, the PowerColor card runs even louder than the coolers on the reference Radeon HD 7870/HD 7850 products and doesn’t get any quieter even in 2D mode.

Power Consumption

We measured the power consumption of our testbed equipped with different graphics cards using a multifunctional Zalman ZM-MFC3 panel, which can report how much power a computer (without the monitor) draws from a wall outlet. There were two test modes: 2D (editing documents in Microsoft Word or web surfing) and 3D (three runs of a Metro 2033: The Last Refuge benchmark in 2560x1440 resolution with maximum image quality settings).

Here are the obtained results:

A 550 W power supply unit will be sufficient for a system with any of the today’s tested graphics accelerators, even though we used an overclocked six-core processor. The most power-hungry configuration was the one with an overclocked ASUS GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 cores, the second one was the system with an MSI Radeon HD R7870 Twin Frozr 2GD5/OC overclocked by raising the voltage. The power consumption of the systems tested with other graphics accelerators was very similar. As we have expected, the most energy-efficient one was the configuration with XFX Radeon HD 7770 BE inside. Moreover, the power consumption barely changed when we overclocked our PowerColor PCS+ HD7850.

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