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Power Consumption, Temperature, Noise, Overclockability

The new ATI Cypress core is unique in its own ways. Particularly, it is terrifically complex, so we are highly interested in its power consumption properties. We measured the card’s power draw on a testbed configured as follows:

  • Intel Pentium 4 560 CPU (3.6GHz, LGA775)
  • DFI LANParty UT ICFX3200-T2R/G mainboard (ATI CrossFire Xpress 3200 chipset)
  • PC2-5300 SDRAM (2x512MB, 667MHz)
  • Western Digital Raptor WD360ADFD HDD (36GB)
  • Chieftec ATX-410-212 PSU (410W)
  • Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate SP2 32-bit
  • Futuremark PCMark05 Build 1.2.0
  • Futuremark 3DMark06 Build 1.1.0

Following our standard procedure, the 3D load was created by the first SM3.0/HDR test from 3DMark06 running in a loop at 1600x1200 with forced 4x FSAA and 16x AF. Additionally, we used OpenGL FurMark. The 2D load was emulated by the 2D Transparent Windows test from PCMark05. We’ve got the following results:

So, the power draw is not higher than 107 watts in 3DMark06 which is amazing for a graphics card whose GPU consists of over 2 billion transistors. Nvidia’s G200b can’t even dream of such power efficiency. However, this benchmark is already obsolete and we only use it as we’ve accumulated a large amount of data on graphics cards from previous generations. FurMark provides a different picture. It makes full use of all GPU resources and the new card’s peak power consumption is as high as 160 watts. On the other hand, FurMark is far more intensive than real-life games, so the practical power draw is going to be closer to the first number than to the second. The Radeon HD 5870 is also extremely economical in 2D mode, setting a new record for its class.

The cooling system did well despite our apprehensions.

The temperature of the new Radeon HD 5870 is far from dangerous. The GPU was no hotter than 75°C even during long test sessions. This is all due to the 40nm tech process the RV870 Cypress is manufactured on.

The reference point for our noise measurement tests is 43dBA which is the level of ambient noise in our testbed as measured at a distance of 1 meter from the testbed with a passively cooled graphics card inside. When we installed our Radeon HD 5870, we got the following results:

The card is actually silent in idle mode, but gets loud after working long under load. However, it is never louder than the Radeon HD 4870 X2 which is the loudest gaming graphics card of all, according to our tests. The high level of noise is the payment for the high cooling efficiency and low GPU temperature. The aerodynamics of the reference Radeon HD 5870 cooler is far from ideal, too, adding to the noise. The results are acceptable overall, but we will surely see quieter versions of Radeon HD 5870 equipped with nonstandard cooling solutions.

The Radeon HD 5870 was no good at overclocking. We quickly saw image artifacts even after a 30MHz increase in the GPU frequency. Our card did pass 3DMark Vantage at 900MHz GPU and 1300 (5200) MHz memory, but the visual artifacts negate that achievement. Perhaps we failed because we had dismantled the card and replaced its thermal grease, so we will check out the overclocking potential of the Radeon HD 5870 again in our upcoming reviews. Right now, let’s benchmark its performance in games.

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