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Sapphire HD 4850 X2 2G/1G GDDR3 vs. Leadtek WinFast GTX 280: Power Consumption, Temperature, Noise

It is interesting to see how much power the Radeon HD 4850 X2 really needs. Although our version of the card has a nonstandard design of the power circuit, we measured its power consumption on the following testbed:

  • AMD Athlon 64 FX-55 CPU (2.6GHz)
  • EPoX EP9-NPA+ SLI mainboard (Nvidia nForce4 SLI)
  • PC3200 SDRAM (2x512MB, 200MHz)
  • Western Digital Raptor WD360ADFD HDD (36GB, SATA-150, 16MB buffer)
  • Chieftec ATX-410-212 PSU (410W)
  • Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit
  • Futuremark PCMark05 Build 1.2.0
  • Futuremark 3DMark06 Build 1.1.0

The 3D load was created by means of the first SM3.0/HDR test from 3DMark06 running in a loop at 1600x1200 with 4x FSAA and 16x AF. The Peak 2D mode was emulated by means of the 2D Transparent Windows test from PCMark05. This test is important as it simulates the user’s working with application windows whereas Windows Vista’s Aero interface uses 3D features.


Click to enlarge

We had not expected the Sapphire HD 4850 X2 to be an economical solution, of course. Its peak power draw is indeed higher than 220 watts, being roughly similar to the total consumption of a CrossFire configuration built out of two Radeon HD 4850 cards plus the consumption of the PCI Express switch. Despite the differences in power circuit design, the distribution of load among the individual lines is very similar to what we saw with the Radeon HD 4870 X2: the 8-pin PCI Express connector was loaded the most.

The Sapphire HD 4850 X2 was not very hot, though. Catalyst Control Panel reported a temperature of about 40°C when idle and 62-64°C under 3D load. For the Leadtek WinFast GTX 280, the temperatures were 46°C and 73°C, respectively. Now let’s compare the amount of noise produced by each card.

The level of noise at a distance of 1 meter from the working testbed with a passively cooled graphics card inside was 43dBA. That’s the reference point for our measurements. And the results are far from good. The Sapphire HD 4850 X2 is one of the noisiest cards we have ever tested in our labs. Well, this might have been expected, as each of its GPUs produces 100 watts of heat which is to be dissipated by rather weak heatsinks. As a result, the cooling system has to make up for that by increasing the speed of the fans. And like with the Radeon HD 4870 X2, it is doing this smartly, changing the speed constantly to keep the GPUs cool. The fluctuations of speed can be easily heard even from a closed system case, and they are very irritating.

The Leadtek’s cooler produces little noise in 2D applications. When under load, the card can be heard among other system components, but its noise is not annoying. It sounds like a hissing of air and its level is constant. Thus, the card is far more agreeable for your ear than the Sapphire HD 4850 X2.

Thus, the Leadtek WinFast GTX 280 wins this round. This card has lower power consumption and heat dissipation but ensures more comfortable noise characteristics.

 
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