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Our test procedure is an in-system test, designed to determine whether the
cooler is adequate for use in a low-noise system. By adequately cooled,
we mean cooled well enough that no misbehavior related to thermal overload is
exhibited. Thermal misbehavior in a graphics card can show up in a variety of
- Sudden system shutdown, reboot without warning, or loss of display signal
- Jaggies and other visual artifacts on the screen.
- Motion slowing and/or screen freezing.
Any of these misbehaviors are annoying at best and dangerous at worst
dangerous to the health and lifespan of the graphics card, and sometimes to
the system OS.
Test Platform (A summary of how our video card/cooler test platform is put together can
be found here.)
Measurement and Analysis Tools
processor stress software.
stability test to stress the GPU.
- GPU-Z to
monitor GPU temperatures.
- Infrared Thermometer to measure VRM temperatures.
- A custom-built variable fan speed controller to power the system
- PC-based spectrum analyzer:
SpectraPlus with ACO Pacific mic and M-Audio digital
- Anechoic chamber
with ambient level of 11 dBA or lower
Our GPU cooler test card is an HIS Radeon HD 5870 iCooler V Turbo, a factory-overclocked single GPU card that draws about 215W by our estimates. The stock VRM heatsink is left on for convenience.
Our main test consists of FurMark stability test running in conjunction with
CPUBurn to stress both the graphics card and processor simultaneously. This
combination produces more CPU/GPU stress than a typical gaming session. As our
test system has very limited airflow, our results are not indicative of a real-world
situation, but rather a worse-case scenario. If the heatsink in question can
cool the card and its components adequately in this environment it means there
will be some degree of thermal headroom when deployed in a more conventional
situation. The GPU temperature is recorded using GPU-Z, and an infrared thermometer is used to manually take the temperature of the VRMs on the trace side of the card.
The coolers are tested at various speeds to represent a good cross-section of
its airflow and noise performance. Noise is measured and recorded with our test
system on with the heatsink installed. Our mic is positioned at a distance of
one meter from the center of the case's left side panel at a 45 degree angle.
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