SPCR's 2012 Graphics Card/Cooler Test System

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Noise & Cooling

System Measurements: GPU Test System
Model
Idle
Load
GPU Temp
SPL @1m
GPU Temp
SPL @1m
Sapphire HD 7750 Ultimate*
38°C
12~13 dBA
77°C
12~13 dBA
AMD HD 5450*
44°C
12~13 dBA
70°C
12~13 dBA
HIS HD 5870 Turbo
(Icy Vision at 5V)
35°C
17~18 dBA
87°C
17~18 dBA
AMD HD 6870
(Icy Vision at 5V)
38°C
17~18 dBA
78°C
17~18 dBA
HIS HD 5550 Silence*
(system fans on med)
52°C
18 dBA
106°C
18 dBA
ASUS GT 430
35°C
23 dBA
78°C
23 dBA
ASUS HD 6850 DirectCU
39°C
17 dBA
77°C
25 dBA
ASUS GTS 450 DirectCU
31°C
19~20 dBA
66°C
26 dBA
AMD HD 6570
44°C
15 dBA
90°C
27~28 dBA
ASUS GTX 680
DirectCU II OC
32°C
15 dBA
73°C
27~28 dBA
Gainward GTX 560
Ti Phantom
37°C
18 dBA
86°C
37 dBA
Ambient temperature: 22°C
*passively cooled

Video card noise has also improved over the years with our idle test system producing less than 20 dBA@1m with almost all of the cards tested. The one exception, the Asus GT 430, is one of those rare models that lacks fan control altogether. Another card of note is the HIS HD 5550 Silence which overheated in our test system's default fan setting; it survived after increasing the speed to medium but with a temperature above 100°C. Its heatsink isn't very well designed, lacking surface area due to its very broad fins.

A few of the cards also had overaggressive fan behavior in our opinion. The three ASUS DirectCU cards had plenty of thermal headroom; with some user induced custom fan control all three can be considerably quieter while maintaining an adequate level of cooling.

MP3 Sound Recording

This recording was made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. It's intended to give you an idea of how our test system sounds in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn't hear it from one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

The recording starts with 5~10 seconds of room ambiance, followed by 5~10 seconds of the GPU test system with its case fans at various speeds. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don't change the volume setting again.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Our 2012 GPU test system has similar qualities as the old platform, being a very quiet machine with excellent acoustics that allows us to easily discern differences in noise produced by modern day graphics cards. It represents a good thermal challenge too, an airflow starved scenario that puts video card heatsinks to a more extreme test than a typical quiet PC. By default, the system's case fans are set to almost inaudible levels to expose poorly designed coolers and/or energy inefficient cards. Even such a card would have a chance as our fan control setup allows us to give a little help if necessary.

We believe that this more modern, energy efficient setup is a more accurate representation of quiet systems found in the wild and will help us more accurately evaluate video cards and coolers for acoustics, thermals, and power consumption.

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Articles of Related Interest
ASUS GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II OC
Sapphire HD 7750 Ultimate Edition
ASUS DirectCU & AMD Radeon HD 6850 Graphics Cards
AMD Radeon HD 6570 & 6670 Budget GPUs
Arctic Cooling Accelero Xtreme Plus GPU Cooler
AMD Radeon HD 6870 Graphics Card

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Discuss this article in the SPCR forums.



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