Updated VGA Card/Cooler Test Platform

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UPDATED TEST METHODOLOGY

Current Test Platform

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • ATI Tool version 0.26 as a tool for stressing the GPU and to show GPU temperature
  • SpeedFan version 4.33 to show CPU temperature
  • Seasonic Power Angel AC power meter, used to measure the power consumption of the system
  • A custom-built variable fan speed controller to power the system fan
  • Bruel & Kjaer (B&K) model 2203 Sound Level Meter. Used to accurately measure SPL (sound pressure level) down to 20 dBA and below.


Our test card: a Radeon X1950XTX.

As before, high end video card heatsinks will be installed on a Radeon X1950XTX — a high-powered video card that features a thermal sensor built into the GPU core. The accuracy of the sensor is unknown. The video memory heatsink will usually be left on unless it interferes with the VGA cooler in some way.

Our test procedure has been altered slightly. Instead of stressing the GPU with only ATI Tool's artifact scanner (which we did just once during the Zalman VF1000 LED review), we have decided to go back to using both GPU and CPU stress software simultaneously. While GPU temperatures will be lower, it is nevertheless, a test that more accurately mimics the stress produced by a modern video game, which demands a lot of the entire system — not just the GPU.

Our main test consists of ATI Tool's artifact scanner running in conjunction with CPUBurn to stress both the graphics card and processor simultaneously. The software is left running until the GPU temperature stabilizes for at least 10 minutes at which point, both the GPU and CPU temperatures are recorded.

In addition we also take measurements of the system's overall noise level and power consumption. If the heatsink has a fan, the procedure will be repeated at various fan speeds while the system fan is left at the lowest setting of 7V. If it is a passive cooler, the system fan instead is varied to study the effect of system airflow on the heatsink's performance. If artifacts are detected in ATI Tool or other instability is noted, the heatsink is deemed inadequate to cool the video card in our test system.

Preliminary testing is done at idle, and also with only CPUBurn running for comparison. For idle results, the system will be left alone for 10 minutes before ATI Tool is loaded and the first temperature it reports used. We will do this because on our test platform, after ATI Tool is loaded, it puts some kind of stress on the GPU, causing the temperature to climb immediately (even if it is left idle for hours beforehand) and the power consumption to increase by approximately 10W. We theorize that initially the card is in 2D mode, either underclocked or undervolted (or possibly both) and that ATI Tool automatically puts it in 3D mode, which would account for the rise in temperature and power draw. ATI Tool will be left running in the background for the remainder of testing which is why the GPU temperature during CPUBurn will appear higher compared to idle. Consider this the difference between 2D idle and 3D idle.



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