Heat Levels

Heat and noise levels are related to power requirements, but we still wanted to see what kind of heat levels we would see with each of these cards during operation. We tested this in much the same way as in our power consumption tests. For the heat tests, we used ATI Tool, specifically the "scan for artifacts" function, which causes the GPU to continually draw a fuzzy cube in order to stress the card. After five minutes of stress testing, we then take the heat reading of the die through the software. We also take heat readings while the system is idle for reference.

Idle Heat

Load Heat

We found that NVIDIA did a little better in general at dissipating heat, with the exception of the silent XFX GeForce 7950 GT which saw the highest heat levels of the bunch, including even the 8800 GTX. This makes sense considering the card has no fan and instead uses a large passive heat sink to cool it down. The silent Gigabyte 7600 GS also saw high heat levels for the same reason. The larger-than-usual heat sink on the MSI NX7600 GT (non HDMI) seemed to do a good job at cooling the GPU, as this was one of our coolest running cards. Heat levels are something to consider if you plan on overclocking your card, if you are in a hot environment, or if you have poor case circulation. Under these conditions, active cooling solutions are generally preferrable.


Of more importance for these particular cards is the amount of noise they generate. Excess noise from GPU fans can be a hindrance when putting together a system that is as quiet running as possible for a home theater setup. To test noise we took the dB level of the room with the system off to determine the ambient noise level; this was 38.1 dB. We then took dB readings of the cards while running a stress test (the same as in our heat level tests) to determine how much noise the cards made during operation. These are our results.

Idle Noise

Load Noise

The ASUS EN7600 GT is particularly noisy. When the fan kicks in, it makes a much louder whine than it does when the system is idle. The Sapphire X1950 XTX was also fairly noisy once it got hot and the fan kicked in, but it seems to only speed up in short intervals. The EVGA 7900 GS KO also saw a high noise level under stress. We found that the EVGA and BFG 7950 GX2s both ran pretty quietly considering their performance, which is a nice feature of these cards. Of course the silent Gigabyte 7600 GS as well as the XFX 7950 GT HDCP would be good choices if you were looking for a card with zero noise, but it's especially nice having completely silent operation with a higher performance card like the 7950 GT. Because the noise level of these cards was 0Db, they were not included in the graphs, but the noise level of the CPU will still be a factor for HTPC users. Note that you will almost certainly want a case that provides sufficient cooling if you choose to run either of these fanless cards.

Power Final Words
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  • JarredWalton - Thursday, November 16, 2006 - link

    Testing was done with an HDTV, because that's almost guaranteed to get HDCP support these days. Some of the newer LCDs have HDCP support (Dell's 2407 and 2007 do I believe), but most do not. That should change, but for now you are less likely to get HDCP with a standard PC display than with an HDTV. So, for HTPCs, you're better off getting just about any LCDTV or plasma in my opinion - watch out for projection HDTVs, as the text for PC use can get pretty garbled. Also beware of plasma burn-in possibilities. My rear-projection HDTV has a bit of burn-in already, and no matter what companies may say, plasma as I understand it is far more prone to such problems. (ESPN HD's logo is burned in on my TV, in case you want to know.)

    For the cards, features and performance are the two big factors - do you want gaming + HDCP support, just HDCP, or somewhere in between? What about HDMI? If you plan on connecting directly to a TV and using the TV speakers, you'll want HDMI that can include audio (several of the cards reviewed do this). My HDTV for example has an HDMI port, and I can use a DVI-to-HDMI cable to connect to it via just about any modern GPU. The problem is, I can't get audio from the TV without a true HDMI connection.

    Finally, OS support is either via Vista, or else you can get an appropriate media player that will handle HDCP content. Testing here was done on XP, so it works already. Will Vista make it better? I personally doubt it, but it won't require extra software apparently (beyond whatever Vista already includes, of course, which is already a lot of "extra").

    This article is more intended as an introduction to HDCP cards rather than being the final word. It will become more important over the next year or two, certainly. We'll have discussions on displays and HDCP support in the future.
  • DerekWilson - Friday, November 17, 2006 - link

    Might I also add that 1080p HDTVs seem to make excellent computer monitors. If you want something to do dual duty as a TV and a PC monitor, I can highly recommend a 1080p LCD like the westinghouse we used in this review.

    If I had the money for either a new monitor or a new TV I'd go with one of these and kill two birds with one stone. And I'd be very very happy about it.
  • Tujan - Thursday, November 16, 2006 - link

    Come on man.Desktop HD "? Smack some of that power onto those 32 to 40 in LCD sets. I know,I know,the angle is just around the corner. The LCD vendors are going have to,sooner,or later realize what their sets mean to the market.The market different from what is being portrayed. And what performance of them mean in it.

    Has there been any consideration of this.? And in doing so is there any caveats to using the HDTVs when involved with the drivers/hardware..there probably are. Since HDTV sets have somewhat sutured chipsets involved with them.

    So in so doing,the idea here for HDCP,being that most of these cards have DVI(HDMI transformer connector)- problems/caveats for proper sound output was not considered. What to look for to consideration of other components,and compatability to HDCP.

    Perahps for example I want to look at HD.And HDCP,are we going to limit our computers to a non-player in this area.For example,get on the wire-less keyboard in the living room already.

    If I was to realize that electronics stores for example had 'none'of these HDCP enable cards I would be fixing some faces.

    But BD,or HD-DVD on the computer screem ?

    Come on man. Its chow on those 32",40" LCD HDTV monitors already.

    As if Tiawan,Japan,South Korea aren't already in the weeds.I mean helloo.

    And AMD-ATI,...-dont be such a lard bottom.!(AMD-ATI).

    I mean(Anandtech) easily,get Fries,or Bestbuy to give you the keys to those isles for a night or two.Im sure they'd appreciate your tender convention.

    thanks for ability to post here.And good article.

  • DigitalFreak - Friday, November 17, 2006 - link

    Damn dude. I didn't understand a thing you said. Was that Far Eastern Jive or something?
  • Tujan - Friday, November 17, 2006 - link

    Here is the test setup page..


    Guess depends on where your standing (and punn ya yes):

    -In front of the HDTVs or Video Cards
    (retail electronics shop)

    - At your work desk putting a computer together (or bench)

    - At your desktop reading the Anandtech article....,or In your living room sitting at your couch.

    - Maybe looking at your checkbook wondering that you dont 'want to afford a 500$ mistake.

    "Far East Jive" ? LOL. Its all Taiwan,Japan,or South Korea making the LCDs. They look really good.

    It isn't like you cant see the jungle for the warefare.

    Just below here on a forum post the author you'll see that the Display was said to be an HDTV . Though the system stats didn't say "what<- ...uhumn .. Display.
    Think that the point of the article was question of fact wether or not the video cards would have performance,and HDCP without sacrificing one or the other.Performance to gaming,and HDCP.
    For me as I had first posted would be the testing of these stats/cards to the HDTV LCDs.The author,..again said later within this forum posted that other testing would take place.
    Since the caveats against several different HDTV monitors would be exactly different than simply putting together the video card(s).Telling that everything was 'ok'by doing this.With HDTVs you would have to figure compatability via the video cards(to the HDTV) as well as HDTVs (to the video cards.)
    This article did not go as far as testing against several HDTVs. With the different video cards(including interaction of software instalation).
    The title of my post as 'toes in slippers..hmm". Bears the reasoning that against the backdrop of the 'shelf sets..HD DVD .. Blue-ray..and non-computer .. for the sake of broadcast,and 'media'- the living room LCDTVs are much more than this this.

    Its not my business to tell anybody what their business is.Then when electronics vendors are going to ignore the accesories the LCD HDTVs afford to something as 'limited'as broadcast,and media. 'Broadcast,and HD,or Blueray to high definition is 'damn limiting.Thus the 'market'isn't what your being told it is. Just in case you hadn't noticed.

    A 500$ mistake makes a difference.The context of that market is all about whats around the corner in so many ways. But where are you standing and whats there to look at ? If that market is ignored in the inventories and on the shelfs...as so on.In that 'limiting'focus.

    Now,I've got to figure if my post is 'worth it'. The 32"and 40 LCDTVs are 'worth it. So lets see what they can do. Read some more angles about them before purchasing.

    Thanks for reply.
  • Tarx - Thursday, November 16, 2006 - link

    As mentioned above, but worth mentioning again, the X1950Pro is often considered to be the best midrange card currently on the market (relatively fast, not power hungry, fairly low cost, quiet, etc.) - if possible, can this article be amended to include it?
  • DerekWilson - Friday, November 17, 2006 - link

    As Josh mentioned above, ATI didn't support playback of HDCP protected content on the X1950 Pro until the release of the 6.11 Catalyst driver which was posted on 11/15/06 (one day before this article was published).

    We'll absolutely include the X1950 Pro in future articles that cover high definition video playback now that ATI has finally released a public driver for the same.
  • Spoelie - Thursday, November 16, 2006 - link

    article index is broken (fixed)
    graphic card data is incorrect (x1900xt at 500/600 instead of 625/750? price?)
    video table is f*cked up
    oblivion settings are not linked (fixed now too)
    etc. etc.

    still a few cards i would like to see that are still missing, like a x1950pro with 512mb or the x1950xt - and what's the use of testing performance of identical cards, mentioning all hdcp compliant 7950gt and posting performance of one should be sufficient.
  • Spoelie - Thursday, November 16, 2006 - link

    just to be clear, i know what the point is of this article, but since the x1950xt and a comparison between x1950pro 256/512 are both unlikely to get separate articles at this point, using roundups like this would be useful to include them, especially if you're gonna test and post 3d performance in the process :p so that we at least have some point of reference to make buying decisions. maybe something to note for future articles :)
  • Josh Venning - Thursday, November 16, 2006 - link

    Thanks for your comment.

    We did try to test the X1950 Pro for the HDCP review. Unfortunately, there hasn't been a public driver that supports the X1950 Pro since it's launch (that is until Catalyst 6.11 which was posted yesterday). ATI really dropped the ball with X1950 Pro, because the beta drivers they released did not support HDCP either.

    We're sorry that we couldn't include this card in the review, but it just wasn't possible to test HDCP with the X1950 Pro until yesterday afternoon.

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