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
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • DerekWilson - Thursday, November 16, 2006 - link

    To be honest, this article was a very long time in production ... we got a hold of the drive almost two months ago iirc. It just took a whole lot of time and energy to get the tests done and the article written. We did go back and add the 8800 and 256mb 1900xt, but the x1950pro seemed to slip through the cracks.

    Sorry about that. We didn't exclude it on purpose, and we will try to include it in any future articles we write on HDCP protected content and high definition movies.
  • photoguy99 - Thursday, November 16, 2006 - link

    If the article was done a while ago, does that mean it's now possible to playback h.264/vc1 Blu-Ray on a PC?

    It would be good to know what the missing link is to make sure we get it if we want to get playback on our own systems.

  • DerekWilson - Friday, November 17, 2006 - link

    All BD movies are currently MPEG-2 -- and probably will be for a while.

    HD-DVD movies use VC1.
  • peternelson - Friday, November 17, 2006 - link

    Wrong, the initial BR moves were mpeg-2 encoded content.

    There now exist BR discs with content in the other two main formats.

    Also discs with dual layers while original releases were single layer.

    The wikipedia page for bluray contains titles, launch dates of the non-mpeg-2 discs.
  • DerekWilson - Saturday, November 18, 2006 - link

    I stand corrected. Thanks for the info.
  • balazs203 - Wednesday, November 29, 2006 - link

    Thanks for the great review.

    At this link in the review of the new Panasonic BR player they mention a few non-MPEG2 BD titles they like quality wise:

    I would be very much interested in an extension of your review with non-MPEG2 titles as obviously I would like to buy a computer which can play back all these titles and MPEG2 is the easisest type. Info about the other types is much more important for me when I consider what parts I want to buy.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, November 16, 2006 - link

    The article wasn't *done* a while ago - it was *started* two months ago. It took that long to get to this point, which says something about the state of the technology.
  • lujack26 - Monday, October 31, 2011 - link

    I was looking around the web for HDMI video cards after I read this article and came across this website E-bargainz.com. They seem to have great prices, a large selection, and reasonable shipping. Here is the direct link to their selection of HDMI video cards http://www.e-bargainz.com/index.php/cPath/143. I also found a coupon code "Thank You" for $5 off your first purchase. I'm going to try them out. Anything to keep from putting another dollar in Jeff Bezos pockets.

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now