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Closing The Case On Noise

The GeForce GTX 480 Update: 3-Way SLI, 3D Vision, And Noise
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Surprise, surprise. Air doesn’t move around components in an open test bench the same way it does inside of a chassis architected for optimal circulation. In theory, most cases are designed to channel air in through the bottom front and out through top rear. Graphics cards sitting out and exposed don’t benefit from that sort of design consideration. Thus, Nvidia’s claim that its GeForce GTX 480 will operate cooler and more quietly in a case is entirely conceivable.

There are currently five cases on the company’s list of recommendations for optimal cooling (more will be added as they get certified, according to Nvidia):

  • Cooler Master’s HAF 932
  • Cooler Master’s CM 690
  • Cooler Master’s Stacker
  • SilverStone’s Raven RV02
  • Thermaltake’s Element V


Cooler Master was kind enough to send an HAF 932 over to serve as our test platform. The roomy enclosure accommodates an ATX motherboard with a power supply mounted underneath it. There’s tons of room for storage, and good cable management is relatively easy to achieve. Front-, side-, and top-mounted 230 mm fans move lots of air quietly, while a rear-mounted 140 mm cooler helps maintain the desired circulation.

Lo and behold, getting the GeForce GTX 480 into a well-ventilated chassis makes a difference. With a single card installed, the Nvidia and AMD boards are indistinguishable at idle and load. Adding a second card makes a more pronounced difference, and it’s important to note that the GeForce GTX 480s are separated by four slots on our MSI Eclipse Plus motherboard, while the Radeon HD 5870s are back-to-back, two slots apart. Nvidia’s getting an advantage here because none of our CrossFire bridges are long enough to span four cards, while several of our SLI connectors easily close the gap.

For the detail-oriented, all of our testing here was conducted at 1 m using an Extech 407768 sound level meter point at, in front of, and mid-way up the Cooler Master HAF 932 chassis. The meter was set to long sampling duration with a range of 30-80 dB, A-rating.

Using GPU-Z 0.4.2, we were able to measure the processor temps of the GeForce and Radeon cards (for two-card configs, we’re reporting the warmest temperature). Free-flowing case or not, the GeForce GTX 480s are still hot-running boards.

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  • 27 Hide
    lunyone , May 3, 2010 7:24 AM
    Did I miss something, but there is NO mention of the power consumption of the 3 x 480's??
  • 23 Hide
    cangelini , May 3, 2010 6:48 AM
    lashtonand why not check it against the 5890, the 480GTX is nvidia fastest card, put it against ATI Fastest Card


    A pair of 5870s is actually going to be faster. Should I swing a second 5970, though, I do think a pair of 5970s vs. the three GTX 480s would be a good comparison!
  • 19 Hide
    cangelini , May 3, 2010 8:44 AM
    simple_inhibitioni wonder if nvidia strong armed toms into agreeing not to show tri-sli power consumption in exchange for the third card (of the available "tens of thousands" /endsarcasm)


    Once again, it's like, mentioned in the story :-P
Other Comments
  • 11 Hide
    anonymous x , May 3, 2010 6:18 AM
    Why don't you overclock that cpu higher? Only 3.3 Ghz? The 3rd GTX 480 looks like it's being bottlenecked. You can see the scaling is excellent at high resolutions with AA (from 1 to 2 to 3 cards), but at lower resolutions without AA there's no gain.
  • 3 Hide
    cangelini , May 3, 2010 6:45 AM
    There's a good chance that more CPU would def. help at the lower resolutions--one of the reasons I chose 2560 for the comparisons at the end ;-) For one reason or another, wasn't having much luck getting the retail i7-930/Eclipse Plus combo to overclock very well.
  • 23 Hide
    cangelini , May 3, 2010 6:48 AM
    lashtonand why not check it against the 5890, the 480GTX is nvidia fastest card, put it against ATI Fastest Card


    A pair of 5870s is actually going to be faster. Should I swing a second 5970, though, I do think a pair of 5970s vs. the three GTX 480s would be a good comparison!
  • 27 Hide
    lunyone , May 3, 2010 7:24 AM
    Did I miss something, but there is NO mention of the power consumption of the 3 x 480's??
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , May 3, 2010 7:30 AM
    I have no clue where you people are getting this "5890" Statement from... They have the 5870, and then the next step up is the 5970... Is that what you're trying to say?
  • 8 Hide
    cangelini , May 3, 2010 7:50 AM
    stuk1intI have no clue where you people are getting this "5890" Statement from... They have the 5870, and then the next step up is the 5970... Is that what you're trying to say?


    Bleh, it's late and it has been a long weekend. Edited :) 
  • 4 Hide
    SpadeM , May 3, 2010 7:57 AM
    Quad fire with 5850 would have been nice (thinking back to a builder marathon with quad fire) to see if ati's quad cards made any improovement over last years ones. Also i agree with lunyone, I for one would have been interested to see the numbers on load for the 3 nvidia cards with the 800W gold power supply (and maybe a comment from you cris about what power supply u think is best for the job. Either go lower wattage but a high efficiency psu or higher wattage but lower efficiency)

    Anyways, it was a informative article, looking forward to a full 512 sp card from nvidia and the second revision to the fermi core.
  • 4 Hide
    JeanLuc , May 3, 2010 8:08 AM
    stuk1intI have no clue where you people are getting this "5890" Statement from... They have the 5870, and then the next step up is the 5970... Is that what you're trying to say?


    The only place where the "5890" exists is in ATI's folder under 'What to do if Fermi is good".

    And yes where is the tri-sli power consumption numbers, there's no mention of it's omittance in the analysis.
  • 4 Hide
    cangelini , May 3, 2010 8:16 AM
    JeanLucThe only place where the "5890" exists is in ATI's folder under 'What to do if Fermi is good".And yes where is the tri-sli power consumption numbers, there's no mention of it's omittance in the analysis.


    Actually, addressed in a couple of different places ;-) As mentioned in the test setup section, the 3-way SLI numbers crested 900W under load. But because this was above the Enermax unit's max. continuous power rating, this almost certainly isn't a very efficient measurement. Not that it matters--the noise of three cards was so loud that it's simply not a realistic combination using the Eclipse Plus board.
  • 15 Hide
    rajangel , May 3, 2010 8:19 AM
    Who wants to pay $10 for 1 fps?

    I'm going to stick with my old 9600 SLI config that I spent $100 dollars on a few years back.
  • -8 Hide
    nebun , May 3, 2010 8:37 AM
    lashtonand why not check it against the 5890, the 480GTX is nvidia fastest card, put it against ATI Fastest Card


    dummy...the 5970 is a dual gpu card, that's why it was not compared. as far as since gpu cards go nvidia is the fastest one out ther.
  • -5 Hide
    simple_inhibition , May 3, 2010 8:44 AM
    i wonder if nvidia strong armed toms into agreeing not to show tri-sli power consumption in exchange for the third card (of the available "tens of thousands" /endsarcasm)
  • 15 Hide
    sinsear , May 3, 2010 8:44 AM
    lunyoneDid I miss something, but there is NO mention of the power consumption of the 3 x 480's??

    He wasn't able to upload the results before the power outage caused by the setup.
  • 19 Hide
    cangelini , May 3, 2010 8:44 AM
    simple_inhibitioni wonder if nvidia strong armed toms into agreeing not to show tri-sli power consumption in exchange for the third card (of the available "tens of thousands" /endsarcasm)


    Once again, it's like, mentioned in the story :-P
  • -6 Hide
    falchard , May 3, 2010 9:47 AM
    What couldn't get your hands on a 3rd HD5870? Also ATI makes Crossfire bridges long enough. I got 2 with my MSI K9A2 Platinum, and another one with my MSI HD5870.

    I do wonder about how the results are presented. Its obviously given in a method that favors nVidia. The only results chosen to be highlighted are the only results that show AMD in a poor position. I think to present these findings to consumers is rather misleading and more information should be furnished so consumers can make a proper decision on a product.

    Right now the most common resolution is 1680x1050. 1920x1200 is becoming more popular as well. At these resolutions even considering a single GTX480 as having a performance advantage is questionable compared to an HD5870. The HD5870 also scales better in those scenario. Yet the basis of your conclusion of consistent SLI scaling comes from the least favorable scenario for the HD5870 on resolutions that are uncommon. I don't think its a mystery why a lower memory card would perform worse doing a post processing effect at a large resolution. However, there is more to a graphics card then memory and its evident the difference in architecture choices at common resolutions.
  • 8 Hide
    micr0be , May 3, 2010 10:01 AM
    always great articles from u chris, hoping u might take on the 5970 and 2x5970 soon.
  • 3 Hide
    barmaley , May 3, 2010 10:16 AM
    So, I'm wondering how much of overclocking potential these GTX 480 cards have. Yep, they are running hot as it is. But, what if you throw liquid cooling on that 2X SLI setup to keep the temps at 35C highest. How far would they go then?
  • 6 Hide
    h83 , May 3, 2010 10:28 AM

    For those who are brave enough to peak at the power consumption of 3 480s running at the same time:...

    http://www.guru3d.com/article/geforce-gtx-480-3way-sli-review/26

    P.S. this isn´t for the ones with a weak heart...
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