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Noise

Radeon HD 7990 And GeForce GTX 690: Bring Out The Big Guns
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Changes to How We Benchmark Noise

Typically, we use a regularly-calibrated Voltcraft SL-400 sound level meter with data logging for noise benchmarks run in our German test lab. The SL-400 doesn’t really go beyond 10 kHz, though, and is useless for picking up coil squealing.

PowerColor's Devil13 HD7990 drove us nuts with its high-pitched whine, though, so we had to make a change to our testing methodology in order to reflect this. Now we're using a calibrated and vibration-free suspended studio microphone.

PowerColor's Devil13 HD7990 would have done well were it not for the high-pitched coil squealing beyond the capacity of most sound meters. As a result of this whine, however, it finishes in last place.

We had two of these cards at our disposal: one in Germany and one in the U.S. Both exhibited the exact same behavior to different degrees. The severity of the squeal varies depending on resolution and load, but it's definitely an irreconcilable issue that we wouldn't be able to overcome on a $1000 graphics card.

EVGA's GeForce GTX 690 is the quietest card when it comes to gaming. This shouldn't come as a surprise because it dissipates the least amount of heat.

All three boards fare well enough, though. PowerColor's Devil13 HD7990 is the loudest, but it still makes less noise than AMD's reference Radeon HD 7970. That's a testament to the effort all three vendors put into prioritizing acoustics, and we can only hope that AMD's own engineers are paying attention.

Under full load, HIS' 7970 X2 simply cannot keep up, losing to EVGA's GeForce GTX 690 and PowerColor's Devil13 HD7990. In fact, it even falls behind the reference Radeon HD 7970 that bothered us so much when we first reviewed it. None of the AMD cards can claim a victory, though. They all generate in excess of 50 dB(A), which is just too loud. Only EVGA's solution stays under that threshold.

Fortunately, most folks won't be pushing their cards this hard for any extended period of time, making the two other usage scenarios (idle and gaming) more important to heed.

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Top Comments
  • 25 Hide
    twinshadow , November 8, 2012 8:47 AM
    if you are spending 1000$ dollars on a video card paying a Power bill is not an issue
  • 24 Hide
    abbadon_34 , November 8, 2012 7:57 AM
    wow, microstuttering is a now a non issue , at least AMD
  • 21 Hide
    Anonymous , November 8, 2012 6:43 AM
    thanks for the in depth analysis with adaptive V-sync and radeon pro helping with micro stutter.

    not to take away anything for the hard work performed; i would have liked have seen nvidia's latest beta driver, 310.33, included also to see if nvidia is doing anything to improve the performance of their card instead of just adding 3d vision, AO, and sli profiles.
Other Comments
  • 7 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , November 8, 2012 5:40 AM
    IMHO, the GTX690 looks best. There is something really alluring about shiny white metallic shine and the fine metal mesh. Along with the fluorescent green branding.
    Maybe i am too much of a retro SF buff :) 
  • 12 Hide
    tacoslave , November 8, 2012 6:03 AM
    i wept
  • 18 Hide
    hellfire24 , November 8, 2012 6:04 AM
    your test system is sexy!!!!!!!
  • 20 Hide
    willyroc , November 8, 2012 6:05 AM
    You can't really go wrong either way with these generally insane(so to speak) cards.
  • -7 Hide
    amuffin , November 8, 2012 6:34 AM
    Is it just me or do the 7970X2 and 7990 coolers look so fast and fugly? :heink: 
  • 21 Hide
    Anonymous , November 8, 2012 6:43 AM
    thanks for the in depth analysis with adaptive V-sync and radeon pro helping with micro stutter.

    not to take away anything for the hard work performed; i would have liked have seen nvidia's latest beta driver, 310.33, included also to see if nvidia is doing anything to improve the performance of their card instead of just adding 3d vision, AO, and sli profiles.
  • 18 Hide
    esrever , November 8, 2012 6:45 AM
    can we get some quadfire benchmarks too? :D 
  • -6 Hide
    RazorBurn , November 8, 2012 6:55 AM
    AMD's Dual GPU at 500+ Watts of electricity is out for me.. Too Much Power and Noise..
  • 7 Hide
    mohit9206 , November 8, 2012 6:56 AM
    2 670's in sli is better than spending on a 690 and 2 7950's in Xfire is better than spending on a 7990. this way you save nearly $300 both ways
  • 24 Hide
    abbadon_34 , November 8, 2012 7:57 AM
    wow, microstuttering is a now a non issue , at least AMD
  • 10 Hide
    ojas , November 8, 2012 8:02 AM
    Good read!

    But, would have liked to see 680s in SLI, to see how they scale now compared to the 690.

    Also, would using two single GPUs in CF/SLI make a difference to the micro-stuttering charts? iirc, the PCIe controller is tied to the CPU for SB/IB chips? So that would mean no 3rd party bridge in between the two GPUs as in the case of the 7990 and 690. Would that make a diff?

    How do you manage to isolate the cards' power consumption at load (idle is simpler)? And noise too: how do you block out the case fans and CPU cooler?
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , November 8, 2012 8:07 AM
    The radeon pro is saving AMD's butt

    But In the end, 690 was slower than 7990 average framerate but with Radeon Pro, it is the 7990 which is slower right?

    So yes it's better than without, but the 690 is faster, as smooth, and use a built in technology

    AMD really need to work on it's crossfire technology
  • 12 Hide
    blazorthon , November 8, 2012 8:08 AM
    amuffinIs it just me or do the 7970X2 and 7990 coolers look so fast and fugly?


    I don't think they look "fast and ugly", although I do think that the HIS model could do with some more finesse.
  • 10 Hide
    FormatC , November 8, 2012 8:17 AM
    Quote:
    How do you manage to isolate the cards' power consumption at load (idle is simpler)? And noise too: how do you block out the case fans and CPU cooler?
    The noise was measured with the open benchtable, not in case (no extra case fans and an ultra silent fan on the hidden CPU cooler)

    For the power consumption: 3 current clamps with monitoring ;) 
  • 17 Hide
    Novuake , November 8, 2012 8:42 AM
    Interesting, AMD has a winner at the top tier! That hasn't happened in a while. CODOS to that.
  • 25 Hide
    twinshadow , November 8, 2012 8:47 AM
    if you are spending 1000$ dollars on a video card paying a Power bill is not an issue
  • 6 Hide
    blazorthon , November 8, 2012 8:47 AM
    NovuakeInteresting, AMD has a winner at the top tier! That hasn't happened in a while. CODOS to that.


    Technically, HIS has a winner, not AMD because AMD didn't launch a 7990/7970X2 reference;)
  • -5 Hide
    blazorthon , November 8, 2012 8:54 AM
    twinshadowif you are spending 1000$ dollars on a video card paying a Power bill is not an issue


    Actually, the only person who I ever recommended a GTX 690 to wanted it specifically because of its low power consumption literally being enough to pay for itself compared to his previous graphics setup due to his high cost for power. Some people looking for such high end cards most certainly do care about power consumption.
  • 18 Hide
    FormatC , November 8, 2012 8:56 AM
    1 kW/h in Germany: 0.25 Euro (approx. 0.34 USD)
    This IS an issue. ;) 
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