Heat And Noise
Idle temperatures are only meaningful insofar as they affect fan speeds, and thus acoustics. AMD allows its Tahiti GPU to idle much warmer than the GK104 and GK110 processors. We can only hope that means the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition’s cooler is spinning slower, and consequently generating less noise.
AMD doesn’t enjoy any specific advantage from its hotter chip, though we’re happy to see all four high-end solutions idling extremely quietly. In each case, you’re not going to hear any of these cards when you’re working on the Windows desktop.
As with our idle temperatures, measurements under load are largely indicative of how hard a card’s thermal solution is working. The GeForce GTX 680 and Titan both hit their targets of about 80 degrees during our Extreme loop of the 3DMark Fire Strike demo. GeForce GTX 690 doesn’t quite get as warm. Meanwhile, AMD’s Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition heats up to 84 degrees, consistent with what we found in AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition Review: Give Me Back That Crown!
And here’s where we run into our issue with the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition, time and time again. In order to keep its Tahiti GPU running within an appropriate thermal range, AMD’s cooler has to spin very fast. It generates more than 50 dB(A) in the process—way, way louder than GeForce GTX 680, 690, or Titan. A number of factors play into why this is the case, but the ultimate outcome is a real problem with noise.
GeForce GTX Titan, in comparison, hosts a 7.1 billion transistor GPU, dissipates up to the same 250 W of heat, and manages to duck in just under the GeForce GTX 680. That advantage simply cannot be ignored (quite literally).