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AMD's Radeon HD 5000-Series: Measuring Power Efficiency

Test Setup And A Side Note

We're using the AMD-based platform primarily because it offers the flexibility to test an integrated graphics processor with both dual- and quad-core CPUs. The integrated graphics allows us to establish baseline power consumption without an add-on graphics card. The platform is also quite popular in the mainstream segment, so it's well-suited for testing mainstream graphics cards like the Radeon HD 5670 and HD 5770. It is system-limited with the Radeon HD 5870, as you will see.

We left the power-saving features on the Phenom II X4 955 BE and Athlon II X2 250 enabled in the BIOS, and we set Windows’ power policy to Balanced. To lower the base system power consumption even more, we altered Cool'n'Quiet with K10Stat, allowing our processors to run at even lower voltages. Using these settings, our test platform base power consumption hovered around 55 watts at idle and 80 watts during H.264 video playback. This is just right around the threshold where our platform's PSU efficiency drops off.

Our altered voltages mean that this isn’t a default setup, per se. So, these results are not directly comparable if you’re running stock voltage settings. You can see the differences in system power consumption between running with default voltages and our undervolted settings below.

IdleCrysisAdobe Photoshop CS 4Cinebench R11.5
Undervolted55121120132
Default Voltage73160143195

*Watts

We saw slightly higher power consumption figures with the add-on graphics cards at idle. Originally, we guessed that the results were just leakage variations (the differences are between 5 to 10 W). However, given further testing, it became clearer that this wasn’t the case. Running at default voltages gives us idle power consumption scores close or similar to each card’s specifications.

The reason for the higher power consumption is active power use by additional components. You can't really shut off all power to a  discrete graphics card, so there will always be some power drain there. Since it employs a lot more circuitry, the drain is larger than the simpler integrated graphics solution. There’s also PSU efficiency to consider. The power levels we’re seeing at idle are around 10% of the PSU’s maximum output.

For PowerDVD tests, the Athlon II X2 250 offers much lower power consumption, so it makes sense to use this processor instead, since it excels in an HTPC environment.

For reference purposes (and just for kicks), we also recorded GPU utilization data for most of the benchmarks used with GPU-Z on a Radeon HD 4670.

  • tony singh
    Very innovative article tom keep it up!! Similar article consisting of various cpus would be really useful.
    Reply
  • tacoslave
    gtx 480 and 460 for reference?
    Reply
  • Lutfij
    ^ nvidia would loose at this battle. period.
    Reply
  • spidey81
    I know the FPS/watt wouldn't be as good, but what if the 5670 was crossfired. Would it still be a better alternative, efficiency wise, than say a 5850?
    Reply
  • nforce4max
    Remember the R600 (2900xt) has a 80nm core while the 5870 has a 45nm core. Shrink the R600 and you will get the 3870 (55nm) that barely uses hardly any.
    Reply
  • rhino13
    And now just for fun we should compare to Fermi.

    Oh, wait, this just in:
    There is a Fermi comparison chart that was avalible but you needed to have two screens to display the bar graph for Fermi's power consumption and temperature. So the decission was made to provide readers with the single screen only version.
    Reply
  • aevm
    I loved this part:

    A mere 20 watts separate the Radeon HD 3300, HD 5670, HD 5770, and HD 5870 1 GB. So, in certain cases, the Radeon HD 5870 1 GB can still save enough power to close in on its more mainstream derivatives. Again, this is the case because the cards use a fixed-function video engine to assist in decoding acceleration, which is the same from one board to the next. Thus, even a high-end card behaves like a lower-end product in such a workload. This is very important, as you will see later on.

    My next PC will be used mostly for movie DVDs and Diablo 3. Apparently if I get a 5870 1GB I get the best of both worlds - speed in Diablo and low power consumption when playing movies.

    How about nVidia cards, would I get the same behavior with a GTX 480 for example?
    Reply
  • Onus
    For those not needing the absolute maximum eye candy at high resolutions in their games, the HD5670 looks like a very nice choice for a do-it-all card that won't break the budget.
    Next questions: First, where does the HD5750 fall in this? Second, if you do the same kinds of manual tweaking for power saving that you did in your Cool-n-Quiet analysis, how will that change the results? And finally, if you run a F@H client, what does that do to "idle" scores, when the GPU is actually quite busy processing a work unit?
    Reply
  • eodeo
    Very interesting article indeed.

    I'd love to see nvidia cards and beefier CPUs used as well. Normal non green hdds too. Just how big of a difference in speed/power do they make?

    Thank you for sharing.
    Reply
  • arnawa_widagda
    Hi guys,

    Thanks for reading the article.

    Next questions: First, where does the HD5750 fall in this? Second, if you do the same kinds of manual tweaking for power saving that you did in your Cool-n-Quiet analysis, how will that change the results? And finally, if you run a F@H client, what does that do to "idle" scores, when the GPU is actually quite busy processing a work unit?

    Have no 5750 sample yet, but they should relatively be close to 5770. For this article, we simply chose the best bin for each series (Redwood, Juniper and Cypress).

    The second question, what will happen when you tweak the chip? Glad you ask!! I can't say much yet, but you'll be surprised what the 5870 1 GB can do.

    As for NVIDIA cards, I'm hoping to have the chance to test GF100 and derivatives very soon.

    Take care.

    Reply