Power Consumption And Noise
Having changed the way we do power measurements a few launches ago, I wanted to be sure we were getting good results with our charting method. Having run a number of DirectX 9, 10, and 11 games, I really wasn’t seeing any titles able to draw more than Metro 2033 (though apparently, older games can exact higher power requirements). I did notice, however, that lower resolutions are more taxing than high resolutions from a system standpoint. This makes some sense—if you’re not creating an artificially high GPU bottleneck, the CPU is forced to work harder. And so, our power logging test is now run at 1680x1050 using AAA and 4x AF.
Most obvious is that the Radeon HD 4870 X2 was an absolute beast back in its day. The dual-GPU card might still deliver decent performance in today’s games, but it really sucks down power in the process. Absolute speed might not be substantially higher, but performance per watt is comparatively through the roof.
The next worst-offender is the GeForce GTX 570, followed by the GeForce GTX 470. The difference, of course, is that the 570 is a much better performer, making a 4 W average power difference minor compared to the extra speed you get.
|Graphics Card||Average System Power|
|GeForce GTX 560 Ti||263.3 W|
|GeForce GTX 570||292.6 W|
|GeForce GTX 460||241.0 W|
|GeForce GTX 470||288.9 W|
|Radeon HD 6950||253.1 W|
|Radeon HD 6870||234.1 W|
|Radeon HD 5870||249.6 W|
|Radeon HD 4870 X2||402.0 W|
The GeForce GTX 560 Ti dips in under those two boards, using about 25 W less on average, but still more than AMD’s Radeon HD 6950 2 GB card—a product that is, on average, faster in the high-resolution environments we’d buy a card like this to play in. The 10 W average difference in system power swings the performance/W story further toward AMD.
The Radeon HD 5870, GeForce GTX 460, and Radeon HD 6870 fall in close to each other at the bottom of the chart. As you might have guessed from the benchmark analysis, though, the Radeon HD 5870 is definitely a performance favorite more than a year after it first emerged. These power numbers cement its value in today’s market, so long as you can find the boards for sale.
We weren’t able to include the Radeon HD 4870 X2 in our DirectX 11 benchmarks because it tops out with DirectX 10. But we were able to test its mettle in World of Warcraft, our power benchmark, and noise. That card serves as a good reference point here in our acoustic testing. Under load, it’s quite loud.
At idle, though, the Radeon HD 4870 X2 isn’t particularly offensive—none of the cards we’re looking at today are, really. The most obnoxious boards are generally flagships, not mid-range, mid-priced derivative solutions. And so we see fairly consistent idle noise.
To Nvidia’s credit, it really tackled the noise issues it had with its GF100-based boards, and the GeForce GTX 560 Ti is the quietest card tested here. During its 10th loop of the Metro 2033 Frontline benchmark, it remains barely any louder than idle—quieter than the GeForce GTX 460, even.