Passive Cooling: XFX RX 460 Heatsink Edition Vs. Palit GTX 1050 Ti KalmX

Temperatures, Clock Rates, And Performance

Temperature Behavior For Different Setups

Unfortunately, we have to dash your hopes for a completely passively-cooled card right out of the gate. Both cards do work when they're installed in an open test bench, albeit just barely. But as soon as you build them into a case (even a large one full of holes), both cards eventually hit their limits. And that's despite no other heat sources in there to complicate things; our CPU is water-cooled, after all. We even left the enclosure's side and back walls as open as possible. While Palit's GeForce GTX 1050 Ti KalmX simmered away with virtually no GPU Boost headroom, the XFX Radeon RX 460 Heatsink Edition frequently displayed a black and white checkerboard pattern on the screen. The expected protection mechanisms didn’t even kick in once, and at 93°C you're in trouble.

Each measurement requires a full hour to generate, so we're limiting ourselves to three scenarios for the thermography analysis: the open setup, a closed case with a single fan (positive pressure), and two fans (negative pressure). For the temperature comparisons, however, we're comparing all four results.

We clearly see that XFX's much smaller cooler falls behind and requires at least one case fan to help the GPU.

The voltage regulators tell a similar story in the chart below. The MOSFETs on Palit's card sometimes have to carry more load due to the missing third phase, but they also benefit from thermal pads on the heat sink.

We already suggested that the Micron memory on Palit’s card runs hotter than Samsung memory, despite a nominally better cooler. But because XFX's Radeon RX 460 Heatsink Edition runs into trouble before it can benefit from cooler memory, the thermal story is actually reversed.

Unless you use two fans, the memory on Palit's board runs consistently hotter than Micron's specified 85°C maximum, so that the card’s otherwise good measurements melt away. These readings just aren't recommended for long-term use.

IR Thermographic Images

To complement our charts, we also used the high-resolution thermal camera to document the three most important test cases, including readings from the heat pipe.

Open Bench Table

Closed Case (Positive Pressure, One Fan)

Closed Case (Negative Pressure, Two Fans)

The measurements show very clearly that components not measured by on-board sensors climb to temperatures you wouldn't want to see for extended periods, based on their manufacturers' specifications. Palit would be well-advised to lower its memory voltage and frequency, or switch to cooler-running Samsung modules. Nvidia, which sells its GPU and memory bundles, could also play a role in this.

Achieved Clock Rates

Here's where it gets exciting, since high temperatures always have a negative impact on sustainable clock rates! We let each card run in a test loop for an hour, after which we determined the average frequency over several more minutes. You really need to make these measurements over an extended period because the real performance drop becomes evident after at least 30 minutes or so.

While the passively-cooled Radeon RX 460 only ends up showing small clock differences, it always remains below its advertised base frequency. Even two fans don't allow it to maintain a constant 1090 MHz. Obviously, XFX doesn't provide enough cooling surface.

Palit's GeForce puts in a better showing for two reasons. First, its cooler is in a completely different class due to more than 100g of extra metal. Also, Nvidia's GPU Boost technology works more precisely. GP107 limps along in a fanless case, but perks up a bit on the open bench, finally reaching full strength with the help of some air flow.

As for winners and losers, it it appears that Palit's GeForce GTX 1050 Ti only loses a little, while the slower XFX Radeon RX 460 Heatsink Edition doesn't do well at all. A better cooler would have improved its standing, since the Baffin GPU isn't as bad as this card makes it look.

Manufacturers: you have to test your products under real-world conditions. It's not enough for your R&D departments to simply mount hardware on exposed motherboards and test in an air-conditioned room. Installing these cards in closed bench tables would have shown why the concept doesn't work as-implemented.

Gaming Performance

We're using a couple of recent games as examples of what happens when these cards get hot. Sniper Elite 4 is playable using the Medium setting, even after heating both boards. Surprisingly, the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti's advantage isn't as large as its $40 premium might suggest it should be. Apparently, the DirectX 12-enabled engine favors AMD's GPU in this title.

DirectX 11-based titles are known to go the other way, and Watch Dogs 2 shows Palit's GeForce GTX 1050 Ti to be a fair bit faster, even with the same power specification and waste heat. Larger clock rate variations again become more significant, since GPU Boost reacts much more sensitively to heat.

The takeaway is that better cooling always pulls better performance along with it.

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14 comments
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  • derekullo
    Watch Dogs 2
    1920 x 1080 Pixels
    "High Settings"
    FPS (Lower is better)

    Made me Laugh.
  • Briancurry
    Me too, I guess that means the XFX crash is the winner?
  • Rookie_MIB
    Wow. You know, they could fit a small incredibly slow fan in there somewhere that would generate zero noise and improve their results dramatically. I guess you could use the XFX in a server as the airflow scenario would allow cooling from the fans, but why would you use a GPU in a server anyhow?
  • Math Geek
    i can't think of a single scenario where this is needed. fanless gpu but you need multiple case fans to keep it cool and barely at that. why not just have the fans right on the card? double slot so you don't save any space that way, so those few cases that truly need a single slot card can't even be claimed as a market for this card.

    now that single slot slim fan design His showed off a while ago would be an awesome thing if it worked and was actually released.

    but i just don't see this filling any need at all in a gaming pc. in a non-gaming pc a regular gpu would likely stay cool enough for the passive mode to keep the fans totally off or barely moving. yet still be able to kick it up when needed for a bit of funtime distraction.
  • Pompompaihn
    Dumb products. If have to run system fans for them to work than what's the point of a completely fanless product? It's like saying my car gets infinite gas mileage as long as it's hooked to a tow truck...
  • RomeoReject
    Only situation where I can see them being worthwhile is in a mineral oil setup. The fan on the GPU I have in mine baaaaarely moves as is. More oil moves as a result of convection. So in that situation, it could be worth having the extra metal on there and relying on the convection effect rather than wasting that space on a fan.

    But that is so incredibly niche, I agree with you all: These are products searching for a purpose.
  • 80-watt Hamster
    1786133 said:
    now that single slot slim fan design His showed off a while ago would be an awesome thing if it worked and was actually released.


    Are you talking about something like this?
  • Math Geek
    1781251 said:
    1786133 said:
    now that single slot slim fan design His showed off a while ago would be an awesome thing if it worked and was actually released.
    Are you talking about something like this?


    not the exact one but that's the idea. i did not know XFX had finally released it, must have missed that announcement. This article also pointed out that XFX bought HiS which i did not know. so i expect that this is the design HiS teased a while ago with XFX colors on it. this was the one they teased a while ago that seems to also have been relased http://www.hisdigital.com/gb/product2-940.shtml
  • FormatC
    XFX bought nobody. XFX is a brand from the mother company Pine and Pine bought HIS as brand, not as single company. So are both vendors at the end only a brand from Pine and must share a lot of ressources and production lines. I saw, that they are using similar PCB layouts, only the cooling and design is a little bit different.

    XFX seems a real poor company. I got the card a few days for the review but I had to send it back on my own costs (because they had no more samples to rotate and no money for carriers). So it is impossible to answer on questions that requires a re-test or second look at the product.
  • RomeoReject
    482859 said:
    XFX bought nobody. XFX is a brand from the mother company Pine and Pine bought HIS as brand, not as single company. So are both vendors at the end only a brand from Pine and must share a lot of ressources and production lines. I saw, that they are using similar PCB layouts, only the cooling and design is a little bit different. XFX seems a real poor company. I got the card a few days for the review but I had to send it back on my own costs (because they had no more samples to rotate and no money for carriers). So it is impossible to answer on questions that requires a re-test or second look at the product.

    Surprised XFX has fallen so far.

    I know with both of my XFX R9 280X cards I had from them, they're both in great condition, and currently overclocked a wee bit (It's cold where I live). XFX also says that they'll maintain warranty despite overclocks (Below a certain power threshold) which is why I picked them in the first place.

    Sad that they seem to be more dirt-baggish these days.
  • FormatC
    Wait for the RX480 roundup... I measured on the HIS card (similar to the GTR Black Edition from XFX) over 7A on the PCIe-Slot! This are 30% over the specs! I know from the German distributor, that they got some negative feedback from customers about non-stable cards and SI-PCs. I tried to get in a closer contact and I sent XFX all my data - no answer or interest.
  • Math Geek
    Thank for clearing it up. i've shared my HiS issues in the past so i won't revisit them, but they are not a company i will ever buy again. interesting that Pine bought that company and i'd hope they would get a boost in customer service and positive business practices as a result. never had anything negative to say about XFX personally and know many stand behind the brand as well. but if XFX is also slowly going the wrong way themselves, i would have little hope of HiS getting a boost from the parent company, if they are letting XFX brand slip as well.

    i'll stay tuned to see what the future brings from XFX cards in the next generation
  • FormatC
    It plays no role, HIS, XFX or whoever - it depends also a lot from the distributors and their local handling. The support is mostly a mirror of the local branch office or distribution and may very different from country to country. I see it negative for HIS, that Pine bought the brand name for their own products. Only a few faces left, the others were all fired. HIS is more or less not more existent as an own company. It looks like XFX, but as a cheaper version. XFX light :D
  • Math Geek
    that's interesting as well. HiS was the last AMD cards i bought for my house, but i have been favoring Saphire and Asus for a while now. i like the designs and the few times i have had to contact support, i mostly got what i needed.

    XFX, though respected for the most part, never really took off for me and mine. i'll probably stay with Saphire and Asus for now until another brand steps up to lure me away. HiS left such a bad taste in my mouth when i strayed, that i can't go there again. even with a new parent company, i just won't go there again. and it's too bad as i noted before, the card itself is actually pretty good. i have a 270, 270x and 280 from HiS and they are solid cards that run cool and quiet. but the business practices overshadowed this too much for me.

    nice review either way on these cards. though, they serve no purpose, the review was still all it needed to be to prove that.