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AMD FirePro W8100 Review: The Professional Radeon R9 290

Heat and Noise

Temperatures

Beyond the measurements we take on an open test bench, we also built a fixed workspace that has one purpose: testing graphics cards under more realistic conditions using a closed case. Corsair's Graphite 760T by HEC/Compucase jumped out at us immediately because of its acrylic side panel that can be opened like a door.

We run the case fans at maximum speed, since lots of cooling is normal in the server and workstation spaces. Still, a closed chassis is far from an ideal environment. Or is it? Interestingly, an open or closed side door has very little impact on graphics cards employing direct heat exhaust.

Let’s first compare the curves from AMD's FirePro W9100 and W8100. The flagship board reaches 93 degrees Celsius, regardless of whether the enclosure is open or closed, throttling back as a result of overly-aggressive factory settings. Conversely, the W8100 maintains a ceiling about six degrees cooler thanks to its lower power consumption. It too throttles, though. PowerTune has to step in and help starting at around 77 degrees Celsius.

As we'd deduce, based on those observations, the W8100's fan spins slower, which means the card should make less noise.

Noise

We measure each graphics card's acoustic behavior with a calibrated high-quality studio microphone (supercardioid) 50 cm away from a position perpendicular to the middle of the board. This distance, as well as the strong cardioid microphone characteristic, represents a compromise between avoiding noise generated by the fan’s airflow and ambient noise that can never be completely eliminated. Our dampening efforts help minimize the latter, but they'll never be 100-percent successful.

As we've seen many times before, reference-class cards typically achieve their cooling performance at the cost of higher sound levels. High-end workstation cards, in particular, exhaust waste heat from their I/O panels to avoid affecting other platform components. However, this is enabled through the use of a radial fan, and our results show that they're quite noisy.

Here are the detailed results:

ModelIdle3D Workload, Open Lab Table3D Workload, Closed Case
Quadro K500030.8 dB(A)37.7 dB(A)37.1 dB(A)
Quadro K600030.8 dB(A)42.7 dB(A)41.2 dB(A)
FirePro W910033.5 dB(A)51.3 dB(A)49.8 dB(A)
FirePro W810032.3 dB(A)44.8 dB(A)43.5 dB(A)
FirePro W900033.2 dB(A)55.4 dB(A)52.7 dB(A)

Video

The video shows that the AMD FirePro W8100 is bearable when it comes to maximum noise under load. This also demonstrates that a thermal solution originally designed for the Radeon HD 5800 (which hasn't changed much since) deals with the W8100’s nearly 190 W a lot better than the W9100's 250 W.