|Zotac GeForce GTX-480 Fermi Video Card|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Tuesday, 11 May 2010|
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GeForce GTX480 Temperatures
Benchmark tests are always nice, so long as you care about comparing one product to another. But when you're an overclocker, gamer, or merely a PC hardware enthusiast who likes to tweak things on occasion, there's no substitute for good information. Benchmark Reviews has a very popular guide written on Overclocking Video Cards, which gives detailed instruction on how to tweak a graphics cards for better performance. Of course, not every video card has overclocking head room. Some products run so hot that they can't suffer any higher temperatures than they already do. This is why we measure the operating temperature of the video card products we test.
To begin my testing, I use GPU-Z to measure the temperature at idle as reported by the GPU. Next I use FurMark's "Torture Test" to generate maximum thermal load and record GPU temperatures at high-power 3D mode. The ambient room temperature remained at a stable 20°C throughout testing, while the inner-case temperature hovered around 37°C.
FurMark does two things extremely well: drive the thermal output of any graphics processor higher than applications of video games realistically could, and it does so with consistency every time. Furmark works great for testing the stability of a GPU as the temperature rises to the highest possible output. The temperatures discussed below are absolute maximum values, and not representative of real-world performance.
A Tale of Two GTX-480's
As the introduction to this article suggested, the engineering samples NVIDIA sent to the media for evaluation tests is significantly different from the full retail version landing on store shelves. Physically, the video card is nearly identical between versions, and graphics performance is unchanged. The real difference comes from a reduced power demand, which in turn reduces GF100 GPU heat output, and results in a lower RPM blower fan that emits less noise.
NVIDIA-supplied product specifications state that the GeForce GTX 480 has a maximum GPU thermal threshold of 105°C. This is identical for the previous-generation GeForce GTX 285, as well as the GeForce GTX 470 that shares the same GF100 graphics processor. Housed in a mid-tower computer case with no additional cooling, the original GeForce GTX-480 engineering sample produced a very warm 53°C in idle 2D mode and increased to 93°C in sustained full 3D mode.
NVIDIA GeForce GTX480 Engineering Sample Temperatures
After six weeks of additional development, the Zotac GeForce GTX-480 retail kit produced much lower temperatures... and did so with a lot less fan noise. The image below illustrates how the (many) BIOS revisions have benefited the series:
ZOTAC GeForce GTX480 Video Card Temperatures
Most new graphics cards from NVIDIA and ATI will expel heated air out through exhaust vents, which does not increase the internal case temperature. Our test system is an open-air chassis that allows the video card to depend on its own cooling solution for proper thermal management. Most gamers and PC hardware enthusiasts who use an aftermarket computer case with intake and exhaust fans will usually create a directional airflow current and lower internal temperatures a few degrees below the measurements we've recorded. To demonstrate this, we've built a system to illustrate the...
Traditional tower-style computer cases position internal hardware so that heat is expelled out through the back of the unit. This is better than nothing, but there's a fundamental problem: heat rises. Using the transverse mount design on the SilverStone Raven-2 chassis, Benchmark Reviews re-tests the Zotac GeForce GTX-480 video card to determine the 'best-case' scenario.
Sitting idle at the Windows 7 desktop with a 20°C ambient room temperature, the Zotac GeForce GTX-480 rested at a respectable 38°C. Pushed to abnormally high levels using the FurMark torture test, the GeForce GTX-480 operated at 80°C with a very quiet blower fan. While the retail Zotac BIOS has obviously made a significant difference in terms of power consumption and heat output, the well-designed Raven-2 computer case with additional cooling features has help to make an even bigger difference.
Despite the 40nm process and improved BIOS programming, GF100 still runs warm unless you add internal case cooling to draw in cool air and exhaust heated air. This could impact overclocking projects inside poorly ventilated computer cases. So if you've already got a warm-blooded CPU in your computer system, take look at our Best CPU Cooler Performance series and find a heatsink that will lower your internal temperatures and prolong component lifetime. Lowering the internal case temperature could give you an added edge for GPU overclocking projects, and it will also help overall system stability.