|MSI N460GTX HAWK GeForce GTX 460|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Bruce Normann|
|Friday, 24 September 2010|
Page 16 of 19
MSI N460GTX HAWK Temperatures
It's hard to know exactly when the first video card got overclocked, and by whom. What we do know is that it's hard to imagine a computer enthusiast or gamer today that doesn't overclock their hardware. Of course, not every video card has the head room. Some products run so hot that they can't suffer any higher temperatures than they generate straight from the factory. This is why we measure the operating temperature of the video card products we test.
To begin testing, I use GPU-Z to measure the temperature at idle as reported by the GPU. Next I use FurMark 1.8.2 to generate maximum thermal load and record GPU temperatures at high-power 3D mode. The ambient room temperature remained stable at 26C throughout testing. I know this is a bit higher than the average American household, but we had a massive heat wave this summer and my testing is done in an upstairs room that doesn't get as much of the central A/C as I would like... Besides, I know some of you are not living in iceboxes and would be interested in how well the GTX 460 handles high ambient temps. I do have a ton of airflow into the video card section of my benchmarking case, with a 200mm side fan blowing directly inward, so that helps alleviate the high ambient temps.
The MSI N460GTX HAWK video card recorded 28C in idle 2D mode, and increased to 53C after 30 minutes of stability testing in full 3D mode, at 1920x1200 resolution, and the maximum MSAA setting of 8X. With the fan set on Automatic, the speed rose to 64% under full load. Before we talk about the temps under load, it's worth paying attention to the idle temperatures. I rarely see idle temps this low above ambient, but if you follow along into the next section on power consumption, I think you'll see the explanation.
53C is a tremendous result for temperature stress testing, especially with such a powerful GPU, stock fan settings, a moderately high ambient of 26C, and fan speeds controlled by the card. I'm used to seeing video card manufacturers keeping the fan speeds low and letting GPU temps get into higher temperature regions. In this case, the fan controller ramped up nicely to the 64% mark when running on auto. With high quality PWM-controlled fans that run fairly quiet, I didn't notice a major shift in fan noise, either. There is definitely some benefit to running the fan harder, as you can see from the 100% fan results above.
I rarely do my benchmarking tests with fans set on Automatic, preferring to give the GPU or CPU the best shot at surviving the day intact. With an integrated temperature controller in play though, I want to show how the manufacturer has programmed the system. This is one video card where I am completely happy with the stock fan profile. When I was maxing out both the voltage on all the subsystems and cranking the clocks up, I stuck to 100% on the fan, almost all the time. I did one test with 950 MHz on the core and the fan on Auto though, just to see: the fan controller ramped up to 65% and the GPU got to 55C. Turning the fan back up to 100% brought it down a few degrees, to 51C.
Load temps never got higher than 55C when running continuous gaming benchmarks with automatic fan speeds, so the cooling system definitely does the job, and there is a lot of temperature headroom left for the GPU. The noise at 100% speed was much lower than some other products I've tested recently that had squirrel cage blowers. For me, this type of fan noise is less irritating than what a radial fan produces, but I still prefer a design that pushes all the heated air out the back of the case. For normal usage patterns including gaming, I'd leave the fan settings on Auto. For benchmarking, it's worth putting up with a tiny little bit more noise, and to drive the fan at 100%.
FurMark is an OpenGL benchmark that heavily stresses and overheats the graphics card with fur rendering. The benchmark offers several options allowing the user to tweak the rendering: fullscreen / windowed mode, MSAA selection, window size, duration. The benchmark also includes a GPU Burner mode (stability test). FurMark requires an OpenGL 2.0 compliant graphics card with lot of GPU power!
FurMark does do two things extremely well: drive the thermal output of any graphics processor higher than any other application or video game, and it does so with consistency every time. While FurMark is not a true benchmark tool for comparing different video cards, it still works well to compare one product against itself using different drivers or clock speeds, or testing the stability of a GPU, as it raises the temperatures higher than any program. But in the end, it's a rather limited tool.
In our next section, we discuss electrical power consumption and learn how well (or poorly) each video card will impact your utility bill...