Temperature and Noise
A common consideration when looking at video cards is noise and heat output, after all if you are like most of us, you are going to have to live with this video card operating a few feet from you on a daily basis. As we are more concerned with the real-world attributes of a cards temperature and acoustic characteristics, that is what we test for. Temperature is easy enough to discern and in order to create a level playing field we run each card through our own in house temperature test designed to simulate normal gameplay usage. If we wanted to max out the temperature on the cards we could easily fire up Furmark and set it to the Xtreme Burning Mode selection and watch the card fry, but seeing as even the most extreme normal usage scenario would not heat a card to that level we do not feel it is a fair representation of a video cards thermal attributes.
In the temperature test we measured the idle temperature of each graphics card by allowing the system to sit powered-on but inactive with the desktop visible and no screen saver running. The temperature measurement is taken after the system has been sitting idle for 15 minutes. After this the idle temperature reading is taken the system is launched into the under-load temperature test.
In this test both cards demonstrated that their non-reference cooling solutions seem to be benefiting them quite well. The N460GTX had somewhat of an edge posting a lower idle temperature at 25C (to the R6850’s 29C) and load temperature of 48C versus the R6850’s 54C reading. In all reality both cards performed very well and did a great job of cooling some hot GPU’s. The N460GTX’s better performance in this test is to be expected when considering the fact that it’s cooling solution employs two more heatpipes and an additional fan as compared to the Cyclone cooling solution of the R6850.
When it comes to the noise level or sound output of a graphics card we feel it is important to remain practical. Granted we could use a dB meter and a quiet room to measure the exact noise level of the card but that setting would be atypical of the average usage scenario for a desktop card. Secondly the dB scale is not an easy indicator to relate to as each increase is in order of magnitude and not easily comparable. How much more annoying is a graphics card with a sound level of 82dB versus one with 80dB? Its hard to tell. Therefore we feel it makes more sense to break down the sounds levels into four categories akin to real world experience, and these "measurements" are taken in a standard office/room environment with standard ambient noises such as HVAC
: At this level the sound of the card is not perceptible. Either completely silent or only perceptible when your ear is place directly next to the card itselfNoticeable
: At this level the sound of the card is perceptible, generally as a low hum. The noise at this level is unobtrusive and generally blends in with other ambient noises, such as case fans, power supply exhaust fans etc. The noise from the card can be heard but you have to listen for it to really hear it.Clearly Noticeable
: At this level the noise output from the card is clearly evident. The graphics card is discernable as the source of the noise and tends to be of higher magnitude than the ambient noise around it.Annoying
: This moniker pretty much describes itself. At this level the sound of the card is distracting. The video card is clearly discernable as the source of noise and during gameplay/media enjoyment speaker and/or headphone volume must be increased to overcome the noise of the card.
The results of this test are a direct tie. Both cards performed well in terms of noise output, clearly falling into the Noticeable
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