AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition 3 GB Review 222

AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition 3 GB Review

Fan Noise »

Power Consumption

Cooling modern video cards is becoming more and more difficult, especially when users are asking for quiet cooling solutions. That's why the engineers are now paying much more attention to power consumption of new video card designs. An optimized fan profile is also one of the few things that board vendors can do to impress with reference designs where they are prohibited to make changes to the thermal solution or components on the card.

For this test we measure power consumption of only the graphics card, via PCI-Express power connector(s) and PCI-Express bus slot. A Keithley Integra 2700 with 6.5 digits is used for all measurements. Again, the values here reflect card only power consumption measured at DC VGA card inputs, not the whole system.

We chose Crysis 2 as a standard test representing typical 3D gaming usage because it offers: - very high power draw - high repeatability - is a current game that is supported on all cards due to its DirectX 9 nature - drivers are actively tested and optimized for it - supports all multi-GPU configurations - test runs a relatively short time and renders a non-static scene with variable complexity.

Our results are based on the following tests:
  • Idle: Windows 7 Aero sitting at the desktop (1280x1024 32-bit) all windows closed, drivers installed. Card left to warm up in idle until power draw is stable.
  • Multi-Monitor: Two monitors connected to the tested card, which use different display timings. Windows 7 Aero sitting at the desktop (1280x1024 32-bit) all windows closed, drivers installed. Card left to warm up in idle until power draw is stable.
  • Average: Crysis 2 at 1920x1200, Extreme profile, representing a typical gaming power draw. Average of all readings (12 per second) while the benchmark was rendering (no title/loading screen).
  • Peak: Crysis 2 at 1920x1200, Extreme profile, representing a typical gaming power draw. Highest single reading during the test.
  • Maximum: Furmark Stability Test at 1280x1024, 0xAA. This results in a very high non-game power consumption that can typically be reached only with stress testing applications. Card left running stress test until power draw converged to a stable value. On cards with power limiting systems we will disable the power limiting system or configure it to the highest available setting - if possible. We will also use the highest single reading from a Furmark run which is obtained by measuring faster than when the power limit can kick in.
  • Blu-ray Playback: Power DVD 9 Ultra is used at a resolution of 1920x1200 to play back the Batman: The Dark Knight disc with GPU acceleration turned on. Playback starts around timecode 1:19 which has the highest data rates on the BD with up to 40 Mb/s. Playback left running until power draw converged to a stable value.
Power consumption in idle, multi-monitor and Blu-ray is roughly the same, or slightly higher than on the HD 7970. Compared to the NVIDIA GTX 680, idle and multi-monitor numbers are similar, but the power draw during Blu-ray playback is much higher. NVIDIA has also worked on their drivers to further reduce multi-monitor and Blu-ray power consumption, so they clearly lead here (these improvements are not included in our data yet).

During gaming we see much higher power consumption compared to the normal HD 7970. This increase is big, even with the performance improvements taken into account, performance per Watt is more than 15% lower. Only Furmark maximum power has remained the same, it seems that AMD's power limiter is configured exactly the same as on the non-GHz cards, which is no surprise as both use the same board and only the GPU is from a better bin.

A new feature of the HD 7900 Series is AMD ZeroCore Power, which will power off the card as soon as the monitor output is blanked, during screen saver for example. For additional power and noise reduction the fan will stop in this state, too. We measured a power consumption of 1.11 Watts for the whole graphics card during ZeroCore Power. As soon as you move the mouse the PC is back immediately, there is no lag or any delay.

Please note that ZeroCore Power seems to engage only when the screen is completely static. If you have an application running that draws to the screen, the monitor will go black, but the card will not enter the low power state or return from it quickly. To avoid this, minimize all applications and let Windows sit at the desktop.

NVIDIA has no competing technology to ZeroCore, so AMD is at a clear advantage here.

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