Cooling, Noise, and Power
Beyond the normal performance aspects, another important thing to look at when looking at new video cards are things like the cooling performance, noise performance, and power usage. A card might perform amazing, but if your PSU or case can’t handle it none of it matters. Like in our previous testing, with the sudden change to a new test bench we have broken up our new results into new graphs and included the older results as well for comparison. This was especially important in the power usage testing that I ran first. We can see with the GTX 980 Ti and GTX 780 results that our new test bench, while being faster, pulls a lot less wattage. So the 337 that the 980 Ti pulls on the new test bench turned into 473 on the old bench. That said the 180-watt TDP of the GTX 1080 really helped it keep the wattage low with an impressive 283 watts under load in game for the entire test bench. This is drastically different than both the GTX 980 Ti and the GTX 780 that both had a TDP of 250.
Our next tests were to test the overall noise output of the GTX 1080. While these results didn’t change, I’m taking our test bench issue as a chance to reset these results for the future as well just to keep our graph smaller and easier to read. The old graph was getting a little large and hard to take in. That said the GTX 1080 with the fan turned all the way up only put out 72.4 decibels but I will say the reference design sounds louder than that to the ear. This wasn’t an issue at all during out testing though because it runs very quiet even at 100% load. I wasn’t able to get the card to crank up to 100% fan speed without manually doing it.
For our last batch of testing, I wanted to see just how warm the GTX 1080 runs. When letting the card handle the fan speed it jumped right up to 80 degrees and stayed consistent with a few bumps up to 81 degrees. This is because Nvidia uses a temperature target, letting the card warm up to it before they start to increase fan speed. This helps keep the card extremely quiet, but it does push it a lot closer to thermal issues. In fact, there have been some documented cases of this target temperature lowering the boost clock speeds of the GTX 1080 from time to time. I did a little testing of my own, running a few benchmarks at 100% fan speed as well as with the fan profile set to normal and comparing the results. In those tests, I did normally see the 100% fan speed tests slightly ahead, but it was only normally by .1 of an FPS. I will personally take the lower noise if that is the price.
The second half of my temperature testing was testing the GTX 1080 in Unigine Valley, just like the first test, with the fan set to 100%. This test gives us a better look at the overall cooling potential of the Founders Edition cooler as well as the heat output of the GTX 1080. Well the GTX 1080, even with its lower TDP did run a little warmer than the GTX 980. I think 62 degrees isn’t too bad though, showing that if we adjust the fan profile of the GTX 1080 we could have it running closer to 70 while still being mostly quiet.