Cooling, Noise, and Power
When it comes down to it, the performance gap between cards with the exact same GPU inside isn’t that large. The Gaming Z has been faster than the Founders Edition, but normally it is the other aspects that set aftermarket cards apart from the reference or Founders Editions and from each other. So I also do some testing to take a look at all of those different aspects. These areas are also important when it comes to small form factor builds as well because there is less room for error.
My first round of testing was to take a look at power usage of the RTX 2060 Gaming Z. Here I ran two tests, the first was running 3DMark Fire Strike’s combined test and keeping an eye on our test benches total power usage. This loads up the CPU and GPU in a similar way to what playing in game will, only it is more consistent for my testing. Here the RTX 2060 Gaming Z and our test bench pulled 389 watts. This was noticeably higher than the Founders Edition RTX 2060 which pulled 365. In fact, this put the Gaming Z right on par with the also overclocked EVGA RTX 2070 XC! My second test was to use AIDA64 and load up the GPU itself and check the benches wattage using our Kill-A-Watt. Here the Gaming Z did much better, pulling only 250 watts which was a little under the Founders Edition and just below the GTX 1080 FE as well.
Noise is also important, while some may game with our headphones on. If your video card sounds like a jet engine you still aren’t going to be happy, especially if you are like me and don’t use your headphones for in game sound. So to take a look at how loud the cards fan can run I tested the noise levels at 50% and 100% fan speeds. When the two fans were cranked up to 100% I was impressed, they weren’t quiet but were noticeably quieter than the Founders Edition RTX 2060. 50% was even better and overall the Gaming Z was never noisy or running with the fans much past 50% fan speed in my testing other than when I intentionally turned them up. The fans do both run at a lower overall RPM so the lower noise level wasn’t a big shock.
My last round of testing was to take a look at temperatures. For this I ran two tests, both using ADIA54 to put the video card under load. One was at the stock fan speeds and the second with the fans turned all the way up. The idea behind this is to get a look at what you will experience out of the box and then to see the max cooling the cooler is capable of. The first test at stock speeds had the RTX 2060 Gaming Z already near the top of our charts with the second coolest result out of the bunch at 59 degrees. For reference, the Founders Edition ran at 65 degrees in the same test. But cranking the fans up showed an even better 42 degrees showing that even though the cooling performance with the stock fan profile is good, there is even more room left if needed.
While doing my stock fan profile testing I also took the time to get a few thermal images of the RTX 2060 Gaming Z. The fan side of the card shows us that the two heatsinks under the fans run nice and cool but just beyond that, you can see how much things warm up without that direct airflow. This view also shows how the air is blowing out the top and bottom of the card. This is important to keep in mind if your M.2 drives are around the PCIe slots, blowing hot air down on your drive wouldn’t be ideal. The backplate is the warmest area when we can get a look at how warm the PCB is through the vents cut in the backplate.