Cooling Noise and Power
For my last few tests, rather than focusing on in game performance, I like to check out other aspects of performance. These are also the most important ways to differentiate the performance between cards that have the same GPU. To start things off I took a look at power usage. For this, I use our Kill-A-Watt hooked up to the test bench to record the total wattage of the system. I ran two tests with the first using 3DMark Fire Strike to put the system under a load similar to normal in game performance. Here our test system with the Nitro+ 6700XT pulled 350 watts in the 3DMark benchmark which put it right in between the XFX and MSI 6700XT’s. For comparison, the 3060 Ti was up at 382 watts. Then with the AIDA64 workload, I cut out most of the CPU usage with just the GPU under load and the test bench with the Nitro+ 6700XT in it pulled 330 watts. This was one watt over the XFX and 9 under the slightly overclocked MSI 6700 XT. My last test was just using GPUz’s tracking of the peak power draw just from the GPU chip itself. This gives us a good look at the power settings from Sapphire which have the Nitro+ 6700XT at 205 watts. The XFX for comparison runs at 212 watts and the MSI even with its overclock runs at 203.
My next round of tests were looking at noise levels. These are especially important to me because I can’t stand to listen to my PC whirling. Especially when I’m not in game and other applications are using the GPU. For my testing, though I first tested with the fan cranked up to 100% to get an idea of how loud it can get, then again at 50% to get an idea of its range. The Nitro+ 6700XT did extremely well for a triple fan design in the 100% and 50% testing, coming in down in the bottom 1/3 of the charts for its 100% fan speed noise levels. Its 50% noise levels were a little higher but still not too bad. Even more impressive though was the Nitro+ 6700XT when under load coming in at just 34.4 decibels which is extremely quiet. With the Nitro+ 6700XT being so quiet at 100% fan speed I was curious to see if it was because of the RPM that Sapphire has it running but I couldn’t get an RPM reading in any of the programs that I normally use. I even took a look using their own Trixx software and it also doesn’t pick up the fan speed as well.
To finish up my testing I of course had to check out the cooling performance. To do this I ran two different tests. I used AIDA64’s Stress Test run for a half-hour each to warm things up. Then I documented what temperature the GPU leveled out at with the stock fan profile and then again with the fans cranked up to 100%. With the stock profile, the Nitro+ 6700XT did well running at 64 degrees which put it in the bottom half of our charts. The MSI Gaming X was a few degrees lower and the XFX was significantly lower due to its aggressive fan profile. Cranking the fan up to 100% the Nitro+ 6700XT ran at 43 degrees which was 6 degrees lower than the MSI and 2 degrees over the XFX. The delta between the Nitro+ 6700XT with the stock fan profile and with the fans at 100% was huge at 21 degrees meaning that there is a lot of headroom in the card over the stock profile if you want to overclock it.
While running the stock fan profile testing I also took the time to get a few thermal images so we could see what is going on. The fan side thermal images of the Nitro+ 6700XT show us that hot spot up under the card that all axial cooler designs with horizontal heatsinks run into. This isn’t a big deal unless you plan on putting an M.2 drive up under the card. Beyond that, you can see that the far left fan is dealing with more heat than the other two fans. That trend is also shown up top with the GPU side of the card being around 5 degrees warmer. The backplate view shows the open area behind the GPU itself is obviously the hottest spot on the card. This also means that the backplate isn’t acting as an insulator in that area which is good.