Cooling Noise and Power
For my last few tests, rather than focusing on in game performance, I like to check out other aspects of video card 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 Time Spy to put the system under a load similar to normal in game performance. Here our test system with the 6650 XT Gaming X pulled 344 watts in total putting it right with the stock GTX 1080 FE as an example of how things have changed over the last few generations. For comparison, the overclocked 6600 XT was lower at 327 watts and the 6650 XT Gaming X sits in between the 3060 Ti and the 3060 which is similar to how it performed in Time Spy as well. At the same time with Time Spy I also use GPUz to check out the onboard reading for GPU power draw at the chip. Our 6650 XT Gaming X pulled 165 watts and for comparison, the 6600 XT did 146. Lastly, I run AIDA64’s stress test on the video card to load up only the GPU, and using the Kill-A-Watt the test bench with the 6650 XT Gaming X pulled 302 watts here running right in the middle of the RTX 2080s, 32 watts higher than the 6600 XT.
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. I test using both A and C weighting, A is the standard way and C has a little more of the low end to check for low-level hums. The 6650 XT Gaming X did surprisingly well when running at 100% fan speed but at 50% fan speed was noisier than it should be. I also take a look at noise performance while under load. For that when running AIDA64’s stress test I wait until the temperature of the card has leveled off and then measure how loud things are when the card is at its worst-case scenario with the stock fan profile. Under load, the 6650 XT Gaming X came in right in the middle of the charts at 38.5 decibels.
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 6650 XT Gaming X leveled off at 60 degrees which was really good and well below the XFX 6600 XT in the same situation. Then with the fans cranked up, the 6650 XT Gaming X ran at 53 degrees which was higher up in the charts. The difference between the two was a delta of 7 degrees which is low showing that while the cooling on the 6650 XT Gaming X is solid there isn’t a ton of headroom. MSI has the stock fan profile tuned perfectly though as far as cooling goes.
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. On the fan side of the 6650 XT Gaming X, we can see how the heat blowing out of the bottom of the card collects up against the motherboard. This is an issue with most aftermarket cards and can heat up your M.2 drive if you have it installed there. Beyond that, though this side is running cool. On the top edge, we can see how the heat is blowing out of the top, especially with the power cord showing the heat up a few inches. Then for the backplate, The hottest area is actually to the left of the GPU here, not directly behind the GPU like we would normally see. Then down at the end where the vents are cut into the backplate things are running cool.