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, our new test setup utilizes the Nvidia-designed PCat v2 along with cables to handle both traditional 6 or 8-pin connections as well as the new 12VHPWR. The PCat also utilizes a PCIe adapter to measure any power going to the card through the PCIe slot so we can measure the video card wattage exclusively, not the entire system as we have done in the past. I test with a mix of applications to get both in game, synthetic benchmarks, and other workloads like Blender and AIDA64. Then everything is averaged together for our result. I also have the individual results for this specific card and I document the peak wattage result as well which is almost always Time Spy Extreme but wasn’t this time, it was actually watch dogs which was 3 watts higher at 208 watts. Compared to the RTX 3060 that the RX 7600 beat on in the rest of the tests its peak wattage was lower than the 3060 but the average wattage was higher. But if we look newer and compare it with the newly announced RTX 4060 Ti the RX 7600’s wattage looks high, with the average across our tests 17 watts higher but the peak is better at 7 watts.

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With having exact peak wattage numbers when running Time Spy Extreme I was also able to put together a graph showing the total score for each watt that a card draws which gives us an interesting look at overall power efficiency in the popular and demanding benchmark. The Radeon RX 7600 improves a lot compared to the RX 6650 XT and the rest of the last generation's cards but there is a big gap between it and any of the other current generation cards including the 7900 XT and 7900 XTX.

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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 Radeon RX 7600 was right down at the bottom of the chart in both the 50% and 100% fan speed tests, the RPM chart gives a hint at what was going on with the dual fans running at 3062 RPM at 100% which is in the bottom 1/3 of the chart, but even so, AMD managed to have it running lower in the noise chart than in the RPM chart which is always impressive.

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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. Here the Radeon RX 7600 is right in the middle of the chart, a lot higher than it was on the 50% and 100% noise charts so this was a surprise. The chart showing just how high the stock fan profile was running helps explain the extra noise though, when under load the fans had to run at 64% of the max speed to keep things under control.

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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 Radeon RX 7600  leveled off at 74c which is a lot hotter than I expected a relatively low-power card to be running. But the fans running at 64% with the stock fan profile did clue us in that it would be warm, this is up closer to what the blower cards have run in the past. Then with the fans cranked up, the temperatures dropped down to 63c but with the stock fan profile already using a majority of the fan speed the Radeon RX 7600 moved up in the chart here. The delta between the two was 11c which isn’t too bad. As for GPU hotspot temps with the stock fan profile, the GPU hotspot was, well hot at 95c, nearly as hot as our always hot 7900 XTX reference card. Cranking the fan speed up helped a lot, dropping it down to 86c. From the looks of it the fans could use a little extra max RPM and a slightly more aggressive fan profile combined could help and given the noise performance there is a little room there trade a little more noise for lower temperatures. 

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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 thermal images show that the card is running warmer than the last few cards I have had on the bench, but we saw that in the temperature numbers as well. The fan side of the card shows that the heatsink is getting the heat pulled out across the entire card which is good, the thick metal shroud isn’t absorbing too much heat on this side as well. Up on the top where a majority of the heated air is being pushed up and where we have exposed heatsink fins this is noticeably warmer, there is more heat on the right half of the card, especially at the PCB. Then on the backplate, the metal backplate is getting some good thermal transfer to help pull the heat away. The hottest area is just to the left of the center but even towards the end of the card is it up to 50c as well and almost 44c down at the PCI bracket end.

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