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. The RX 7700 XT Pulse averaged 248 watts and peaked at 290 watts. This put it just above the RTX 3070 and 46 watts lower than the Radeon RX 7800 XT. For comparison, the RTX 3070 Ti that the RX 7700 XT Pulse outperformed in game averaging 308 watts but all of the newer RTX 4070s that are faster than the RX 7700 XT Pulse are down in the low 200 watts. So the RX 7700 XT Pulse is more efficient than last generation Nvidia cards but is behind the current generation.

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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. This paints the same pictures that I was just saying. The RX 7700 XT Pulse is just behind the 7800 XT in efficiency and ahead of the RX 7600 but when compared to what Nvidia has going on it is way ahead of any of the 3000 Series but behind even the lowest efficiency 4000 Series cards.

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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. At 50% fan speed the RX 7700 XT Pulse falls right in the middle of the cards tested at 41.7 dB but is down at the bottom of the chart at 100% fan speed which is interesting. At 100% fan speed the two fans were running at 2942 RPM which was also down on the low end of the charts which helps explain why it did so well.  

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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 RX 7700 XT Pulse didn’t do as well, in fact, it is up above the halfway point at 41.2 decibels which is close to what it did at 50% fan speed. That makes sense though, the RX 7700 XT Pulse was running at 47% fan speed when under load. Overall this is still a lot better than any of the reference cards including the 7800 XT which was up near the top of the chart. So while the RX 7700 XT Pulse isn’t a top performer, it is better than what a reference card would have done if AMD had made one.

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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 RX 7700 XT Pulse ran at 55c which is better than I expected and down in the bottom end of the chart. This also tells us that the previous under-load noise levels could be improved with a small tweak to the fan profile. As for GPU Hotspot, with the stock fan profile that was warmer running at 91c. Crankng the fan speed up to 100% the RX 7700 XT Pulse ran cooler at 46c and the GPU Hotspot dropped down to 77c. This puts the delta between the stock fan profile and 100% fan speed at 9c meaning there is plenty of room left in the cooler if needed but to do that you will have to sacrifice even more noise. I personally would likely be adjusting it the other way and letting the card run a little warmer to have the fans run a little quieter while in game.

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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 fan side of the 7700 XT Pulse with its plastic fan shroud doesn’t retain much of the heat generated in the fan shroud. Most of the heat on this side can be seen behind the fans and venting out the top and bottom of the card. The hottest spots on the fan sides reach up to 35.6c and as cool as 23.1c which is basically room temperature in my office. On the top edge, it runs at 32.3c and 34.1c on the ends but the center has most of the heat with the hottest spot at 45.6c which is still a lot lower than most cards. Then on the back, the metal backplate does pull some of the heat out as you can see with that running up to 43.4c itself. Then in the center with the cutout around the back of the GPU is the hottest area on the entire card at 58.2c.

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