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 Post subject: Impressions: GV-N970G1, Gigabyte GTX 970
PostPosted: Sun Sep 28, 2014 7:41 pm 
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These are my thoughts on Gigabyte's GTX 970 from a silent computing perspective. Some background information on the card: it was briefly reviewed by Tom's Hardware. It's pre-overclocked to 1178MHz (from a stock 1050MHz) and comes with Gigabyte's Windforce 3X cooler, which is a fewer-finned version of the Windforce 3X 600W cooler installed on Gigabyte's GTX 980 and GTX Titan cards, but I believe the fans are the same on both models. X-bit labs has some further analysis of the cooler, along with some basic noise measurements.

The card was installed in a system with the following specs:
The PC sits at the side of my desk in a carpeted room. All fans are speed-controlled to run at 600RPM or less when not gaming. Subjectively, the most audible part in the system is the 27" Samsung LCD monitor (depressingly, I cherry-picked this sample from Costco for its noise profile), followed by the Seagate drive, then the WD drives. I can't hear the fans unless they ramp up.

Back to the GTX 970: when it was first installed, the fans ramped up to 100% then down to about 50%. After installing the Geforce drivers they lowered to 34%, or 1600 RPM. Neither Gigabyte's OC Guru II software nor MSI Afterburner could convince the fans to spin any slower. At this speed the graphics card fans are the most prominent noise source, but I can still hear the monitor and Seagate drive. The noise is not distracting when music, games, or movies are played, but can be heard during breaks in the sound. The fans mostly sound like a tonal whoosh, but I can hear some pulsing, probably due to the three fans running at slightly different speeds. I may have also heard some electronics interference in the headphone output, but too be fair I heard it with the old video card too--the Asus Xonar D1 sound card has been a real disappointment in this regard (and many others).

So, out-of-the-box, I cannot recommend this card to someone who wants a quiet computer. But I intend to try several things to lower the noise:
  • I've asked Gigabyte support how I can turn off the fans at low temperature. MSI and Asus have GTX 970 models that do this, and I heard that EVGA is developing a BIOS update to allow the same. So maybe Gigabyte will follow suit.
  • I may try to install a Zalman Fanmate. X-bit labs says the Windforce fans can run as low as 3 volts, or 1000 RPM.
  • More likely, I will remove the stock fan shroud and tie a quiet 120mm fan (or two) to the heatsink.
  • Finally, I might install another aftermarket heatsink, such as the Prolimatech MK-26.
As for the GTX 970 overall, I bought it for its official 145 watts TDP, and was dismayed to see it regularly exceeded that in measurements by TechPowerUp and Tom's Hardware, who both have equipment that can directly measure DC consumed by the card. Worse, the idle power consumption of the cards vary wildly, although I don't think my sample has particularly bad idle consumption.

I took some power measurements done by eyeballing a Watt's Up power meter that measures whole system AC consumption. Load measurement was taken while running the Bioshock Infinite benchmark at 1080p, Ultra + DDOF graphical settings. Additional measurements were taken with GPU-Z.

HD 5850:
Idle: 95-100W
Load: 210?-235W
FPS: 29.4

GTX 970:
Idle: 85-90W
Load: 225-285W
FPS: 94.4
Frequency: 1367MHz
Voltage: 1.225V
Peak TDP: 66%

The GTX 970 responded well to forced TDP throttling. I lowered the TDP limit to 40% using OC Guru II and re-ran the benchmark:
Load: 215-225W
FPS: 81.0
Frequency: 900-1367MHz
Voltage: 1.03-1.225V
Peak TDP: 42%

I'm rather CPU-limited, so someone with a more modern processor might see a bigger performance drop. I may test again with supersampling antialiasing, to more fully load the card.

In conclusion, I think the GTX 970 is an okay GPU for quiet gaming. It has an FPS/watt ratio higher than anything else bar the GTX 980. However it is difficult to cool silently, and it may be wiser to wait a month or two for a GTX 960 / 960 Ti with lower TDP, or wait longer for Nvidia to produce 20nm parts.

Either way, Gigabyte's card is probably not the best one to get if you want a near-silent PC.


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 Post subject: Re: Impressions: GV-N970G1, Gigabyte GTX 970
PostPosted: Mon Sep 29, 2014 5:43 am 
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Have you looked at whether the Accelero S1 could be transferred onto the GTX 970? No doubt it's not on the official supported list but with a 120mm fan like the Scythe that you've been using strapped to it then it should be able to cool it adequately. You might need to improvise some small heatsinks for ancillary components on the card but the main question is, will the cooler fit the GPU?

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 Post subject: Re: Impressions: GV-N970G1, Gigabyte GTX 970
PostPosted: Mon Sep 29, 2014 6:38 am 
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edh wrote:
with a 120mm fan like the Scythe that you've been using strapped to it then it should be able to cool it adequately. You might need to improvise some small heatsinks for ancillary components on the card

Isn't the TDP of the big Maxwells out of reach for the Accelero S1 Plus, even when fanned?
Also the relevant VRM may need something more than the usual small heatsinks bundled with the S1 Plus.

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 Post subject: Re: Impressions: GV-N970G1, Gigabyte GTX 970
PostPosted: Mon Sep 29, 2014 1:54 pm 
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edh wrote:
Have you looked at whether the Accelero S1 could be transferred onto the GTX 970? No doubt it's not on the official supported list but with a 120mm fan like the Scythe that you've been using strapped to it then it should be able to cool it adequately. You might need to improvise some small heatsinks for ancillary components on the card but the main question is, will the cooler fit the GPU?

It has been a while since I installed the Accelero S1. But the HD 5850 reaches 85-90°C on load (probably the thermal compound has all migrated away) and the adhesive on the memory sinks has long since failed. I'm impressed it still works well on the HD 5850, and I'm kind of afraid to fuss with it. :) Besides, I would like the option to use the HD 5850 in another system, and I have nothing to replace the Accelero S1.

The Windforce 3X heatsink seems pretty substantial so I hope it performs at least as well as the Accelero S1 with the Scythe fan. I think it connects the VRMs to the main heatsink via heatpipes, which is nice. If I don't hear back from Gigabyte support re: a semi-passive fan mode, I will probably try a fan replacement later this week. If I can, I will also examine the mounting holes to see if the GTX 970 might in theory fit an Accelero S1.


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 Post subject: Re: Impressions: GV-N970G1, Gigabyte GTX 970
PostPosted: Mon Sep 29, 2014 9:28 pm 
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quest_for_silence wrote:
Isn't the TDP of the big Maxwells out of reach for the Accelero S1 Plus, even when fanned?

It's worth trying. The original S1 was never rated for TDP but as it was factory fitted passively on some 8800GT's which have a 126W TDP, you can get some idea. Obviously with a fan it then depends upon airflow so then the TDP is down to how much noise you can accept.

The newer S1 Plus which is not hugely different is advertised as being for a 120W TDP passively.

quest_for_silence wrote:
Also the relevant VRM may need something more than the usual small heatsinks bundled with the S1 Plus.

As I'd indicated. My way of doing this before is to take a hack saw to the standard heatsink so that the shaped sections for the VRMs can be used with the aftermarket cooler. This doesn't work with the Windforce cooler but a chunk of an old Athlon XP heatsink would work fine!

SometimesWarrior wrote:
The Windforce 3X heatsink seems pretty substantial so I hope it performs at least as well as the Accelero S1 with the Scythe fan.

You might find that a single fan does not fit well with the shape of that cooler being so long and thin. A pair of 120mm fans or even 3 92mm fans running slower might be better.

SometimesWarrior wrote:
If I don't hear back from Gigabyte support re: a semi-passive fan mode, I will probably try a fan replacement later this week.

If you find DC fan replacement doesn't allow you to get a quiet enough idle, you could also try using PWM fans. The card has 2 PWM headers (wierd for 3 fans) and you can get adaptors for NVIDIA PWM headers to a standard PWM header. Furthermore, if the PWM supply from Gigabyte does not allow for a low enough RPM you can get a PWM-DC adaptor which would allow you to use a DC fan and adjust the starting speed based upon PWM signal from the card. I have one from a company called PaQ but can't track down where to buy it anymore.

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 Post subject: Re: Impressions: GV-N970G1, Gigabyte GTX 970
PostPosted: Mon Sep 29, 2014 10:26 pm 
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edh wrote:
The newer S1 Plus which is not hugely different is advertised as being for a 120W TDP passively.

Anything could & should be tried, but the AC info are rather deceptive: besides, as said by the OP, with an high power target (the Gigabyte's std one should be around 250W) it would be a though fit, if any.


edh wrote:
you can get adaptors for NVIDIA PWM headers to a standard PWM header. Furthermore, if the PWM supply from Gigabyte does not allow for a low enough RPM you can get a PWM-DC adaptor which would allow you to use a DC fan and adjust the starting speed based upon PWM signal from the card. I have one from a company called PaQ but can't track down where to buy it anymore.

I think PaQ is out of business since some years.

Probably the most effective adaptor could be an inline resistor with a male Nvidia PWM and a female Nvidia PWM (a female standard PWM would be welcome also), but I've never heard of.

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 Post subject: Re: Impressions: GV-N970G1, Gigabyte GTX 970
PostPosted: Mon Sep 29, 2014 10:43 pm 
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Imo the MK26 would be a better fit, even if its an overkill for such a high efficient GPU, but you run one Scythe Gentle Typhoon 120mm Case Fan - 500 RPM, 5 dBA, 17.7cfm or two if you wish, should be inaudible, just a matter of taking 4 PCIe slots for it, maybe 5.

I do see a problem with the gigbyte and upgrading to whatever aftermarket cooler, and its that the cooler has very good design but it has the cooling for the memory and vrm included on it, thus removing leaves everything without any cooling, so something has to be added, memory i dont think its an issue, as asus runs it without anything, but the vrm should get hot. MSI in the other hand has stand alone modueles that should work fine with an aftermarket cooler, thats if the aftermarket cooler fits.

Image

Image

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 Post subject: Re: Impressions: GV-N970G1, Gigabyte GTX 970
PostPosted: Tue Sep 30, 2014 12:39 am 
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I think your plan of removing the stock fans and strapping on a couple for 120mm's is probably going to work well enough. You could certainly solve it by sticking on a beefier aftermarket cooler, but the windforce one actually looks pretty decent already.

I'm currently running a GTX760 and from the Techpowerup power readings, I can see that the 970 and 760 are fairly equal in consumption. I too couldn't get the fans to spin at less than about 1200 rpm, so I removed them and strapped on a 140mm Noctua. In idle it sits at 300 rpm and less than 40 C - in a regular gaming scenario its 500 rpm and about 70 C. With the windforce cooler having two more heat pipes to boot, I think the 120mm's will do fine.


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 Post subject: Re: Impressions: GV-N970G1, Gigabyte GTX 970
PostPosted: Tue Sep 30, 2014 3:12 am 
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Thank you for the feedback, everyone.

edh wrote:
If you find DC fan replacement doesn't allow you to get a quiet enough idle, you could also try using PWM fans. The card has 2 PWM headers (wierd for 3 fans) and you can get adaptors for NVIDIA PWM headers to a standard PWM header. Furthermore, if the PWM supply from Gigabyte does not allow for a low enough RPM you can get a PWM-DC adaptor which would allow you to use a DC fan and adjust the starting speed based upon PWM signal from the card. I have one from a company called PaQ but can't track down where to buy it anymore.

Thank you for the information. I would not have thought to look for a second fan header.

Ren0ir wrote:
I'm currently running a GTX760 and from the Techpowerup power readings, I can see that the 970 and 760 are fairly equal in consumption. I too couldn't get the fans to spin at less than about 1200 rpm, so I removed them and strapped on a 140mm Noctua. In idle it sits at 300 rpm and less than 40 C - in a regular gaming scenario its 500 rpm and about 70 C. With the windforce cooler having two more heat pipes to boot, I think the 120mm's will do fine.

That's encouraging--thanks for sharing your success.

I wanted to see what voltage the card settled at for each clock frequency, so I continually adjusted the TDP limit to encourage the card to run at various boost levels. This probably isn't news to anyone with a modern graphics card that has a clock boost feature, but I thought it was interesting, so I charted the card's MHz by Volts (this is at its factory overclock of 1178MHz base / 1329MHz boost):

Image

By changing the core overclock I shift the graph to the left and right. It seems like the boost buckets have fixed voltages, and the overclock setting determines what clock is attempted at that voltage. This makes sense, but I was worried that clock speeds would be locked to particular voltages and overclocking could not improve the card's efficiency.

Offhand: after doing these tests I noticed the idle voltage had increased from 0.837V to 0.862V and idle TDP from 7.7% to 10.9%. The watt meter reported about 8-10W higher too. Maybe some app is now running in the background, but it's odd that the card now wants to waste some extra power.


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 Post subject: Re: Impressions: GV-N970G1, Gigabyte GTX 970
PostPosted: Tue Sep 30, 2014 7:03 am 
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Quote:
By changing the core overclock I shift the graph to the left and right. It seems like the boost buckets have fixed voltages, and the overclock setting determines what clock is attempted at that voltage.

Nice graph. It aligns with a review that mentioned 12MHz wide bins.

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 Post subject: Re: Impressions: GV-N970G1, Gigabyte GTX 970
PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2014 11:29 pm 
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This week I removed the fan shroud and installed replacement fans. I apologize in advance for my imprecise measurements, but I tested over the course of a week and the indoor temperature was not kept consistent. Also I wanted to optimize many things and didn't have the patience to change them individually.

First, some baseline performance: with the stock fans at their lowest setting of 1600 RPM, the GPU stayed at 72-75 C in my low airflow case, running at 1354 MHz and 1.206 V. GPU-Z reported about 61% TDP and AC wall power was about 285 W.

The fan shroud was attached to the heatsink with six screws: two near the Windforce LED logo, and four at the ends of the heatsink. Unfortunately one screw was blocked by the metal shield around the DVI connector, so rather than uninstall the heatsink to reach the screw, I snipped that portion of the fan shroud. The fan power cable was wedged under the heatsink and I could not unplug it from the card connector, so I instead unplugged it at the fan end and left the cable dangling from the card.

The heatsink is split into three sections. The small left section contacts the VRM's, the middle contacts the GPU and memory, and the right floats over the board. They are connected by four heatpipes.
Image

I first installed a Scythe S-Flex SFF21E using twist-ties, positioned over the left and center heatsinks and run at 10.5 V. The right heatsink was not actively cooled. At that voltage the S-Flex didn't seem any quieter than the stock fans (it's started buzzing too), but it was a lower pitch, so it made a slight noise improvement overall. Unfortunately the card soon reached the default 79 C thermal limit and throttled down, eventually settling at 79 C, 1252 MHz, 1.087 V, and about 49% TDP / 250 W wall power. A small consolation: the idle TDP decreased from 7.5% to 6.0% since the graphics card no longer needed to power three fans.

The next day I installed an 80 mm 5-volted Panaflo on the right heatsink section, in addition to the S-Flex. A 92 mm or 100 mm fan would have covered the heatsink better, but it's all I had on hand, plus it's inaudible. I tested again and this time the card maintained the same clock speed as it did with the stock fans, and stabilized at 73 C. However the ambient temperature was 5-6 C less than previous tests, so it still did not perform as well as the stock fans, but it was good enough for my needs.

edh was right: a single fan is not appropriate for this card. Also I suspect that the rightmost heatsink is the most important one for cooling the GPU: even a puny 5-volted 80mm fan was able to improve my heat dissipation by, I estimate, 30% better C/W.

With my newfound thermal headroom, I was able to overclock the card. I increased the GPU clock another 90 MHz, to 1268 MHz base, and the card runs at 1443 MHz boost. Any higher and I see artifacts in Bioshock Infinite. Maybe other games will demand that I reduce the clock further. Also I will lose some boost clock if I come across a game that can bring the card above 70% TDP.


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 Post subject: Re: Impressions: GV-N970G1, Gigabyte GTX 970
PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2014 1:27 am 
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How about you try two 12CM fans, with no more than 850 RPM at load?

Like this...
Image


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 Post subject: Re: Impressions: GV-N970G1, Gigabyte GTX 970
PostPosted: Fri Oct 10, 2014 2:02 am 
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Yes tzeb, that would work better. The card is now inaudible at idle since the large fan is temperature-controlled by SpeedFan, and quiet enough when playing most games with adaptive v-sync which generally keeps the card under 50% TDP. So I will eventually get two new 120 mm fans and arrange them like in your photo, but it's not urgent, especially with the cooler seasons coming.


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