Cooling, Noise, and Power
Performance in games or your work compute tasks are always the priority, but there are a few other aspects of video cards that are a big deal as well depending on your PC and situation. Those issues are cooling performance, overall noise, and power usage. Not everyone is going to care about all three, but I would lay money that only the most die-hard fans would put up with all three being extremely bad. So I always make sure to take a look at all of those other aspects as well. This becomes especially important later when I start taking a look at aftermarket cards as these areas are sometimes the main differences between different card designs and different companies.
So, just like with the RTX 2080 Ti FE I started off with power usage on the RTX 2080 FE. I did my tests using our Kill-A-Watt with the PSU plugged into it. This tracks total power draw for the whole system, so these aren’t card only numbers. But they do give us a good look at the power usage and also help give an idea of what your system might pull. Keep in mind different CPUs will pull more or less and if you were to do a full stress test on the CPU in addition to these tests the power draw could be higher. My two tests look at an average gaming draw and then a full stress on the GPU. I do that using 3DMark Fire Strike with its combined test and then AIDA64’s stress test for the second. In 3DMark the 2080 FE pulled 430 watts, coming in lower than the 2080 Ti and the 1080 Ti. As with the 2080 Ti review, I did mention that games later on that use the RT and Tensor cores will pull more because right now those are sitting mostly idle. As for the AIDA64 results, well here the RTX 2080 FE did much better, it was actually in line with the 11Gbps GTX 1080. This was almost 100 watts lower than the RTX 2080 Ti FE and 200 less than the Vega 64 Liquid Cooled card.
My next test was the noise levels of the fans. To test this I setup our meter 18 inches away and then run the fans at 50% and 100% fan speeds. %. I do it at those speeds because “under load” fan speeds can vary depending on room temperature and the game. I then also track the 100% fan speed for reference. The RTX 2080 Ti FE and the RTX 2080 FE that I am testing here both have the same cooler and both performed well here. They were about the same for noise, putting them in line with the original GTX 1080 before the faster fan speed of the 1080 Ti. This isn’t exactly great when compared to aftermarket cards though. This is an area where those cards will be able to stand out when I get to test them.
For the last tests, I left the most important, cooling performance. If your video card overheats it won’t matter how well it performs otherwise. To do these tests I used AIDA64’s stress test to heat things up and tested twice. Once with the stock fan profile and then again with the fan turned all the way up. This gives us a look at how the card will perform out of the box and then how capable the cooling is overall. That delta can mean more overclocking room or lower fan speeds for quieter operation. So how did the 2080 FE do? Well at 66 degrees it was well below the 2080 Ti and almost in with all of the aftermarket cards and the liquid cooled Vega 64. The 100% fan speed numbers were even better, being the second best card tested and the best card that was air cooled. Having the same cooler as the RTX 2080 Ti with less heat being created really benefits this card!
I also got a few thermal images while doing the stock fan profile tests just to see how warm things were and to see if there were any hot spots. The results were nearly the same as the 2080 Ti, only with that card having a little more heat in the backplate. The top edge with the exposed heatsink and one of the two areas where hot air can blow out would be hot. The fan side of the card runs nice and cool and you can see a little heat through the fans from the heatsink. Then the backplate is the hottest part of the card by far, with most of that being in one spot about 2/3 of the way down the card.