BFG GeForce GTX 295 H2OC LE review test

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Setup | Noise | Power consumption | Heat levels

Hardware installation

Installation of the product really is easy. But would be easier if you have another pair of hands around. So if a friend of yours can help you out during installation, this will be very easy.

You need to remove the 120mm chassis rear fan as that's where the cooling unit will be mounted. First off, insert the graphics card in the empty x16 PCIe slot and secure it. Now mount the cooling unit (fan) on the rear 120mm exhaust of your chassis. Secure it with four screws.

That was the most complex thing you need to do, but as stated, an extra pair of hands here is handy.

Now you connect the 3-pin fan header to the motherboard (btw. make sure your motherboard FAN control is enabled and set at 100% so the unit will receive the full 12 volts).

Now connect a 6-pin and 8-pin power connector to the graphics card. And yes... do make sure your power supply is compatible, preferably WITH an 8-pin PCIe graphics connector.

You can now turn on your PC, boot into Windows, install the latest GeForce driver and after a reboot all should be working. No further configuration is required or needed.

BFG GeForce GTX 295 H2OC LE reviewThe 6 and 8-pin power connectors. To the right.

Energy consumption

We'll now show you some tests we have done on overall power consumption of the PC. Looking at it from a performance versus wattage point of view, the power consumption is not as bad as I expected it to be. Again, the card according to NVIDIA has a TDP of roughly 289 Watts, with this overclocked edition expect a few Watts more.

The methodology is simple: We have a device constantly monitoring the power draw from the PC. After we have run all our tests and benchmarks we look at the recorded maximum peak; and that's the bulls-eye you need to observe as the power peak is extremely important. Bear in mind that you are not looking at the power consumption of the graphics card, but the consumption of the entire PC.

Our test system is a power hungry Core i7 965 / X58 based and overclocked to 3.75 GHz. Next to that we have energy saving functions disabled for this motherboard and processor (to ensure consistent benchmark results).

Our ASUS motherboard also allows adding power phases for stability, which we enabled as well. I'd say on average we are using roughly 50 to 100 Watts more than a standard PC due to these settings and then add the CPU overclock, water-cooling, additional cold cathode lights etc.

 Keep that in mind. Our normal system power consumption is much higher than your average system.

  • System in IDLE = 239 Watts
  • System with GPU in FULL Stress = 463 Watts

The monitoring device is reporting a maximum system wattage peak at roughly 450-475 Watts, and for a PC with this high-end card, this is excessive but certainly remains within acceptable levels. You'll pay roughly 15~20 cents (EUR & based on EU prices) for each hour you play games if the GPUs are constantly maxed out.

The IDLE Wattage is very okay, the card is clocking down massively, resulting in really acceptable power consumption. We'll show you that in a graph in a minute.

So here's my power supply recommendation:

GeForce GTX 295

  • A GeForce GTX 295 requires you to have a 700+ Watt power supply unit at minimum if you use it in a high-end system. That power supply needs to have (in total accumulated) at least 50 Amps available on the +12 volt rail.

GeForce GTX 295 Quad SLI

  • A second GeForce GTX 295 requires you to add another 300 Watts. You need a 1000 Watt power supply unit if you use it in a high-end system. That power supply needs to have (in total accumulated) at least 70 Amps available on the +12 volt rail. 

Also with Quad SLI bear in mind you'll need two 6-pin AND two 8-pin power connectors.

There are many good PSUs out there, please do have a look at our many PSU reviews as we have loads of recommended PSUs for you to check out in there. What would happen if your PSU can't cope with the load?:

  • bad 3D performance
  • crashing games
  • spontaneous reset or imminent shutdown of the  PC
  • freezing during gameplay
  • PSU overload can cause it to break down

The core temperature

Let's have a look at the temperatures this huge cooler offers.

BFG GeForce GTX 295 H2OC LE review

So pretty much we fire off a hefty shader application at the GPU and start monitoring temperature behavior as it would be like you are gaming intensely, we literally stress the GPU 100% here. We measured at a room temperature of 21 degrees Celsius.

Now we measured at three stages as the cooling device has three cooling selections:

  • Setting 1: QUIET - fan operates at lower RPM
  • Setting 2: AUTO - fan operates dynamically depending on GPU temperature
  • Setting 3: MAX - fan rotation maxes out

Here's what we get returned:

Card setting TEMP IDLE in C TEMP FULL in C
BFG GeForce GTX 295 H2oC LOW 43 58
BFG GeForce GTX 295 H2oC MED 41 56
BFG GeForce GTX 295 H2oC HIGH 40 54

Now as you can see, the temperature differential between the three modes is not that big. Temps will be really acceptable in all modes, with the GPUs maxing out at 58 degrees Celsius / 136 Fahrenheit at the lowest fan speed selection and 54 degrees C / 129 F at the highest fan speed selection.

These temperatures are good considering the massive overclock that is applied to this product, but not close enough to compete with an enthusiast liquid cooling loop with bigger radiator. Such a setup can easily shave off another 10~15 degrees C.

Noise Levels coming from the graphics card

When graphics cards produce a lot of heat, usually that heat needs to be transported away from the hot core as fast as possible. Often you'll see massive active fan solutions that can indeed get rid of the heat, yet all the fans these days make the PC a noisy son of a gun. I'm doing a little try out today with noise monitoring, so basically the test we do is extremely subjective. We bought a certified dBA meter and will start measuring how many dBA originate from the PC. Why is this subjective you ask? Well, there is always noise in the background, from the streets, from the HD, PSU fan etc etc, so this is by a mile or two not a precise measurement. You could only achieve objective measurement in a sound test chamber.

The human hearing system has different sensitivities at different frequencies. This means that the perception of noise is not at all equal at every frequency. Noise with significant measured levels (in dB) at high or low frequencies will not be as annoying as it would be when its energy is concentrated in the middle frequencies. In other words, the measured noise levels in dB will not reflect the actual human perception of the loudness of the noise. That's why we measure the dBA level. A specific circuit is added to the sound level meter to correct its reading in regard to this concept. This reading is the noise level in dBA. The letter A is added to indicate the correction that was made in the measurement. Frequencies below 1kHz and above 6kHz are attenuated, where as frequencies between 1kHz and 6kHz are amplified by the A weighting.

Jet takeoff (200 feet) 120 dBA  
Construction Site 110 dBA  Intolerable
Shout (5 feet) 100 dBA  
Heavy truck (50 feet)  90 dBA  Very noisy
Urban street  80 dBA  
Automobile interior  70 dBA  Noisy
Normal conversation (3 feet)  60 dBA  
Office, classroom  50 dBA  Moderate
Living room  40 dBA  
Bedroom at night  30 dBA  Quiet
Broadcast studio  20 dBA  
Rustling leaves  10 dBA  Barely audible

The noise levels coming from the card paint a different picture. I'm not really thrilled about it. Have a look:

Card setting DBA  Idle DBA  Load
BFG GeForce GTX 295 H2oC LOW 41 42
BFG GeForce GTX 295 H2oC MED 44 46
BFG GeForce GTX 295 H2oC HIGH 48 53

One of the main reasons for you to buy a liquid cooling setup is next to better temperatures, bringing down the noise levels. Fact is that the radiator is only 120mm in size which is very small if you cool down two GPUs, to compensate for that one needs a lot of airflow to keep temperatures at an acceptable level. A lot of airflow means a fairly high RPM on the fans, and this is kindergarten stuff, but that creates a lot of noise as the airflow increases.

  • At the LOW setting the noise levels are acceptable, but certainly not quiet. In fact the reference cooler is roughly as noisy as this setting.
  • However at setting 2 (AUTO) for me the noise levels already get distasteful, while cooling isn't even a whole lot better.
  • Setting 3 is downright noisy, dBA levels have now risen towards 53 dBA... absolutely deplorable. This mode is of no use.

So for a reasonable experience, you'll be tied to setting 1 (LOW/QUIET) where your temperatures will max out at roughly 60 degrees C.

I have made a little video you can watch. This is the card, once the video starts we already have a game running at 2560x1600. Turn up the volume so you can hear the noise coming from the device.

The video will show you the three PWM modes for cooling.

In this little clip, at the beginning fan mode 1 is selected (the hissing noise), then fan mode 2 (AUTO) and lastly fan mode 3 (HIGH). It's a good demonstration of what to expect. Mind you that we tested here with an open case, yet since the noise comes from the rear exhaust, closing it does not make a difference, okay?

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