Power Consumption and Noise
Before bringing this article to a close, we'd like to cover a couple of final data points--namely, power consumption and noise. Throughout all of our benchmarking and testing, we monitored acoustics and tracked how much power our test system was consuming using a power meter. Our goal was to give you an idea of how much power each configuration used while idling and also while under a heavy workload. Please keep in mind that we were testing total system power consumption at the outlet here, not just the power being drawn by the graphics cards alone.
We already know that NVIDIA's Maxwell-based GPUs are relatively power efficient. And as you can see, all of the cards we tested consumed much less power than previous-gen GeForces or the Radeon R9 290X.
In terms of noise output, we have a clear winner here. The MSI GTX 980 Gaming 4 is about as quiet as a high-end, air-cooled graphics card can be. At idle, the card's fans don't even spin until temps start to creep up, so it generated no noise at all. And under load, it was still the quietest card we tested. Despite their relatively cool-running Maxwell-based GPUs, the Zotac and EVGA cards were somewhat noisier, but not noisy. Both cards did produce a barely audible hum at idle, which increased under load. But we'd still consider both cards quiet.
Temperatures under normal conditions won't be an issue with any of the cards featured here either. The GPUs on the MSI and EVGA cards barely broke the 70'C mark while gaming with the stock fan profiles. And the Zotac card ran in the mid-70s most of the time. At idle, though, all of the cards ran in the mid-to-high 30 or low 40 degree range.