Power Consumption and Noise
We'd like to cover a few final data points before bringing this article to a close. Throughout all of our benchmarking and testing, we monitored how much power our test systems were consuming using a power meter. Our goal was to give you all an idea as to how much power each configuration used while idling and 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 motherboards alone.
As you can see, the GeForce GTX 280 and GTX 260 fare very well in the power consumption department while idling, with both cards consuming the least amount of power. Tax them with a heavy workload, however, and power consumption goes way up. The GTX 260, for example, consumed 31 more watts than a 9800 GTX under load, and the GTX 280 used over 100 more watts. Start doubling, or tripling up on the GTX 280s, and consumption hits insane levels. The standard SLI and 3-way GeForce GTX 280 configuration consumed more power than any other graphics setup we have tested to day.
You'd think with all that power being consumed, the GeForce GTX 280 and 260 would be annoyingly loud, but thankfully that is not the case. At idle, the cards are virtually silent. Under load, they are considerably louder of course, but it is not unbearable. They are definitely louder than a GeForce 9800 / 8800 GTX, but are about on par with the GX2. We did consider our two- and three-card GeForce GTX 280 SLI setups to be relatively "loud", however.
We should also note that despite the GPU's large size, it didn't operate at temperatures much higher than existing card. While idling, we reported a GPU temperature on a GTX 280 of 66'C. Under load, that temperature went up to about 85'C.