Formerly when we first embarked on our temperature test segment, the majority of our graphics cards for review were high performance cards. Since these normally operate at fairly high temperatures, we felt it would be a very valid test that would undoubtedly assist end users in their purchasing decisions where heat output concerns are high. Many of you might wonder why we still pursued this segment for entry-level graphics cards such as this RADEON 9250 shootout. Well, the truth is that most of us have a mindset that only high-end cards output a lot of heat and we tend to shrug off the scenario for the low-end segment which don't adorn any extravagant cooling modules at all.
Our testing revealed a very wide discrepancy among the shootout participants and some of them even registered searing temperatures while our air-conditioned test room's temperature was at a constant 21 degrees Celsius. So what reasons contributed to the temperature fluctuations among graphics cards of the same category and nearly the same specification? The chief factors were due to active versus passive graphics card cooling, PCB and power deliver design variations and finally differences in the components utilized (which can range from memory chips all the way down to the individual power transistors). Have a look at the following temperature graph before we summarize the results for each graphics card. The results have been rearranged to reflect the ascending order of magnitude in each graphics card's recorded temperature.
Gigabyte's GV-R925128VH aced the competition for having the lowest operating temperature as compared with all of the RADEON 9250 graphics cards. With an active cooler (consisting of a heatsink with a sunk-in fan), it benefits not only the VPU but also the surrounding components such as memory. Consequently, the temperatures recorded for both VPU and memory were very low. Gigabyte also incorporated four main power transistors to distribute the power delivery load and that greatly helped to keep the temperatures of the power components in check and consequently, the rest of the PCB. The majority of the RADEON 9250 cards made do with only two main power transistors which probably operated close to their peak capacity, hence the sky-high temperatures depicted in the graph (which greatly added to the overall operating temperatures of these graphics cards).
A close second is GeCube's GC-R9250-C3H which also had an active cooler but was only marginally warmer than the Gigabyte graphics card due to its higher 270MHz core clock speed. However, it was using a simpler power delivery design that hedged on only two primary power transistors which resulted in a rather high temperature for these components, but thankfully, the overall product itself wasn't anywhere as hot.
The ASUS A9250 GE/TD was only endowed with a basic heatsink and as a result, you can see that we measured higher operational temperatures than the Gigabyte and GeCube, but it did have superior power delivery components (four power transistors of higher capacity) and that greatly helped keep the overall temperature of the card in check and not really too far off from GeCube. The Excalibur RADEON 9250 from HIS was also using passive cooling but with only a two power transistor design, thus, it recorded temperatures higher than ASUS.
PowerColor and ELSA's RADEON 9250 graphics cards were both designed for the half-height expansion card market in mind and with the limited PCB area, they were only endowed with a simpler power delivery design. Besides both cards having a passive heatsink, another factor for their extremely high (near searing) operating temperatures was the lack of PCB space to dissipate the generated heat as opposed to the other cards that had the advantage of a full sized PCB. However, ELSA's FALCOX 925L had the highest overall operating temperatures because it used the Samsung memory that operates at slightly higher voltages and even besides that, they are generally hotter in operation compared to Hynix memory used on some other cards. PowerColor escaped being the last in this comparison thanks to V-Data's memory chips (made by A-Data) that somehow operated far cooler than the other memory chips we normally encounter. Note that the PowerColor RADEON 9250 had a two-pin power connector for those who wish to install a fan to better cool the graphics card.
Although the Sapphire RADEON 9250 was a normal form-factor card and had four power transistors, it clocked temperatures almost as bad the ELSA FALCOX 925L. A lot of factors were going against it such as its reference PCB design, power transistors that operated close to their capacity (no doubt there were four of them, they were likely of lower capacity models), those hot Samsung memory chips and a passive heatsink for the VPU. Add those all up and you'll know why Sapphire was rather uninspiring in our temperature test segment like the ELSA FALCOX 925L.