PC gamers are definitely familiar with overheating issues: some of us still remember the early days of “noobie gaming” when we sometimes didn’t know why the nasty “blue screen of death” was showing up, or how we lived through the regular freeze-ups; little did we know then that overheating PC innards was the cause of our PC woes. Now, we know, and it’s more important now than it was then; we now use more sophisticated PCs for gaming, and these gears are a bit more expensive than their decade-old ancestors, and sadly more delicate. It is now pertinent to keep an eye on the temperatures of our PC insides (One good way we could do that is to use built-in sensors to track temperatures of components in the PC). This piece seeks to educate on how to track CPU/GPU temperatures, what might cause a temperature hike in a PC, and what the optimal gaming temperature is for different CPU/GPU types.
CPU Types And Their Temperature Ranges
In PC Gaming, there are mostly just two camps when it comes to CPU types; you are either on the Intel Core series or the AMD Ryzen series. Intel specifies that the maximum safe operating temperatures for its Core series is 100°C, while AMD pegs its specification at 95°C for its Ryzen series. In real-life usage, it is very unlikely that one would approach these temperatures; there has to be issues with the cooling system for one’s PC to be in 95°-100°C temperature threshold, or you could try really hard pushing the machine to its limits, heating it up more than the cooling system can handle. Even if you do put the CPU (Core series or Ryzen series) through heavy paces, you’d rarely get above 85°C (assuming the PC uses the default cooling system and clock settings; something really has to be wrong somewhere for the CPU to hit the maximum safe temperature levels. Below is the list of several CPU variants and their average operating temperatures
- Intel Core 2 Duo – 45°C – 55°C
- Intel Pentium II – 64°C – 75°C
- Intel Pentium III – 60°C – 85°C
- Intel Pentium 4 – 44°C – 65°C
- Intel Celeron – 65°C – 85°C
- AMD Phenom X3 – 50°C – 60°C
- AMD Phenom X4 – 50°C – 60°C
- AMD A6 – 45°C – 56°C
- AMD A10 – 50°C – 60°C
- AMD A12 – 55°C – 65°C
Paying attention to one’s CPU temperature is important and not exactly a difficult thing to do. Normally, the CPU won’t be hitting very high temperatures (typically 85°C and above) unless the cooling system is faulty or the CPU is overclocked. It might be thought that lower temperatures could enhance CPU performance, but this is not the case; lower CPU temperatures only ensures the normal performance, it doesn’t enhance performance.
GPU Types And Their Temperature Ranges
In the GPU scheme of things, there are two major players here also (it always takes two to tango). Nvidia and AMD are the major manufacturers of graphics card, although, some other graphic cards you’d find on store shelves are manufactured by other companies (such as Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, and so on).
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Both the GeForce (Nvidia) and the Radeon (AMD) graphics cards are capped at approximately 95°C as their maximum safe temperatures. The Radeon graphics cards tend to run hotter than GeForce graphics cards; this is due to the more robust GPU architecture that AMD uses in Radeon. Like the CPU, the quality of the cooling system that comes bundled with the graphics card determines the average temperature range(and how fast it would reach its maximum operation temperature under severe workload), which means cheaper graphics cards (with just basic cooling systems) would tend to reach high temperature levels faster than pricier, more sophisticated graphics card. Essentially, GPUs typically have two air cooling system: the Open-air cooling system which involves the attachment of one or more fans to the graphics card which allows air to be pushed through a heat-sink, and there’s the Blower Fan, which encloses the graphics card with a single blower fan that expels hot air, and blow in cool air. The Open-air cooling system is more commonly used and has more practical advantages for gamers, the Blower fan is only suitable for PC cases with limited space and poor airflow. Almost all modern graphics cards come with a fan cooling technology.
A non-overclocked graphics card would hardly ever be reaching the temperature thresholds of 80°C. Below is the list of some GPU Variants and their temperature limits;
- Nvidia GTX 950 – 95°C
- Nvidia GTX 1050 – 97°C
- Nvidia GTX 1060 – 97°C
- Nvidia GTX 1070 – 94°C
- Nvidia GTX 1080 – 94°C
- AMD RX 460 – 64°C
- AMD RX 470 – 75°C
- AMD RX 480 – 80°C
- AMD RX 560 – 62°C
- AMD RX 570 – 74°C
Modern graphics card essentially have their cooling fans idle during normal operations and would only start working once a temperature threshold has been reached (typically 30-40°C), this is meant to reduce power consumption of the fans (if they were working all the time) and also reduce noise they produce when the graphics card is not under load. In a way, this kind of fan operation would make the graphics card seem hotter than it should be when idle.
Optimal Temperatures For CPU/GPU
Since we use Gaming PCs to carry out mild to very intensive graphic tasks, it is important to know – and also keep track of – the optimal CPU and GPU temperatures. There are some ways which we can track CPU/GPU temperatures, and these ways utilize the various sensors embedded in the CPU, GPU and the motherboard of the PC. We can use the motherboard BIOS, CPU/GPU utilities, and third party softwares to monitor CPU/GPU temperatures.
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More importantly, one needs to take note of official temperature specifications, this helps in understanding the normal working temperature thresholds of their CPU and GPU. Good gaming practices helps a lot too; one shouldn’t overclock the GPU unless it absolutely necessary to, and general PC cleaning (with specific routines such as cleaning the Heatsinks and checking the airflow) should be done regularly, this goes a long way in keeping the CPU and GPU temperatures at optimum levels.