HIGH END graphics cards are the noisiest parts of some fast PCs these days, but now that doesn't necessarily have to be the case, it seems.
The high heat output of high end GPUs is usually countered with huge heat sinks cooled by one or more high-rpm fans that sometimes can even drown out your external speakers. The fanless silent graphics cards - something very beneficial for good sound experience in home theater or gaming use - were, up to now, just the lowest end stuff hardly able to play a decent 3D game.
However, finally one seemingly fast enough fanless 3D card is out there. Gigabyte equipped its GV-N98TSL GeForce 9800GT 1 GB card with a "Silent Cell" heat pipe system seemingly strong enough for the card to handle a 50C hot case for 100 hours running intensive 3D, according to Gigabyte.
The simple looking card stands out from the reference design right at the first sight - it has no fans at all! Three heat pipes lead from a large 47 square centimetre copper base to a dense array of precisely laid out thin aluminum fins. Of course, if your case has good internal airflow, that will help, but seemingly the card does fine without it.
We ran the card on a Core i7 975 system using a Gigabyte EX58 Extreme mainboard and 6GB of GEIL high speed DDR3-2133 memory, running Windows Vista 64-bit with 3Dmark Vantage. The environs were hot and humid as is typical here in Singapore, with room temperature at 32C and no airconditioning, yet the card still didn't exceed 62C while running 3Dmark. Here's what we got:
And what about the extreme?
In summary, with the GV-N98TSL you get about half the speed of Gigabyte's top-of-the-line GTX285 2GB card, but at less than half the price and zero noise. While this is not Gigabyte's top performer, the card gives satisfactory speed at absolute silence, and yes it's good enough for watching a Blu-ray movie with your home theatre linked to a 1080p HDTV LCD via built-in HDMI. Now, how about a silent GTX260, Gigabyte?
Good: Absolute silence, decent perfornance.
Bad: We want more performance with absolute silence.