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At an impasse: Silent and powerful videocard

NBlitzNBlitz ZwollePosts: 1,904Member

My current videocard
Sapphire HD6970 2GB GDDR5 (flashed from 6950)
Cooled by: Arctic Accelero Twin Turbo II

The rest of my setup
Intel Core i5 2500K (@4.5GHz) + Noctua NH-D14
ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3 + Corsair XMS CMX4GX3M2A1600C9 (2x for a total of 8GB)
Cooler Master HAF 922 + Cooler Master Silent Pro M1000


Some time after my purchase of the Sapphire card I was going insane with the amount of noise it would make. So I did what I had never done before, and installed an aftermarket cooler.
I've never had such a powerful card that was at the same time quiet (0.3 sone max = 23 dBA) and cool (around 60°C and lower) under heavy load / benchmarks.
It turned out to be even better than any of the other comparable videocards with an out of the box aftermarket cooling solution.

I want to upgrade my videocard to something that's more powerful (with a minimum of 3GB GDDR5!), quiet and cool (under heavy load) but that means I will have to part with my precious (you have no idea how much I love this gfx card and cooler combo).


Options
Buy an HD 7970 cheap, and install Arctic Accelero Xtreme 7970. The cooler has a noise level of 0.5 sone (roughly 24 dBA), at 2,000 RPM.
Problem: I could screw it up and have a +/- €300 dud in my hands.
High risk.

Buy an MSI N680GTX Twin Frozr 4GD5/OC.
Problem: The 2GB version reaches 39,4 dBA under load according to benchmarks I've seen. Still too much for what I would like.
Price is...okay...ish.

Buy an Asus Matrix HD 7970 Platinum 3 GB GGDR5.
Problem: 36 dBA under load. Kind of loud...
Low risk. Price is...okay...ish.

If I do end up choosing the Platinum I'd still be shelling over €500 for it (places that have it in stock) which makes me reconsider my first option but then I start thinking perhaps I can find a high end videocard that's powerful, quiet and cool without taking too much risk in installing an Arctic cooler...

Could I get your input please? I know some of you are really really good at pointing out the flaws in certain cards.

Comments

  • tom_goretom_gore TamperePosts: 1,796Member Uncommon
    I would invest in any of the ASUS DC2 models. They are cool and quiet.
  • NBlitzNBlitz ZwollePosts: 1,904Member

    Crap! The layout is all messed up! I'll fix it when I get home.
    Looked off on my phone. Nothing's wrong.

  • RidelynnRidelynn Fresno, CAPosts: 4,178Member Uncommon

    Why are you wanting to upgrade it if it works and is quiet enough for you now?

    Is a 7970 faster? No doubt. Is it twice as fast? No. It has roughly the same TDP as well, so it's going to perform similarly thermally.

    However, if you really want to get quiet:
    Waterblock
    Reserator silent cooling tower
    1x120mm Radiator
    Thermally controlled fan controller

    You would still need some fittings and tubings, as well as a quiet fan, but there is a pump built into the Reserator tower (it's inside the tower, so it's very nearly silent). 90% of the time the Reserator tower is enough to cool the GPU, with no fan at all. When the fan is needed, the thermal controller will pick it up. The radiator has a crapload more cooling capacity than even a triple-slot GPU cooler does, so the fan can run more quietly even without the tower in place.

    This system would have enough capacity to also cool your CPU but the fan would run nearly all the time. There is an updated version of the reserator tower coming out soon (it was shown at CES last week).

    You can't get any quieter than that, and that will cool a load upwards of 500W TDP. Most of the parts are reusable on updated builds too (just need to replace waterblocks). The biggest problem is a) It's expensive, and b) Most of the parts are going to sit outside your case (the Reserator tower is as tall as a full-sized tower), making it extremely difficult to move the computer around.

    I run a similar setup on my rig (6970, i7 920) cooling both the CPU and GPU - temps never get over 40C (even overclocked). The radiator I mounted inside my case (I got a 140mm radiator since i knew I was going to put the CPU on the same loop) - the fan usually sits idle, and even when it does pick up isn't audible inside the case. I put quick disconnects on the tubing going outside the case to the tower, so I can unhook the tower (and even bypass it entirely) so I can move the case around without having to drain the coolant. The pump did eventually die in my Reserator (I have a v1.0, it's original issue from 2004), but it lasted a good 5 years before going out, and I just put in another 12V pump in the loop (it's a bit louder than the original pump though).

    One pro tip for the Reserator: Stick it inside a mini-refrigerator for fun. I don't do this permanently, because it's expensive (electricty), and a bit noisy, and you have to worry about condensation, but you can do some nice OC's.

  • ShakyMoShakyMo BradfordPosts: 7,207Member
    Check out the sapphire 7970 vapour x ghz version.

    Uses vapour cooling rather than fan, I have the oc'd 7950 version its very quiet, can't see why the 7970 would be different.

    Note they are branded vapour x, don't confuse with vanilla sapphire cards.

    There's also a simmilar sounding setup with HIS and their iceQ cards too.

    But I tend to stick to sapphire, asus, evga or gigabyte as they've never given me any problems.
  • NBlitzNBlitz ZwollePosts: 1,904Member

    Originally posted by tom_gore
    I would invest in any of the ASUS DC2 models. They are cool and quiet.

    Looking into it, looks good. I've seen lots of raving over Asus.

     

    Originally posted by Ridelynn

    Why are you wanting to upgrade it if it works and is quiet enough for you now?

    I want more RAM as I pretty much hit the ceiling on my 2GB one (texture mods). So if I'm changing it why not go for an upgrade that will last me 2 years? My current card has been with me through thick and thin for two years and 1 month now.

     

    Is a 7970 faster? No doubt. Is it twice as fast? No. It has roughly the same TDP as well, so it's going to perform similarly thermally.

    If I sell my current card soon, I can still get a nice price for it. Looking at the 7970 Platinum I wouldn't be surprised if the performance increase over my current card is almost 50%. That's a buy in my case.

     

    However, if you really want to get quiet:
    Waterblock
    Reserator silent cooling tower
    1x120mm Radiator
    Thermally controlled fan controller

    (...)

    Thanks but I'll pass. I've been looking into watercooling for the past few years and I always decide at the last minute to stay with air cooling. Knowing how quiet air cooling can be (my current setup) it's very motivating to just not fudge around too much with more expensive/sensitive stuff and just stay on air.

    I might make the jump some day.

     

    Originally posted by ShakyMo
    Check out the sapphire 7970 vapour x ghz version.

    Uses vapour cooling rather than fan, I have the oc'd 7950 version its very quiet, can't see why the 7970 would be different.

    Note they are branded vapour x, don't confuse with vanilla sapphire cards.

    There's also a simmilar sounding setup with HIS and their iceQ cards too.

    But I tend to stick to sapphire, asus, evga or gigabyte as they've never given me any problems.

    I did look into that one. Until I saw one of the benches. 56,4 dBA under full load? No, gracias image

  • ShakyMoShakyMo BradfordPosts: 7,207Member
    Look at the HIS one too.
  • NBlitzNBlitz ZwollePosts: 1,904Member
    Originally posted by ShakyMo
    Look at the HIS one too.

    HIS 7970 X Turbo 3GB IceQ X2 Graphics Card?

    Not bad. Under 40 dBA. It was only upstaged by the 7970 Toxic one but that one's 6GB and expensive at nearly €600. The X² is around €400 and so around what I'm willing to pay if I buy one with out of the box aftermarket cooling.

    Hmm...choices.

     

    Edit: it is still a bit crazy...these cards even with aftermarket "solutions" are as loud while idle as my card under full load. Dang it.

  • QuizzicalQuizzical Posts: 14,783Member Uncommon

    If you put a high priority on quiet operation, then perhaps you should look at lower power parts?  The easiest way to dissipate heat is to not generate it in the first place.  That does leave you the drawback of losing performance, though, since in a given architecture on a given process node, performance is roughly proportional to power consumption (which is equal to heat output by conservation of energy).  Overclocking does tend to make your energy efficiency markedly worse, too, meaning it adds a lot more extra heat than performance.

    A high end liquid cooling system as Ridelynn mentioned will let you dissipate more heat more quietly than an air cooling system, but they're very expensive.

    There's also the option of a case that is meant to dampen noise.  The Cooler Master HAF cases are meant to get a lot of airflow, but don't particularly try to keep the system quiet.  Designing cases around quiet operation does tend to reduce airflow and add cost, but you can still get adequate airflow for a high-powered gaming system.  For example:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811129179

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811163201

    Why do you want a minimum of 3 GB of video memory?  That's an awful lot.

    I wouldn't put too much stock in the claimed noise levels of video cards, unless you found some independent testing that gives a clean apples-to-apples comparison (same distance, same case, etc.).  A single number of "a card puts out this many decibels" is scientific nonsense.  How loud a particular noise sounds depends on where you measure it.  Something that will be very noisy if you put your ear right up to it may be inaudible from your neighbor's apartment.

  • ShakyMoShakyMo BradfordPosts: 7,207Member
    Well its nice to have 2gb if you do things like use custom texture packs on things like skyrim.

    And unfortunately there's several "2gb" cards out there that only actually let you address 1.5gb
  • QuizzicalQuizzical Posts: 14,783Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by ShakyMo
    Well its nice to have 2gb if you do things like use custom texture packs on things like skyrim.

    And unfortunately there's several "2gb" cards out there that only actually let you address 1.5gb

    By which you mean the GeForce GTX 660, GeForce GTX 660 Ti, and GeForce GTX 550 Ti.

    I think it does kind of let you use the full 2 GB, but you definitely lose a lot of memory bandwidth if you go over 1.5 GB, due to the mismatched memory channels.  Maybe CUDA won't let you address the full 2 GB to save you from that happening, especially since Nvidia has no way to tell what data in video memory is going to be most commonly accessed and put less commonly used data like buffered textures or some such in the last 0.5 GB like they could with a game.

  • NBlitzNBlitz ZwollePosts: 1,904Member

    Originally posted by Quizzical

    If you put a high priority on quiet operation, then perhaps you should look at lower power parts?

    I want to get 2 more years of gaming out of my purchase while enjoying games at max (or damn near it) settings. I also want to enjoy tessallation in the upcoming games at a comfortable FPS.

     

    A high end liquid cooling system as Ridelynn mentioned will let you dissipate more heat more quietly than an air cooling system, but they're very expensive.

    Which is why I always end up chickening out at the last minute.

     

    There's also the option of a case that is meant to dampen noise.  The Cooler Master HAF cases are meant to get a lot of airflow, but don't particularly try to keep the system quiet.

    I have no complaints about my current setup. I'm pretty happy with the HAF but thanks for the advice that followed.

     

    Why do you want a minimum of 3 GB of video memory?  That's an awful lot.

    A bit of future proofing and I never dreamed I would hit the cap when gaming but I do with Skyrim (and went over it and had issues) and I want more breathing room. 

     

    I wouldn't put too much stock in the claimed noise levels of video cards, unless you found some independent testing that gives a clean apples-to-apples comparison (same distance, same case, etc.).  A single number of "a card puts out this many decibels" is scientific nonsense.  How loud a particular noise sounds depends on where you measure it.  Something that will be very noisy if you put your ear right up to it may be inaudible from your neighbor's apartment.

    Okay, but these websites are (supposedly) using acoustics equipment worth in the thousands to measure something worth presenting. It's a tad more tangible to me than hearsay (totally subjective) and I should've done my homework more back in 2010 before I purchased my HD6970 cards.

    They were hellishly loud! 

     

    What I'm aiming for (examples)

    Ideal.

    I can put up with this but not for long

    No way, José.

    Ready for take off.

     

    Originally posted by ShakyMo
    Well its nice to have 2gb if you do things like use custom texture packs on things like skyrim.

    (...)

    What ShakyMo said. I also mentioned this earlier.

  • QuizzicalQuizzical Posts: 14,783Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by NBlitz 

    I want to get 2 more years of gaming out of my purchase while enjoying games at max (or damn near it) settings. I also want to enjoy tessallation in the upcoming games at a comfortable FPS.

    I wouldn't put too much stock in the claimed noise levels of video cards, unless you found some independent testing that gives a clean apples-to-apples comparison (same distance, same case, etc.).  A single number of "a card puts out this many decibels" is scientific nonsense.  How loud a particular noise sounds depends on where you measure it.  Something that will be very noisy if you put your ear right up to it may be inaudible from your neighbor's apartment.

    Okay, but these websites are (supposedly) using acoustics equipment worth in the thousands to measure something worth presenting. It's a tad more tangible to me than hearsay (totally subjective) and I should've done my homework more back in 2010 before I purchased my HD6970 cards.

    They were hellishly loud! 

     

    What I'm aiming for (examples)

    Ideal.

    I can put up with this but not for long

    No way, José.

    Ready for take off.

    Tessellation is supposed to be a major performance optimization, outside of low end hardware (cell phones, tablets, and netbooks) that doesn't have enough performance to do it properly.  If using it gives you a big performance hit on a gaming desktop, then either they're implementing it wrong or the models look horribly blocky with tessellation off.

    -----

    If you found numbers on an independent site that puts a bunch of different video cards into the same rig and measures the noise that they all produce in the same manner, then sure.  That's useful information.  Just don't compare the numbers from one company's marketing department to the numbers from another company's marketing department and assume that the comparison says more about hardware than the people who do the marketing.

  • jdnewelljdnewell Spring Hill, TNPosts: 2,150Member Uncommon

    I would say your going to have to "risk" putting an after market cooler on the new GPU. Much like you did with your last one. Or buy the quitest card you can and live with the noise level.

    Or buy a case designed around low noise levels.

    I think those are basically your three main options. Personally I would buy the card with the least noise and just live with it.

  • NBlitzNBlitz ZwollePosts: 1,904Member
    Thanks guys. I've plenty to mull over now.
  • ShakyMoShakyMo BradfordPosts: 7,207Member
    According to toms hardware the msi is the quietist followed by the the his and one of the sapphires.

    http://m.tomshardware.com/reviews/radeon-hd-7970-overclock-review,3186-11.html
  • miguksarammiguksaram Fort Meade, MDPosts: 826Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by ShakyMo
    According to toms hardware the msi is the quietist followed by the the his and one of the sapphires.

    http://m.tomshardware.com/reviews/radeon-hd-7970-overclock-review,3186-11.html

    As an owner of the GTX680 DirectCU II OC edition (sorry only 2Gb of ram on this model) I'm a bit upset they didn't have one of Asus' DirectCU II cards compared against those in that line up because I can certainly say this card is both quiet and cool under full load.  I also run stupid amounts of texture mods for Skyrim and as far as the stress on the card I might as well be playing WoW because I personally don't hear/feel it.  This is also not unique to my case, which is designed for silence, because my wifes computer is running the exact same card and her case is NOT designed with silent performance in mind and is a mATX case.

  • CleffyCleffy San Diego, CAPosts: 4,624Member Uncommon
    Make it fast first.  You can always build a sound proof enclosure with external water cooling or put it in a seperate room.
  • NBlitzNBlitz ZwollePosts: 1,904Member

    I took the plunge and ordered

    HIS 7970 IceQ X2 GHz Edition 3072MB GDDR5  | H797QMC3G2M

    Thank you all for the feedback!
  • syntax42syntax42 Columbus, OHPosts: 1,305Member Uncommon
    If I ever have the extreme desire to build a silent system, I'm just going to fill a large chemical-resistant container (maybe a pelican case) with mineral oil and submerge everything in it.  I've seen a few "fish-tank" computers like that.
  • NBlitzNBlitz ZwollePosts: 1,904Member

    I tried Skyrim with my new card. I tracked the GPU's activity with GPU-Z and Afterburner and saw the gfx card RAM usage hover around 2.3 GB at times.
    Yeah...that's a lot of (HD) texture mods unlike other claims :p Or maybe I'm doing something horribly wrong heh.
    It's also very cool (60° or so) AND quiet for a card this powerful. How quiet? From the example videos I posted earlier, sliightly above 'Idle'.
    Skyrim's not the only title I'm playing atm.

    Do I sound like a happy camper? You betcha!

    I can paste logs at a later time when I'm home if anyone's interested.
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