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The card itself surprised us at first as it uses a dual slot cooler, when much of the competition at this price point uses a single slot design. This isn't necessarily a bad thing as dual slot designs generally run cooler and quieter, which indeed seemed to be the case here. However, if you want to use one of these cards in a small system like a media centre you may find the dual slot design is a deal breaker. At least the length of the card shouldn't be a problem as it's only 210mm long.
As mentioned, though, on the whole this card was incredibly quiet with it being whisper quiet when idling and for most of the time when under load as well. However, every now and again, the fan does spin up to full speed as the GPUs temperature reaches a certain point. The resultant noise is particularly off-putting with it taking on an almost howling overtone, on top of the strong whooshing noise. We're quite sure this isn't necessary, though, and ATI could make the fan kick in less drastically but retain the same thermal performance. Hopefully this is something that will either be sorted either in final retail boards, by a driver update, or by a firmware update. Also, it must be noted that plenty of other more high-end cards are just as noisy when under load, there's just less of a drastic change.
Another thing to note about the cooler is that none of the retail cards currently available seem to use the reference cooler. Instead they mostly seem to be using a design that doesn't incorporate cooling for the memory and that doesn't exhaust the hot air anywhere. Unfortunately we can't comment on the efficacy of this cooler and we're still waiting for a statement from ATI regarding this situation.
This card's output configuration is the same we've seen on pretty much all graphics cards in the last several years. Two dual-link DVI sockets that support HDMI output, via dongles that are generally included in the box, flank an analogue output that natively acts as an S-Video output but, with the help of other dongles, can also output component and composite video.
Likewise, there's the now expected six-pin auxiliary power socket on the front edge. At peak ATI claims this board uses 80W, which is only 5W more than the power available straight from the PCI-Express slot, but to be safe ATI has opted to use the extra 75W available from the six-pin socket.
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