PC and noise are two things that inevitably tend to be closely related. There are ways of separating the two, as we demonstrated in this feature but doing these things takes time and money.
Possibly the biggest source of noise in your PC is likely to be your graphics card. The GPUs that power the latest high-end 3D chips are now more complicated than CPUs. And as the transistors count goes up, so does the heat generated. The end result is inevitably bigger and noisier cooling solutions.
The reference cards for the latest high end graphics boards usually feature large and noisy fans and many board manufacturers choose to differentiate their products by redesigning the fan to be smaller, more efficient and best of all, quieter. GeCube has done exactly this with its ‘Uniwise’ series of ATI based graphics cards, such as this Radeon X850 XT based card I reviewed here. Similarly, Sapphire has a X800 XL equipped with a low noise fan.
However, with its SilenCool range, GeCube has gone one better – no fan at all. Instead this card uses a large heatpipe to draw heat away from the GPU. GeCube has already released an X700 based card using this technology, but an X800 based card is particularly impressive as the faster the card the more heat produced.
In fact, this is a breakthrough product. Up to now, going the silent route meant that you really had to compromise on performance. But the X800 XL is a great performer for the price and is the best single card solution on the market. Of course nVidia’s 6800 series has the benefit of SLI and ATI’s competing CrossFire technology is still in the ‘coming soon’ phase. Then again they’d be little point thinking about CrossFire if you’re interested in keeping the noise levels down as I imagine it will be unlikely that they’ll be a SilenCool CrossFire edition host card. Then again it could be a great selling point so you never know.
The card itself is really quite impressive to look at and to hold. Right next to the GPU are copper blocks with two heatpipes emerging from the top. Copper is good at drawing heat from the GPU and storing it up, but the object of the exercise it to get the heat away from the GPU as efficiently as possible. This is where the large aluminium heatsinks attached to the front and back come in. Aluminium is better at dissipating heat than copper so the two work together well to keep the GPU and memory cool – and all without a fan in sight. It’s makes for a pretty heavy board though so you really need to make sure that it’s fixed into the PCI Express slot properly. The card is 1.25 inches, (or just over 3cm) deep, which should help you work out if it will fit into your favourite SFF system.