- Review Price: £215.00
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.
GeCube has gone for one DVI and one VGA output at the rear. This is standard for all but the highest end cards but if I had spent over £200 on a graphics card I’d want to see dual DVI on the end of it, so I say that it’s time manufacturers start to move that down the range a little.
In the box is a two channel version of Cyberlink Power DVD 5 and Counter-Strike Condition Zero, neither of which are exactly awe inspiring. You also get two TV out cables; one with composite and S-video on the end, and another that gives you component output.
In terms of benchmarking the silent cooling solution behaved impeccably, with no crashes or locks ups to spoil the testing. We ideally wanted to compare the numbers with the low noise fan equipped Sapphire X800 XL Ultimate Edition, but it tuned out that the motherboard we were using for testing was significantly underperforming.
As a result the numbers we obtained from the GeCube are significantly higher. 57.9fps at 1,600 x 1,200 in Half Life 2 with both FSAA and AF is a very playable score, though Doom 3 wasn’t as accommodating. Judging from Far Cry as well, 1,280 x 1,024 with filtering and FSAA enabled is the sweet spot for this card – at least in current games.
The good news though is that the lack of fan assisted cooling isn’t holding back the card in any way. I then installed it in my own system to get more of a real world feel for it and it ate up all the Star Wars: Battlefront and Counter-Strike: Source I could throw at it. One tip though – don’t touch the heat-pipes while playing a 3D game. I wondered exactly how hot they might be to the touch and quickly discovered that the answer was – very hot. With that in mind I’d recommend using a PC with good ventilation. This does though counter the idea of going for an entirely silent PC. It could be done but it would be a risk as far as stability goes. In my system, a large SilverStone TC05 with front and back 120mm fans, the GeCube SilenCool performed impeccably.
Hats off to GeCube for pushing the boundaries of silent cooling with its totally silent and impressively performing SilenCool X800XL graphics card. Its fanless approach is, ironically enough, going to win it a lot of fans.
Score in detail
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