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Noise Level, Temperature, Clock Rates

We measured the level of noise using an electronic noise-level meter CENTER-321 in a closed and quiet room about 20 sq. meters large. The noise measurements were taken outside the system case, when the only noise source was the cooling system and its fans. The noise-level meter was set on a tripod at a distance of 15 centimeters from the graphics card cooler fan rotor. The mainboard with the graphics card was placed at the edge of a desk on a foam-rubber tray. The bottom limit of our noise-level metering device is 29.8 dBA whereas the subjectively comfortable (not low, but comfortable) level of noise when measured from that distance is about 36 dBA. The speed of the graphics cards’ fans was changed with the help of a special controller supporting 0.5 V voltage adjustment increments.

Let’s check out the obtained results in the graph and table below:

The ASUS card is clearly the best with its DirectCU II cooler. It is also the quietest subjectively. The Zotac’s Dual Silencer is second, yet it is not much better than the rest of the coolers. The Palit’s JetStream and the reference cooler of the EVGA card are the noisiest while the rest of the cards are comparable in this parameter.

It must be noted, however, that the fans of these coolers had different peak speeds when regulated automatically. That’s why we usually mark this parameter too, but eight additional graphs would make the diagram hard to read. So, we want to show these numbers in a different way. There’s another diagram for you with data about the noise level in the automatic fan regulation mode and at the maximum speed of the fans. Peak GPU temperature is indicated as well. The graphics cards are sorted in the order of ascending noise level.

The ASUS GeForce GTX 660 Ti DirectCU II TOP is the quietest card in the automatic regulation mode, which might be expected as its fans have a peak speed of 1440 RPM only. The ASUS is also third in terms of the maximum GPU temperature. Quite an impressive performance from ASUS. The leader is followed by the cards from Inno3D, MSI and KFA2, the latter boasting an especially efficient cooler. The KFA2 cooler is in fact the best overall among all the eight cards. The Gigabyte and EVGA go next, the reference cooler being expectedly inefficient. The cards from Palit and Zotac are the noisiest in the automatic regulation mode.

When the fans work at their maximum speed, the Gigabyte goes ahead in terms of noisiness, pushing the ASUS down to second place. The latter is 6°C better than the Gigabyte in peak GPU temperature, though. The Zotac becomes one of the leaders, although its temperature is the highest at the maximum speed of the fans. Being only 0.1 dBA worse than the Zotac, the Inno3D cools the GPU better by 6°C. The difference in GPU clock rates should be noted, though. The KFA2 is in the middle of the diagram, but leads in terms of temperature. The cards from EVGA, MSI and Palit are comparable in terms of noisiness and temperature.

The following table shows you the clock rates of the cards at the default and overclocked settings. The highest numbers are red, the lowest are blue:

Despite its highest default frequencies, the ASUS doesn’t have the highest frequency at peak load (according to our monitoring data). The Gigabyte is the leader in this respect. The Palit boasts the highest overclocking potential of the GPU, yet the Gigabyte still has a higher GPU frequency at peak load even though its Power Limit parameter is not the highest. Moreover, the Gigabyte is the best in terms of memory overclocking. The Inno3D and the Zotac are the worst cards in terms of GPU and memory overclocking, respectively.

The next diagram shows the temperature and noise of the overclocked cards with their fans regulated automatically. The cards are sorted in the order of ascending noise level.

As before, the ASUS is the leader in terms of acoustic comfort. It is also second in terms of GPU temperature. The KFA2 has the lowest GPU temperature, enjoying a 10°C lead over the others. So, this card’s cooler is especially efficient, making the KFA2 second in terms of noisiness. The products from Inno3D, MSI and Gigabyte follow behind the two leaders, being comparable to each other in noisiness as well as GPU temperature. The MSI and Gigabyte have higher clock rates than the Inno3D, though. The rest of the cards produce more than 50 dBA of noise, but the Zotac keeps the GPU colder. The Palit and the EVGA are 5 to 6°C worse in this parameter.

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