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Noise

We also measured the level of noise using an electronic noise-level meter CENTER-321 in a closed room about 20 sq. meters large. The noise-level meter was set on a tripod at a distance of 15 centimeters from the graphics card which was installed on an open testbed. The mainboard with the graphics card was placed at an edge of the desk on a foam-rubber tray. The instrument’s bottom measurement limit is 29.8 dBA. When measured from this distance, a noise level of 36 dBA seems to be subjectively comfortable. The speed of the fans was adjusted by changing their voltage with a step of 0.5 volts using our in-house controller.

Here are the results:

The MSI Radeon R6970 Lightning is about as noisy as the Arctic Cooler AcceleroXTREME 5870 which is one of the best GPU coolers available. The cooler of the VTX3D Radeon HD 6970 X-Edition is not so quiet. Moreover, the fans of the VTX3D cooler are rather unstable, meaning that their noise does not grow up proportionally to their speed. This makes the card somewhat uncomfortable when you launch 3D applications. On the other hand, both alternative coolers are much quieter than the reference cooler at the maximum speed of the fans.

Conclusion

The MSI Radeon R6970 Lightning and VTX3D Radeon HD 6970 X-Edition graphics cards are surely highly interesting top-end products. Besides the increased GPU frequency (and memory frequency too, in the case of the VTX3D card), they boast high-performance coolers which work quieter than the reference Radeon HD 6970’s cooler. As a matter of fact, the factory overclocking of these cards only increases their performance by an average of 4%. This can hardly be a strong argument in favor of a solution with an alternative design. So, it is the 20°C lower temperature of these cards and the lower level of noise that make them preferable over the reference Radeon HD 6970. The MSI Radeon R6970 Lightning is especially good in this respect as its cooler is almost as quiet as the best alternative GPU cooler from Arctic Cooling.

The VTX 3DRadeon HD 6970 X-Edition, in its turn, is more compact, consumes somewhat less power and does not need two 8-pin power connectors from your PSU. MSI’s solution can respond to this with its gold-plated connectors, 18-phase power circuit and special connectors for measuring voltages. VTX3D can then mention the higher memory clock rate and the eye-catching exterior of its product, so this argument might go on infinitely. But the only serious downside we can find about these cards is that their accessories are rather too scanty. A modern game like DiRT 3 would make them even more appealing.

 
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