Articles: Graphics

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Every new generation of graphics cards offers more performance to the user. As progress continues, today’s mainstream cards easily leave behind the solutions that used to be the fastest two-three years ago. The graphics processor itself is becoming more complex, with more transistors per die. The “transistor density” of the today’s graphics processors can now be considered as high as that of the most sophisticated and high-tech component of a personal computer, the central processor.

As graphics processor and memory technologies evolve, power consumption and heat dissipation of graphics cards grow ever higher, so it’s hard to think of a fast graphics card that wouldn’t require a cooling system. Such specimens died out at the end of the last century when NVIDIA’s TNT chip was the pinnacle of 3D graphics. Today you can only meet a graphics card with a passive heatsink or without a heatsink at all at the very bottom of the low-end sector, while products on the other end of the price scale dissipate almost as much heat as some CPUs do. So the cooling system of a top-end card today is not just a “heatsink + fan” combo, but a contraption of plastic, aluminum, copper and heat pipes, a sample of engineering art, with both functional and esthetic purposes. Such contraptions as well as “heatsink + fan” coolers usually do their job properly, but often at the expense of your aural comfort.

Some manufacturers equip their products with low-noise or passive cooling systems and emphasize it in the model name or in the specifications. Cards like that are scanty, though, and they usually come at a higher price compared to their ordinary counterparts.

So what can you do to make this annoying device quieter?

First, you can install a passive cooling system yourself. They are available in the market, for example Zalman, a company specializing in low-noise cooling solutions, offers a series of systems of this kind for cooling the graphics cards. Running a little ahead, I should confess that they don’t always provide the necessary result (we will talk about two cards from Sapphire with such systems today).

Second, you can reduce the voltage of the cooler and, accordingly, reduce the noise, or, third, you can design a low-noise or passive cooling system yourself.

When you switch to passive cooling or reduce the cooler rotation speed, you run the risk of making your card unstable because of overheating of its components. On the other hand, even a non-modded card with its standard cooling system may get to circumstances where overheating is inevitable, for example, if your system case cannot provide proper airflow around the graphics card.

There is also the last way to solve this overheating problem altogether: we must reduce the very heat generation of the card. Is it possible? Yes, it is!

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