We 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 a desk on a foam-rubber tray.
The bottom limit of our noise-level meter 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 card’s fans was being adjusted by means of a controller that changed the supply voltage in steps of 0.5 V.
For the comparison’s sake, we’ve added the results of the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 560 1 GB Ultra Durable into the next diagram (the dotted lines mark the top speed of the fans when regulated automatically in the gaming mode):
The cooling system of the Leadtek WinFast GTX 560 OC seems to be quieter than the coolers of the other two cards, but that’s not so. Take note that the Inno3D iChill GTX 560 Ti is the quietest according to the top fan speeds marked in the diagram. It is also quiet subjectively which is no wonder as the maximum speed of its two fans is 1500 RPM whereas the fans of the Leadtek WinFast GTX 560 OC work within a range of 1400 to 2280 RPM. The Gigabyte cannot match the Inno3D iChill 560 Ti, either. So, the Inno3D card can boast one of the best coolers for GeForce GTX 560 (Ti).
The graphics cards we have reviewed today are interesting not only for their performance (we already know what to expect from such products from our earlier tests) but also for their temperature and noise characteristics. The two cards from XFX, Radeon HD 6970 and HD 6950, are quite standard in this respect whereas the Inno3D and Leadtek are very good in terms of cooling and noisiness. The Inno3D iChill GTX 560 Ti is especially attractive since its cooler remains very quiet at high GPU loads while keeping the GPU cool at a rather high frequency. The only downside is that the cooler occupies as many as three expansion slots.
The cooling system of the Leadtek WinFast GTX 560 OC is quite efficient, too, but not as efficient as Inno3D's. The Leadtek card is cheaper, though. Either of them will be an excellent choice for a gaming computer.
We can’t say anything special about the XFX Radeon HD 6970 and HD 6950 cards. They are standard products based on the reference design. They come with a minimum of accessories and have rather noisy coolers. If you want to buy an AMD-based product of this class, we can recommend you more interesting versions like the MSI Radeon R6970 Lightning or VTX3D Radeon HD 6970 X-Edition, for example.