Introduction

Every so often we come across graphics solutions that are somewhat specialized and are designed differently than the average card. These are often times made to fit a certain niche within the hardware community, such as space-saving designs or alternative cooling methods. We like looking at these because these cards often yield very different or interesting results from your average graphics card.

Though the average gamer might not care about how cool their GPU runs or how much power the card draws from his system, there are those out there who are interested in such topics, and they want to find a graphics card to fit a certain need. One good example of this would be people looking for cooler-running GPUs to use in hot or desert climates. In these areas, the outside temperatures can cause computer hardware to run excessively hot, and cards with greater-than-usual cooling methods are needed.

One of the most popular and useful design types we've looked at in graphics cards before are those modified for silent or near-silent operation. Quiet systems would be important to many users, for example those who use their computer for audio recording in a home or commercial studio. In the past, we've looked at cards like the NVIDIA 6600 GT Silent, which while modest in performance, had a brilliant and completely silent heat sink design. Today we will be looking at two NVIDIA cards with silent heat sink designs, the ASUS EN7800 GT TOP Silent, and the ASUS 7600 GS Silent.

In one of our more recent video articles, we looked at a water-cooled solution from Sapphire (Blizzard X1900 XTX) which was very intricate and somewhat bulky, but performed on par with the other X1900 XTXs with slightly lower noise. With these two completely silent NVIDIA cards from ASUS, however, the designs are much more simple and effective at reducing noise while still saving space in your computer case. Of course, these two cards aren't looking to offer the same performance as the Blizzard X1900 XTX.

We've not looked much at overclocking silent cards before, but we will be for this article, as well as our usual performance breakdowns for these cards. With some of the recent monster GPUs from ATI and NVIDIA making so much racket, it's refreshing to see cards that make no noise at all, especially with the kind of performance you get with a 7800 GT. Now without further ado, let's take a look at the cards.

The Cards
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  • Jayman - Sunday, August 27, 2006 - link

    The ASUS EN7600 GS has both 256MB and 512MB versions currently available on Newegg. What version was included in this article and how big a performance difference could we expect between the two? Thanks. Reply
  • SciBoy - Monday, July 24, 2006 - link

    Could you list the memory sizes of these cards, please? I have the 7600GS but with 512Mb, and I'm pretty sure there is a 256Mb version too. They're claiming the 512Mb version is faster, but I'm starting to feel bad about my purchase today (considering that the 6600GT, which was my old card) seems to even be faster in some instances (especially considering I paid the equivalent of $170 for the 7600GS and I could buy a new 6600GT for $90, albeit with only 128Mb mem).

    A compounding factor is that I had the Gigabyte silent 7800GT but had to return it when dual mode did not work on it (some kind of problem the Gigabyte 7800GT apparently has, I can't recommend it to anyone).

    Well, anyway, mem sizes please! :)
    Thanks!
    Reply
  • xsilver - Sunday, May 14, 2006 - link

    hey
    just a suggestion
    if there could be a page with a listing of a plethora of cards and their relative performance versus each other so it can be easily seen if its worth upgrading to a newer generation

    eg. someone has a 9800 pro; is a 7300gs faster? (ignore the obvious agp/pci-e fact)
    or a x800gt vs a 7600gt?
    its hard to look over your old articles to compare as some dont use the same benchies/resolutions/etc..

    it doesnt have to be super accurate, only accurate enough to say card X is generally better than card Y

    inclusion of high end older cards (5900, 9800, x800,6800 etc.) are important
    as well as mainstream generational cards (6600,9600xt, -- god forbid 9200,6200 :)

    thanks
    Reply
  • Cerb - Monday, May 15, 2006 - link

    Tom's Hardware does this. It's a series of major roundups called "VGA Charts", IIRC.

    For current-gen cards, there's Digit-life's video digests.
    Reply
  • plonk420 - Saturday, May 13, 2006 - link

    i wonder if these fit in X-QPack uATX cases.. any owners out there? Reply
  • poohbear - Friday, May 12, 2006 - link

    if u could provide sys or case temps that'd be great so we can know what to expect in our own rig (my rig runs about 34c in the summer:o). really impressed @ how these babies perform considering they're so quiet, but as someone mentioned, the accelero x1 is indeed virtually silent albeit cools much better than the stock aircoolers. Reply
  • Cerb - Friday, May 12, 2006 - link

    No fan = silent. 'Virtually silent' is marketting. Ambient noise may cover up a certain degree of noise (ideally all noise from the computer), but every fan gives a greater chance of it being audible, or worse (such as a VGA Silencer): grating and annoying, even when not terribly loud. Reply
  • nullpointerus - Saturday, May 13, 2006 - link

    "Virtually silent" is not marketing. If you have trouble with it - such as in a home theater setup - it's better to use extension cables to position the sound further away (such as behind a corner or a piece of furniture) than to embed an ~80C heat source in the computer.

    As for my VGA Silencer, I can't hear it. My computer is under my desk, not on top of it. I have two low RPM 120mm fans in my ~$60 case and even when my CPU is overclocked and at full load the variable speed CPU fan barely goes above 1200 RPM while staying under 50C. That's pretty cool, IMHO.

    IIRC, there were some VGA Silencers shipped out with bad fans. You might want to try getting a replacement if yours grates. Good fans do not grate. And if you are referring to the tons of junk out there that are misrepresented as "virtually silent," then I feel sorry for you. I bought a few such fans, and they sound like jet engines...
    Reply
  • Cerb - Sunday, May 14, 2006 - link

    ""Virtually silent" is not marketing. If you have trouble with it - such as in a home theater setup - it's better to use extension cables to position the sound further away (such as behind a corner or a piece of furniture) than to embed an ~80C heat source in the computer."

    Or just make it very quiet to begin with. With Turions, Pentium-Ms, and newer A64s, etc., it shouldn't be too hard.

    "My computer is under my desk, not on top of it."

    Same.

    "CPU fan barely goes above 1200 RPM while staying under 50C."

    Mine are all well under that (fastest is the Panaflo, ~700 RPM). I don't think I can get a diode reading, so won't trust what I have to be definitive (socket reading stays below 50, but Thermaltake's Orbs ruined any confidence in that--twice).

    "IIRC, there were some VGA Silencers shipped out with bad fans."

    No, it's from the design and materials. Not quite as loud as a standard A64 stock cooler, but annoying, and stays annoying even slowed down. The fan being part of the duct, and duct being brittle plastic are mainly to blame. Attaching another fan, even somewhat decoupled (1/2" of foam mouse pad), causes the same kind of noise, though far less pronounced. If softer plastic were used (which would likely not be clear), I don't think it would be bad at all.

    http://www.silentpcreview.com/article199-page3.htm...">http://www.silentpcreview.com/article199-page3.htm...

    Assuming they all use the same fan (mine is a NV Silencer 3), it should be a bit louder (I was running it at 5v until yesterday) than everything else I use, with my CPU fan being the only one close. See the note here for my primary issue with the VGA Silencer's noise (the entire thing is a fan frame): http://www.silentpcreview.com/article63-page2.html">http://www.silentpcreview.com/article63-page2.html

    "and they sound like jet engines..."

    No jet engines in sheep skin (but, I did start with them, ugh!):
    Nexus 120mm (5v, might be removed soon, or upgraded to CPU fan duty)
    Yate Loon 120mm from Fortron PSU (5v, soon to be replaced, being near as loud as the Silencer, if easier to listen to)
    Panaflo L1A 80mm (5v, now in place of NV Silencer)
    Adda 120mm in Seasonic S12 380 (I may try to isolate it a bit, if I get bored enough one day)

    Either the entire system is inaudible (listening position and distance counts, as does ambient noise), or it can be heard. "Virtually silent" is a good way of saying, "it's not loud." But there is quite a gulf between "virtually silent," and, "is it really on?" If you're after "is it really on?", Gigabyte and Asus offer the only stock gaming cards worth considering, because it means no voiding the warranty--such a cooler as the X1 is not a good option (I should have considered a Geforce FX not an option *grumble*).
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, May 12, 2006 - link

    You could always try getting a 7900 GTX and underclocking it. :) The big fans and HSF should do a good job at keeping the card cool if you drop clock speeds a bit. I'm not sure how well the RPM controls work on the cards, though. Reply

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