A Very Loud Fan

The biggest difference between the GV-R9700Pro and ATI's card is in the cooling solution. Gigabyte uses a considerably smaller silver aluminum heatsink instead of ATI's rather large heatsink; the fan on the GV-R9700Pro is also smaller in diameter than ATI's fan. Gigabyte makes up for it by spinning its fan at a much higher rate than any other Radeon 9700 Pro or Ti 4600 we've seen thus far, effectively cooling the GPU but also creating a great deal of noise.

To give you an idea of exactly how loud the GV-R9700Pro's fan is, here's a comparison between it and the loudest Ti 4600 we've tested (eVGA Ti 4600), an average-sounding Ti 4600 (Chaintech) and ATI's own Radeon 9700 Pro.

Noise Comparison
Loudness in dB (lower is quieter)
Gigabyte GV-R9700Pro

eVGA GeForce4 Ti 4600

Chaintech GeForce4 Ti 4600

ATI Radeon 9700 Pro

77

70

66

61

|
0
|
15
|
31
|
46
|
62
|
77
|
92

Remember that the decibel scale is not a linear one, so the 16 point difference between the Gigabyte GV-R9700Pro and the ATI Radeon 9700 Pro is even larger than it would seem. To put things in perspective, we had the GV-R9700Pro running on a test bed alongside two other systems (both equipped with Ti 4600s) and the Gigabyte card was by far the loudest thing out of all of the systems. The fan was louder than any of our CPU fans, hard drives or power supply fans to the point where you could distinguish the fan's noise from everything else that was running in the room. It is a very high-pitched whine that you would expect from a fan with a high rotational speed and frankly it is excessive.

We would like to see Gigabyte employ a design similar to ATI's for the final version of their GV-R9700Pro. A larger heatsink with a larger, slower-spinning fan, would not only keep the noise levels down while offering similar cooling performance but it would also reduce the chance of fan failure; a high spinning fan will generally have a higher failure rate than a slower spinning fan, and if you've ever seen what a dead fan can do to a GPU you'll know that you won't want to take any chances with a $400 card.

Gigabyte bundles the card with their usual software suite, which isn't too exciting. Because of the power requirements of the R300 GPU, the GV-R9700Pro comes with a power cable to connect to your power supply to feed the card the appropriate amount of current it needs. You won't need a special power supply as the current draw of the card is no where near the max current on any decent +5V rail, but you will need to connect power to the card.

If you don't connect a power cable to the card you can run into a number of problems. The worst case scenario is that your system won't POST but even on motherboards that very closely follow the AGP specification (e.g. Intel's D850EMV2), your card will be useless. On our D850EMV2 testbed, the system would boot into Windows XP just fine but Windows would not install the Radeon 9700 Pro device drivers citing that the "device could not start." Plugging in the external power fixed the issues immediately, so you must remember to feed that tiny connector some juice.

Since our card was a pre-release sample, it did not ship with any drivers from Gigabyte. Although ATI's Radeon 9700 Pro drivers would not auto-install on the testbed, we forced Windows XP to recognize the card as an ATI Radeon 9700 Series and then the drivers and ATI control panel installed just fine.

The Card Overclocking

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