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4870 for a htpc/gaming rig = the right choice?

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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March 19, 2009 9:42:17 PM

Hi guys, I've got an HTPC running XBMC and I'm looking into upgrading the graphic card to be able to play video games in 1080p. I'm a casual gamer (i don't play every week) and don't care about Crysis ;-). What i'm looking for is a solution that would be modular enough so that I can both have a quiet system to play movie, and play some of the most recent games. I'm thinking I could just have 2 settings in ATI tools:
Setting 1: HTPC/Normal use: downclock the GPU/Memory and lower fan speed.
Setting 2: Gaming: Normal clock speed and automatic fan speed.


My Current Rig:
- Case: Antec Fusion (PCI-E max length of 10 inches)
- PSU: 380 Watts (that could be an issue)
- CPU: phenom x3 8650 (i can overclock this sucker, it's currently at 30/33 degrees)
- 4Gigs of DDR2 @ 800Mhz
- Mobo: GIGABYTE GA-MA78GM-S2HP
- Pretty good airflow in the case

Key points of interest:
- Current setup is extremely quiet. I want to keep it that way as much as possible when not playing video games. I don't mind some noise when playing.
- Graphic card has to be of a maximum length of 10 inches. If I go with a passive cooler, it cannot be too high above the card due to the small case.
- I need to have either a card with passive heatsink or one i can downclock and slow down the fan to keep noise at a minimum level.

So I guess I have 2 questions here:
1. Based on what i'm after, is a 4870 1Gb the right choice?
2. If it is, can you recommend a model for the 4870 that will be flexible enough to become almost silent when not playing games.

Thanks in advance,

- Cas
March 19, 2009 11:09:12 PM

Replace the stock cooler on the 4870 with a Accelero S1 w\ turbo kit, and you have a SILENT card, the fans on the turbo kit make virtually noise at all, the stock cooler on ALL of them however, is very loud, I changed mine within the first two weeks just due to the wind-up noise it has when gaming..can't stand that...with the Accelero fans it won't go up or down in noise, constantly stays the same, inaudible basically.

Mine never goes over 55c under-load, where as my new 4870 which is crossfired that has a stock cooler, goes up to 75c, and has that jet-take off sound while gaming, I'd fit a S1 on it, but it just wouldn't fit with the wireless card I have. I'm replacing that stock cooler with a Zalman VF1000 which is supposed to be VERY quiet in comparison, S1 is def the king though, just very big :p .

Passively, the S1, even though it is the king of passive coolers, can't keep the 4870 chilled, it's not even the gpu core that over-heats in passive, it's the VRM\Ram chips onboard, you have to have things pulling the heat off of them, or they will go into thermal-shutdown. It comes with heatsinks, but yeah...you need additional cooling on those which is what the Turbo Kit (sold for 6$ on newegg) does perfectly :) 

Here's a example of how the stock fans sound, my new 4870 uses a different stock cooler than the previous one, but is still VERY loud in game, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jh1OkEy6MTk

Either go with a Accelero S1, or a Zalman VF100, if you can fit the S1, get it over the Zalman simply because it has a HUGE voltage regulator heatsink (zalman has none) and has bigger heatsinks that come with it for the vram chips.

To show you the size difference, here's a pic from my rig, top card is the sapphire w\ stock cooler, bottom card is the msi 4870 with a accelero s1, sucker stays SUPER chill in comparison.
March 20, 2009 4:18:00 PM

Thanks RPaul. These are very good feedback except that the Accelero S1 wouldn't fit my case. I'm not sure about the Zalman though. I need to look into that.

Anybody else?
March 20, 2009 8:12:41 PM

Zalman isn't any bigger than the stock cooler as far as I know, so it would be a good alternative.
!