Closing The Case On Noise
Surprise, surprise. Air doesn’t move around components in an open test bench the same way it does inside of a chassis architected for optimal circulation. In theory, most cases are designed to channel air in through the bottom front and out through top rear. Graphics cards sitting out and exposed don’t benefit from that sort of design consideration. Thus, Nvidia’s claim that its GeForce GTX 480 will operate cooler and more quietly in a case is entirely conceivable.
There are currently five cases on the company’s list of recommendations for optimal cooling (more will be added as they get certified, according to Nvidia):
- Cooler Master’s HAF 932
- Cooler Master’s CM 690
- Cooler Master’s Stacker
- SilverStone’s Raven RV02
- Thermaltake’s Element V
Cooler Master was kind enough to send an HAF 932 over to serve as our test platform. The roomy enclosure accommodates an ATX motherboard with a power supply mounted underneath it. There’s tons of room for storage, and good cable management is relatively easy to achieve. Front-, side-, and top-mounted 230 mm fans move lots of air quietly, while a rear-mounted 140 mm cooler helps maintain the desired circulation.
Lo and behold, getting the GeForce GTX 480 into a well-ventilated chassis makes a difference. With a single card installed, the Nvidia and AMD boards are indistinguishable at idle and load. Adding a second card makes a more pronounced difference, and it’s important to note that the GeForce GTX 480s are separated by four slots on our MSI Eclipse Plus motherboard, while the Radeon HD 5870s are back-to-back, two slots apart. Nvidia’s getting an advantage here because none of our CrossFire bridges are long enough to span four cards, while several of our SLI connectors easily close the gap.
For the detail-oriented, all of our testing here was conducted at 1 m using an Extech 407768 sound level meter point at, in front of, and mid-way up the Cooler Master HAF 932 chassis. The meter was set to long sampling duration with a range of 30-80 dB, A-rating.
Using GPU-Z 0.4.2, we were able to measure the processor temps of the GeForce and Radeon cards (for two-card configs, we’re reporting the warmest temperature). Free-flowing case or not, the GeForce GTX 480s are still hot-running boards.