Heat, Noise, And Cooling
The major variable affecting cooling and, by extension, game performance by virtue of GPU Boost, is fan speed. To make things a little more complicated, we have cards with one, two, and three fans of varying size employing different working principles competing against each other.
This graph tells us that the Gainward Phantom’s two axial fans have to work harder than the others in order to keep the card cool enough. Sadly, this doesn't mean the Phantom runs cooler than the other cards, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Meanwhile, the three blowers on Gigabyte’s Windforce 3x cooler make a very good impression. True, they don’t spin especially slowly. But still, the card is among the quietest and coolest in this group.
Then there’s Palit’s Jetstream, suffering from the same problem as last year’s GeForce GTX 670 that employed the same cooling solution. Although the loud fans are reined in a little through the fan speed profile, the card remains among the loudest and has to contend with higher temperatures due to the lower fan speeds.
MSI’s TwinFrozr-equipped card, on the other hand, barely has to speed up its fans at all and still offers cooling performance comparable to that of the Gigabyte card.
Now that we know how each of the coolers performs with respect to fan speed, let’s see what that means for their cooling performance.
Notably, the two cards built on the GeForce GTX 680's longer PCB stay cooler than the shorter versions. Gigabyte‘s GTX 760 OC Windforce 3x enjoys a small advantage over MSI’s entry, staying 4°C cooler, even though the MSI GTX 760 OC Gaming runs at a lower base clock.
We measure noise output in a semi-anechoic chamber with the cards running our usual benchmark loop. Measurements are taken at a distance of 50 cm (19.7 inches) perpendicular to the card’s center once it has reached a constant temperature. As before, we use a studio-quality microphone that is better equipped to more accurately record higher-frequency fan noise than conventional sound level measuring devices with a cut-off frequency of 10 kHz. Finally, we opt for the dB(A) filter, since we want our measurements to reflect subjective impressions.
At idle and under partial load, the Gigabyte card is actually quieter than the rest of the field. Under full load, the MSI card takes top honors, albeit by a slim and barely perceptible margin. Meanwhile, the three cards built on the shorter PCB are audibly louder. Like the reference GeForce GTX 670, Nvidia's own 760 fails to impress, remaining quite audible. But again, it looks like most partners are going a route other than the home-grown design.
Palit’s Jetstream cooler is a little quieter than its counterpart on the GTX 670, but still hampered in comparison. Then again, Gainward’s Phantom is barely quieter due to elevated fan speeds. Truth be told, we’re a little disappointed by this cooler. It simply doesn't live up to what we'd expect from something that eats up three expansion slots.