I need a quiet video card

OK gang, here’s the problem: My gaming/composing rig is getting old.

It’s an Athlon 64+ 3500 (2.2 GHz) with 1 GB of RAM.
It’s pushing an ATI X800 board into a Dell flat-panel.

I know it’s time to upgrade, and I’m OK with picking a mobo, CPU, and RAM. That’s relatively easy.

I need a video card. I don’t want to spend $500 on the latest NVidia or ATI room-heater. I don’t want to install my own water-cooling system. I want something that will offer me decent gaming performance, but most importantly, I need it to be relatively QUIET, because when I’m not gaming, I’m recording music in the same room as the PC. (actually, it’s more the other way around - I game when I’m not recording).


Find a card with passive cooling.

Or build a passive cooling unit yourself. Find out what kind of thermal output the card uses and then buy the biggest, baddest heatsink you’ll ever see.

I have an Athlon XP 4000+ that is cooled with nothing but a heatsink (which is so wide it hangs over the memory slots and almost touches the video card, and is so long it’s about 1mm from touching the opposite side of the case), and a single case fan in the back for venting. The X1900 I use is near-silent. I don’t even think it has a fan. The entire setup is quieter than any game console I’ve owned since a Super Nintendo.

I’m rockin’ a Radeon X1950 Pro (not XTX) at home. It’s single-slot, performs really well, and it’s very quiet. You can find 'em for just over $200 these days. That would be my pick for a quiet, good-performing, not-real-expensive upgrade.

Of course, you might want to just wait a month or so. I think you’ll have some DX10 options in the “significantly less than $500” space before May is over. They might be faster than the X1950 Pro, too.

I have an Nvidia 7900 GS in my Media Center PC. It cost about $200. It is very quiet (Even running under Vista). Of course, it isn’t an 8800 performance wise either.


If you write music for a living, my advice is to get a different computer for gaming. You never know when some game is going to fuck up your codecs.

Get an aftermarket cooler–there are plenty to choose from.

I have a couple of S3 ViRGE PCI cards if you want them.

I have a passive XFX 7950GT
Or, get whatever video card you want and put a Zalman VF700-AlCu on it, highly recommended.

Do you need it to be quiet all the time, or only when you’re not gaming? A lot of video cards have variable-speed fans. An aftermarket cooler is an option, but there are plenty of mid-range cards with reasonably quiet fans: no need to shell out extra for a separate cooler, IMHO.

I’m liking my passive cooled XFX 7950GT so far. Time will tell though once summer arrives. I may need to toss in an extra case fan.

My 8800GTS in the new rig is pretty quiet. But my reference point is my old ass system which sounded like a 747 taking off.

But it’s quiet to the point where the sound of the DVR in my room recording shows is louder than the PC.

My 8800 GTS is surprisingly quiet as well, even in DirectX mode. That new NVidia cooler with the rear exhaust pipe is a big improvement over the older ones.

Yeah, my 8800GTX is pretty quiet at idle too (i.e., when not gaming), which is why I asked Jinsai if he wants all-the-time quiet or just when-not-gaming quiet. Losing an expansion slot for that big-ass cooler is a bit annoying, but if size is what makes it quiet, it’s a fair trade, IMHO.

Exhaust slots if low-powered because in a poorly-ventilated case the power supply ramps up to exhaust heat. Normally PSU fans are noisier (even if they are 80mm fans) and closer to your ears.

SPCR power chart.


After-market heatsinks aren’t all that expensive and they will definitely reduce the noise of your PC.

Check it.

I use a rack-mount case which has a horizontal layout (the mobo is flat).
I have 2 quiet fans in the front of the case which pull air in from the front, pass it over the stacked hard drives, then over the motherboard and cards, and it blows out the back.

I use an aftermarket heatsink/fan combo to keep the CPU cool, but I have to be careful because the vertical space is somewhat limited due to the case layout.

I only need it to be quiet when I’m not gaming. I don’t mind if it’s a bit louder.

If the new NVidia cards aren’t that bad, I’ll check 'em out. I just don’t want to drop $400 on a leaf-blower.

There are cheaper passive 7600GTs available. The Gigabyte Silent Pipe III one looks good. The problem with quiet/passive coolers is they use up the slot below your video card slot.

Is this PCIE or AGP? 7950GT was mid-range last year but it’s currently the fastest passive card available and all passive cards require good airflow or they hit 100+ C temps. Mine has a quiet Noctua 92mm fan over it and it hits 80+ C on load, 45 C idle. The 7950GT is no longer anywhere near top dog but may be all you need with your processor. Good luck finding it though.

Hmm, looks like you have to find a quiet 1-slot card with default cooling and not those huge passive heatsinks. The 7950GT is 1-slot though surprisingly, it just juts out to the side a bit.

Don’t get the BFG 7800GS. It sounds like a fucking leaf blower.