Passively cooled Radeons go head to head

GPU coolers have gotten much quieter in the years since Nvidia strapped a Dustbuster to the GeForce FX 5800. If you want true silence, though, you’ve gotta go passive. Xbit labs has put together a good look at a trio of passively cooled graphics cards from Asus, Gigabyte, and PowerColor. All three draw from AMD’s mid-range Radeon HD 6700 series, with Asus and Gigabyte using the 6770, and PowerColor opting for the 6750.

Obviously, the PowerColor card is the slowest of the bunch. The 6770s are pretty evenly matched on performance despite the fact that Asus clocks its memory 800MHz slower than Gigabyte. Personally, I’m more interested in how well the passive coolers work. Asus looks to have the best design, with its card’s GPU hitting only 52°C under load—a full 15°C cooler than the Gigabyte card.

The Radeon HD 6770 should have few problems handling the latest games at resolutions up to 1080p, making it a good choice for silent desktops and home-theater PCs. Based on the sheer size of the coolers strapped to the Asus and Gigabyte cards, it seems unlikely we’ll see substantially more powerful GPUs offered with passive cooling, at least in this generation.

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    • Chrispy_
    • 8 years ago

    Another of my pet-hates:

    The Asus card’s outrageously large (and expensive) heatsink is probably only as effective as one half the size, because the convection principle that passive heatsinks rely on for cooling is prevented by a [b<]STUPID, COSMETIC SHROUD[/b<]covering 60% of the fins. It infuriates me that heatsinks for many PC products are clearly designed by artists, and not perhaps engineers with basic thermodynamics understanding.

    • Arclight
    • 8 years ago

    There is IIRC a HD 6870 passively cooled.

    • Lianna
    • 8 years ago

    I bought passive Gigabyte RHD4850 (800cDX10.1@640MHz, 1GB@256b@1920MHz, vs. RHD6770: 800cDX11@850MHz, 1GB@128b@4800MHz) two and a half years ago – it’s running great with mild overclock. I’m kind of sad that 2.5 years later we’re stuck with the same level of performance (+33% cores, +25% RAM) with [b<]much[/b<] bigger coolers. They are so high! What case do I need to close them in? Compare them with [url=http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/forum/hardware-canucks-reviews/16854-gigabyte-radeon-hd-4850-1gb-passive-review-6.html<]this[/url<] (though the PCB was bigger). The only passive SKU in this generation with better specs (at least memory) seems to be PowerColor SCS3 HD6850 (+45% cores, +108% RAM).

      • Chrispy_
      • 8 years ago

      Where your 4850 will need a certain amount of case airflow in order to dissipate it’s heat effectively, these lower-wattage cards with larger heatsinks will likely run fine in a hot, poorly-ventilated case.

      There’s no denying that the 4850 pumps out the same heat at load as a 6770, but you could easily cool a more potent card with the heatsinks on these 6770’s, probably a 6850.

      I suspect the reason that it’s not done is that manufacturers suffered from high RMA rates for passive cards of your 4850’s generation, because people would put them in hot, poorly-ventilated cases and expect them to work as normal. Manufacturers are playing it safe because it takes 5 good sales to make up profits from a cooked card RMA’d – why risk it when you can make a cheaper heatsink with a fan on it run pretty quietly?

      Secondly, as you move into higher-perfomance PC’s, it’s less likely that you will have a passively-cooled CPU or PSU, so the market for powerful passive graphics cards is so small that they’re not interested in it.

    • Goty
    • 8 years ago

    [quote<]it seems unlikely we'll see substantially more powerful GPUs offered with passive cooling, at least in this generation.[/quote<] It may not be [i<]substantially[/i<] more powerful, but there are passive 6850s available, too.

      • flip-mode
      • 8 years ago

      Yep. A far better option IMO.

    • Duck
    • 8 years ago

    The PowerColor one makes the most sense to me.

    Heatsink only takes up one slot. Don’t know why it has to be bent like that though.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 8 years ago

      You can’t fully appreciate how awesome it is until you have to really wrestle and wrestle hard in order to use the crossfire fingers.

      Also, it’s a 2-slot card just like the other two.

      • Chrispy_
      • 8 years ago

      It’s bent because PowerColor are a half-assed bunch of cheapskates who spent so little thought on designing this product. Nobody thought to check if the outsourced heatsink actually fit on the production board until they’d already bought 500,000 of them.

      I can see some poor chinese worker whose assembly-line job is to take a heatsink, put the cpu plate in a vice, and twist it out of shape by ten degrees according to a template.

      [b<]All day. Every day. until they've done it 500,000 times.[/b<] [i<]Edit: Can you tell I don't rate PowerColor very highly? I've bought three of their products before, all three turned out to suffer from issues caused by poor design, not component failure. They copy, rather than innovate, and they do it badly, skipping the testing phase, by the looks of things[/i<]

    • dpaus
    • 8 years ago

    [quote<]it seems unlikely we'll see substantially more powerful GPUs offered with passive cooling, at least in this generation[/quote<] Damn; I was looking forward to seeing those GPUs in Trinity

      • khands
      • 8 years ago

      Trinity won’t be around till after the 7000 and 600 series GPUs launch, so it still works.

        • dpaus
        • 8 years ago

        Yeah, in retrospect, I should have said ‘this [i<]class[/i<] of GPU in Trinity' GPU technology is one area that AMD has a distinct and appreciable competitive advantage over Intel, and I'd like to see them truly capitalize on that, even if only with a halo product (sort of an 'Extreme Edition' IGP, if you will)

          • khands
          • 8 years ago

          Issue there is they don’t want to cut into their GPU lines too far, but yeah that would be great.

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