As promised, we wanted to discuss a few topics from our GeForce 6800 Ultra Performance Preview, chief among them being the noise of the 6800 Ultra reference board and how it compares to other graphics cards.
If you recall, NVIDIA has implemented a dual-slot heat pipe-based cooler for GeForce 6800 Ultra. NVIDIA has also designed a single-slot variant of the same cooler, which they considered using on their Ultra reference board, but ultimately felt that the enthusiast market the 6800 Ultra is intended for would rather have a more powerful cooling solution. This single-slot cooler will likely be used on reference 6800 non-Ultra designs. Keep in mind however that NVIDIA’s board partners can implement whichever cooling solution they wish.
Historically the first crop of retail cards based on a brand new NVIDIA GPU have followed NVIDIA’s reference specifications, while second generation boards are the first to feature custom cooling designs. MSI in particular has made a name for itself with its T.O.P. Tech coolers, which are designed to offer good cooling performance (often relying on copper heatsink designs or dual Twin Flow fans) with near silent operation. ASUS on the other hand, has produced single-slot copper coolers for both GeForce FX 5900 Ultra and GeForce FX 5950 Ultra. Basically, NVIDIA’s board partners have come up with some pretty clever cooling designs in the past, and we don’t expect that to change for GeForce 6800 and 6800 Ultra.
Until those second generation cards come out however the reference cooler will likely be pretty popular, so we’ve provided the following MP3s of the 6800 Ultra and RADEON 9800 XT in action. Click here to download the 6800 Ultra and 9800 XT MP3s.
Like its predecessor, GeForce6800 Ultra runs in two modes, a high mode and an intermediate setting. The high mode kicks in once you boot up the system, but reduces to the lower setting once the driver loads in Windows. From there, the card remains in the intermediate setting, even during extended gaming sessions with overclocking. This is good, as the higher setting is a little loud, not so much because of the fan’s motor but rather due to the amount of air the fan is pushing. Meanwhile the intermediate setting on the 6800 Ultra is more conservative, running at lower RPMs and thus generating less noise, but it’s certainly louder than ATI’s RADEON 9800 XT.
The 6800 Ultra board itself runs cooler than other DX9 cards such as the GeForce FX 5950 Ultra (and 5700 Ultra with GDDR2) and RADEON 9700 PRO. And while NVIDIA’s new ducted cooling design doesn’t exhaust hot air outside of the case (or vice versa), it does do a good job of combating heat without creating a new hotspot within the case that you should be concerned about. We don’t think heat will be a concern, NVIDIA has certainly implemented an effective cooler for the GeForce 6800 Ultra reference design.
But what about the other intangibles such as overclocking? Let’s take a look.