Cool silence

June 25th, 2010 in .News & Events
Suds McSoapdish
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EAH5550 Silent

With PC hardware becoming increasingly efficient, more can be done with less intense gear, a trend shown in the growing prevalence of silent-cooled graphics cards. What is silent cooling? Simply the absence of the traditional fan. Engineers test all graphics cards under stress, and if it’s determined a model can remain safely cool without use of a fan, the part is removed and in its stead a larger heat sink is installed. The heat sink pulls heat build up away from the graphics processor on the card, but since there are no moving parts involved in this cooling method, it can be described as both passive and silent.

Enjoy the quietude

Silent-cooled graphics cards have become normative over the last decade in home theatre and entertainment PCs, where the background noise produced by high speed cooling fans is undesirable since it gets in the way of watching and listening to movies and other media. In general, nobody wants the excessive noise generated by fans, and with powerful PC cases featuring many of the revolving noisemakers (two for the case, one for the power supply, one for the graphics card and so on), the decibel count can be formidable.

EAH5550 with fan

Of course, there are limitations on silent cooling. The more powerful the graphics card, the less likely it is to do away with a fan, as heat sinks can only recycle so much heat. This is evidenced in the EAH5550 from ASUS, which comes in both fanned and fanless versions. The one with the cooler fan has the faster and higher output video memory of the two, described as 1GB of DDR3, while the fanless variety comes with slightly slower DDR2, which uses lower frequencies and therefore builds up less heat. Still, the difference between the two isn’t night and day, and so if you’re interested in a quiet standalone graphics card, the EAH5550 Silent is a good choice. In terms of core processing power, it’s the same as the regular EAH5550, featuring the DirectX 11-supporting Radeon “Redwood” 5550 engine and a 128-bit memory interface. The 1GB of dedicated video memory is pretty good, and with 0dB cooling this makes for a nice addition to a home entertainment PC setup. Another boon to fanless graphics cards is that they typically don’t need a separate power connector from the case power supply, instead getting their juice via the PCI slot itself. The benefits are simply a lower power drain on the system, and a more moderate energy signature overall.

Electronic Arts and AMD have joined with hardware makers such as ASUS in offering an incentive to jump on the passive cooling bandwagon, while aiming to prove that fanless cards can hold their own in the realm of hardcore gaming. The EAH5550 Silent package comes with a discount coupon for bestselling PC actioner Battlefield: Bad Company 2, which is no slouch when it comes to high octane eye candy. So if you’re in the market for a new graphics card on a budget, this is one to definitely be on the look for at your favourite local retailer or online shopping outlet.

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