In recent years, video card makers have come to realize that even though gamers want powerful, well-cooled GPUs, they don’t always want to listen to a vacuum cleaner, especially when there are no game or movie sounds to cover up the noise. That’s why they have been offering cards with semi-passive or 0dB operation modes. The basic idea is that the fans do not turn on until a certain temperature is reached, allowing the card to operate silently when idle or under low load.
Although my own preference is for completely silent computers, including GPUs under heavy load, these semi-passive cards may be a good compromise for those who are not as bothered by fan noise when actually gaming. Below is an overview of the major card manufacturers for both nVidia and AMD graphics cards, and what to look for (brand terms and temperature cutoffs) in their semi-passive offerings. Be careful and pay attention to the exact feature support of each card when shopping, as not all cards from these makers support semi-passive operation. Also keep in mind that these solutions may be very different in fan noise when the fans do start spinning at higher temperatures.
Semi-Passive 0dB Graphics Cards
- ASUS (nVidia/AMD) – The STRIX series focuses on silent gaming, with the latest DirectCU III with Wing-Blade 0dB fans offering passive operation up to 65° C (higher than most competitors).
- Club 3D (AMD) – Does not seem to offer semi-passive operation.
- EVGA (nVidia) – The ACX coolers have the dBi (dB Inverter) feature, which lets fans stop spinning under 60° C.
- GALAX – Cards with Silence Extreme Plus technology offer semi-passive operation while idle, with an unlisted temperature cutoff.
- Gigabyte (nVidia/AMD) – The WINDFORCE cooler may come with 3D Active Fan 0dB semi-passive fans, which do not spin under an unlisted temperature cutoff.
- HIS (AMD) – Does not seem to offer semi-passive operation.
- Inno3D (nVidia) – Some iChiLL cards with intelligent fan stop or 0dB idle mode offer semi-passive operation, but the temperature cutoff is not specified.
- MSI (nVidia/AMD) – The Twin Frozr series of coolers with ZeroFrozr allows the fans to remain still until 60° C.
- Palit (nVidia) – Some cards have 0-dB tech, where fans do not run while the temperature is less than 50° C (one of the lowest cutoffs).
- Powercolor (AMD) – Does not seem to offer semi-passive operation.
- PNY (nVidia) – Some cards support an automatic silent mode when idle. The temperature cutoff is unknown.
- Sapphire (AMD) – Cards with NITRO CoolTech have intelligent fan control to start the fans at 52° C, a lower cutoff than most competitors.
- VisionTek (AMD) – Does not seem to offer semi-passive operation.
- XFX (AMD) – Does not seem to offer semi-passive operation.
- ZOTAC (nVidia) – The AMP or ArcticStorm series of cards come with FREEZE, where fans do not spin until the temperature reaches 58-63° C.
Is your favorite card maker missing or did you notice any mistakes? Leave a comment below!