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What is a Fanless Video Card?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 17, 2024
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A fanless video card uses a passive cooling system to dissipate heat, rather than the on-board fan of a conventional video card. The cooling system of a fanless video card consists of a large heat sink made of aluminum and other alloys, designed to pull heat away from the chips. A fanless video card runs completely silent.

Video cards have improved in both speed and design, but as chips work harder to process more data at ever-increasing speeds, they generate more heat. An overheated card can create artifacts or system errors, or even fail. Conventional cards use an on-board fan to help keep temperatures under control, but fans can be loud and distracting. Even a quiet fan adds to the overall decibel level of a computer system. A fanless video card makes the system that much quieter, and is a must for the so-called silent computer.

In the past, there was some question as to how well graphic passive cooling systems actually worked. The general impression was that they may be fine for non-gamers, but were insufficient for cooling chips under load. Current technology has reportedly brought the fanless video card up to par, even for most gamers. Some of the top manufacturers are producing fanless versions of their most popular gaming cards with solid reviews.

There are a few considerations when it comes to installing a fanless video card. The heat sink is extremely large and may block slots on either side of the installed card. A fanless video card might also be longer than a standard card, so if the motherboard’s BIOS chip is nearby with its own heat sink and fan, clearance could be an issue. Piping is often routed over the top edge, making the card taller. Mini-cases may not be compatible.

A case with a fanless video card should have plenty of circulation. The card’s heat sink will pull heat away from the chips, but if housing fans are inefficient, internal heat will build, making the heat sink less effective.

A fanless video card can be an excellent way to keep a system quieter while enjoying high performance graphics. This is particularly appreciated when watching a DVD, as fan noise can compete with the quieter parts of a sound track. A fanless video card is also useful for systems located in shared quarters or common rooms, where computer noise can distract others.

Gigabyte, Pine Technologies’ XFX cards, and Asus are just three of the top brand companies offering mid- to high-level fanless video cards. The cards are available everywhere computers are sold.

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Discussion Comments
By Melonlity — On Mar 07, 2014

Here's a question -- are even the best fanless video cards able to match ones with fans in terms of performance? As video cards are called on to do more and more, they get hotter. It would seem a fan could get rid of more heat than a heat sink, so are cards with fans able to be "pushed" harder?

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