Passively cooled high performance GPUs are quite popular with the HTPC community. NVIDIA GPUs are preferred by many HTPC users because of good software support (LAV CUVID, for example) and the ability to use custom renderers like madVR without losing out on hardware decode acceleration. I have already covered this in detail in a previous piece.

A look at the list of passively cooled GPUs on Newegg reveals that higher end NVIDIA GPUs are not represented well. In fact, we have a number of GT 430 and GT 520 passive models, but only one GT 440 model. On the other hand, AMD's GPUs seem to be quite popular in this space. We have a large number of 6450s. There are two models each of the 6570 and 6670. The 6750, 6770 and even the 6850 have one passively cooled model each.

Zotac is trying to level the playing field here with the introduction of a passively cooled GTS 450.

The GTS 450 Zone Edition comes with a GTS 450 GPU (192 shaders) underclocked to 600 MHz / 1200 MHz. The 128-bit 1 GB DDR3 memory runs at 1333 MHz. Unlike other GTS 450 units, this one will not require a PCI-E power connector. The GTS 450 Zone Edition will have a MSRP of 99 Euros in the EU (with the pricing in the NA market yet to be determined). The unit is currently shipping to retailers and is expected to be out on sale in time for the Christmas shopping season.

Given that even the NVIDIA GT 5xx models seem to be looking a bit dated right now, we asked Zotac as to why this cooling mechanism wasn't put on one of the more recent NVIDIA GPUs. It appears that the thermal limitations of passive cooling required underclocking which NVIDIA wouldn't allow on the 500 series.  We are sure this will turn out to be better than the GT 430 models we have been recommending for HTPC use so far (particularly if you want to use madVR with 1080i60 streams). Will the lower speed DDR3 memory and core clock speeds hurt it when compared to the passively cooled GT440 (for HTPC purposes) ? We will know as soon as the card hits the market.


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  • Wurmer - Friday, November 25, 2011 - link

    I think it's nice to have some companies catering to the "silence" market. I am always interested in such GPU. I used to own 2 x 4850 passively cooled (from Gigabytes) and was extremely statisifed with the performances and noise. I am only surprised that this market is not well served because I am sure there is more buyers interested in this segment than what the offer would suggest. It's true that usually such GPU commands a premium price over the standard version but I for one don't mine paying it.
  • tzhu07 - Friday, November 25, 2011 - link

    I agree. Currently the best passively cooled graphics card is a HD6850:

    You pay a significant premium over fanned 6850s, but in return you get complete silence. Worth it for someone like me who is sensitive to noise.

    I hope we'll be able to fit high end cards with passive coolers someday. The days of jet-engine graphics cards well eventually be over and silent computers be become the standard even with top of the line hardware.
  • sna1970 - Sunday, November 27, 2011 - link

    Actually , Any with specific TDP can be passively cooled..

    all what you need to do is to buy a passive heatsink for the card. actually all companies use off the shelve passive coolers , if ou look hard you will recognize them.

    I dont let VGA makers decide for the Passive cooled card for me , I just buy a reference not Oced and buy a cooling solution...

    the 6850 has 127Watt TDP

    guess what ...

    nvidia GeForce GTX 550 Ti has ONLY 116 TDP

    if you can passively cool 6850 YOU CAN cool GTX 550TI MORE

    and btw that 6850 passive cooler takes 3 slots its huge ... you can passively cool GTX550i using the same cooler.

    and you can also cool GTX560 TI using very slow silent 120m fan with a huge 3 slots cooler as well
  • sna1970 - Monday, November 28, 2011 - link

    check those out , never wait for compaies to make your cooing for you :) decide which VGA you want then you make it silent !!!

    1- Thermalright (their coolers run passive and with silent 120 fans :

    2- prolimatech :

    3- scythe :

    these monster coolers can cool high end 6970, 580 cards with silent large fans , some can passively cool GTX 550Ti and ATI 6850

    you can even use the case door fan in some cases and have a silent cooling for high end cards !!!

    like this special design here (cooled 5870 card !!! without onkooler fans) :

    this one makes the cooler face the door horizontally :) , so the door fan will take care of it

    see the review
  • FullHiSpeed - Monday, November 28, 2011 - link

    There's no such thing as a passively cooled 100 watt chip in the same chassis with another 100 watts of CPU, etc., power dissipation. While massive heat-piped heat sinks can work wonders, they will still have their limits. I do thermal testing on various networking add-in boards, and it's a BIG DEAL when we change from a 10 watt ASIC to a 15 watt ASIC. We spec a certain minimum air-flow in LFM and/or a maximum ambient temperature. You better believe that these GPU monsters are going to need to breathe some fresh air. If you put a high powered "passively cooled" graphics card into a TOTALY passively cooled chassis, it's going to FRY unless you live in an igloo.

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