Fan NoiseIn past years, gamers would accept everything for a little bit more performance. Nowadays, users are more aware of the fan noise and the power consumption of their graphics cards.
We use the Bruel & Kjaer 2236 sound-level meter (~$4,000) to properly test the fan noise a card emits. It has the measurement range and the accuracy we are looking for.
The tested graphics card was installed in a system that was completely cooled system passively. That is, passive PSU, passive CPU cooler, and passive cooling on the motherboard and a solid state drive. Noise results of other cards on this page are measurements of the respective reference design.
This setup allows us to eliminate secondary noise sources and test only the video card. To be more compliant with standards like DIN 45635 (we are not claiming to be fully DIN 45635 certified), the measurement was conducted at a distance of 100 cm and 160 cm off the floor. Ambient background noise in the room was well below 20 dBA for all measurements. Please note that the dBA scale is not linear but logarithmic. 40 dBA is not twice as loud as 20 dBA, as a 3 dBA increase results in double the sound pressure. The human hearing perception is a bit different, and it is generally accepted that a 10 dBA increase doubles the perceived sound level. 3D load noise levels were tested with a stressful game, not with Furmark.
Idle noise levels seem a bit high when compared to other cards on the market. The card is also noisy under load, ending up at almost the same noise levels as NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 690, which is twice as fast! I think the main reason for that is that AMD's cooler is not properly optimized, and the fan settings in BIOS are not optimal either. I'm convinced that add-in board partners will soon release cards that are not plagued by such issues. The underlying graphics card design is very efficient, so it should be relatively easy to build a quiet R9 270X.