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.
In order to properly test the fan noise that a card emits, we use the Bruel & Kjaer 2236 sound-level meter (~$4,000). 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 on 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 of the GTX 780 Lightning are way too high, especially when you consider how little power it consumes in this state and how much bigger the cooler is compared to the reference design.
During load, noise levels are pretty much the same as the reference design, which is OK when you consider that the card's higher clocks result in higher heat output.
If you are looking for a quiet GTX 780, you should consider the MSI GTX 780 GAMING which comes with much lower noise levels.
Overall, and compared to other GTX 780 cards, gaming noise levels are alright, but I'm not impressed at all. Temperatures are pretty close to the 80°C limit, so there isn't much headroom left to quieten down the card.