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 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.
I'm completely unimpressed by the noise levels of the GTX 760 DC Mini. Keeping a small form factor system as quiet as possible is often important, especially when used as a media PC in the living room. Had I such use in mind, the 30 dBA in idle would probably kill the GTX 760 DC Mini for me. Don't get me wrong, the card is not extremely noisy in idle, but it will still be audible in a running system, which is a no-no for me. Given the card's low heat output in this state, I can't see a good reason for ASUS not to quieten down the fan for an almost noiseless idle and media-playback experience.
Under load, the fan is just as loud as the NVIDIA reference design. I also don't see that much headroom to optimize noise levels under load, since temperatures reach 72°C, especially when additional heat due to a small case is taken into account.