Top 6 Quiet Graphics Cards: Active and Passive Cooling Reviewed

Installing a quiet graphics card in your computer can make a surprising difference to overall noise levels. So, whether you’re building your own PC from scratch or simply upgrading your components, a quiet graphics card is the way forward.

In this article, I review my top picks for the best silent graphics cards. To understand noise levels in more detail, let’s first discuss the different cooling options found on a graphics card.

The 2 Types of Cooling for a Graphics Card

A graphics card (GPU) is one of the main powerhouses in a computer. While you’ll want a high-level GPU for something like gaming or media editing, all computers need a graphics card.

In short, the GPU renders graphics and images. As you can imagine, they work pretty hard to do so. Cooling is therefore vital to stop the components from overheating or even melting.

There are 2 types of cooling used: active and passive.

Passive Cooling

Image showing a fanless GPU, also known as passive cooling GPU.

Let’s start by explaining passively cooled graphics cards, as it’s the easier concept to understand. A passively cooled graphics card has a heat sink (metal fins) that radiate heat, keeping the parts cool.

This is all the cooling function they have. There aren’t any moving or “active” parts involved, hence the name. A passively cooled graphics card is the closest to silent that you’ll find.

PROs
  • Silent graphics card
  • Generally less expensive
CONs
  • Only viable for an entry level graphics card
  • Lack of active cooling means performance is limited

Active Cooling

Image showing an active cooling graphics card, which has a fan.

An actively cooled graphics card should be fairly obvious. It still has a heat sink, but there are also fans to circulate air and remove heat more quickly. An active cooling system can have between 1 and 3 fans depending on the level of performance needed.

The main disadvantage is that they can be pretty loud when the fans really start going. As such, you won’t find silent graphics cards with active cooling, although they can be fairly quiet.

PROs
  • Higher performance graphics cards
  • Suitable for overclocking (exceeding the card’s intended operation)
CONs
  • Can be loud
  • Fan failure could be damaging

Understanding GPUs, Graphics Cards, and Cooling

A GPU and a graphics card are different concepts from a technical perspective. The GPU is the actual chip on the PCB, whereas a graphics card is the whole assembly that includes the chip, the cooler, the heatsink, the thermal paste, etc. Think of the difference between an LCD screen and a computer monitor, where the LCD is a subcomponent of the monitor assembly.

This is why you’ll see graphics cards made by a company like Asus but with the name Nvidia thrown in. Nvidia makes the GPU (the chip), whereas Asus is a board partner. It means they take the GPU, build the graphics card, boost the clock (different from manual overclocking), and add hardware for cooling (fans, heatsink, heat pipes, etc.).

You might see Nvidia or AMD graphics cards, but these companies generally only make the GPUs. To an extent, this is the most important thing for performance, but you need all the other parts to make it work properly.

How Many dB is a Quiet GPU Fan?

A quiet GPU fan can go as low as 15dB, although a lower level of 25-30dB is more reasonable. For a real-world comparison, this is about as loud as people whispering (30dB). Considering the potential for ambient noise, anything below 40dB (a refrigerator) should be fine.

Some newer graphics cards have more intelligent fans that turn off when idling. In short, it means that, providing the temperature is below a certain point, the fans will stay off. Graphics cards with this feature are a good compromise between active and passive cooling.

Top 4 Best Quiet Graphics Cards

I’ve separated my reviews into active and passive cooling for obvious reasons. Where possible, I’ve included dB ratings (for fans) at idle and load speeds.

Hopefully, this’ll help you make an informed decision about the best silent graphics card for your needs.

1. Top Pick: Asus RTX 3070 TUF Gaming OC V2

  • Noise level: 28 dB (under load)
  • CUDA cores: 5,888
  • Clock freq: 1,500 MHz (Boost 1,815)
  • Memory Bus: 256 Bit (GDDR6)
  • Memory Bandwidth: 448 GB/s
  • VRAM: 8GB
  • TDP: 220W
  • Suggested PSU: 550W
  • Slot: Triple slot
  • Bus Interface: PCIe 4.0 x 16
  • Power connector: 2 x 8-Pin
  • Average FPS @4K: 75.3 FPS
  • Basemark GPU (DX12): 13933
  • Release date: Q3 2020

The Asus RTX 3070 TUF Gaming OC strikes a good balance between performance and noise level. It’s an excellent card for 1440p gaming and can even tackle 4k gaming with reasonable frame rates. You can get the active noise level down to 28 dB under load without even activating the “Quiet BIOS”.

Better yet, the fan’s idle temperature maxes out at 50 degrees C, meaning it can work reasonably hard before the fan kicks in. It balances nicely with the almost inexistent noise level, as the card will hardly get above 65 degrees C when under stress.

In terms of performance, the card has 8GB of video memory (VRAM), has a TDP of 220 Watts, a 256-bit memory interface, supports DLSS and real-time ray tracing. As such, it’s ideal for gaming and can support the highest settings on any games you choose.

There are 2x 8-pin power connectors, a PCIe 4.0 x16 interface for the motherboard and outputs for HDMI, DisplayPort, and VR via a USB-C connection. The suggested PSU is 550 W for this RTX 3070, and make sure you have external power connectors.

The main downside according to users is the price. While the performance is great, it’s still above the MSRP of the RTX 3070 graphics card. But if quiet fans are a priority, it’s a price you’ll have to pay.

If price is not a concern and you’re simply looking for an even better (quiet) performer, I would recommend the EVGA RTX 3080 FTW3 graphics card. With 47% more CUDA cores than the RTX 3070, it scores better FPS (97.4 FPS) at 4K gaming. At idle, the fan doesn’t spin meaning no sound emission. When active, it records 31 dB, which is hardly noticeable when gaming. 

PROs
  • Relatively high idle temperature ceiling (50°C).
  • Solid FPS at 1440p gaming or above
  • Supports real-time ray tracing and DLSS.
  • Noise level of 28dB.
CONs
  • Current price exceeds the normal retail price because of global chip shortage.
  • The unit takes up 3 slots

2. Top Budget Pick: ASUS ROG STRIX GTX 1650 GAMING OC

  • Noise level: 29 dB (under load)
  • CUDA cores: 896
  • Clock freq: 1,485 MHz (Boost 1,830)
  • Memory Bus: 128 Bit (GDDR5)
  • Memory Bandwidth: 128.1 GB/s
  • VRAM: 4GB
  • TDP: 75W
  • Suggested PSU: 250W
  • Slot: Dual slot
  • Bus Interface: PCIe 3.0 x 16
  • Power connector: 1x 6-pin
  • Average FPS @4K: 23 FPS
  • Basemark GPU (DX12): 3589
  • Release date: Q2 2019

The Asus GTX 1650 Strix OC provides decent performance at a more budget-friendly price. It does have a fan stop like the Asus 2080, its noise level ranges from 0 dB (in idle) to 29 dB (in stress). As such, it’s even more silent when gaming than most graphics cards in idle.

It features the Nvidia GTX 1650 chip, which is on the lower end of the performance scale. It’s good for gaming at 1080p but not recommended for higher resolutions. That said, it’ll still get you around 60 FPS or more for the latest games at 1080p at medium settings. However, it doesn’t support ray tracing or DLSS, meaning you’ll miss out on some of the better visual aspects of modern gaming.

The card comes with 1x 6-pin PSU header and a fast PCI Express 3.0 x16 motherboard interface that will take 2 slots in your desktop case. Its outputs are HDMI, DVI, and DisplayPort, so you’ve got some decent options for your monitor setup.

It has 4GB of video memory and 128-bit memory interface. So you’ll be quickly limited if you want to game at 4K resolution, for example. Overall, it’s not half bad for the price.

The main downside is its performance. You can get much better graphics cards, but it’s an acceptable option if you’re on a budget. You can spend a few more bucks, consider the GTX 1660 Super below. In my opinion, it provides a better gaming value at 30 dB.

PROs
  • 29 dB only when gaming
  • Fan stop at idle
  • Decent performance for 1080p gaming.
  • Nice display output options for the price range.
CONs
  • No ray tracing or DLSS support.

3. Top Pick for Hardcore Gaming: Red Dragon RX 6800

  • Noise level: 31 dB (under load)
  • Cores: 4,608
  • Clock freq: 1,800 MHz (Boost 2,170)
  • Memory Bus: 256 Bit (GDDR6)
  • Memory Bandwidth: 512.0 GB/s
  • VRAM: 16GB
  • TDP: 250W
  • Suggested PSU: 600W
  • Slot: Triple slot
  • Bus Interface: PCIe 4.0 x 16
  • Power connector: 2x 6-pin
  • Average FPS @4K: 87 FPS
  • Basemark GPU (DX12): 14530
  • Release date: Q4 2020

The Red Dragon RX 6800 has a whopping 16GB of video memory which makes it excellent for rendering rich scenes and GPU demanding games like Watch Dog Legion or Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. It’s one of the most budget-friendly options for the RX 6800 GPU, although it’s still on the higher end of the price scale. In comparison with RTX 30 series, the RX 6800 sits between the performance of an Nvidia RTX 3070 and RTX 3080.

Let’s start with our most important factors: cooling and noise. The card has “advanced” fans. In short, it means the blades are angled for better air circulation and use ball-bearings for smoother rotation. Also, the fan stop temperature is 75 degrees C, which is impressive.

When it does kick in, the noise level is 32dB. You can get it down to 31dB using the quiet mode via the BIOS. While this isn’t a massive difference, it does raise the idle temperature ceiling to 85 degrees C.

It supports ray tracing and is a solid performer for 4K gaming. You can switch between silent and overclock modes, giving you great control over the card’s performance. In terms of connections, it has:

  • a 16-pin PCI-E 4.0 interface.
  • a 2 x 8-pin connectorfor power.
  • a HDMI for display output.
  • 3 DisplayPorts.

One notable issue raised by users is the card’s size. It has 3 fans and is a lot bigger than 2-fan graphics cards (occupies 3 slots in the PC case). As such, it’s not plug-and-play – you might need to rearrange your computer’s innards to fit it in.

PROs
  • Great graphics performance at 4K resolution.
  • Cheaper than the RTX3070 option for higher FPS than the RTX3070.
  • High idle temperature ceiling (61°C).
  • Quiet operation (31dB).
CONs
  • Larger than other graphics cards.

4. MSI Gaming GeForce GTX 1660 Super

  • Noise level: 30 dB (under load)
  • Cores: 1,408
  • Clock freq: 1,530 MHz (Boost 1,830)
  • Memory Bus: 192 Bit (GDDR6)
  • Memory Bandwidth: 336 GB/s
  • VRAM: 6GB
  • TDP: 125W
  • Suggested PSU: 300W
  • Slot: Dual-slot
  • Bus Interface: PCIe 3.0 x 16
  • Power connector: 1x 6-pin
  • Average FPS @4K: 37 FPS
  • Basemark GPU (DX12): 5476
  • Release date: Q4 2020

The MSI GeForce GTX 1660 Super isn’t the most budget-friendly option, but it provides better performance than the Asus GeForce GTX 1650. For starters, it has 6GB of video memory and a 192-bit interface compared to 4GB and 128-bit.

It’s designed for 1080p gameplay. While this isn’t even close to the highest resolution available, it does it very well at delivering a smooth 60fps experience. Of course, if you’re into AAA cutting-edge games, you’ll want a card that supports 4K with ease (like the quiet Asus RTX 3070 or Red Dragon RX 6800 mentioned above).

On the flip side, it takes up 2 slots in your computer, so will be easier to install than the Red Dragon RX. It needs 1x 8-pin PCI-E power connector, again making it easy to set up. It has a HDMI 2.0 output and 3 DisplayPort 1.4 outputs. The card can support 4K graphics, but you’ll notice frame rate drops and plenty of chugging if you don’t lower your graphics settings.

In terms of noise levels, it reaches 30dB at load and has fan stop. Its temperature under load is 66 degrees C, meaning it can hold up to the better performing cards mentioned above.

The biggest issue with this card is that it’s somewhat outdated (Q4 2019 release). But if you just need a quick replacement and aren’t too fussed about 4K gameplay, it should be a suitable plug-in option.

PROs
  • Better performance than the Asus GeForce GTX 1650.
  • Quiet fan operation.
  • Smooth graphics at 1080p.
CONs
  • Not massively up-to-date tech (no DLSS or ray tracing).

Top 2 Best Silent Graphics Cards (Fanless)

It would be unfair to not include some passively cooled graphics cards. There’s nothing to say about their noise levels, but we can at least go over some performance aspects. Remember, though, you won’t get anything close to what’s listed above with fanless graphics cards.

1. Top Pick for Video Editing: Zotac GeForce GT 730

  • Noise level: 0 dB
  • Cores: 384
  • Clock freq: 902 MHz
  • Memory Bus: 64 Bit (GDDR3)
  • Memory Bandwidth: NC
  • VRAM: 4GB
  • TDP: 49W
  • Suggested PSU: 300W
  • Slot: Dual-slot
  • Bus Interface: PCIe 2.0 x 8
  • Power connector: None
  • Average FPS @4K: N/A
  • Basemark GPU (DX12): N/A
  • Release date: Q3 2014

The Zotac GeForce has 4GB of video memory and a 64-bit memory interface. While this might sound comparable to the gaming graphics cards above, don’t even think about it for gaming.

Its performance is more like a 1GB graphics card but the extra memory allows for video streaming, editing, and other media activities. If you want a gaming graphics card, expect to spend a lot more money.

The card uses an Nvidia GeForce 730 GPU with an 8-pin PCI-E 2.0. It also has HDMI, VGA and DVI outputs with support for up to 4K resolution. Again, though, don’t expect to do loads in 4K.

Plenty of users highlight the card’s performance as its downfall. But the easiest way around this is to not expect high-end video in gaming. You might be able to play older games or something like Minecraft on lower settings, but this card is better suited to video editing.

PROs
  • Budget graphics card.
  • Suitable for video editing and processing.
  • Easy to set up.
CONs
  • Really not suited to gaming.

2. Top Budget Pick: Diamond Multimedia Radeon 5450

  • Noise level: 0 dB
  • Cores: 384
  • Clock freq: 650 MHz
  • Memory Bus: 128 Bit (GDDR3)
  • Memory Bandwidth: 9.6 GB/s
  • VRAM: 1GB
  • TDP: 19W
  • Suggested PSU: 200W
  • Slot: Dual-slot
  • Bus Interface: PCIe 2.0 x16
  • Power connector: None
  • Average FPS @4K: N/A
  • Basemark GPU (DX12): N/A
  • Release date: Q1 2010

The Diamond Radeon 5450 is, in some ways, the bottom of the barrel for graphics cards. With 1GB of video memory, you can’t expect it to do much more than process video.

However, it does that absolutely fine. It has VGA, HDMI and DVI outputs and can support up to 4K. It’s passively cooled, so it’s a completely silent graphics card and will be perfectly suitable for everyday computer uses. It needs a 200W power supply, but has low power consumption – the PCIe will be fine for its power.

There’s really not much else to say about this graphics card. It’ll work fine for things like video calling, watching videos, and other media. So, if you just need a standard replacement card and don’t want to spend money, it could be perfect.

Note, though, that installation can be difficult. Plenty of users say they had issues calibrating and installing the card. Consider checking out this video for how to install a low-profile graphics card. It should cover everything you need to know.

PROs
  • Budget-friendly option.
  • Performance is fine for the price.
  • Supports up to 4K.
CONs
  • Won’t do more than stream video.

Features to Look for in a Quiet GPU

Noise is arguably the most important factor when choosing a silent graphics card. However, overall performance is vital, too, particularly for activities like gaming. Below are what I consider to be the most important features when picking a quiet GPU.

Performance

There are plenty of ways to break down graphics card performance. If you’re into computers, you probably know these already and can skip further down the list.

CUDA Cores

CUDA cores are the Nvidia GPU equivalent of a CPU’s parallel processors (e.g. quad-core). They process all the data running through the GPU, and some cards can have thousands of CUDA cores.

The bottom line is that more CUDA cores means better processing power. You can check out this helpful list for CUDA core numbers on popular Nvidia GPUs.

There isn’t really a direct correlation between CUDA core numbers and noise level. That said, we could say that more cores means the GPU works harder, meaning higher temperatures. In turn, this requires more powerful fans.

Clock Frequency

Clock speed (or frequency) is the speed of the GPU’s cores. The higher the speed, the faster the GPU’s processing power.

We measure clock speed in megahertz (MHz), hence why we call it clock frequency.

One good metric for thinking about clock frequency is frame rate (measured in FPS). The correlation between clock speed and frame rate is almost linear. It means that increasing your clock speed by 10% will result in roughly a 10% increase in frame rate within the same variant of GPU (i.e ASUS RTX 2080 vs MSI RTX 2080) .

This brings us to the concept of overclocking. In short, it involved running the GPU at a higher speed than that set by the manufacturer. The result is better performance but, by extension, more work for the fans.

Overclocking is common, but you might be better off just buying a higher-performance graphics card in the first place. As with all fan-based tech, running it below maximum output means less work for the fans.

VRAM

VRAM is video memory (video RAM). It’s the random-access memory that holds all the information needed to process image data. All computers need some amount of VRAM, but intense applications (such as gaming) need more.

4GB of VRAM is fine for 1080p processes. However, we’ve moved far beyond this. If you plan to run 1440p or 4K (UHD), opt for at least 8GB of VRAM, if not 16GB.

Memory bus and width

Without getting too technical, we can think of the memory bus as lanes of road traffic between the graphics processor and the RAM. The higher the number of the memory bus (64 bit, 128, 192, 265, etc.) the better the flow. This means a wider flow of data output to the system and eventually the monitor.

Ray Tracing

Ray tracing is a graphics rendering technique for lighting. Lighting has long been one of the biggest sticking points in gaming, until ray tracing came along. If you’ve used it, you’ll know the difference.

Without getting technical, it’s enough to say that it’s an energy-intensive process. Basically, ray tracing consists of computing the light rays’ trajectory and behavior for every single pixel in every single frame. 

You’ll generally only find it on higher-end graphics cards, and it’s worth the investment if you’re serious about gaming. Ray tracing can do wonders for creating immersive atmospheres in the latest games.

DLSS Support

DLSS stands for Deep Learning Super Sampling. It’s a rendering technique that reduces the stress on your graphics card while maintaining visual quality using Artificial Intelligence (AI). It falls into the realm of anti-aliasing but is only available on Nvidia RTX GPUs.

It’s useful if you want to keep your graphics card quiet, but isn’t the only option. Instead, you might want to spend a bit more for greater performance, as this’ll keep your graphics card quiet.

Input/Output & Interfaces

Your graphics card’s outputs will likely be:

  • HDMI: common, easily interchangeable between monitors and TVs
  • DVI: standard for computer monitors, doesn’t support audio
  • DisplayPort: only for computers, best for gaming

Which you choose depends on your display options. Plenty of cards have multiple output ports, so it shouldn’t be a massive issue.

You’d use inputs for video production and editing. As such, they include the ones mentioned above, but some cards might also support RGB, composite, etc. for older video devices.

Interfaces are another important aspect. PCIe is the motherboard connection, and different connections have different transfer speeds:

  • PCIe 2.0 – 16Gb/s
  • PCIe 3.0 – 32Gb/s
  • PCIe 4.0 – 64Gb/s
  • PCIe 5.0 – 128Gb/s

In short, higher bandwidth means faster data transfer, meaning your graphics card performs better.

A graphics card’s power connection is either through the PCIe (if it’s a lower-end graphics card) or from a separate connection. These’ll be 6-pin or 8-pin depending on the amount of power the card needs. The card’s description will give its pins, so just make sure you check this information to make setup easier.

How to Quiet a Graphics Card Fan

A graphics card has 4 performance criteria: price, quality, noise, and speed. Price generally indicates quality and speed. By extension, speed impacts noise, as a faster graphics card requires faster fans to remove all the heat it produces.

How does this boil down to making a graphics card quieter, though? Here are some suggestions:

Create a Custom GPU Fan Curve

This involves manually adjusting setting a new rate at which the fan speeds up in relation to the card temperature. You can do this using a program like MSI Afterburner, or Precision, which has a dedicated UI for fan curves and speeds.

While not an easy option, it’s certainly doable with the right knowledge and program.

Underclocking

Another option for how to quiet a graphics card fan is underclocking. As you can probably guess, this is the opposite of overclocking. It involves slightly lowering your graphics card’s clock speed. You can do it in Precision or MSI Afterburner.

Granted, it does mean sacrificing some performance. But you don’t have to reduce the speed by much to see a notable drop in fan noise, so it shouldn’t be the end of your gaming.

Undervolting

Undervolting is an excellent way to reduce temperature from the GPU, thus reducing fan speed and noise. It consists of reducing the voltage input while keeping the same clock speed.

There’s a minimum and maximum margin of voltage input at which your system is stable. Undervolting consists of getting your GPU closer to the minimum limit.

Lowering the voltage ends up decreasing the power drawn by the system – less power means less heat generated.

Since you’re still in the voltage limit of a stable system, you lose close to nothing in terms of clockspeed while temperature can decrease by as much as 10°C.

To undervolt your GPU, you’ll need MSI afterburner. You can check the video below to understand how to do it.

Replace the Thermal Paste

Thermal paste ensures good thermal conductivity between the GPU’s die and the heatsinks. It tends to dry and lose performance with time. It’s generally recommended to replace it after a few years.

If you’ve noticed your system running louder than when purchased new, it might be time to consider a change. Make sure your warranty has already expired, as this operation generally voids the warranty.

Check the video below, for the steps to follow.

Final Thoughts on Silent Graphics Cards

I hope this article has given you some guidance on picking the best quiet graphics card. There are plenty of factors at play, although noise level is, of course, important.

My top pick for the best silent graphics card is the Asus RTX 3070 TUF Gaming OC. Not only it’s the quietest on this list but it also strikes a good balance between performance and noise level. If you’ve got money to burn, the Red Dragon RX 6800 is also a good pick.

Do you have any tips on choosing a graphics card or adjusting its noise level? Drop a comment below, as I’d love to hear from you.

Ludovic
Ludovic
Ludovic uses his technical experience as a Mechanical Engineer to compile Soundproofing DIY guides. You’ll often find him breaking down complex topics to make it clearer for others. He also finds inspiration in sharing mindful habits.

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