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Verdict And Purchase Recommendation

PowerColor's SCS3 HD6850: Radeon HD 6850 Goes Fanless
By , Greg Ryder

Summary

We're a bit torn here. A passive video card that can't do its job in an air-conditioned room on an open test bench (albeit, while being stress tested), makes us worry about the long-term prospects of dissipating mid-range wattages without the help of an active cooler.

The test results with the ultra-quiet extra fan, which managed to reduce the card’s temperature by more than 54 degrees Fahrenheit under load, prove that the passive heatsink is excellent, and it only needs a little help. This is also demonstrated by mounting the card into enclosures with good internal air flow. Operating this card in an enclosure without any fan at all is impossible, but cheating a little bit by adding a flow of cool air, generated quietly by means of an extra fan, enables this card's full potential. In that context, it's a board we can recommend, as no graphics card in this performance category has ever been as quiet.

Purchase Recommendation

The graphics card is 130 mm (5”) high, which is 20 mm (0.8”) higher than a regular card. Also it occupies two more slots, one at the front and one more at the back, totaling three. Owners of motherboards with PCI Express x16 slots closest to the CPU should assess whether the graphics card's oversized heatsink will even fit, as it protrudes a hefty 25 mm (1”) from the back-side of the card. If its dimensions aren't an issue, we can happily conclude that this is one of the most effective coolers we've seen.

The last issue to consider is this board's cost. It's available for about £150 at eBuyer, a price that is higher than most other Radeon HD 6850s. It may be justified for a fringe solution, as the heatsink undoubtedly adds to the bill of materials. But whether the perceived value is worth it or not is ultimately up to you. This car is definitely more than a mere feasibility study, but it's also clearly not designed to serve a broad audience, either.

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  • 0 Hide
    tranzz , 9 August 2011 21:27
    I you rev the nuts off the fan can you get a super over clock from the card?
  • 0 Hide
    ps3hacker12 , 10 August 2011 04:49
    wow, so with just 1 fan its a great card.
  • 0 Hide
    mi1ez , 10 August 2011 09:39
    the fact remains, to use a silent graphics card at it's full potential, you need a noisy case!
  • 0 Hide
    Solitaire , 12 August 2011 22:20
    Tom's... I think you've forgotten that heatpipe towers are hugely reliant on static pressure and airflow... of course sticking it on an uncooled open testbench will result in fail...

    Ultimately true passive setups involving mid-TDP parts will always remain impractical or a gimmick, as they always need some sort of forced airflow across them to remain workable. Turning a Big Air system into a Quiet Air one through Arctic/Scythe/Noctua abuse is always the better idea.
  • 0 Hide
    HEXiT , 16 August 2011 19:48
    i had a fanless solution on my 88gt done by sparkle. it worked, just. i put a 60mm cpufan on it and wow. temps down to 40'c from near 100. the cooler itself was ok but was blinding when you gave it a push... i guess this 1 will do the same. add a couple of low noise 120's and i bet the temps tumble... then again i hoped they would come with a fanless solution because the build quality for there fans is poor... min didnt even last a year on my 5870... also there customer service is second to none... it has to be the worst i have ever encountered from a new-ish entrant into the market.