Hate Distractions While You’re Gaming? You’ll Be a ‘Fan’ Of This Fix

by Brian Caulfield

The crunch of footsteps when walking through a snowy field in ‘Assassin’s Creed 3.’ The satisfying ‘blat-blat-blat,’ of the PDW-57 in ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.’ If you’re a gamer, these sounds make the difference between a good experience and a great one. 

Which is why our new flagships — the GTX 780 and GTX 770 – aren’t just powerful, they’re stealthy, too. Impressive, considering the brute power this hardware packs: the GTX 780, for example, features 2,304 Kepler GPU cores and 3 GB of GDDR 5 memory. Yet it’s significantly quieter than our GTX 680 or GTX 580.

whisperquiet

It’s yet another example of just how obsessive we are about great gaming experiences. And it’s the result of a series of conversations between two engineers about the noise generated by fans, and when — and why — we notice it.

All too often, a graphics card’s fan kicks in when the action — and the graphics on the screen — are their most intense. That sudden change in speed creates an unwelcome distraction.

“If you hear an ambulance, you hear it right away — that’s not because it emits a solid tone, but because it modulates,” said David, one of the engineers. “The way our brain interprets sound, that modulation is something we really pick up on.”

It’s a problem that David — who studied mechanical engineering as a graduate and undergraduate at Oregon State and loves to take on his colleagues in bouts of ‘Battlefield 3’ — is passionate about. “If a GPU fan is noisy it’s going to pull gamers out of the experience,” he says. “It’s just like when a cell phone rings in a movie theater.”

adaptive

So he developed an algorithm aimed at smoothing out unnecessary fluctuations in the fan’s speed. One example: the new software keeps the fan spinning at the same speed during less intense scenes so that it doesn’t have to abruptly accelerate when the on-screen action — and the GPU — heats up. “Once you’re playing that game, the fan shouldn’t change speed at all,” David said. “It doesn’t need to, so why?”

The result is a triple play. New hardware, such as a sophisticated new vapor chamber design and a longer extended fin stack help keep the GTX 780 cool. Coupled with new fan control software — and the efficiency of our Kepler GPU architecture — the result is a GPU that generates less than 45 decibels of fan noise, and fewer distractions.

We think you’ll be a fan, too.