Monday, October 25, 2021

Brown is the color of silence: Asus announces RTX 3070 Noctua Edition graphics cards

PC hardware enthusiasts may remember the time when Linus strapped two case fans onto a graphics card with zip ties. Though primitive and clunky, the mod produced immense thermal and noise improvements. But even before the video popularized the idea, users have long been asking for large, easily replaceable fans in graphics cards.

Asus GeForce RTX 3070 Noctua Edition cross section
Credit: Noctua

It appears that Asus has been listening. Its latest graphics card, the GeForce RTX 3070 Noctua Edition, designed in collaboration with the legendary cooler designer Noctua,  features a massive 2.3-slot-tall heatsink and two 120mm NF-A12x25 fans. And love it or hate it, it’s coated in Noctua’s signature brown and beige color scheme.

Asus RTX 3070 Noctua Edition specs sheet

Name RTX 3070 Founder’s Edition RTX 3070 Noctua Edition RTX 3070 Noctua Edition OC
Peak boost clock 1730 MHz 1755 MHz 1845 MHz
Memory 8GB GDDR6 8GB GDDR6 8GB GDDR6
Interface PCIe 4.0 PCIe 4.0 PCIe 4.0
Cuda cores 5888 5888 5888
Ports 1x HDMI, 3x DisplayPort 2x HDMI, 3x DisplayPort 2x HDMI, 3x DisplayPort
Height 2 slot 4.3 slot 4.3 slot
Power connector 1x 12-pin power connector adapted from one 8-pin power connector 2x 8-pin power connector 2x 8-pin power connector

With the thick heatsink and chonky fans, Asus promises “top thermal performance per decibel.” At its lowest fan speed and a 24C ambient temperature, the Noctua fans hit just 12.6dB, which is barely audible. At its maximum speed, Noctua says the fans are 9.1dB quieter than a standard cooler. The fans won’t even spin until the GPU reaches 50C.

A noise comparison of the Noctua cooler vs a standard cooler.
A comparison between the Noctua cooler vs a standard cooler. Credit: Noctua

Currently, Asus only offers two variants of the card, both of them RTX 3070s, one overclocked and the other at stock speeds. But even with the 120MHz overclock on the OC edition, the cooler seems overkill for a GPU of this calibre and is better suited for something hotter, like the RTX 3080 or the RTX 3090, or at least an RTX 3070 Ti. Perhaps Asus made silence a priority and the 3070 was the best GPU that could fit the noise requirement. We’ve reached out to Asus about this decision and will update the article when we receive a reply.

With the PCB and the backplate, the card measures a whopping 4.3-slot thick–double the height of the Founder’s Edition–instantly ruling it out for small-form-factor (SFF) builds. Its size also means that it would be a good idea to prop up its rear end with a GPU support bracket to prevent the card from sagging.

Asus GeForce RTX 3070 Noctua Edition angled
Credit: Asus

One feature users are hoping for is replaceable fans, since they’re a common failure point in ageing graphics cards. As their bearings wear out, they become noisier and sometimes reduce airflow. Since the Noctua Edition 3070s use fans that can be easily bought through retail channels, making them replaceable would help extend its serviceable life and reduce e-waste.

Asus hasn’t released the official pricing for either card but has said that they will be released in mid-October. Although Nvidia has capped the Ethereum hash rate to dissuade miners, availability will certainly continue to still be constrained as long as the semiconductor shortage persists.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Tom Li
Tom Li
As an avid technology enthusiast, Tom loves to fix, break, and talk about electronics. Now he gets to write about them. Talk about a dream career.

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