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In this question I received the response to which graphics model should I go with. Now, as I started calculating using this decibel calculator, the fact that I am trying to buy quiet 8.9 dB fans (total = 20.9 dB) will be negligable if a graphics card will generate 36 dB (which is what I found here) - than the total noise will be 37.081 dB. However, on Tomshardware I found this to be more nuanced, but also incomplete (no MSI card).

What graphics card manufacturer would you recommend for GTX960 noise-wise, provided the price differences are negligible? Or maybe there are other considerations under 250$ for gaming setup (i5-6500, 8GB ram, 240GB SDD, 4 140mm fans, MSI170 pro gaming mobo, 1280 x 1024 res) that are significantly quieter?

[EDIT] I am aware of 'silent mode', where fans turn off on idle, which is apparently implemented by all manufacturers in GTX 960 (source). The question is about the fan noise under load.

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    Just my personal experience: the MSI cards are generally really quiet. When being in idle the fans don't even spin and on my R9 380 the average Fan speed is about 4-10% when playing demanding games like witcher 3 and still the temps stay around 60°. – benjamin Dec 3 '15 at 8:28
  • Asus strixx cards are the quitest, they don't even spin when in low use – Thomcdrom Dec 3 '15 at 13:17
  • All manufacurers include fan stop at idle, not only Assus or MSI, see second table: tomshardware.com/reviews/nvidia-geforce-gtx-960,4038-11.html – Piotr Falkowski Dec 3 '15 at 16:39
  • @PiotrFalkowski also depends on the card. but the strix series also doesn spin up in low titles like league of legends. that is there whole thing. also not all cards my G1 gaming GTX 970 never stops spinning with the system on even onder a low load of 1% – Thomcdrom Dec 8 '15 at 8:11
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So after the extended research I found the following evidence:

10 minutes of constant load test by Toms Hardware :

  • Asus Strix GeForce GTX 960: 35 dB
  • EVGA GeForce GTX 960 SSC: 35 dB
  • ZOTAC AMP! GeForce GTX 960: 36.5 dB
  • MSI Gaming 2G GeForce GTX 960: 34 dB

And the rest of makes in yet another Toms Hardware test:

  • Asus GTX 960 StriX OC: 35.8 dB
  • Gainward GTX 960 Phantom OC: 35.9 dB
  • Galax/KFA GTX 960 EX OC: 36.2 dB
  • Gigabyte GTX 960 WindForce OC: 35.8 dB
  • Gigabyte GTX 960 Gaming G1: 34.6 dB
  • inno3D GTX 960 iChill: 36.4 dB
  • Palit GTX 960 Super JetStream: 36.6 dB

From the above I conclude, that the quietest card is MSI Gaming 2G GeForce GTX 960 and Gigabyte GTX 960 Gaming G1, because it's hard to compre between tests.

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I found that in general most 960 cards from various brands all run at similar noise levels. The EVGA 960 (4gb) runs fairly quiet when under 60 degrees celsius, but will start to be noticeable if not similar to other cards when above that temperature.

When it comes to cards being maxed out in usage, the MSI 960(2gb) seems to be quieter than several other brands, based off of various videos I found comparing noise levels.

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While this may not be the best solution depending on your case airflow, the Arctic Accelero S3 may interest you. Passive cooling is more common on server components, but the Accelero S3 is a GPU heatsink that can support 135W TDP, or 200W with its "Turbo Module" (but it's just a fan, which rather defeats the purpose of the heatsink). While the Twin Frozr V is very quiet, it can't really beat not having fans at all. With good case airflow, the temperature is significantly higher, but not worryingly so.

Why you may not want this:

  1. It costs $55 dollars, which, while still being under budget if you pick one of the cheaper 960s to mod, this is a pretty hefty investment.
  2. Other fans have to work harder, so the gains may not be obvious
  3. This will probably void your warranty
  4. It doesn't eliminate coil whine

So, why would you want this?

If you're serious about wanting a silent PC, and have already chosen a soundproofed case, quiet fans and a good CPU cooler, this is a good option. Otherwise, don't bother, there are easier and cheaper ways of quieting your PC.

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