Of course, installation is a matter of positioning the card into the PCI-E slot, make sure it locks, and start the computer. That's it. XP found it as I put the driver disc in. I told XP it was OK to search the web for the driver, and within maybe 10 seconds, it was installed. Kind of weird, as the splash screen hadn't even opened. It took me a minute to realize that I already had the latest drivers installed for my 7900GS. DUH!
I guess the first thing I noticed is the fact that the fan is silent. This is the first stock cooler that I have owned that didn't sound like some creature living in my case was vacuuming the floor.
After I do my typical resolution and other settings, I opened the nVidia Control Panel.
I clicked on the little green nVidia icon in the tray to go to the nVidia Control Panel. To be honest, I have seldom messed around with settings since nVidia went to the nVidia Control Panel. I liked the way it was, when you clicked the “Advanced” button in the desktop controls. I clicked “Monitor Temperature Levels”, and it tells me that temperature monitoring is a function of “Performance”, and do I want to go “to the nVidia site to download nTune?” I guess I have no choice, so I do.
After downloading and installing nTune, I am pleasantly surprised that nTune now is a function of the Control Panel, instead of the stupid stand-alone program it used to be, and overclocking is accomplished by simply moving the slider rather than the headache that nTune was before. Looks like I won't have to use RivaTuner or ATITool. Actually, I will use ATITool to see how hot the card gets, but I won't need it for overclocking. I like the little hairy cube in ATITool. It is the easiest way I have found to stress the GPU and it now supports nVidia cards.
I immediately see that the stock cooler will eventually have to go; the card idles at 51C. That is pretty normal, as the current generation of nVidia GPUs run uncomfortably hot. I don't think that I will be overclocking very high for this review. I do have a suitable cooler to replace the stock one, but I don't have any ramsinks on hand.
I also see why the fan is so quiet.. there is a quiet fan function, where you set the fan to a percentage of speed. It is set to 42% as default. I will test this a little later. nTune's “Tune” function is for the motherboard, and not the video card. No big deal, I didn't like it anyway, I prefer the current slider method of increasing GPU clock.
Something else I don't like in nVidia's Control Panel is the Multiple Display function. I don't use multiple screens very often, but on the occasion that I did, I always liked the ease of the old Control Panel.
While I am here, I am going to test the fan for loudness and effectiveness. In my experience, I really don't expect the fan to cool the GPU much more at idle, hopefully speeding it up will make some difference in load temp, and a little more while overclocked.
The slider goes from 42.86% to 142.86%, I don't know why, except maybe that 100% is the point where the fan starts getting loud. I moved the slider to the max setting and the fan got much louder. But even maxed out, it is probably the quietest stock GPU fan I have heard. At the max, it still is pretty tolerable. My present rig configuration is pretty much totally silent, with passive northbridge cooling, and a pair of 120mm fans running at 5v, so of course, this will be the loudest fan in my rig. As I expected, it only took the idle temp down to 48C.
So, I fired up ATITool, to get a load temp. At the low fan setting, the GPU reached 77C-80C. At the max, it does about the same. For safety sake, I am going to leave the fan on high for the remainder of testing. I found out a little later that restarting the computer causes fan speed to go back to the default 42.86%. That causes me to assume that will also happen with changing the GPU clock rate, but we'll see.
Enough about the nVidia Control Panel… let's do some testing!