The GeForce GTX 280 reference card is 267mm long, which means it’s no longer than any of Nvidia’s recent high-end graphics cards. Also, like many of Nvdia’s recent graphics cards, it features a fully-enclosed fansink design that means the card is not going to be subject to damage from either static discharges or general ham-handedness.
Nvidia says that the shroud design is sculpted in such a way that it helps to encourage optimal airflow and most of it is made out of metal. However, unlike the GeForce 9800 GX2, the bottom edge of the heatsink shroud is plastic, meaning that heat will not radiate down and cause nForce 780i SLI motherboards with the NF200 chip placed between the PCI-Express slots, like the Asus Striker II Formula, to overheat.
I can’t tell you how worried I was when Nvidia was discussing the card’s thermals and then the heatsink design – it sounded like a recipe for disaster following our discovery that the GeForce 9800 GX2 overheated if airflow over the motherboard was anything less than optimal.
Click to enlarge
Thankfully, when I first got my hands on the hardware, I found that the bottom edge of the fansink was indeed plastic and that should hopefully mean there’ll be no overheating problems – even despite the high TDPs and power draw numbers I’ve heard.
Because the card’s been designed to encourage good airflow from the outset, it has enabled Nvidia to keep the 80mm radial fan spinning rather slowly. Although we haven’t been able to monitor the speed directly, we can say that it spins very slowly in just about every situation we encountered—including heavy gaming sessions—and, as a result, it’s pretty quiet by design.
Click to enlarge
The fan is temperature controlled, but the only time you’re likely to hear it spinning is when you boot your system and wait for the POST to finish. It’s not quite as quiet as the GeForce 8800 GTX or GeForce 8800 Ultra cooler, but it’s certainly no louder than a GeForce 9800 GTX, for example – and that’s not much louder than the cards it ended up replacing.