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I'm curious what the community's options and experiences are with open air vs reference blower style Graphics Cards.

I'm looking to buy a GTX 1080Ti for my custom flight sim / gaming PC, and would love to learn more about the differences.



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Hey Leon,

First, I've owned a lot of different graphics cards going back 20+ years to when they were first showing up for consumers. In my experience:

Reference (Blower-type) Coolers:

  1. Run louder
  2. Run warmer (1 and 2 really go together here)
  3. Keep the inside of the PC cooler (exhausting the hot air instead of blowing it around inside the case)
  4. Are more reliable
  5. Are harder to keep clean

Open Air Coolers:

  1. Run cooler and quiter (usually due to larger and greater quantity of fans)
  2. Keep the hot air inside the case and contribute to warmer environment inside the case
  3. Are less reliable
  4. Are easy to keep clean

Based on all this, I typically use a high airflow case and the open air coolers because of their quieter, better performance and are much easier to clean due to their more open designs. That's just my preference.

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My experience, over many years, hasn't revealed any reliability issues with third party coolers. No different to reference blower coolers for me. In fact, you will often find fantastic warranties with third party coolers, for example the warranties up to 10 years from EVGA.

And in regard to third party graphics cards with coolers that vent a percentage of their warm air inside the case, it's true, but not an issue. As I mentioned, it's usually "a percentage" of the warm air, not all of it. Like my EVGA GTX 980Ti, some warm air is still vented out of the rear. 

For example, I've just built my daughter a Mini ITX system. As I'm sure you know, thermals are a big consideration in such a minuscule enclosure. It has an EVGA 1060 Super Clocked installed, with a considerable percentage of the heat from the overclocked card vented inside the case. No issue at all, motherboard temps are all well within the manufactures specs. VRM normal range, PCH normal range, all good.

In addition, the 7600K is overclocked to 4.8 GHz, but runs just as well at 5 GHz. 

The CPU is cooled by a H100i V2, that ingests cold air through the rad and dumps the heat from the rad into the case. (Lower CPU temp with this orientation and my preferred positive case pressure) I'm sure you'd agree, a worse case scenario for heat dumped into case... but again, all internal temps are well within the norm. The single 120 mm fan handles exhaust just fine.

Same applies to my Lian Li X510 with no less than five fans. A big tower air cooler dumping some of it's heat into the case and an OC'd GTX 980 Ti doing the same.... and those five fans, controlled by my Fan Xpert fan curve, barely spin up even under load. They don't have to, because all temps are low.

The moral of the story is that we enthusiasts often panic and unnecessarily over cool our PC's, even our overclocked PC's. Thus, a graphics card that exhausts a percentage of it's heat into the case isn't an issue in practice. After all, big tower CPU coolers have been doing it for years without issue.


Edited by martin-w

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Unless you're building an extremely compact system with very poor airflow, there's no real benefit to using a blower style card. The airflow of that small radial fan is very low compared to a large case fan (120 - 140mm) with 70 - 100+ CFM airflow, so even a single case fan is able to exhaust more hot air than a blower and make up for the lack of one. Hot air only gets "trapped" if there's absolutely nowhere for it to escape, meaning you have insulated your case and covered all the vents for some reason.

That said, there aren't any significant disadvantages to a blower these days. My last two cards have been blowers, because they were cheaper and in stock. The fan curves are so relaxed that the fan only reaches ~50% even while gaming, so the card is no louder than the background noise of the CPU fan, case fans and HDD's.

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Thanks a lot for the advice!

I decided to go with an open air card for my system given that it's custom built and has a ton of space for air flow inside.

All the best!

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