Maybe the BIOS is different? With higher fan speed by default? I think there is every reason to believe that its fan can be slowed down by RivaTuner!
Maybe WR304 could try to lower the idle RPM setting to the same as spcr's sample and see the difference.
At idle my GTX260 stock cooler is running at the same 40% duty cycle as the reviewed Asus card. The reason appears to be that different versions of the monitoring software report different values.
In the release notes for Rivatuner v2.11 they mention greater compatibility with the GT200 series cards as one of the main changes over older versions of the software.
If you look at the SPCR review they're using GPU-Z v0.2.7. A newer version of GPU-Z v0.2.8 was released on 24/09/08:
http://www.techpowerup.com/downloads/12 ... 0.2.8.html
http://downloads.guru3d.com/RivaTuner-v ... l#download
Using GPU-Z v0.2.8 it now displays the fan rpm as 1382rpm also. Here's a screenshot where both versions of the program are running at the same time on my PC.
GPU-Z 0.2.8 displayed fan speed for a Nvidia GTX260 card at 40% duty cycle compared to GPU-Z 0.2.7
Something else that's worth mentioning is what the temperature response curve for the stock cooler is. In Rivatuner v2.11 you can see what this is by looking at the "Low Level System Settings Tab"
For my GTX260 card the settings are:
Duty Cycle Min: 40%
Duty Cycle Max: 100%
T Min: 60
T Range: 32
T Operating: 78
T Low Limit: 65
T High Limit: 85
If you're considering the GTX280 cards their GPU temperature may go significantly over that 78c operating temperature a lot sooner. If so, the fan is going to be ramping up a lot more than the cooler GTX260 card will.
In games my stock clocked GTX260 doesn't actually seem that much louder than at idle. Playing games like Stalker Clear Sky, Grid, Spore, Mercenaries 2 etc doesn't seem to be making the fan ramp up much. My copy of Crysis Warhead seems to have got lost in the post so I haven't been able to try that yet.
The other thing to bear in mind is that there aren't many aftermarket cooling options for these cards. If you don't like the stock cooler there's a Thermalright HR-03 cooler coming out sometime, you can fit a waterblock and watercool it and that's about it for your options.