VGA Cooler Roundup April 2006

Cooling/VGA & Other Cooling by jmke @ 2006-04-24

6 different VGA coolers are tested in our latest roundup, products from Arctic Cooling, Sytrin and Zalman stressed using an XFX 7800GT running at default and overclocked speeds, while each heatsink is tested at different fan speeds and GPU temperature and noise readings are recorded. What cooler will suite you best? Read on to find out.

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Standard 7800GT HSF

Standard Cooling nVidia 7800GT

Depending the graphics card you have, your cooling needs will certainly differ, the standard cooling all video cards is made and tested to cool the GPU and Memory sufficiently in a hot environment. The maximum operating temperature of the video card is also higher than your average CPU so there’s a bit more headroom when it comes down to designing a cooling solution for the a graphics card.

The 7800GT has an internal shutdown alarm in case the GPU temperature exceeds 115°C, so if the stock cooling keeps the card running below 90°C there is enough room left to comfortable run the card for several years in a row without overheating issue.

If you think your video card will run faster because it’s 10°C cooler, you are mistaken, what a cooler running GPU does offer you is maybe a bit more overclocking headroom and the possibility to run the heatsink’s fan at lower speeds while keeping the temperatures below critical levels.

Madshrimps (c)

The 7800GT ranks between the 7900GTX and 7900GT when it comes down to power consumption. The ATI X18xxx and X19xx cards and the nVidia 7800GTX 512Mb are really the hot potatoes out today; their dual slot cooling solutions are not there just for show.

The 7800GT doesn’t need an extravagant cooling solution, the included cooler has a small copper core which dissipates heat to the surrounding aluminum fins; the small fan which blows air through the air-duct is very loud at 100% speed, during normal 2D operation the speed is reduced to ~25% and during gaming session it runs at 40-50%. At this level the noise generation is doable if you’re not into silent computing.

Madshrimps (c)

The DDR3 memory chips don’t run very hot, a very small heatsink is all what is needed to keep them running fine, extreme cooling of these memory chips does not lead to noticeable overclocking capabilities, making the GPU the primary target for an aftermarket solution.

The stock cooler covers both GPU and memory chips and can be uninstalled by removing the series of screws from the back of the card. Before doing though I advise you heat up the heatsink, either by using a hairdryer, or by stressing the video card right before you remove it from your system. This will make it very easy to pull the heatsink away from the card.

Madshrimps (c)
Standard heatsink from MSI 7800GT - identical to the one of the XFX

Using Arctic Silver ArctiClean I removed the remains of the thermal pads on the memory chips and the thermal paste from the GPU.

Madshrimps (c)
The Aluminum bar you see at the top of the PCB was removed later on to allow installation of the third party coolers

Madshrimps (c)

The FAN control issue

In the last 2 months I’ve used three 7800GT cards from different manufacturers, while packaging and overall design were slightly different, all of them displayed the same anomaly when it came down to fan speed control. First I installed one from MSI, the fan was spinning at 100% at all times and I could not get it to slow down, several driver reinstalls later the problem still remained, the fan runs at 100% in all states either 2D or 3D. During an unrelated test I unplugged the fan on the MSI card and plugged it back in while the system was running, the fan did not spin up to 100% and I was able to control the fan speed through Rivatuner.

There is some good information on how to set up Rivatuner to tune fan speed on nVidia cards on this page;

The next 7800GT card I tried was from XFX, it gave me the same symptom as the MSI, 100% fan speed at all times, then randomly after xx reboots the fan control came to life and fan speed throttled to 25% when in 2D.

To make things complete I tried an e-VGA 7800GT CO which features a larger copper base but the same fan, it also ran at 100% from the start, removing all nVidia drivers from the system and cleaning with Driver Cleaner Pro and reinstalling the latest ones from the site enabled the fan throttling on the e-VGA.

Apparently I’m not the only one experiencing these problems as there are numerous forum posts over the web from people who bough a 7800GT card and found it to be very loud. Gainward posted a hardware-hack workaround for the problem which can seen here.

With the stock cooler issues out of the way it’s time to install our first third party heatsink/fan solution ->
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