VGA Cooler Roundup on ATI X1900 Series

Cooling/VGA & Other Cooling by piotke @ 2006-11-13

We test 4 after market VGA coolers from Thermalright, Zalman, Sytrin and Arctic Cooling on a hot running Powercolor ATI X1900 GT. Which one keeps the card the coolest and how quiet can it be done? Find out in this group test.

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Test Results & Conclusive Thoughts

Test Results

The fan speed on the Thermalright V1 Ultra and Zalman VF-900CU were set to high (12v) and low (5v) using Zalman’s fanmate. The Accelero X2 and stock cooler were set to AUTO, 100% and 50% speed through ATI Tool. The Sytrin VF1 Plus was set to High/Medium/Low using its own fan controller bracket.

Here are the results, represented in a simple table:

Madshrimps (c)

The VF1 Plus is dominating here at high speed, but is quite noisy, at low fan speed the VF1 Plus is caught up by the Zalman VF900-Cu @ high which really benefits from the fresh air coming from the 120mm in-take fan, both coolers are practically at the same lower noise level here.

For easier digestion of the temperature and noise results this chart will come in handy:

Madshrimps (c)

With a quite high ambient of 41.7dBA most coolers only cause a slight increase in noise; with the coolers configured with their fan at low, they all drop below ambient except for the Sytrin, which sits at 42.2dBA.

The Stock cooling is relatively quiet at reduced fan speed but GPU temperatures are dangerously high, at full speed the stock cooler does a lot better but it also becomes the noisiest solution. At this noise level (46+dBA) the Sytrin is running 21°C cooler under load!

A third way to represent the test data might be the most intuitive, the X-axis represents the dBA value, to the right is louder, to the left is quieter. The Y-axis displays GPU temperature under load, going up… hotter, going down… cooler.

Madshrimps (c)

The inability to register noise levels below 41.7dBA causes this chart to look a bit off for the Accelero X2 and V1 Ultra (fan bottom). The other coolers all show a remarkably similar angle of increased temperature as noise level drops.

In this particular test setup the Zalman VF900-Cu really shines, listing the lowest temperatures at the lowest noise. Closely followed by the Sytrin VF1 Plus with its fan at low speed. The Thermalright V1 Ultra in its default config (one fan at the rear of the VGA card) offers the best performance/noise balance, and it’s trailing the top by only a few dBA/°C. The Accelero X2 stands out as being silent no matter the fan speed, running it at full speed it matches the noise level of the Sytrin VF1 Plus@Low but runs 8°C hotter.

Conclusive thoughts

Let’s first recap the summary we wrote back in March when we tested 3 of the 4 coolers on a 7800 GT:

As it currently stands, the Accelero X1 offered the best performance/noise ratio on the 7800GT, however if you are looking for a cooler which offers wider compatibility, the VF1 Plus and Zalman VF900-Cu will make an excellent option (if you are running in SLI, VF1 Plus might pose some issues due to its larger size).

With a different VGA card and case with altered airflow path (80mm exhaust vs 120mm in-take) the end results are not the same. The Accelero X2’s nVIDIA brother (X1) did exceptionally well on the 7800GT, but here it trails the VF900-Cu which shines on the X1900 GT. The Sytrin VF1 Plus delivers the same impressive performance numbers on both setups, using it with the fan running at low has it in the top noise/performance rank.

The newcomer, V1 Ultra from Thermalright, doesn’t disappoint when it comes to pure performance, but it’s bested by the Zalman and Sytrin when noise is taken into account.

There is an important lesson learned from testing the same products in two completely different environments: never base your purchase decision on one product review.

We hope you found this roundup useful and plan to bring you more GPU cooler tests in the near future.

We thank Bacata (Thermalright), Arctic Cooling, Sytrin, Zalman and Powercolor for making this review possible.

Questions/Commens: forum thead
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Comment from h1gh @ 2007/05/12
Due to space constraints (no free PCI slots in my system), I was interested if you could re-test the VF1 WITHOUT the included fan with a 120mm fan mounted on the rear of the case (i have a Arctic-Cooling ACF12).

My system setup is similar to the Piotke's Test Setup picture on Page 1 of your review except my Zalman blow air directly to the back of the case.

Comment from jmke @ 2007/05/13
these products and test card are no longer available as we have to make room for new product reviews & gear; sorry :/
Comment from Rutar @ 2007/05/13
I still think TR cripples their cooler by supplying a crappy fan. It is just asking to ghetto mount a 1000 RPM 120mm Silent Eagle.
Comment from jmke @ 2007/05/13
TR doesn't supply fans with their HSF
Comment from Rutar @ 2007/05/13
"The included 80mm fan is low profile (15mm) and spins at 2500rpm@12v."

Comment from jmke @ 2007/05/13
for retail channel they sometimes do, but if you check their product line-up you'll see that practically none come with fan. I think the low profile is not a bad choice as it limits the risk of it not fitting inside your case.