If you bought a high end video card recently you have been spoiled, the standard cooling on NVIDIA 8800 series is quite good in offering low temperatures at low noise levels. Unfortunately this seems to be more of an exception than a general rule, as most mainstream video cards ship with noisy cooling solutions. Only by looking at the enthusiast minded models you can get more advanced cooling “out of the box”, even passive is possible. As expected you do pay a premium for this cooling comfort, sometimes the increase in price is not justified.
Today we take a closer look at eight VGA cooling solutions from a wide range of manufacturers. The models tested are designed for mid-range video cards from NVIDIA and ATI. The review format will be straight forward, we’ll discuss the test setup on this page, the following pages detail each cooler, product package, extra and installation shots. We wrap up the test by providing a performance chart comparing GPU temperatures and noise. The last page holds compatibility chart and price/performance information.Test Setup
For our VGA cooler roundup we choose a mid-range VGA card from NVIDIA, the 7900 GT is a faster and cooler running edition of the original 7800 GT series.
This Club 3D version with stock cooling follows the NVIDIA reference design by the letter; the memory chips don’t have heatsinks; the cooler itself is low profile and features a small fan.
Normally, if everything is working, the software driver controls the fan speed in Windows, so when you start a game, the fan speed increases, when you are at the desktop in 2D mode, the fan slows down. Unfortunately, as with the 7800 GT stock cooling, this feature doesn’t always work very well, and you end up with the fan running at full speed all of the time.
In our VGA Cooler Roundup
last year we had great results with the then new Zalman VF900 unit, it boasts wide compatibility and we retest it here on the 7900 GT. Installation remains plug and play and provides a solid fit.
We installed the NVIDIA 7900 GT card into the system below:
We underclocked the Pentium 4 CPU to allow the Evercool Buffalo to keep the CPU running cool (<50°C) with its fan running at only 5v, the system measured ~3dBA over ambient with the case panel removed and the dBA meter at only 5cm away. The rear 120mm fan in the Antec Sonata 2 runs at only 5v and is whisper quiet, the hard drive sits inside a Scythe Quiet Drive, and the power supply is a completely passive model from FSP. It wasn’t until the dBA meter reached 45dBA+ levels that we could hear the system running when the case panel was closed. Video Card Coolers Tested
While the photo above shows 10 different VGA coolers (NVIDIA stock included) we encountered incompatibility with one of them, the Spire CoolForce III is not designed to fit the 7900 GT, so we’ll have to do a follow-up article with another VGA card for this unit. The other coolers which do fit are:Titan Twin Turbo
Coolermaster CoolViva Z1
Coolermaster CoolViva Pro
Vantec IceBerq 6
ZEROTherm GX815 “Gamer Edition”
Arctic Cooling Accelero S1
NVIDIA Stock Cooling
Let’s get started ->