Eight Video Card Coolers Tested and Compared

Cooling/VGA & Other Cooling by jmke @ 2007-07-18

In this article we test and compare 8 different VGA coolers from Zalman, Gigabyte, Vantec, Coolermaster, ZEROTherm, Arctic Cooling and Titan. The models range from completely passive no-noise solutions to multi heat pipes equipped cooling monsters. Read on to find out which one(s) offer the best performance/noise balance.

  • next

Introduction & Test Setup


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.

Madshrimps (c)

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.

Madshrimps (c)

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.

Madshrimps (c)

We installed the NVIDIA 7900 GT card into the system below:

Intel S775 Setup
Madshrimps (c)
CPU Pentium 4 524 @ 2070Mhz - 1.36v vcore
Cooled by Evercool Buffalo @ 5v
Mainboard Asrock 775Dual-VSTA
Memory 1 * 512Mb Mushkin PC3200 LVLII V2
  • Antec Sonata II with AcoustiFan DustPROOF 120mm @ 5v in the rear as outtake (mounted with soft-mounts)
  • FSP ZEN 400W Passive Cooled PSU
  • Seagate 7200.8 200Gb HDD in Scythe Quiet Drive

  • 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

    Madshrimps (c)

    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
  • Gigabyte V-Power
  • ZEROTherm GX815 “Gamer Edition”
  • Arctic Cooling Accelero S1
  • Zalman VF900
  • NVIDIA Stock Cooling

  • Let’s get started ->
    • next
    Comment from agent #2 @ 2007/07/19
    Nice article.
    Comment from jmke @ 2007/07/19
    Thanks; got a correct comment through email that the 7900 GT is quite cool running compared to some mid-range ATI models like the X1900 series. Our next GPU roundup will most likely feature a next gen HD 29xx or NV 88xx series card
    Comment from Spanki @ 2007/07/20
    Nice work, as usual jmke. I'd been wondering how some of those stacked up against each other - and now I know .

    I have a 7900 GS, but I assume the mounting is the same as the GT, just different chips/clockspeeds.
    Comment from jmke @ 2007/07/20
    if you can post a PCB shot of the 7900 GS we can found out quickly, but I don't think they'll change around mounting of HSF unless needed (like with AGP version of the 6/7 series)
    Comment from Spanki @ 2007/07/20
    It's this one. I might have to remove the top plate to attach something like the AC S1.
    Comment from jmke @ 2007/07/20
    yup, seems like stock NVIDIA 7900 GT design, removing the PCI top plate there is needed, but that's but a little bit of screwing work
    Comment from jmke @ 2007/07/21
    Mounting holes on 8600GT match those on 7900GT, Zalman VF900 fits with same stand offs as the 7900 GT.

    Did a testfit on a Sparkle 8600 GT, using no thermal paste, check out the imprint on the V900 base of the G84 core

    and then there is the fact that Galaxy and other companies ship the 8600GT/GTS with Zalman VF900 preinstalled
    Comment from Rutar @ 2008/01/23
    The S1 completely annihilates the stock cooler on my 8800GT, it doesn't even go over 50° now PASSIVE with 653/1713/1904, even the memory gets cooled better.
    Comment from jmke @ 2008/01/23
    yup, S1 is really excellent value for money, it will take an innovative design and price point to match/beat it
    Comment from Subwoofer @ 2008/01/29