As you can see, we have a very diverse group of coolers here. Ideally, all of the coolers would fit on the same series of graphics card, but that is not the case here. Most of the cards fit or are made specifically for the GeForce 8800GTX, so when possible that is what we used for testing. Across four different graphics cards we used for testing, these comprise the GeForce 8800GTX, 8800GT, ATI X1950 XT and ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT.
When installing an aftermarket VGA cooler it is important to remember a couple of things. First, have the correct tools on hand. Nearly all of the screws that VGA coolers use for the cards are small; this isn't the time to try to use your car keys as screwdrivers. Investing in a set of jewelers screwdrivers (the small ones) is recommended. The second thing to remember when installing a VGA Cooler is that FutureMark does not have a VGA Cooler Install Benchmark. Take your time; many of the coolers parts are small and it can be lost very quickly. Pay attention to all the areas that require cooling, usually the GPU, memory, RAMDAC (a small chip towards the front of the card) and VRM chips require some type of cooling.
Finally, yet importantly, work in a clean environment. Many of the memory heatsinks are attached with double-sided thermal tape, once they lose adhesion due to dirt or dust you can't wipe them off to clean them.
For the most part, all of the coolers tested installed easily. All of the instruction manuals are written well and you will not find any surprises along the way. Some of the coolers did possess little features that make them stand out from the others.
The two Arctic Cooling VGA Coolers use fan connectors that plug directly into the video card. If you are like me and like to keep your case wiring tidy this is a handy feature. Besides the aesthetics, the graphics card retains its ability to regulate the fan speed; factory software such as nTune also retains its ability to control the fan speed.
If you crave a physical knob then the GIGABYTE V-Power and APACK ZEROtherm Hurricane HC92 Cu 8800 come with external fan speed controllers that allow you to fine tune the performance and acoustics to your personal preference.
Two of the coolers, the Thermalright HR-03 GT and Auras Fridge come passive out of the box. If you are planning to mount these coolers on high performance cards like the 8800 series or equivalent I would suggest using a fan. For our testing, we used 92mm and 120mm Nexus fans from their Silent Series. Both produced very good results while still maintaining an acoustic level well below the factory heatsinks.
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