Whether you are looking to reduce your graphics card's acoustic signature or just overclock like a mad scientist, replacing your graphics card's heatsink is a good place to start. All of the cards tested today will handle both tasks well, but some will do better than others.
The performance standouts from the nine cards we tested are the ZEROtherm Hurricane HC92 Cu 8800 and Arctic Cooling Accelero Xtreme 8800. Both of these products receive our Editors Choice Must Have Award, but for different reasons. The Arctic Cooling 8800 is the best all round cooler and it possesses it all; power, acoustics, ease of installation and a look that will turn heads.
The APACK ZEROtherm Hurricane HC92 Cu 8800 received the Editors Choice Must Have Award because it is THE cooler for serious overclockers that are not concerned with little things, like acoustics. Even when the fan is down to near silent levels the cooler performs very well, second best only to the AC 8800, but by a small margin.
Our third and final award goes to Thermalright for their HR-03 GT which performed very well and looks like a museum piece. Thermalright has a reputation for their quality and the HR-03 GT is no exception. Every component from the cooler itself to the thermal paste that is included says premium. Thermalright gets the Must Have Best Features Award.
While it sounds as though I have dismissed the other coolers in this roundup, that is not the case. Every cooler here performed better than their stock counterpart and in many cases much better.
The Auras Fridge turned out to be a very versatile cooler despite shipping without a fan. In reality, it makes the end user play an active role in the design of the cooler in a way. When you purchase the Fridge you will need to think about the level of cooling it provides verses the amount of noise coming from your system.
The Coolink GFXChilla was also a versatile cooler that fits a very wide range of graphics cards. Even more impressive is the size, with the GFXChilla installed you are not going to lose any more PCI slots than what a stock, high-end card takes. I found that cooling performance is better than most and that the cooler will drop your load temperature by a full 14 degrees.
GIGABYTE's V-Power was designed to resemble the NVIDIA 7800/7900 stock cooler. The cooler does a decent job of keeping the GPU cool while operating nearly silent. My only real complaint is the limited range of cards it works with.
The Thermaltake DuOrb performed quite well in our testing at idle load, but when the temperatures started to rise the GTX proved to make this cooler a little hot under the collar. I am not an engineer but it is easy to see that the cooler just doesn't have the surface area to dissipate all of that heat. I think Thermaltake should have moved the ORBs further apart and given them a full 360 degrees of fins to get rid of all that heat.
The Thermaltake TMG ND5 performed much better than the DuOrb at load, but a very low fan speed hurts the cooler at idle. At full load the ND5 gave us a 13 degree temperature difference over the stock cooler, and did so at silent levels. As of right now the ND5 is available at more locations than any other cooler in our roundup, I was able to find it at just about every place Thermaltake coolers are sold.