GELID is a company that we have seen a few times since I arrived at TweakTown. Their Thermal Interface Material is some of the best around. The GC-2 works fairly well against the competition and can be found for much less of a hit to your wallet than almost all of the TIM available today. For just a little bit more money you can step into their GC Extreme which offers better temperatures and is a bit easier to spread than the GC-2. We have also seen a couple of coolers. First was the GELID Silent Spirit. This was a smaller cooler that didn't take up a bunch of room, but wasn't very silent either. Then came the Tranquillo; a tower style cooler with a 120mm fan. While it did a respectable job, it was really nothing to write home about.
GELID now sends us the Icy Vision, an aftermarket GPU cooler for the masses. GELID states that this three slot behemoth will fit quite a few cards and with the numbers I saw the cooler has some potential. Looking at various reports on the forums, I have seen a lot of GTX 480's getting great reductions in temperatures. Not too many other cards are using it widely yet, so trying to get an idea for a specific card other than the 480 is a bit difficult. The plan was to use my EVGA GTX 470 Vanilla as the test sample today and to bring you similarly impressive numbers. In reality, that isn't going to happen.
It may seem odd for a review to start off by telling the readers that you will find no results in this review for a cooler. The sad reality of the matter is that I have to "ghetto mod" the cooler to fit onto my GTX 470 from EVGA to get it to function properly. What you will find in the next few pages is a good look at the cooler and the hardware. From there on I plan to show why exactly the GELID Icy Vision should not be listed as supporting a GTX 470 and the potential for harm to your GPU if you do use them as instructed in the manual. I know all of the manufacturers I review for would love it if all my reviews were full of rainbows, unicorns and soft little teddy bears, but when I run into an issue, I expect a resolution to that issue instead of Technicolor smoke being blown up my.... The only thing I can do from here on out is bring forth the truth and discuss my experience with the GELID Icy Vision.
GELID Icy Vision Graphics Card Cooler
Yes I know I skipped the specifications of the cooler. They can be found here if you want to take a look. I am also going to move right on past the product images and right into the hardware where GELID went wrong.
The base of the GELID Icy Vision accepts a mounting plate. This plate surrounds the copper base of the cooler, and in my two samples, the base rises 0.5mm taller than the surrounding part when screwed into place.
Along with the NVIDIA heatsink and the VRM heatsink part C, there is the mounting plate that gets screwed to the four holes surrounding the core.
The important parts here, for later reference, are the bag of mounting hardware next to the tube of TIM and the sheet with the eighteen black, 0.1mm thick, self adhesive spacers.
The top of the ATI installation guide has a very easy to follow included parts list and clearly calls those parts out during the assembly.
On both sides, ATI and NVIDIA, there is a little chart that shows which supported cards use parts B or C in the standoffs. In the case of the GTX 470, GELID instructs us to use part B; the thicker of the two standoffs. This chart can barely be seen at the bottom.
With the appropriate standoffs mounted to the plate and the plate mounted to the cooler I should be ready to go ahead and install my cooler. To aid in my dismay, if you look at the leading edge of the copper base it is visually unlevel and nowhere near level in reality.
Doing a dry run of the cooler, I tightened all the hardware and noticed the cooler felt loose. I held it up to the sun and saw light between the GPU and the cooler. I believe GELID saw this as not being an issue when I reported it to them, but if you zoom in on that image there is a visible gap at the right and left edges; the flashlight didn't reflect the full width.
At this point I grabbed a set of feeler gauges and started probing. In the center of the cooler I could slide in 0.15mm of gauge into the gap. If you remember back to the image of the coolers base, in this image I am testing the high side of the cooler base for contact. That is a 0.1mm gauge in there, and the hardware is mounted as tight as possible. The top spring screws actually stop tightening and lock into place as it bottoms out on the provided threads of the standoff. This image was shown to GELID as well. The advice they gave me was to remove the 0.1mm spacers, and fill the gap with TIM.
Never once have I thought it was or is a good idea to mount a cooler that doesn't make contact. Even if I remove the spacers, I only get the one edge to touch, and there is no way to apply pressure across the entire IHS. Thermal compound is for filling minute imperfections in the contact area; not to act as a weather-proofer to keep air from oxidizing the untouched core.
The Failure Continues
At this point I took my findings to GELID and I was told at first that maybe I got a pre-production sample. I think to myself that this is very feasible, so I tell them let's go ahead and try this again. In the mean time, I also asked if they could show me where they had the cooler mounted to a 470 for testing. I was told it fits on an Inno3D card and had seen in forum posts that it fits an MSI version as well. So what is the deal; why not the EVGA?
In the micrometer is the part B standoff which is the one the instructions say to use. These measure 4.34mm and GELID says there is a +/- of 0.1mm for these.
Just for giggles, I measured the part C standoffs. I figured I would need to check if maybe it was a simple typo. I found these to be 2.60mm and in no way will the add support to the card. The overall length is shorter, so tightening them all the way down will severely bend the card and possibly cause damage.
Since I had this handy little add on to the micrometer, I figured I should go into a battle of numbers with all the information I could find. I set the depth gauge and locked it in place so I could get the next image.
So my IHS on the GTX 470 sits 3.82mm taller than the PCB. I also got into contact with someone in the know at NVIDIA and was told the height of all GTX 4 series cards have a specified height of 3.98mm (+/- 0.17mm). This leaves my IHS on the extremely low end of that measurement, but still within NVIDIA spec for the card. Now, at this point GELID argued that their coolers base sits 0.7mm taller than the riser. So in essence 4.34mm minus the 0.7mm should leave for 3.6mm of height. As the image of the base showed, 0.7mm of clearance is on their best milling day, and mine obviously wasn't made that day.
So along comes the second Icy Vision sample and right away I pulled out the standoff and got a measurement. Now, I had already asked how this was going to magically work, as I knew I already had the production sample. I mean why wouldn't I? - The cooler was on retail shelves as I got my sample. When I placed it in the micrometer there was no change; actually, these standoffs are a bit taller than the original. This cooler isn't going to fit either.
The only way I was able to get some sort of contact was to use the shorter part C standoffs. Even when I got contact in this configuration, you can see my dilemma with the base of the cooler. The edges are clearly making contact and the center I can fill with compound, but if you look closely the standoffs don't support the card around the core. I don't like to have to guess at the correct pressure needed for the cooler to function properly, and I sure as hell don't like coolers that bend your card like a taco.
Now, this all wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for the smoke I was getting from GELID. I asked them point blank if they had tested this on a 470. I was told they did. I asked for photos or any in house numbers so I could gauge what to expect. I was thrown a ton of links which all go back to someone installing the cooler on a 480. I did get an image of them supposedly prepping the cooler for a 470, but as you can see in the following image, they aren't using the hardware included in the already retail packaging.
GELID telling me to rig their supplied coolers to get results for a review is one thing I will never do. I am trying to help out John Q Public as well as show him the awesome products along the way. That also means I have to show you the failures and make sure that no one falls into the trap I just did. While it was possible to ultimately install the cooler, I personally would not go that route if I was spending near $60 on a cooler. On top of the minor inconvenience of dealing with some really shoddy support from GELID is the fact that this cooler is already retail, therefore what I have found may even possibly happen to you. How would you feel if you spent your hard earned dollars in this economy and all you get for an answer is remove the spacers (possibly allowing the riser to cut a trace in the PCB accidentally), or to fill the gap with TIM like it is Bondo or something?
So, with all the back and forth and Technicolor smoke being sent in my direction, I asked GELID what they were going to do. I mean, at least say it fits some 470's publically and allow the masses to know the truth of the matter. They also seemed surprised and said they followed NVIDIA's specifications, but couldn't provide me with the numbers. So are they guessing it will fit a GTX 470 or are they just hoping it will fit all cards out there in everyone's rig?
As I mentioned, it may be brand specific. It is noted to fit the MSI. I can't even trust GELID to say they did any Inno3D testing, as I never saw any proof. While it may be an impressive cooler for some, do you want to be the guinea pig and do GELID's R&D, or leave that to them before they take your $60? In GELID's defense, they say they are planning a revision 2 of this cooler, but what does that do for us if their cooler isn't making contact and your card decides to release its magic smoke; the kind that leaves you hardware dead? - Do you think GELID is going to replace that card? I for one don't, and good luck explaining to the manufacturer why the card has that awful smell and why the stock cooler isn't burnt along with the card.