Modding BIOS', overclocking and Folding@Home; what do they all have in common? In some sense they are all great ways to overwhelm a stock cooler and desire the quest for a quality, more efficient cooler. Along the way you will run across the few I have already reviewed, and many, many others. My goal is to help to narrow the highway of coolers flying by you as you search the web and make it more of a leisurely cruise down a scenic trail.
Xigmatek sends us another solution to just such a quest to improve the cooling of your precious graphics card. I'm not exactly certain how it all came about, but this cooler is one I believe I may have seen before, in some fashion. Xigmatek, however, added their own flair, special touches and changed little things. It is, in its purist form very similar to the SilenX cooler I looked at back in February. Hopefully things have changed since then.
Today we are looking at the Bifrost VD1065 from Xigmatek. They have provided me with a dual fan cooling solution that I may, or may not have seen before. I need to get some pictures and get myself a closer look to see what the Bifrost can offer end users in the pursuit of a better cooling solution. Let's see of the Bifrost can handle the overclocks and possible long hours of dedicated Folding.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The Bifrost consists of twenty-six aluminum fins surrounding five, 6mm diameter, copper heat-pipes, housed in an Aluminum base, all covered in black Nickel goodness. The cooler by dimensions is rather large, but weighs in at a paltry 480 grams. This weight includes the fans and shroud as well. The shroud clips over the entire top of the fins of the Bifrost and houses two 100mm fans to keep things cool. When cranked up to full speed, these fans are capable of near silent operation at 2000 RPM and each fan is pushing over 22 CFM of air over the fins.
There is quite the list of compatible graphics cards which are limited by only two factors. The most noticeable is the outside measurement of any side of the cards mounting holes. The only other factor that would make your card non-compatible would be if it were to have an extremely high GPU. What I mean here is that the measurement from the PCB to the top of the die. If your die sits too high, it may cause unwanted warping of the PCB when tension is applied. That being said, there aren't many cards, post HD 2600 or post 6800 Ultra on the list.
I know we've got this cooler a bit early here at TweakTown, so you are getting a look before they even hit stores and e-tailers. Asking Xigmatek directly about pricing, I was replied in return with a MSRP of $42.99 to buy the Bifrost VD1065. Considering that $20 barely gets you anything these days, a bit of flash and a good overall looking product can be worth $40-50 USD easily. The only potential hindering point of this is based on performance, which I will be getting to shortly.
Xigmatek ships the Bifrost VD1065 in an all black package with bright red flame-like scroll work. The centre of the front is cut away to allow a good view of the fan assembly Xigmatek uses.
The rear of the packaging keeps with the same colouring scheme. This is where you will find all the pertinent information for specification, compatibility and a few images to allow you to get a better idea of what's contained within.
When the top is opened, you are immediately greeted with most of the hardware and literature, which is separated from the cooler by a cardboard partition. I will get more into detail with what is included later in the accessories section.
Pulling out the hardware and partition and setting them aside allows the actual cooler and surrounding "shell" to be removed. The Bifrost is shipped in a snap together, plastic container that keeps the cooler centered and safe from damage.
Spinning the packaging around to look at the reverse side, we get a good view of the five heat-pipes and some included pieces set into wells in the plastic. Again I will show those a bit later.
The Xigmatek Bifrost VD1065 GPU Cooler
Using the bottom half of the shell as support, we get our first unimpeded look at the dual 100mm fan and shroud. Both fans are wired together and mounted securely in the shroud. They also make great coverage of all the fin area.
After removing it from the packaging and a bit of propping the cooler, I can show you the heat transferring side of the Bifrost. There are the five 6mm heat-pipes that wrap around this side of the cooler to get heat away from the GPU. Xigmatek took the extra step to black Nickel plate the entire body and heat-pipes to match the blackness of the shroud.
The opposing side shows a bit more on how the Bifrost is built. The copper heat-pipes are surrounded by an aluminum base plate. The aluminum fins are textured for better turbulence in the air flow that are pressed onto the heat-pipes, and are the last step to removing heat prior to the fans.
Xigmatek took a simple approach to mounting the shroud and fans to the Bifrost's fins. It uses these two tabs that lock into a groove in the end of the fins. With a bit of gentle pressure the clips will release and allow for the removal of the fans for maintenance. Keep in mind, these are on both ends of the cooler.
With the fans removed we can get a really good look at the fins. All twenty-six fins are interlocked; this aides in keeping the correct spacing and minimizing any vibration, by making the fins more of one solid unit. While this does remind me a whole lot of SilenX's cooler, Xigmatek has removed the little tips that the SilenX had at the very top of the fins, and plated the entire thing.
The business end of the Bifrost is not plated. These five heat-pipes are squeezed pretty flat to fit between the base and the GPU. The plating is covering the base during the manufacturing process, but milled to an exposed, flat and level base. Of course, depending on your choice of card, some GPU's aren't large enough to utilize all five of the pipes. My 9800 GTX+ for instance, only contacts two and a half of the pipes.
Getting a little closer, you can tell that I had wiped the base with a cloth. Don't do as I did, it took me a lot of time to remove the fibers from the small imperfections of the base. While the razor showed very little deformation, under closer examination there are small voids and that there is a bit of a lip between where the copper and aluminum meet.
Figured I may as well get an image of the reverse side of the fans. For those wanting to run this off of a fan controller, there should be no issues with the fans being 12 volt and 0.3 amp requirements.
I added some power and got the fans spinning to get an image of the fans in action. I would have liked a bit of LED lighting here, but I can't always have what I want. I understand that the shape between the fans fits the overall design, but it looks close to the Megahalems design found on top of the cooler.
Accessories and Documentation
As with the last time I saw this cooler, the hardware is similar as well. Here we have the NVIO 2 heat sink with the four clips and springs already installed. The large plate in the middle is for mosfet cooling on the GTX series of cards. To the right is the NVIO 2 core frame to better support the heat sink and limit possibility of damage to the chip.
The memory heat sinks follow the previous parts with the black anodized coloration. Xigmatek includes fourteen of them with the Bifrost. Most cards only use up to eight of them, so you have the ability to spot cool the mosfets on cards that may require additional cooling that the plate doesn't cover.
The rest of the mounting hardware can be seen here. The "short bolt" kit is for almost every card the Bifrost applies to. Assorted washers for both the cooler and the cards are in the baggie in the middle. As the card shows, the "long bolt" kit is specific to the GTS 260 and 280's. Across the bottom there are blue covered, pre-cut pieces of silicone rubber. These are used to isolate between the memory IC's, the mosfets and a larger sized ones for specific installs.
In the middle are the four pins for the mosfet heat sink plate; the screws with springs attached are to mount the cooler to the card. There is a supplied syringe of TIM and an additional set of washers to round out the list.
The included instructions are very descriptive and if followed correctly will lead to a perfect installation the first time around. The instructions are not card specific, however, so a test fit of the cooler before applying the RAM sinks may be in order.
Installation and Finished Product
Same torture victim as my last run, just this time completely exposed without the RAM sinks in place.
As I mentioned, the instructions are not card specific. While they show only two IC's needing the silicone pad, in actuality with this design I needed three; the one on the right is just in the way of the cooler passing it cleanly. I left the blue coverings on, as to not get them dirty. Before you finally place the Bifrost on, remove the blue side of plastic as well.
Once the Bifrost is installed you should have something similar to this. The fans do a nice job of covering the entirety of the card and fins, much more so than the last cooler I tested. Something I need to address, while the flex of the card is less than it was on the SilenX version, there is still a bit of flex in my card from the pressure needed for good contact of the cooler.
From the top side, you get an even better look at how well the Bifrost covers the card, and should provide good flow to the fins and the PCB. As you can see, there is one downfall to this; there is no longer access to install an SLI bridge or Crossfire for that matter as well.
Once the Bifrost is installed you can see why the need for the pads on the memory IC's. The cooler's base is too long to allow for clearance to those IC's, so the pad isolates the RAM from the GPU heat produced.
Testing and Results
So we all know what we are dealing with, here is a GPU-Z screen shot of my BIOS modded 9800GTX+. Plenty of clock to give these coolers a workout.
The test I chose to torture the coolers was Ozone3D's Furmark. Testing was run in stability mode for twenty minutes, both with all of the coolers tested. At this point I just click go and wait for the results.
After my last test with the Zerotherm, I noticed the stock cooler could use some cleaning and polishing. After a bit of work, I obtained these results and changed the chart to reflect these results as stock.
Results from the Xigmatek Balder are a bit of a disappointment. I would have expected better temps from a cooler utilizing dual 100mm fans.
Once all the coolers are grouped together, we can see that the Bifrost isn't the worst performer on the list. I don't mind the forty-five degree idle temperature, but the load temperature being only seven degrees cooler than stock makes me think twice about choosing this cooler.
Right out of the gat I had my doubts about this cooler; even with new fans and a shroud it is still the same body as the SilenX. At that time I didn't think the performance of their (SilenX's) cooler was worth the almost $80 asking price for both the cooler and the fan kit. Now I'm not so positive it didn't do a good job, regardless of pricing. I would have really liked to see better numbers from the Xigmatek, but it just isn't my day.
The fact that is places in the bottom of the aftermarket coolers is a shock, but trying to rationalize things, it is still better than a stock cooler. It is attractive to look at, but takes up over two slots on the motherboard and renders Crossfire and SLI useless. Noise levels, again are hard to ascertain in a complete build. I try to run coolers that are quiet for comparison, but when under load for Furmark testing, I couldn't tell which was louder; the stock Intel cooler or the Bifrost. I will say this, if you are running a high end air cooler, I would venture to say you won't hear the Bifrost over your CPU cooler either.
No matter what the results say, I know there will be a few who will go out and grab a Bifrost VD1065 and give it your own trials. If this is you, you will need to hold on just a bit, as the Bifrost, just like the Balder, has yet to hit shelves. Xigmatek did price themselves right with the Bifrost, however. Talking with Xigmatek, I found out the MSRP is a mere $42.99, which I'm sure doesn't include shipping, but still makes the Bifrost VD1065 a viable, budget option.