With three GTX 470s folding all the time, or at least when I'm not gaming, the heat that gets dumped into the room with stock coolers can be unbearable to say the least. Not only do they allow for rather high temperatures, there isn't a set of headphones that I own that can drown out the sound of the fans at anything over 80% speed. Along the way I ended up with water cooling two of the 470s and the third sat across the room on the stock cooler awaiting a replacement to improve on both the heat level and sound levels.
Along came Arctic Cooling and the offer to review something new in VGA cooling. The concept of this cooler has seen evolutions from the 2900 series when it was three small fans and only three heatpipes; AC moved onto a four pipe version to take a bit more heat load. After that they came out with a five pipe version that used a pre-cooler with the cooler made for the GTX 2xx series, and with slight changes and modifications they developed what we are going to see here in just a couple of pages.
If you haven't guessed by now, this sample is from the XTREME series of Accelero coolers. This time around we are going to look at a 250W cooler from Arctic Cooling that is designed for the 5xxx series and Fermi cards. Today we are going to take a look at the Accelero XTREME Plus with the additional VR003 installation kit. With an interchangeable mounting plate and specific kits, the Plus offers some of the widest compatibility on the market for a cooler that you will soon see can more than handle its business.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The Accelero XTREME Plus from Arctic Cooling consists of 84 aluminum fins surrounding five 6mm heatpipes. These heatpipes are soldered to the cooler base and again to the aluminum pre-cooler that is above the base. The fins are pressed onto the fins and are 0.3mm thick. The fins in the pre-cooler run in an opposing direction and are just over 1mm thick. The cooler and fans together weigh 622 grams, and that is without the heatsinks. The AC Accelero XTREME Plus is a long cooler measuring in at 290mm (11.4") and is 56mm (2.2") thick, taking up a full three slots in your case.
To cool the 84 fins of the XTREME Plus, AC has added three 92mm fans for the task. These fans come with eleven curved, white blades to offer the best potential flow from each blade as it makes a revolution. The fan has potential to be dead silent with a 900 RPM operation or with just a touch more noise you can run the fans at 2000 RPM producing up to 82 CFM across all three fans. The connection provided will plug into the cards fan header, or with an adapter can be powered via a Molex. With the 120mm length of the fan lead, getting it on the card isn't an issue, but hiding it once the adapter is on may be a bit tougher.
Compatibility is quite wide with this cooler; out of the box the AC Accelero XTREME Plus can fit on twelve different VGAs. With kits that can be purchased separately the compatibility extends to a total of twenty-one cards this will fit. Just be sure that if you want heatsinks, you order the VR001 kit for your card if it is listed on the package. If your card is not listed on the package, don't worry, there are still four other kits to make for a perfect fit to the card you own.
Finding the Accelero XTREME Plus VGA cooler isn't all that hard, but there are only a couple of reputable names in the pages of hits found on the internet. If you don't mind shopping off of Ebay, I found a version for as little as $56, but there was no kit availability. Shopping around a bit more, I found the average pricing is right around the MSRP of $65.95 with kits running you just less than $7. So if you want memory heatsinks, or your card requires you to cool the power management area, you will need to dig into your wallet for just about $72, plus a little for shipping. So for around $80 to get one to your door with the appropriate kit, let's get down to business and see how well the new AC cooler performs.
The Accelero XTREME Plus comes in almost full view with the use of the clear plastic, clam shell packaging. Two things that are blocking the full view are the large Arctic Cooling logo in the middle and a sticker that says this cooler is very cool in temperatures and is near silent during use.
As you look for this on store shelves, look in the hanging racks as well. With the clear plastic packaging incorporating tabs for the wire hangers to pass through, these may not be sitting right next to their competition.
The view from the back is blocked with an insert to show the features, specifications, compatibility, and lets you know you may need an additional mounting kit, card dependant. It also acts as a screen to keep all the included goodies hidden for a much cleaner look in the stores.
IF English isn't your strongest language, Arctic Cooling offers the features list in nine other languages to cover their markets.
Since I am going to be using this cooler with one of my GTX 470s, Arctic Cooling made sure to send me the appropriate kit to go along with my GPU. As you see, they sent along the VR003 kit that will work for the 470 and the 465. Inside there is not only a different mounting system, but specialized heatsinks as well.
The Arctic Cooling Accelero XTREME Plus VGA Cooler
With the plastic packaging removed we can start to get a really good look at what the XTREME Plus has to offer. Most obviously are the three 92mm fans attached to the black shroud cooling this long array of fins. The pipes travel out of the base in both directions passing through eighteen fins on the left side and sixty-six fins to the right.
Orienting the cooler as it would be installed, you see the logo from Arctic Cooling will display nicely on the open side of your card. Included with the fans and shroud is a 4-pin fan header that will fit into the stock connection on the card. Removing the shroud for cleaning is as simple as releasing a few tabs as you see on this side.
Each of the three 92mm fans use eleven curved blades to deliver a total of 81CFM of airflow to the fins and the components on the PCB that need cooled. Two of the fans split the area right over the GPU, and the third fan blows down on the PWM area of most cards.
The top two fans split the heat load that gets delivered to the aluminum pre-cooler between the groups of fins. The per-cooler is soldered to the pipes which are also soldered to the copper base. The base of the cooler is shipped with pre-applied MX-4 and is ready to go on any of the specified cards on the package.
You can see there is a very substantial base to this cooler, and while the copper isn't milled to a mirror finish, when I ran the razor around the edges I found they are very flat. There is a bit of deflection at the last 1.5mm of the edge and the corners, but near the TIM, and as I tested again later without the interface material, the middle of the base is very true. If you do need a separate mounting kit, simply remove these two screws and swap out the plates, then replace the screws. You can also get an idea of the shape of the thick aluminum pre-cooler. I would have gotten an image from the top, but all you see are the tops of the fins in an opposing direction to the fins on the heatpipes.
Accessories and Documentation
Packaged with the cooler you will find the four mounting screws and washers, an Arctic Cooling sticker, a 5V or 7V adapter for the fans, and an extra vented expansion bay cover. Why another cover you ask? That is due to the fact that this is a three slot cooler.
Along with the hardware, there are instructions on how to prepare for and apply the cooler. Here is where I noticed why there are no memory sinks or voltage regulator heatsinks included in the cooler packaging. These state that even though the cooler will fit the cards it shows on the box, to get any extras you need to grab the VR001 kit for $7 to get them.
Opening up the VR001 kit, I found more instructions, a wrapped up kit of metal heatsinks and parts, then a vacuum sealed pack with thermal epoxy inside. These memory heatsinks don't use double sided tape, Arctic Cooling is sure to keep them in place by using an epoxy instead.
Inside the tissue paper, there are ten aluminum heatsinks (not pictured), the new mounting plate for a GTX 470/465, a voltage regulator heatsink, some cut to fit silicone heat transfer material for the voltage heatsink, and a set of screws for both plates to mount with.
These instructions are more specific to how to use the thermal adhesive and mount all the heatsinks. There is also a section on how to swap out the mounting plates if you need help there.
Installation and Finished Product
The test subject! This is my vanilla EVGA GTX 470 1280MB card and we will be stripping off this stock cooler and installing the AC Accelero in just a few short steps.
After removal of the stock cooler and preparing the card as per the instructions, I went ahead and applied the thermal adhesive to the memory ICs and added the silicon rubber covering the voltage regulators. Now we just need to get the heatsinks on.
The memory heatsinks require a bit if pressure to set the heatsink well. The instructions say to keep pressure for a certain length of time and then to wait for an hour for the epoxy to fully set. I added the plate for the voltage circuitry and was screwing it in and heard a bit of a crunch. Come to find out, I was actually bottoming out the plate on a few resistors. Be careful when you apply yours as to not damage any of the taller components on the PCB.
To mount the plate, all you need are the three washers and screws and a Phillip's screwdriver. The heatsink is open in the middle to allow the fans to blow air through the factory holes in the 470s PCB. Any way to get rid of extra heat on these cards is of benefit, so I am happy to see additions such as this.
Mounting the XTREME plus to the card was a breeze. With the pre-applied compound I just grabbed the set of four screws and washers and got the cooler into place with no clearance issues with any of the memory heatsinks that I have found on other coolers.
The length of this cooler is no joke, and in some mid towers this may not even fit in your case. As you can see, it dwarfs the length of my 470 and is even a bit longer than the GTX 480. When looking for room to improve cooling capabilities, since they are already using three slots, the only place to go was out the end of the card.
Here is what the Arctic Cooling Accelero XTREME Plus will look when it is installed in your machine.
If it wasn't so apparent before, you can see that bracket is hovering well over one slot higher than the fans are sitting.
I just wanted to end things with a glamour shot of the Arctic Cooling Accelero XTREME Plus.
Testing and Results
Testing was done in a spare computer I have in the room. Things were housed in a BitFenix Colossus and the door was on during any testing and reading of the temperatures. The room itself was kept at 25°C for the duration. To test the cards I used EVGA OC tool with a Furmark-like OpenGL 4.0 to test things. The card is controlled with MSI Afterburner for the overclocking and overvolting parts of the testing.
When the testing says stock fan profile, it is the one programmed into the BIOS. When the results show an adjusted fan profile, they will use the slope I set in Afterburner.
The testing is run for thirty minutes and temperature information is gathered from Afterburner for all the test results. In order to attain the idle temperatures, things were allowed to cool down and a reset was done and an additional ten minutes was waited to allow for the best possible results.
Idle: Cards were left at stock with clocks of 608/837/1215 with a voltage of 1.000V.
Load: Cards are overclocked and overvolted to clocks of 775/950/1550 with a voltage of 1.050V.
While not quite as good as water on the idle testing, I was able to reduce the idle temperature by over half of what the stock cooler offered out of the box. Even after I adjusted the fan profile of the stock cooler, the AC comes back and does almost 20°C better than stock. If you have the room for this monster, so far the temperatures are showing it is doing a great job on this Fermi.
Loading the GTX 470 with the Accelero XTREME Plus showed great results on the core, and also a 20+ degree drop in PCB temperature. With temperatures as low as 51°C achieved with overclocking and adding volts, you think I would happy, right? Well not exactly. With the aid of my handy IR temperature gun I scanned the PCB while the testing was running. I found that with the scanner running, the plate on the voltage regulators was allowing a temperature of 98°C. Now that isn't a critical temperature, but with the rest of the cooler working so well, it's a shame the aluminum cooler here isn't sufficient to really push these GPUs to their maximum levels.
Noise level testing was impossible to get with the Accelero XTREME Plus. Reason being is that the power supply and the H70 that cools the CPU were much louder than the cooler even at maximum fan speeds. I hooked power through the adapter up to the fan outside the case. When I went to test with the meter, the noise was too low to register. When I put my ear up to the cooler out of the case, I could barely hear a hum coming from it, and to be quite honest I would do it a great injustice to guess at the level.
For everyday use the AC Accelero XTREME Plus is a great cooler to use, even if the plate didn't hold up well under extreme testing. The fact of the matter is, unless you are in some sort of a benchmark competition and stability screenshots are a must, you are likely not going to abuse the voltage regulators as I did for my testing. My normal use for the GTX 470 is to work for Folding@Home, and for that the cooler does surprisingly well. GPU load temperatures hovered in the mid fifties and the voltage regulators were reporting a much cooler 67°C during the process. Just don't forget, with these great results, there needs to be a large home waiting for this AC cooler.
I love that the air coolers are catching up water cooling, but in order to attain this, the size of the cooler needed to handle 250-300W of heat which means they're getting bigger and bigger every day. I mean if you rationalize it like a CPU cooler, AC does impressive things with the complete lack of room to add surface area that a tower CPU cooler can use, but they have to get rid of the same heat load. The fact that this is a Crossfire or SLI compatible cooler, and it already uses a full three slots, the only way they could go is toward the hard drives. I guess they could venture out past the card into the case towards the door, but that tends to run into SLI and Crossfire bridge issues. With the numbers I got from this cooler, I could really care less how big it is, as when I installed it, it wasn't flexing the card around the core, and with a solid mounting on the expansion bracket, I got very little droop in the PCB from left to right. With the kit of heatsinks and the larger than life cooler, I am more than pleased with these results.
Google is bringing up three pages of hits for where to locate the Accelero XTREME Pro cooler. Everything from Ebay to places like FrozenCPU.com, with a mix of stores in between showing stock right now of Arctic Cooling's cooler. Pricing is as varied as the location it's found. I see stores listing from as little as $56 and as high as $76, and don't forget the hardware kit if you need it for your card, or want the heatsinks for the coolers listed on the package. So for ¾ of the price of just the CPU water block, you can get very close results on air, and we didn't even incorporate the rest of the loop into that cost. For that, the Arctic Cooling Accelero XTREME Plus pulls out the win, and is completely worth what is being asked in pricing.