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ARCTIC Accelero Hybrid AIO Video Card Cooler Review

ARCTIC jumps on the AIO band wagon and brings us the world's first retail, half water, half air GPU cooling solution with the Accelero Hybrid.

@TweakTown
Published Thu, Jul 26 2012 11:12 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:01 PM CST
Rating: 86%Manufacturer: ARCTIC

Introduction

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As the title suggests, the latest submission to our labs for testing is from ARCTIC and it is in fact the first company to market with this Hybrid style of cooling for video cards. I'm sure if you hopped in my "way-back" machine you will find a review from CoolIt and their AIO GPU cooling solution, the Omni. CoolIt took the idea of making a plate that covers each type of video card (that they actually got around to doing), so that if you want to swap out your video card, you would also need to dig deeper into your pocket to get a new cooling plate to fit the new purchase. Back when the Omni was released, AIO cooling was just in its baby stage of evolution and the idea really didn't catch on all too well at that time and the product has pretty much gone AWOL since I reviewed it.

This is where ARCTIC decided to up the stakes and deliver a similar solution that could work with most video cards right out of the box. There are a couple of cards that this version of the cooler will not fit, but ARCTIC has a "7970" version as well that takes on the needs of all of the higher end of the AMD lineup that this version of the cooler won't allow. Between the two version of this cooler, there isn't a video card listed that seems incompatible, as long as the mounting hole spacing is correct and you can apply heat sinks to the correct components of legacy cards without diagrams or instruction from the manual.

In ARCTIC's design there isn't a full cover plate to cool the card like CoolIt was offering. In this design there is a mix of a Generation 2 Asetek round head pump and heat plate with a thin single radiator to absorb the heat from the GPU die only. So, what about the rest of the components? Well, this is where the Accelero series name comes into play. There is a mix of aluminum heat sinks that get applied to the memory and power delivery chips and to cool them is a fan attached to a black plastic shroud very reminiscent of the other Accelero offerings. Since this is a mix of both water cooling on the die and air cooling for everything else, this cooler is aptly named the Hybrid and is the first to market with this take on an AIO cooler.

There is plenty more to discuss on how this solution works, is controlled and just because I can, I also ran dual fan cooling results on the radiator, as I know most people that buy AIO coolers end up running a push/pull configuration on them anyways. At this point I suggest you grab yourself a beverage and let the dog out, as you are going to be tied up for a few minute if you read this review cover to cover. The ARCTIC Accelero Hybrid AIO GPU cooler has just that much going on and features to still discuss before I can even get to the results this cooler can supply. Using as many AIO products as I have over the past few years, I am excited to see how things go with the Accelero Hybrid and from what I saw already, I think you will be very interested as well.

Specifications, Availability and Pricing

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The top half of the chart or the "Video card Module" section covers all that touches the card from the head unit right on up and including the shroud. It shows right at the top that the entire system is capable of handling a total of 320W worth of heat and then jumps right into the fan on the shroud. The shroud itself is made of black plastic and uses stickers in a couple of spots around the fan to show off a bit of white and grey behind the naming on them. As for the fan that will be doing the cooling of the memory and the power delivery chips, with the use of included heat sinks, you can tell right away this is a silent offering. Even while the fan spins at 2000 RPM, the 90mm fan is near silent pushing its 13CFM at 0.3 Sone. The chart then moves on to discuss the head unit next. This black plastic head unit that contains the systems pump draws 0.26 Amps and 1.56W under full operation taking the heat from the GPU through the copper cold plate.

The Heat Exchanger section of the chart is all about the radiator and parts attached to it. The radiator is comprised of tight fins as we expect from AIO solutions and is made of aluminum. To get the heat from the head unit to the "heat exchanger" there is 416mm of tubing in each direction to allow the coolant to pass in the loop. As for the fluid dynamic bearing suspended F12 PWM fan that gets attached to the radiator, it is much more impressive than the one found in the shroud. This fan delivers 74 CFM from the 120mm fan while also keeping the noise levels super low. Wrapping things up, there is only the 866g grams of total weight to discuss and the cool trick on how both fans on this unit are controlled by the GPU fan header.

The Accelero Hybrid is still very fresh to the market and as I type this I found four locations to obtain the Hybrid on this side of the pond. It doesn't matter if you go to Newegg, Xoxide or e-Bay, all three locations are posting up with the same price point of $169.99 (Xoxide is four cents cheaper). The real battle I see immediately is that that pricing takes this product right out of the hands of those who need it most. Just for the sake of argument this is double the price of most air cooling solutions, so most buyers will opt to go that way. For those of us with the kind of money to go ahead and spend $170 on a GPU cooler, we will likely spend the extra bit more to just go with a custom loop covering both the CPU and GPU for maybe $100 more.

I get that there is quite a bit included in this kit and sourcing the product, designing it to work as you want it to and delivering it to the masses can get expensive, but even over their own air cooling solutions, I see more of their buyers sticking to air than this completely based on price and not performance.

Packaging

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The front of the packaging shows the complete Accelero Hybrid sans a card. Around it there is the site address at the top, the note about the included F12 fan and that this cooler is intended for enthusiasts at the bottom.

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While one of the sides just displays the ARCTIC name, this side offers close up images of the components above specifications charts. At the right is a few ways you can install this cooling solution in a chassis to make things a little easier to picture in your build.

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On the back you are first offered a description of this cooling solution with six main features following that and at the bottom of the left side is some testing done on a GTX 680. The right side shows how the loop works at the top and at the bottom is a flow diagram for the shroud and how that fan cools the heat sinks and exits the chassis through the shroud.

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Inside of the blue and white cardboard outer packaging, the Accelero Hybrid arrived with this two piece packaging system of a clear plastic top half and the recycled cardboard bottom tray.

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The clear plastic top offers ARCTIC a great way to secure the 31 included heat sinks, the syringe of TIM and the fan and shroud of the Hybrid. The little red tabs you see are the end of a layer of tape applied to lock in the heat sinks.

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The lower section houses the head unit on the left, all wrapped in plastic and twist-tied into the cardboard on the sides. Near top is the radiator, with a fan separating it from the passage way for the tubing, with a little hardware stuck in there too.

ARCTIC Accelero Hybrid AIO GPU Cooler

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The shroud component of the Accelero Hybrid has all sorts of lines, angles and designing to look like something from a stealth aircraft, possible a military hovercraft or even something off of a racecar, but most of that is intentional for both aesthetics as well as leaving clearance under it.

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On the right end, very near the 90mm fan in the shroud, there is a 3-pin plug that will soon have the F12 PWM fan plugged into here for control of both fans with one movement of a slider in software.

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Under the shroud you will find a 4-pin fan header that you will need to attach to the video card so that software for the card will control all of the fan speeds.

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The plastic head unit that holds both the pump and the cold plate has the same plug that the Antec AIO coolers had and is why I say this is a second generation system, where as the Thermaltake units are gen. three units. The ARCTIC name is all that is painted here, but once installed you won't see it anyways.

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There have been mods where guys put H50's on cards, but the mounting was never this elegant. Here you have options for 53.2mm X 53.2mm, 51.0mm X 61.0mm or 58.4mm X 58.4mm spacing around the GPU to mount the Hybrid to your card. The largest hole is not specified for mounting.

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To move the coolant to the radiator and back, the Hybrid uses these two black runner tubes to pass the coolant back and forth. The keep the fittings from working lose, there are screws applied to the fitting with large washers to keep them from backing out.

ARCTIC Accelero Hybrid AIO GPU Cooler Continued

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To get power to the head unit there is a 4-pin Molex plug that you will need to connect to your power supply. The 3-pin header connects to the shroud to deliver the power to the system there as well, while the mini 4-pin connection is used to sense the speeds from the GPU to adjust the speeds of the fan on the shroud and the one you will attach to the radiator.

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As you would expect with these AIO solutions, there is a milled finish definitely visible in the cold plate, but the surface is level across its surface. You can see that the GPU mounting ring is just added to the head unit by passing the screws that hold the pump cover on to pass through the plate to make it all one solid piece.

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If you follow the rubber tubing to the other end you run into the clamps that are holding the rubber tubing to the aluminum fittings at the bottom of the radiator. Again, this is to be sure there aren't any mishaps with a tube working lose under pressure.

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The radiator or heat exchanger has a very dense array of fins across the 12 sections. This is a dual pass radiator, so the coolant will go in and up half of the radiator, then return through the other half and back out to the head unit. As with most AIO solutions, there is 120mm fan mounting pre-drilled into both sides of the radiator.

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Just because it was there I took a picture of the product sticker on the top of the radiator. While it doesn't hold all that much information, it gave me the opportunity to show the 25mm thickness of the radiator while I have it like this.

Accessories and Documentation

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This is the 31 heat sinks supplied for you to choose from depending on the video card you are trying to cool. There is really a full assortment of 19 various styles and sizes of heat sinks for the power delivery system and 12 that are better off for cooling the memory ICs. There also was the slim syringe of MX-4 to apply to the GPU die when you get to that part of the installation.

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This bit of hardware is shipped in the bottom half and covers things like the strips of plastic on the yellow backing that allow you to isolate connections on the PCB if the heat sinks need to be super close. It also has a cardboard spacer template for the memory sinks, the metal back plate to support the head unit, a slotted expansion slot if you are cooling a single slot video card, a wire tie and an adapter for the mini 4-pin if your card doesn't have one on the PCB.

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This bit of the kit includes most of the mounting goodies. There are four basic fan screws and the eight screws for the radiator with four washers below it. At the top right there are head unit mounting screws, screws and washers to tame the tubing under the shroud and various spacers you need for the head unit and back plate. Below that there is a block of foam for under the metal plate and some 0.5mm thick thermal pad. Then there are 17 washers for different stages of the install and a tube of Thermal Adhesive for all of the heat sinks you need to use.

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The last bit of the kit you will need to get things under way is the 120mm F12 PWM fan that is included to cool the radiator. The cable is wrapped around three side of the fan before it juts out to show the 4-pin fan connection that we will need to plug in to the end of the shroud.

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A quick glance at the installation manual shows things start off easy enough with a complete checklist for every included components so you can be sure if you got everything you should have. It then moves over to a product overview so you get an idea of how it works and how you connect the wires. It seems pretty simple so far.

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When I opened the manual up more, I found that with reading it over once, I was in for a lot of work to get this cooler mounted to my video card. I am really glad that ARCTIC took the time to deliver such a well written manual and has such well drawn images to help show what they are telling you to do. It isn't like the cooler is completely unassuming; in fact it is a lot like other Accelero coolers on the PCB level. The real change is all the goodies that go in instead of the large air cooling fin arrangement.

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Flipping the manual over, you can see you were barely getting started when the front was finished. There is a lot of finer details that you need to keep in mind during the build process such as the wiring and tubing, making sure they stay out of your way, but even here ARCTIC addresses these things to help you along the way to completion.

Installation and Finished Product

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Here is the reference design Galaxy GeForce GTX 570 I will be using as the heat source for this round of testing.

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Once I removed the cooler, cleaned of the thermal compound and thoroughly cleaned the memory ICs and the power management chips, we now have a GTX 570 ready to have the Accelero Hybrid installed on it.

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If you run the screws through the mounting holes on the card you can then install the cardboard clearance template. This is to ensure that you don't crowd the die when installing heat sinks around it so that the head unit will go on without any issues. With all the heat sinks cemented to the card, I must wait an hour to continue so that it can set up and harden.

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While I was waiting I went ahead and added the four screws into the large holes in the mounting plate that I told you weren't for the GPU mounting. Once that is in, we have some tubing and wires to deal with.

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To secure the tubing under the shroud you can lay the tubes in the trail as you see here and then add the screws and washers to keep them secured. There is also an option to allow the tubes to come out the side where the cut away is.

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I also went ahead and added the F12 PWM fan to the back of the radiator as a pull fan, as that is the way described in the instructions. The connection from the fan remember, goes back to the shroud and not the motherboard.

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In the end of the shroud furthest from the expansion slot is where the 4-pin fan header from the F12 plugs in. Be sure to press rather hard on this connection as it is tough to get the connection made securely. I also routed the mini 4-pin connection and the wiring and was sure to secure the excess to keep it out of the fan.

Installation and Finished Product Continued

Installation and Finished Product Continued

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Once all of the thermal adhesive was set, I went on to mounting the shroud and head unit to the card. Since the head unit it screwed to the shroud, adding this back plate and screwing the head unit to the die will also hold the shroud and fan onto the card. Make sure to use the spacers and the foam block to keep from shorting the plate against the card.

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Along the inside of the shroud or the side that faces the motherboard, there are four little tabs that will allow you to run the two wires from the 4-pin Molex connection without looking too messy or having a bunch of the wire to bundle and just hang around in the chassis.

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The side you do see of the Accelero Hybrid is this. You can see the shroud does go over the RAM sinks just a bit and in the final installation I decided to pass the tubing out of the side instead of the end, as I will be hanging this card in an unusual chassis and this give me more flexibility.

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Even with the full length cards such as this one, the Accelero Hybrid covers everything very well, looks good and still allows easy access to the power plugs. With all of the wiring we did see in this cooler, again there isn't too much to look at other than the Molex lead and the F12 fan wire that I ended up securing to one of the tubes.

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Here is one last shot of the completed ARCTIC Accelero Hybrid before I go ahead and install it into my Maingear Shift with its 90 degree rotation of its innards. This will leave me with only the top or exhaust near the I/O to attach this radiator too.

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Excuse the use of a flash if you will, it was tough to get the right amount of light into this chassis. Allowing one of the tubes to pass through the side gave me the slack I needed to double back on the cooler and hang the radiator at the top. Now we just need to let this run a bit and get to the all important testing.

Testing Methodology and Thermal Results

To test the effectiveness of this and every cooler on the charts I used Unigine Heaven Bench to stress to the cards. As for the setting for each run, I set it to run windowed mode at 1280 X 1024 resolution with AA and AF levels maxed out. This was allowed to run for an hour so I was secure in the fact that I had reached the maximum temperatures for each cooler. To record the temperatures, fan speeds and percentages and all other vitals I used GPU-z. To move from stock clocks and fan slopes I used MSI Afterburner to move from the stock clocks of 732/950/1464 (core/memory/shaders) to the overclock I used of 900/950/1800. I didn't push the memory much as I didn't find an overvolt feature for them and the speed doesn't deliver much more heat all on the same voltage. To make sure the playing field was level; all three of the coolers used in this round were tested under a 26 degree Celsius reading.

Also I did address the fact of using two fans in a push/pull configuration with a fan off my shelf that offered as close to 74 CFM as I had available. The extra fan was rated to 80CFM, but it was as close as I could get without grossly overshooting the levels of the F12 PWM that was included.

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At idle the Hybrid was outshined a bit by the much more affordable Thermalright Shaman. Now one big thing in this is that I had to mod my Shaman to fit, whereas the Accelero Hybrid fit the GTX 570 right out of the box. The real saving grace here is when I ran dual fans and the Hybrid then jumped ahead of the Thermalright a couple of degrees. In all honestly, as far as I'm concerned, all of these idle temperatures are pretty good and this end of the cooling isn't so much where my concerns are.

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Without the overclock applied the Shaman steps just in front of the Accelero Hybrid in the single fan configuration, but once we added a second fan the ARCTIC solution moved down another five degrees to top the chart. The same thing was found when the overclock was applied. The Shaman was five degrees better until the second fan was added, then the Hybrid pulled ahead by three degrees over it. As for the Galaxy stock cooler results, well, they are just sad really in comparison.

Final Thoughts

While I know what an "enthusiast" would do to this cooler once in their hands, the F12 would be left in the box and a pair of fans with maybe more static pressure and / or more air flow are going to be used very soon on the Accelero Hybrid. In this sense the Accelero Hybrid from ARCTIC does do rather well. The only thing wrong with that is that it leaves us with two issues. As the cooler is shipped, the slope of fan noise versus performance of the unit heavily leans to the low noise aspect, sort of overlooking the performance needed from a cooler of this caliber. The second issue this leaves for ARCTIC, is even though this is a really good design and idea, the sheer cost of these units would make me pass on it for even the better performing Shaman, which I can get for less than half the price of this Accelero Hybrid.

To be on the bleeding edge of technology does tend to lead to higher demand on your wallet to allow for all the latest and greatest parts for your PC and this is no exception, but I will say that with a bit of tinkering, a really nice pair of 120mm fan and throwing silence out the door, there is a ton of potential in the Hybrid. As it was shipped, it was one of the lengthiest installs I have done. Not only do you have to wait an hour for the thermal compound to set, but there are no real diagrams for the power deliver heat sinks and I must have spent the better part of 30 minutes figuring out how I wanted them to look and which ones to use to accomplish it. On the flip side, there is not the issue of tape letting loose and the heat sinks falling off. With the thermal adhesive, you are going to have to be gentle as not to remove the component being cooled if you do need to remove the cooler. Once that bit of the assembly was accomplished, the rest of the assembly went smooth without issues in clearance or anything that didn't fit quite right. The Accelero Hybrid is one solid bit of kit once you get it all together.

In my opinion, an AIO solution should offer better results out of the box than just about any air cooler out there. There is plenty more to saturate in an AIO system than in any sort of fin arrangement and here that just isn't the case. I know ARCTIC prides themselves on silence and I for one love silent computing, but at this price, the good results we saw on the chart are just that, good. When you add in the fact that this is going to set you back nearer to $200 with shipping and taxes included, those good results aren't so good and will make people move to much cheaper solutions to get the job done and just as silently in the case of the 140mm fan cooled Shaman I put the Hybrid up against.

Even though my GTX 570 is going to be using the Accelero Hybrid in my spare system for a long time, I am using it now with fans that give even better results than what we saw in the charts and I didn't have to shell out hard earned money for the novelty and being one of a select few with them. I really think for ARCTIC to make the money they are looking for out of this unit, the fan needs replaced with two 120mm fan and something with a little more oomph to it. The rest of the design is solid and I loved being able to change the fan speeds with MSI Afterburner and not being set to a specific 5V, 7V or 12V setting. In reality the cooler is so quiet there is no need not to just give it the beans and deliver 12V to it all the time.

The only other way I can see this cooler being a huge success is when there are enough of these sold to drop pricing to around the $125 mark and I think more people would be apt to select this and go ahead and mod one for maximum cooling potential with the world's first hybrid of air mixed with water cooling in the ARCTIC Accelero Hybrid GPU cooler.

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After a year of gaming, Chad caught the OC bug. With overclocking comes the need for better cooling, and Chad has had many air and water setups. With a few years of abusing computer parts, he decided to take his chances and try to get a review job. As an avid overclocker, Chad is always looking for the next leg up in RAM, cooling, as well as peripherals.

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