Prolimatech over the years has made a name for itself with coolers like the Genesis, Samuel 17 and of course the Megahalems. Primarily cooling is what they are known for, even memory cooling, its own thermal compound, various accessories including magnetic fan mounts, and as it applies to this review, they do tend to video card cooling as well. Up to now the sole entry to this category was the MK-13 from Prolimatech, that I personally never got a chance to review, but going back now I can see where this latest offering got its name and styling.
While just looking at the MK-13 I can imagine the cooler performed very well, and after skimming a couple of reviews, I see that others were doing very well with them. As with any cooler that Prolimatech delivers, there are no fans shipped along with it. This makes for much wider results in testing, but it gives each user the ability to choose a fan or fans that suit their specific requirements. That being said, the MK-13 was and is more than capable of handling most GPU's. Rather than revise the MK-13 to fit newer video cards, Prolimatech took the idea back to the concept drawings and looked for ways to seriously improve the cooler while adding support for the latest video cards.
That plan of action leads us to where we are today with the introduction of the MK-26 from Prolimatech. The name almost makes one assume that since the number has doubled, maybe so has the performance or the size of the cooler. The answer to both of those ponderings is not quite doubled, but they have both been increased a bunch. The MK-26 as you will see soon enough does keep the basic styling, but with the new design comes advantages to the maximum thermal capabilities, the types of fans you can install, and the ability to take up some of that room afforded in the larger cases on the market, and the MK-26 is the largest GPU cooler I have ever used.
That being said I think I have your interest peeked, stick around and see just how well the MK-26 from Prolimatech does with cooling my HIS Radeon HD 7950.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
Unlike the MK-13, the MK-26 comes with two radiators, one on each side of the base and heat pipes. This makes for a stack of 20 fins on one side and a stack of 45 on the other. Getting a bit more specific, the base is copper, and so are the six 6mm diameter heat pipes. The aluminum fins are 0.5mm thick and are pressed over the heat pipes, but when these pipes meet the base, they are soldered into place. The base, top plate, heat pipes, and even the fins are all nickel plated for both style and anti-corrosive reasons. Looking at the dimensions you can see the MK-26 is quite large, and packaging included the kit weighs in at 583g, and I would guess that around 450g of that is hanging on your video card.
The chart also claims that the MK-26 has a 320 Watt TDP, but that does matter which fans you choose as to if you can comfortably deliver that much power. To help users get as many cooling options as possible, the MK-26 allows for either a pair of 140mm fans or 120mm fans to be mounted to the radiators to cool this beast. This is a universal solution that offers mounting for 37 NVIDIA GEFORCE video cards from the 7800 GT on through the GTX 680. As for the AMD side of the selections, there are 20 in total from the Radeon HD 3850 on through the HD 7970. To complete the testing you will see I will be using the HIS HD 7950 IceQ Turbo and a pair of the Corsair SP120 fans.
It seems that since the release of the MK-26 just happened, locations in the US are not showing any current stock of these coolers. In their own press release they did state that Overclockers.co.uk will have exclusive stock on the other side of the pond with the pricing set at £51.98. Typing that into Google, at the current exchange rate, that would leave the MK-26 with the pricing of $84.29 US dollars. Now that is a pretty hefty price considering I still have to shell out for some fans.
It really seems that everything about the MK-26 screams "enthusiast cooling solution". It isn't just the size or the customizability, the price takes this out of the average user's hands and is only for those who can afford to try the biggest and maybe the best video card air cooling solution anyone is offering currently.
On the top of the shiny black packaging you find a slack of color as the blue camouflage accents the white outlined rendering of the MK-26 contained inside. It of course shows the Prolimatech name and site address, while in the other corner it simply states that this is a multi-VGA cooler.
Laying the box back to expose the longer skinny panel shows that they chose to use this space to include the specifications chart you saw previously.
One of the smaller sides of the packaging contains eight languages notifying buyers that if you need more information to visit their site for the answers.
On the bottom, or the back, depending on how you look at it, Prolimatech uses this space to give you a look at the base and how the Omni-Mount works. On the right half there is a list of ten features of the MK-26 that should draw in buyers.
The other long skinny panel of the packaging offers you a full list of the 57 video cards listed that the MK-26 is able to be mounted to.
The last panel on the outside of the box simply has the name of the cooler and the company displayed over the black background with just a touch of the blue wrapping around the edges.
Inside of the box you find the instructions sitting on top of a couple of layers of dense foam that surrounds the MK-26 in transit. Then you get a long thin box full of all of the hardware and goodies you will need to get underway, minus any fans.
Prolimatech MK-26 Multi-VGA Cooler
Sorry for the slight angle, but I have to prop the right side of the MK-26 to get it even close for images. On the left there are 20 fins, six 6mm heat pipes and the base in the middle, and then the heavier side of the cooler with its 45 fin arrangement.
At the end of the longer section of the MK-26, Prolimatech puts its name as well as the name of the cooler on the end fin. This is what will be the end nearest the HDD bays in a typical case.
Spinning the MK-26 around, the only thing that changes is the view of the heat pipes and base of the cooler. Of course the fin arrays swapped sides as well, but that large opening in the middle is really put to good use.
This is the end of the shorter section, and as you can see without the name plate that covered the other side, these fins are all made from two pieces, connected together, and then slid onto the hat pipes.
Looking down into the cooler, you can see why there was the need for the wide gap over the base plate in this cooler design. There is just no effective way to get these sorts of runs and bends and still get any aluminum on there.
Looking in a little closer, you can see that the top of the base plate has been grooved which allows it to be a heat sink in itself. Since the fan will be over this area, I like that the pipes and the base get a great flow of air even before the heat reaches the fins.
Flipping the MK-26 over to expose the underside of it doesn't show much that we didn't assume it would be from all of the other angles. For shipping protection, there is a plastic sticker in place to protect the base of the cooler. Make sure to remove this prior to use.
Zooming in on the base of the MK-26 you can still see the milling marks, but the base is really level across all angles. The three holes in the base will come into play later, but the two on either side of the base allows for the Omni-Mount system to be used.
Accessories and Documentation
Starting off the hardware that comes with the MK-26 is what you see here. There is a syringe of PK-3 and a Prolimatech sticker at the top. In the bag on the left there are ten little heat dissipation plates you can use, and the black nickel spring loaded thumbscrews.
This group of four smaller packets contains the natural spring loaded thumbscrews and nylon washers, a base plate adapter piece for video cards with a bare die. There are two sets of legs for the Omni-Mount system, and that leaves the top plate and dense foam rubber isolation pads.
There are 12 memory heat sinks provided, one of which is very slim to fit under the heat pipes of the MK-26 on some video cards. The longer heat sinks on the right are for the power delivery chips on the end of the video card. If these two strips aren't enough to cover it, this is where the smaller heat dissipation plates come into use.
The short end of the MK-26 uses the fan clips on the left to mount a fan, while the longer side uses the fan clips on the right to hold the fan onto its fins. There is also a Y-splitter to power two fans at once from the GPU fan header, but it does warn not to overload it.
The instructions come on three separate sheets that are only printed on one side. The first of which is a multi-lingual parts check list to make certain you have all the parts before you rip off the stock cooler and find this out mid assembly.
Page two starts with the cooler off the video card, and a bit on how to prep it for the heat sinks you need to apply to the video card next. It shows the list of which video cards use which mounting legs, and then of course you can apply the cooler to the video card.
The last page shows you how to use the adapter plate for video cards like my HIS Radeon HD 7950. It then goes on to show how to apply the spacer material and mounting of the top plate. At the end it shows to plug in the adapter and how to mount a couple of fans to the MK-26.
Installation and Finished Product
The test subject for today's review of the MK-26 will be the HIS Radeon HD 7950 IceQ Turbo that HIS provided me for just such testing as this.
I went ahead and stripped the video card of all the stock cooling and prepped both the memory and the power delivery chips with both alcohol, then an eraser to get rid of any and all oil and debris.
I was pondering the layout of the cooling for the power delivery system on the HD 7950. I could have set the large heat sinks as they are and then use those tiny heat dissipation plates, but I had a better idea.
With just a little bit of checking first, I found that the MK-26 does not interfere with the use of the stock cooler and PCB support system supplied from the factory, so I am going to use this instead.
Following the instruction I placed all 12 of the memory heat sinks, and was sure to put the low profile one on the correct IC. I was also glad to see that the stock cooling plate causes no fitment issues with the memory sinks as well.
At this point I would suggest you plug in the fan adapter plug. The instructions show it going on much later in the assembly, but the room to get this in place once the cooler is on the video card is too limited to do so easily.
Checking against the chart, I grabbed the set of legs that it shows work with the HD 7950 and screwed them into place so we can get on with the installation.
At this point, since I have to use the provided adapter plate, I took some of the PK-3 and applied it to the base of the cooler. Now all I have to do is lock the pins on the adapter plate into those three holes.
Once I applied the adapter plate, and pressed on it a bit to set it well against the base, I cleaned off the oils from my hand and again applied more PK-3 to the adapter plate that will be making direct contact with the exposed GPU die on the video card.
Installation and Finished Product Continued
Flipping the video card over the instructions say to add the dense foam square to the back of the GPU socket. This will absorb any irregular shapes of the bits on the PCB while isolating the black steel plate that goes on here.
I chose to go with the smaller of the two squares of foam, and even then only the legs get supported. All there is left to do now is drive home the natural colored spring loaded thumbscrews to secure the MK-26 to my HIS video card.
Making sure the MK-26 was very secure first, I was satisfied with it and set the cooler and video card back down to get more images. As you can see I instantly stepped up to a three slot video card, and I haven't added any fans yet.
This angle will show you just how enormous the MK-26 really is. It is almost as long at the HD 7950, and almost twice as wide. In reality, when testing, this stood taller than the HE01 from SilverStone that I had on my CPU at the time.
With this much cooler to block the view it is hard to see the heat sinks under the cooler. Take my word for it though, there were no clearance issues at all, and the cooler went on relatively easy.
Unless you have a reverse ATX chassis, this is the last time you will be able to read the logo on this end of the cooler. Once in a typical ATX chassis the lettering will be inverted.
I took this shot just in case you thought when I showed how wide this cooler is on the card, that it wasn't a camera trick or a funny angle. The MK-26 really takes up a lot of room. Being as tall as a CPU cooler, even taller will limit users in some mid tower cases as well.
Since we need some air flow to test out the performance of the MK-26, I went to the shelf and grabbed a pair of Corsair SP120 High Performance fans off of it and strapped them onto the cooler.
So fully assembled, what started as a two slot video card (well slightly thicker with the HIS design), and not only made it a three slot option, with fans now in the picture we are up to four slots being used to keep your video card cool now.
The Test System and Thermal Results
To obtain the results you are about to see in the charts I used a combination of Unigine Heaven Bench 3.0, GPU-Z, and the HIS iTurbo software to overclock, measure temperatures, and provide the stress load to heat up the components of the HIS HD 7950 IceQ Turbo used in these tests.
Keeping an ambient temperature of between 24.5 C and 25.5C the HD 7950 was booted an allowed to sit idle for 10 minutes before I opened GPU-Z to read the measurements, even there I allowed the graphs to fill up completely before I used those temperatures for idle results. For the loaded testing, stock and overclocked, I used Heaven Bench with the setting in the image below, and ran the program for roughly 30 minutes to get to the maximum temperature that the video card would produce.
Even with a really cool video card at idle like this HIS HD 7950 is, there was still room for improvement over the stock cooling solution. You can see we dropped three degrees at idle with the stock clocks, and four degrees better with the overclock applied.
Again with the stock clocks applied, the MK-26 didn't quite keep up with the water cooling solution, but was only three degrees behind. Versus the stock cooler with these clocks, the MK-26 is 23 degrees better with the fans I chose to run. With the overclock applied and the fans spinning at just over 2100 RPM, I was still able to drop 20 degrees over the stock cooler, but the gap to water cooling widens here quite a bit.
As for the sound testing, the MK-26 as it is shipped (no fans included) makes absolutely no noise at all, so I thought it was unfair to post a chart marking them at a specific level, so there will be no audio charts. As for the Corsair fans I ran, they are specified to run at 35dB max.
There are a couple of issues I want to address up front, but oddly they aren't about the MK-26, it is with what you plan to use this cooler in that is going to be an issue. Most cases are wide enough to take on a 160mm CPU cooler, but the problem here is that once on the video card, the MK-26 stands taller than that, so be sure your case has a ton of room or you run open air as I do. The next issue that needs addressed is the combined weight of the cooler and fans. You can shave a few grams with a selective fan choice, but again if you are running in a standard case, expect a bit of droop on the right side of the video card as the PCB suspends all that weight.
Size and weight out of the way, we can now focus on the MK-26 and its performance. While I did choose some really great fans to cool the MK-26 with, the level of performance is what you would expect from a cooler this big. Once we loaded the video card, in both situations, the results were at least 20 degrees better than the stock solution. What really sells me on the whole idea of the MK-26 is that it was super simple to install. The cooler stands tall enough to allow me to use the stock cooling solution which is also a PCB support rail. So I got the best of everything, including a way to limit the droop that this cooler is bound to cause other video cards.
As I mentioned earlier in the review, the only thing that may hurt the success of the MK-26 is the actual price you will be able to get it at once it hits the US shores. Doing the basic conversion, and if you want to use the fans I chose, this setup is going to be near $110 nearest I can figure. That fact alone is going to keep the MK-26 out of the average Joe's hands and be a selection for the wealthier elitists out there. I will say this for the MK-26 from Prolimatech though; you do get exactly what you pay for with a cooler like this. It offers a very serious foundation for superior air cooling, and regardless of the fan speed recommendations on their site, I was able to easily handle the heat load of the HD 7950 with 2000 RPM fans with enough static pressure to be sure to get all the way through to the heat sinks and the PCB.
If I was in the market to air cool a single GPU video card, the MK-26 is the choice of all choices to make, but if we are looking at cooling a multi-GPU setup, this four slot cooler isn't what you are looking for.
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