From what we have gathered in the past about GamerStorm, while they may be newer to the game than most other cooling companies, we have seen they definitely know what they are doing when it comes to cooling components inside of the chassis. Coolers like the Assassin, Lucifer, and Gabriel shows us that GamerStorm is a contender in the dual-tower coolers, large single tower coolers, and even a low-profile solution for those that don't want the larger coolers currently on the market.
In all three segments, not only do GamerStorm products do well, the company has gone from a relatively unknown company to one that has become synonymous with great performance and low noise in cooling in a very short time. For a big box store brand, color us impressed.
While we have seen the three basic CPU cooling designs produced by GamerStorm, we have yet to see where their limitations are ending. After doing a few of the CPU coolers, we were asked to take a look at something to cool our HD 7950. Knowing what we did about their previous cooling solutions, we jumped at the chance to have a look at what they bring to the table in this market as well.
Since this newer company has no issues thinking outside of the box, along with employing a few of the better tricks of the trade when developing coolers under their name, we are somewhat excited to see what this latest creation offers those who want aftermarket cooling for their GPU. Now users have the option to match the branding of their CPU air cooler and GPU air cooler.
Today, we will be looking at the Dracula from GamerStorm, and while taking on the name of a sci-fi monster, we have found that this product neither bites nor flies, and, no, it does not turn into a bat when we go to sleep. What we are given is one of the largest VGA air coolers we have ever seen. Not so much in the cooler itself, but as you all will soon see, the Dracula comes fully equipped to not only take on the cooling of almost any video card, but it is also almost a full five slots deep depending on the specific configuration of your fan setup.
With this in mind, we can only hope that the Dracula is a top contender because with a cooler this large it just has to be great, doesn't it? Well, stick around and find out as we put the Dracula from GamerStorm through its paces.
Specifications, Availability, and Pricing
Looking at the chart tells us quite a bit about the Dracula cooler. Not only does it show that there are options for 43mm, 53mm, 51mm/61mm, and 51-61mm mounting hole spacing, we can see that this cooler covers cards from the X1xxx generations all the way up to and including the HD7950 and HD 7970 with 54mm spacing. On the flip side of that fence, it also cools NVIDIA cards back to GeForce 6600 for those that need serious cooling for a nostalgia build.
We also see that GamerStorm has provided the cooler measurements of 254mm in length, 100mm in width, and 44mm in height from base to the top of the fins. This is also a weighty cooler, coming in at 556 grams for just the fins, heat pipes, and the base plate. We also see that they offer suggestions for fans, because this product comes without them. They do mention that 120mm and 140mm can be used with this cooler, and also that they should be in the range of 600 to 1500 RPM to keep noise levels down and still offer enough flow to keep the GPU and power delivery systems nice and chilly.
What the chart does not cover is anything like the materials used, which is of course copper for the base, extruded aluminum for the small pre-cooler, copper for the heat pipes, and aluminum for the fins. Once the base and six heat pipes are assembled, they are coated with nickel plating and then the eighty-four fins are pressed onto them in two fin sections. The smaller section has one side of the six pipes tightly bending around 35, and the other side of the pipes takes a gentler bend to make in into the larger section with 49 fins in it.
Also, we are given a serious fan mounting system that doesn't even attach to the cooler, and while our example will take up five PCI-E slots on our test system and offer a 250W TDP, the idea behind this setup is really ingenious, and the cooler looks like it should be a serious performer with plenty of options to allow each customer to suit their own thermal and audio level needs.
We do know that the original version of the Dracula was set to retail for $75 in the US market, but we are having some issues locating this cooler online currently, as it is something we really have to hunt for rather than popping up in Google searches. With no real word yet on actual pricing or when it will be out in the wild, we don't expect pricing to be much different for some extra mounting hardware, but the real issue here is that it is only part of the price. Unless like me you have enough fans lying around that you could almost levitate a car, you will have to ponder the cost of up to four fans. Even on the cheaper side of fan pricing, that is an extra $20 for the average set of four 120mm fans. We all know that the basic fans aren't going to give the best results, so you need to find the fans that offer great static pressure and not make your ears bleed while cooling the Dracula.
While this cooler is truly monstrous when fully assembled, and does pretty much eliminate any options for dual card setups, at least when the Dracula is on the card, you end up with something that can look just as full as a multi-card setup and, as you will soon see, is surely capable of handling its business.
The packaging matches everything else we have seen from GamerStorm: the flat black box offers just half of the logo in shiny black, and the product and company names are shown in a metallic green. We can also see that this is a special edition that encompasses the HD 7970.
Laying the box on its back, the long skinny side offers a list of the features like the dual sections, the plating, fan compatibility, the badly counted heat pipes, and the universal mounting. The smaller sides are plain flat black cardboard and offer nothing to show in images.
Looking at the back of the box, there isn't much displayed, but along with the company and product naming in green, we are also given a very small specifications chart at the bottom in white text.
Here we have only half of what is offered on the top skinny panel of the outer packaging. This, much like the chart we covered on the last page, offers the cards by mounting hole.
Sliding to the right down that same side, we can now see the larger selection of mounting and card compatibility.
Everything we have just seen was part of a sleeve cover that wraps around the inner black box we see here, and even here GamerStorm added their name and logo in white paint for a bit of brand recognition.
Inside you, of course, find the large cooler body wrapped in plastic, and inside the box there are compartments to keep the fan mounting bracket away from the cooler body and the accessories and documentation that are found under the cooler.
GamerStorm Dracula 7970 VGA Cooler
Fresh out of the box, we can see quite a few things that will help this cooler perform. The amount of surface area is the biggest player, but we also have offset fins and odd shapes to help disturb the airflow.
From the side, we get a much better idea of the layout of the Dracula. To the left, we have pipes wrapping around and going through the short section. This leaves room in the middle for the pipes to then run through the much longer section to the right.
At this end, we see that the pipes have been nickel plated over the copper, and that they run evenly spaced through the middle of the fin stack.
Looking down this side of the Dracula, you may be wondering where do the fans clip on or where do we install rubber fan clips, but with this design, the fans are mounted in an unusual way and there is no need to design the sides of the cooler to incorporate them into this design.
Just as the pipes popped out of the end of the longer section of fins, they also pop out of the short section in the middle of the cooler body. There is a decent gap used as they also have to have room for the pipes to bend and run through the longer section, which is just off to the one side of the base of this cooler.
This is the end of the Dracula that will be closest to the expansion slot bracket on the video card of choice. We see that even though there is more room available on many cards, this design keeps the pipes as close to the fins as possible without kinking the pipes.
Dragon 7970 Continued
For all of the fins in the stacks, we find that the end fin we saw in the last image is what is used throughout the stack, and they have alternated the fins to give them this offset layout that we see here. This allows for both a bit of air pressure to be built up prior to air entering the fins, and once there, it is buffeted to get the most out of that air flow.
When we look at the cooler from the bottom, we can obviously see the hard plastic cover that ships on the base of the cooler to keep it protected and as smooth as when it left the factory. It is easy to see, with the base plate as perspective, that the Dracula will cover even the longest single GPU solutions from expansion slot to power plugs.
This is only one of the sets of hardware, but this is what comes pre-installed for use. We did find it a bit strange, though, that this is the HD 7970 edition of this cooler, yet these mounting holes will not work. We have to swap out these mounting legs for ones provided in the hardware kit.
Laying the thermal grease tube across the base, we do see that it is an almost perfect mirror shine to the base. However, there are small imperfections in the surface, and this base is ever so slightly convex but still mates well to the GPU core.
Something that is really tough to see, and we almost missed getting this image as well. We see that the Dracula also has an extruded aluminum pre-cooler mounted to the top of the base to allow heat to be taken into that immediately and help offset the heat load being delivered into the pipes.
Accessories and Documentation
The first bit of hardware we find in the box is a couple of bags full of goodies, including the mounting components. Along with some thermal grease, you will receive various mounting screws, optional mounting brackets, thumbscrews, washers, as well as the hardware for the fan bracket. We also see in the other bag there is a top mounting plate, a case badge, and two plates to help solidify fan mounting.
In two other bags, we find the heat sinks for the memory and power delivery systems of the video card. To the right, there is a large PWM bar that will fit a lot of the older AMD designs. In the bag on the left, there are plenty of large and low-profile square heat sinks to get the job done in most instances, but they may take a bit of modding as you will see later.
We have the chunky, black milled aluminum support component that is the major support for the fan assembly at top left. To the right of it is a dual 4-pin to a single 3-pin Y-splitter fan cable, while below are the two steel plates that sandwich the fan mounting to the expansion slots for greater support.
We also get the long, black aluminum fan mounting bar. This bar offers many holes that are slotted to allow the arrangement of dual 120mm fans mounted as we see it, but keep in mind, the half of the bar facing up also has these options, so fans can blow through the cooler and at the side of the video card at the same time. Not only will it allow for 120mm fans, but it will accept 140mm fans as well.
The paperwork we were given includes the user manual that takes you through all of the hardware first to be sure you have what is needed right up front. Then, through well illustrated renderings along with some basic explanations, GamerStorm does a great job of taking it step-by-step and showing everything needed to get this cooler installed. There is also a mail-in registration card for you to fill out and send away, along with a quality control sticker ensuring the cooler is good and we have all the parts we need.
Assembly and Finished Product
We received the HD 7970 edition because we have been and are continuing to test with this HIS HD7950 IceQ Turbo video card. At least until mining drops and prices return to normal, this will do. Now to take off the stock cooler.
At this point, we have the cooler and support frame off of the card. This point is obviously when you want to clean up the core and surrounding area, and this is also when you want to take a rubber eraser and clean the various chips that need cooling. This will allow the heat sinks to have half a chance at adhering well.
At this point, we have the low-profile heat sinks on the memory chips to the left as the pipes will conflict with the larger ones. Outside of that, we used the larger ones around most of the rest of the card except in the power delivery area at the right, where we used longer thin ones at an angle to avoid resistors on the PCB.
To get the smaller chips in between a couple of chokes, we did have to take the Dremmel to this heat sink to make it able to cover where we needed. While the set of heat sinks supplied is pretty universal, for something billed as HD7900 series ready, we would not have expected to need to mod things to fit.
We also noticed that the factory heat sink and support bar had these four chips under this sink covered. With nothing larger to go with, we took one of the larger sinks and stuck it on all four together. While not ideal in our eyes, it was sufficient enough to not cause any issues.
We had to do a bit of prep to the cooler as well. Of course, we would have to install the studs into the base mounting brackets, but again, this cooler was billed to fit this series of card, and I think it should come with the proper mounting brackets already on the base. It may also help users if somewhere on the box, or in the instructions, that they specified either the socket spacing or pointed to which holes in these brackets we are to use rather than leaving you to search Google for that information if you lack an accurate measuring device.
Assembly and Finished Product Continued
After applying some thermal paste, we took the rubber backed metal plate and placed it over the top of the core. It then showed us to put on two nylon washers for each stud, and then simply hand tighten the thumbscrews, tightening them in an X-pattern until they no longer turn.
Once the cooler and the video card are securely mounted to each other, the Dracula offers a fair bit of room above most of the heat sinks and stays a fair distance away from the expansion slot, even on this longer card.
At this end of the HD7950, not only can we see that this cooler is a touch wider than the card, we also have much better access to the power plugs than the stock cooler ever offered.
We now also have the large chunk of aluminum screwed to the fan mounting bar. To that bar, we have mounted two 1350 RPM fans that are inside of the specifications and should give us a good look at what this cooler is capable of with fans that are almost inaudible. We also have the fan bracket installed at the bottom of the two fans, and since the fans only mount on one edge, this plate makes it one solidified fan rather than two flopping about.
There is a normal expansion slot bracket that allows for the usual screw mounting that mounts directly to the fan system. Once that is installed, the second steel plate screws on from outside the expansion slots, sandwiching the case material for added structural support.
We now have the card mounted with the Dracula fully installed and awaiting testing. Some things to consider here are the serious amount of droop that the cooler puts on the card and that the fan mounting bracket also leans pretty badly. Also, with this taking up five slots, SLI or CrossFire is out of the realm of reality. If this cooler were hanging in a chassis with a ninety degree rotated motherboard tray, it would look much, much better. For normal installations, we advise some form of a support to take that stress off the slot.
Test System and Thermal Results
For these tests, we ran our video card at 900 MHz core, 1250 MHz memory, and the default 1.031 volts going to the core. The fan is also left on auto to allow it to ramp up with the heat load provided from testing with the Unigine Heaven benchmark run at default settings and a 1080p resolution to provide the stress to our card. This test is run for twenty minutes and, by using GPU-Z, we attain our idle and loaded results.
For the overclocked runs shown in the charts, we take the HD7950 to 1135 MHz on the core while increasing the voltage to 1.31V in the HIS overclocking suite, and we also take the memory to 1800 MHz mostly because it can. Again, Unigine Heaven is run in twenty minute cycles, and all tests are run in threes and an average temperature is used for our charts.
At idle, since the fans were being controlled by our fan controller and they make relatively no noise when at full speed, they were in fact running at 1350 RPM at this point. We found the results to be on average with the rest of the coolers at stock levels, and even with the overclock applied, since the card down clocks, a little extra voltage barely even shows up as we see 30 degrees at idle and only 31 degrees at stock with the Dracula.
Once the testing was let lose, at both stock and overclocked levels, we find the Dracula to be 15 degrees better than stock at stock settings, coming in at 48 degrees. The efficiency increased a bit once the overclock was applied as the Dracula is now 26 degrees better than the stock cooler, which came in at 54 degrees, and we tested with midrange fans on purpose.
This shows that the cooler is pretty darn good with average fans, and if you were to buy the more serious fans out there, this cooler will walk right up to the levels that the MK-26 offers.
There are plenty of good things to like about the Dracula 7950 edition VGA cooler. First of all, it is large and covers the entire length of the card in the natural aluminum of the fins. The nickel plating and the black anodized aluminum of the fan mounting system can be stunning to see inside of the chassis. The modular fan bracket allows for multiple sizes of fans as well as allowing said fans to mount in two directions at once.
Even when using fans that are not near the top of the line, we were happy with the performance we received without any additional fan noise since the fans we chose were only 29 dB when at the 1350 RPM they top out at. If noise is no issue for you, the performance will increase as well. And while there is the set top limit of 1600 RPM in the chart, nothing is stopping you from using much more powerful fans, as it is just a suggestion to help keep the noise at bay and still enjoy what the Dracula offers in this massive design.
There are a few downsides to this design, though. The weight of the cooler on our card made it sag when installed at a pretty drastic angle. Once the fan mounting system was installed, while new to me and quite the bit of optional equipment, it did not fare any better as far as not sagging across the length of the card. For SilverStone fans, or those without a ninety degree rotated motherboard tray, this would also work out fine in an open air system where the cards weight is pushing down on the slot. While not a true HD 7970, the layout is very similar except for a few components not being placed on the solder pads that the HD 7970 includes, and we found it strange that we were having to mod things to get all of the important bits covered.
I know this is the first VGA cooler we have tested from them, but I would have thought their previous attention to detail of CPU coolers would translate to this release. I do also realize this is basically a re-launch of the original Dracula, but since GamerStorm is adding bits and pieces, is it that much to ask to have an HD7900 series cooler all ready to mount on an HD7900 series card?
Even though there are some obvious issues in certain conditions, this cooler would be perfect for the TJ-11 chassis where I run only one large GPU. I mean the bright side is that I can cover all of those unused slots and make it look like I have three times the horsepower than what I really have installed. The thermal results were pretty impressive for using average fans, even though they are an added expense to use the Dracula 7970 cooler. In the end, while still impressed with the cooler, the fan setup and options, and the ease in which this all went together, aside from some minor modding, the Dracula is a very good cooler. I just think once you wrap your head around the fact that for this whole package, you can get really close to $100, then you will understand when we say there are better options out there, such as the Prolimatech MK-26 that also shows in these charts.
GamerStorm keeps the same high-end feel and look to the design, as well. If only they had included some form of cooler/fan support system, then there really wouldn't be much to complain about other than its sheer size eliminating possibilities of multi-card setups and possibly blocking the only slot available for sound or other devices. While we do like what the Dracula brought in all aspects, it is a little too much work to fit to a card it is designed to work with now, and for this much investment, we do think your hard earned dollars can be spent more wisely.
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