Arctic Cooling Accelero X1 VGA Cooler Page: 1

Introduction

Arctic Cooling, it's a name synonymous with innovative and effective cooling solutions for the modern PC user. And just in case you have managed to reside in an cone of silence for the past few years, you would know that many PC enthusiasts have chosen to adopt Arctic Cooling's products over the original manufacturers stock cooling solutions. Arctic Cooling have really carved out a niche for themselves, particularly within the realm of aftermarket VGA coolers and case cooling fans. I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to review Arctic Cooling' Accelero X1 cooler, so without further ado let's get acquainted with our review specimen.


Specifications

The technical specifications of the Accelero X1 VGA cooler were taken directly from Arctic Cooling's website, you can find additional information here

(Accessed 9th September 2006)


Compatibility

Arctic Cooling specifies that the Accelero X1 is compatible with the following garphics cards:
Further, Arctic Cooling also state that most of the 7900GT cards are incompatible with the X1 cooler. But, they note that a passive cooler will be available for the 7900GT on the 06/2006; of which I can see no further detail on.
Arctic Cooling have provided a height restriction drawing on their website to help ensure compatibility in tight areas.


Packaging and Contents

Arctic Cooling have taken the liberty of allowing the Accelero's packaging speak for itself. It is simple and unassuming, although the size of the X1 is visually impressive to say the least. I must admit that upon seeing the X1 first hand, my initial thoughts were that this VGA cooler was going to be insanely loud but it should lower the temps though, quite nicely. One thing I would like to include about the packaging is that there is very little protecting the top of the cooler from potential damage/impact in transit, apart from the very thin plastic cover.

Accelero X1 front view Accelero X1 rear view

On the reverse side of the packaging there is again very little superfluous information; simply some basic spec, the X1's main features and a performance comparison between it and the Nvidia 7800GTX's reference cooler.

X1 front view including contents X1 reverse including contents

Included inside the packaging were:

  • 1 x Accelero X1 VGA cooler
  • 1 x 'J' shaped metal RAM heatsink
  • 1 x packet of TIM for RAM heatsink
  • 1 x packet of included screws and plastic spacers for installation
  • Instruction manual
  • 1 x Arctic Cooling case sticker.

It's interesting to note that nowhere on the packaging, nor on Arctic Cooling's website could I find exactly what was supposed to be included within the package. Now that we've had a look inside the packaging, let's take a closer look at the cooler itself.



Arctic Cooling Accelero X1 VGA Cooler Page: 2
Page <script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 25/09/2006
Author: Matthew Fogg (PV5150)
Hardware Acquired: Arctic Cooling


A Closer look

Upon closer investigation of the Accelero X1, it's an absolute no-brainer to pull apart. This is particularly benficial if your PC is prone to attracting dust, so making it easier for the end user to remove dust from the heatsink is a definite plus in my book. All it takes to pull apart the X1 is the removal of 3 small screws, and unhooking 5 retaining clips on the cover.

Accelero exploded Accelero exploded

From the above pictures you can see how easily the Accelero X1 can be cleaned. A simple few bursts from a can of compressed air and the heatsink will be clear of the dreaded dust mites which would inhibit the performance of the cooler. Further, the fan shroud appears to be a completely sealed unit to help minimise the effects of dust buildup on the fans bearings (please see image at bottom of page). In order to remove accumulated dust from the fan blades, a simple clean with some moist cotton buds would be ample.

Accelero heatpipes Heatsink surface area

You can clearly see Arctic Cooling's heatpipe solution in the first photo and the length of them in the second photo. The fact that Arctic Cooling have provided heatpipe technology and a large surface area via the fins to allow for effective heat dissipation is quite reassuring. Not that I'm going to comment on the physics of heatpipes and how they work via the use of wicks (due to it being beyond the scope of this review), but, I'm more than confident that this cooler is going to perform extremely well. The fins appear to be spot soldered onto the heatpipes and a similar process used on the top of the fins to ensure stability and ridgidity. The baseplate of the X1 cooler is definitely not of a mirrored finish appearance, but is even and well lapped.

Underside of the X1

On the underside of the now reassembled X1 you will notice the large black flap protruding from the side. According to Arctic Cooling's website this window is to enable airflow to move over the voltage converters on your graphics card. Nice inclusion! The thermal compound included with the Accelero X1 is Arctic MX-1, and can take up to 200 hours to fully cure, whilst cooling performance improves relative to the cured state. The curing time needed will be taken into account in order to fairly appraise the X1's performance.

Arctic Cooling's bearing

The Accelero X1 utilises a Fluid Dynamic Bearing (FDB), which, in layman's terms means that the bearing itself is encased in oil. This is of benefit on two fronts. Firstly this allows the fan to operate whilst emitting low levels of noise; and secondly it reduces the amount of heat and friction upon the bearing themselves. Arctic Cooling have rated the X1's fan as being good for 400,00 hours Mean Time Till Failure (MTTF), at 40 Deg C. Hence the inclusion of an excellent 6 year warranty. Now that we've stripped the Accelero X1 of it's dignity and probed and prodded, lets move onto the installation section of the review.



Arctic Cooling Accelero X1 VGA Cooler Page: 3
Page <script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 25/09/2006
Author: Matthew Fogg (PV5150)
Hardware Acquired: Arctic Cooling


Installation

For the Accelero X1 installation I decided to use my MSI 6800GT TD-256. The reason I chose this card for comparison, is because, in my opinion MSI's non-reference cooling solutions are extremely effective, and often better than Nvidia's. Pictures of the card have been included below so that readers find it easier to compare the size difference of the coolers:

MSI 6800GT top MSI 6800GT back
MSI 6800GT side

After removing the stock MSI heatsink, both the memory modules and GPU core were thoroughly cleaned using ArctiClean solution and an cotton bud. As per the X1's installation instructions. The TIM pads were then stuck onto the memory modules.

6800GT naked 6800GT with thermal paste

The 'J' shaped passive heatsink that was supplied with the X1 wasn't needed for this installation. It is intended for those who have graphics cards with the RAM modules on the underside of the card. The Accelero was then put in place and the included screws were tightened up to plastic washers, which act as spacers, and prevent possible shorting on the PCB.

Accelero X1 Accelero X1 underside
Accelero X1 side on

You can really see the difference between the MSI heatsink and the Accelero X1. The X1 is simply massive, but it is considerably lighter than the reference one. Earlier on in the review I spoke about the X1 also providing cooling, via a cooling window, to the voltage converters at the rear of the graphics card. The picture below illustrates this more effectively:

Accelero cooling window

Now that we've had a look at virtually every aspect of the Accelero X1, there's only one area been left unexplored...Testing and overclocking. Read on to see how this behemoth performs.



Arctic Cooling Accelero X1 VGA Cooler Page: 4
Page <script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 25/09/2006
Author: Matthew Fogg (PV5150)
Hardware Acquired: Arctic Cooling


Testing

The testbed chosen for todays performance review is as follows:


Today is not exactly an ideal day as far as overclocking on air is concerned, as Summer is most certainly on its way and the ambient temperature in my office is steadily climbing on its way to 30 Deg C. This will certainly be an interesting testing session.

In order to compare the Accelero X1 I conducted some overclocking tests on my 6800GT. I have included screenshots from within Nvidia's control panel showing temperature and the overclock attained, using both the MSI cooler and the Accelero X1. It has also taken into account that the thermal interface material supplied with the X1 is far from cured at the time of testing; and so results will may not be as accurate as possible, given the time frame for the review.

All graphical tests (Half Life 2, Counter Strike: Source, and 3DMark05) were conducted using 1280 x 1024 resolution to eliminate as much as possible the CPU from the equation, and place as much strain as possible on the GPU. The Coolbits registry hack was used as the overclocking tool of choice.


Cooling Performance

I have included a graph below to show the temperature difference between the MSI cooler and the Arctic Cooling Accelero X1 at idle and load.


6800GT Temp Graph


Due to the high temperatures of today, my GT hit a wall majorly using the MSI heatsink. Although, 66 Deg C isn't really too toasty at all, but today the card simply didn't seem to want to push too far. As a direct result, I was only able to attain an overclock of 398/1.12. Let's see if the Accelero can make a difference. The included pictures below show the Accelero X1's temp at stock speeds and the maximum attainable overclock and temp. You'll notice that the overclocked temperature on the Accelero is still insanely low, but my graphics card didn't want to budge from 410/1.13 and is still running on stock BIOS. If I'd had a little more time, I'd love to have installed the Ultra BIOS, thrown a little more voltage at it, and cranked it even further to perhaps 425/1.14. I'm absolutely certain the Accelero would have kept it as cool as a cucumber.


Accelero highest attainable clock

One thing that I noticed as soon as I installed the Accelero X1 into my PC, is that the case temp dropped significantly. The air from the X1 is blown directly across the GPU/memory modules and onto the motherboard and it is noticeably cooler than the exhaust from the stock MSI heatsink. Another area in which the X1 excelled, is that the MSI heatsink fan ran at 4000 rpm; whereas the Accelero ran my GT a heck of a lot cooler at only less rpm. That's extremely efficient, let me explain.

Because the Accelero runs off the graphics card fan header, it defaults at the fan speed Nvidia set from the factory. On the 6800GT it happens to be 53% for 2D, lower 3D and performance 3D respectively. My 6800GT has a slider built into the heatsink, which I've always had set at 4000 rpm because 2300 rpm fan speed just doesn't cut it when overclocking. Because most common work for a graphics card is either within 2D desktop work or 3D gaming environment, it's valid to concentrate on only the 2D and performance 3D areas. You can adjust the Accelero's fan speed (between 500 - 2000 rpm) by downloading RivaTuner and adjusting the fan speed accordingly. Although I must say, the Accelero is extremely quiet at any given speed...Even with the fans running at 100%. I still felt compelled to make sure that the X1's fan was still running, it was that quiet. So the lovers of quiet PC's will love the Accelero for sure.

Let's move onto the conclusion to see what my final thoughts are on the Accelero X1, and what score it attained for the review.



Arctic Cooling Accelero X1 VGA Cooler Page: 5
Page <script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 25/09/2006
Author: Matthew Fogg (PV5150)
Hardware Acquired: Arctic Cooling


Conclusion

So just how well did the Accelero X1 perform? One word will sum it up in a nutshell...Outstandingly! From the very start of the review, the Accelero X1 was shaping up to be something special. From the build quality; the ease of installation, and the cooling performance, right down the the competitive pricepoint (US$33 or 18 GBP R.R.P).

The Arctic Cooling NV series of VGA coolers were instrumental in bringing the possibility of extra performance and good looks to the overclocking masses; but it's time to move on. And if the Accelero X1 is anything to go by, Arctic Cooling are definitely heading in the right direction.

Whilst the cooling performance of the X1 is extraordinary especially at such a low rpm range, it's the extremely low noise output that puts it hands down, a class above the rest.

So in conclusion there really isn't a lot to dislike about the Accelero X1. Sure it's huge and the shape may not be to everyone's taste, but man it sure does perform well.

Pro's

+ Brilliant cooling performance
+ Competitive pricing
+ Insanely quiet
+ Easy installation
+ Easy to clean
+ Fully SLI and BTX compatible
+ 6 year warranty.

Con's

- Shape may not be to everyones taste
- Restrictive size, small form factor PC users will find it too large which is a pity considering its efficiency.


Editors choice award

A huge thanks goes out to Arctic Cooling for the opportunity to review the Accelero X1

Feel free to discuss this review in our forum