Now the 5 series of graphics cards from ATI have been around for a long while there are plenty on the market that come with specialist coolers and lots of fancy little bits and bobs to differentiate them from the rest of the pack.
XFX, Sapphire and HiS to name but three all offer a card that comes with a bespoke cooler that claim to make their model cooler and quieter than the reference design.
It's all well and good because all want cooler to either allow a greater overclocking headroom or less head dumped into your system, and quieter is something we all aspire to. Often though these non-reference designs are compromised by the need to look good and have enough spare room available for the manufacturer branding.
What if you've already got a graphics card though and just want it to be cooler and quieter without having to fork out for an entirely new card?
Enter Arctic Cooling and their Accelero Xtreme range. A lot of third-party vendors use a re-badged Arctic Cooling solution thanks to their multi-award winning performance. Anyone who owned one of the extremely desirable Asus 4870X2 Tri-Fan models had an Accelero Xtreme.
Today we're going to see if their Accelero Xtreme 5870 model can really make a difference to the temperatures of our card and get remotely close to Arctic Coolings low-noise claims.
Far and away the biggest eye-opener in the specifications for the Accelero are Arctic Coolings claims for both the noise and temperature performance of their cooler. We're used to manufacturers making lofty claims, but can this really be almost silent and extremely cool? Those two things rarely make for comfortable bedfellows as the need for silence always means less cooling performance, and vice versa.
|Dimensions||290 x 104 x 56 mm (L W H)|
|Fan||3 x 92mm|
|Fan Speed||900 to 2000 RPM (PWM)|
|Fan Noise||0.5 Sone @100% compared to 5.2 Sone for ref @ 100%|
|Air Flow||81 CFM @ 2000 RPM|
|Max Cooling Capacity||250 W|
|Bearing Type||Fluid Dynamic Bearing|
|Cooling Performance||36 °C cooler than reference @ 100% fans|
Let's get a look at the cooler in detail and go through the installation procedure.
What's in the box?
The packaging is absolutely an exercise in minimalism. A very sturdy plastic tray-style box keeps everything well protected whilst also minimising waste as much as possible.
Once the two side flaps are flipped open (MUCH easier than those awful blister pack style ones) we find everything we would expect to see.
It's difficult to view the Accelero Xtreme without comparing it to the Prolimatech MK-13 I recently reviewed. Here we have two RAM heatsinks instead of about 30, and the two different screw types are kept separate to reduce installation woes.
The heatsink itself is primarily functional, but actually manages to still look good nonetheless. It's a design that's been around a while now and it's good to see Arctic Cooling employing the adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".
The fan design is one of the more modern ones that uses lots of little fins rather than four or five huge ones. This has a large bearing upon the noise output and so hopefully should ensure the cooler is quiet.
83 fins and 5 big heatpipes are provided to give enormous heat absorption capacity.
Speaking of the heatpipes, how gorgeous is this? A total work of art. The build-quality is exceptional and the amount of copper belies how light it actually is. It also comes with the excellent Arctic Cooling MX2 paste pre-applied for even swifter installation.
Regular readers will recall a couple of weeks ago I tested and installed a VGA cooler and needed two pages to explain it. The fact we have one here might give a clue to the simplicity of the task.
With the board cleaned up from the reference heatsink, a strip of thermal paste is applied to the VRMs.
The VRM heatsink itself needs to have three spacers placed over the screw holes, and these are self-adhesive which is another nice touch.
With the heatsink placed over the voltage regulation modules, three screws are then tightened and the VRM heatsink is in place.
It is worth noting that these three screws are 2.5mm rather than the 3mm screws that attach the main cooler, so you wont get them confused even if you tip all the screws out into one pile. Little things like that make a big difference.
The GDDR heatsinks are two single strips rather than a multitude of individual ones. These have a similar sticky thermal pad to that we saw on the VRMs above. Unlike the MK-13 we tested these are actually sticky enough to remain in place.
Once they are installed the main part of the Accelero Xtreme is placed onto the chip, the whole thing turned over and four 3mm screws used to keep it in place.
That's it. It couldn't be simpler. In fact removing the old cooler took longer than installing the new one including taking photographs as I went along.
As you can see, with it all installed it's a tri-slot solution.
The whole Accelero Xtreme is designed so well that the VRM heatsink and RAM heatsinks form a holistic part of the product, joining nicely with the main body of the cooler.
With it all in place, it's time to see how well it cools and give it a score.
Testing and Conclusion
For testing the Accelero Xtreme we fitted the card into our X58 test rig, which is in a standard ACTS 840, and brought out every heat-generators friend, Furmark. With the fans set at our standard 50% we ran the test at both stock speeds and overclocked as well. For our overclocked result we kept our HD5870 at default voltage and overclocked the GPU core from 875MHz to 1000MHz and the Memory from 1300MHz to 1350MHz.
Just in case you are as shocked as we were, here is a shot from FurMark with Extra-Burn enabled.
Truly spectacular results. At 50% fan speed there was barely a difference between idle and load, and our big overclock only increased the overall temperature by a single degree. When your overclocked temperature under load is only 5°C higher than the reference cooler when idle, you know you've got a stunning product on your hands.
If the Prolimatech MK-13 was an exercise in frustration to install, miles too large for sensible use, and didn't really cool that well, then the Arctic Cooling Accelero Xtreme is the polar opposite.
Starting with the installation, it's an absolute joy. The instructions are clear and concise without a single element left to user interpretation. You're never in any doubt about what goes where, and what you should use to affix it. The decision to use only 7 screws, but three of a different size to the other four, is also wonderful. Regularly we come across products that have identical screw diameter but some are longer than others. Here the VRM ones are 2.5mm and the main cooler ones are 3mm. So even if you are the "tip it all out and then install" type you still can't go wrong. It's absolutely foolproof.
The impressive part is, if we weren't stopping to set up a photographic documentation of the process it is literally a five minute job.
Cooling performance is epic. Fantastic. Exceptional. 3D Mark Vantage Extreme, with the card overclocked to 1GHz, didn't go over 44°C with the fans at 50%, and even Furmark with the Burn mode enabled only saw 45°C. Stunning performance.
Probably the most impressive part though is the noise. Or rather, the silence. With the fans set to automatic control they rarely go above 20% just because the Accelero Xtreme is so good at keeping the card cool. At these low levels it is absolutely inaudible. Considering our test rig has Noctua fans which aren't exactly loud, it makes the Arctic Cooling effort even more impressive.
Raising the fan speed to 50% made no audible difference, and it was only once we past 68% that we could hear them. Even at 100% full chat they weren't offensive at all and were no louder than our 120mm case fans.
Price-wise is, like everything here, worth applauding too. The Prolimatech was £50 and you had to supply your own fans. This is £45 all in.
So what's the flaws and faults in the Arctic Cooling Accelero Xtreme? Erm. Well. Hmm. The fans are white? Really that's to be expected as it's Manufacturer Branding, but as a third-party option some alternative colours would be nice. Even if it was just available with black fans, although let's be honest that's being incredibly picky.
Altogether the Arctic Cooling Accelero Xtreme isn't the weapon of choice for modified cooling for no reason. It's quieter than we could ever hope, as easy and relaxing to fit as putting on a hat, and cools so brilliantly the ATI chip will give up long before heat limits our overclocking.
Flawless. It is an easy winner of our OC3D Gold Award, and is so comprehensively better than anything else on the market that not only should you purchase it if you are in the market for a GPU cooler, you should buy it even if you aren't. It's that damn good.
Thanks to Arctic Cooling for proving the Accelero Xtreme 5870 for testing. Discuss in our forums.