Arctic Accelero Hybrid 7970 Cooler Review

RHKCommander959 - 2012-09-04 09:22:21 in VGA Cooling
Category: VGA Cooling
Reviewed by: RHKCommander959   
Reviewed on: September 26, 2012
Price: $179.99

Introduction:

With power of modern graphics cards, many equipped with stock OEM heatsinks tend to run at the verge of conventional thermal limits. If not taken seriously, heat can degrade lifespan and performance. Also, an increase in noise output is likely as the blower or fans throttle to try and keep up with the demand. In most cases, overclocking is limited by the cooling system, so manufacturers sometimes offer custom heatsink setups (at a price). With better cooling solutions, it may be possible to push the speed further.

Just as there are aftermarket CPU heatsinks, there are aftermarket graphics cards heatsinks. Most are air-to-air designs, but some higher-end solutions are liquid-to-air; also known as water cooling. Usually, water cooling kits are either a full-cover water block that cools the entire card, or a cheaper GPU core-only block. The core-only design is usually paired with air-to-air heatsinks for the memory and power circuits. Futhermore, most water cooling kits are intended to be installed with a pre-existing or custom cooling loop. With that said, more and more companies are releasing affordable closed loops for those who want an all-in-one solution – a system already plumbed and has a pump, heat exchanger, tubing, and so on. Today, ARCTIC COOLING has provided its new Accelero Hybrid 7970 graphics card cooler for testing!

Closer Look:

The front of the box has a clean white background with some black and blue adornments. ARCTIC COOLING has started to go by ARCTIC, as reflected by the logos, with a crescent C in the background. The cooler is pictured in the center. The radiator, fan shroud, fan housing, and tubing are all black. Both fan impellers are white and the shroud has a few stickers of the company and part name. At the bottom, the part name is listed and designated as a Graphics Card Cooler for Enthusiasts. Flipping over to the back shows two more pictures in great detail, alongside some specifications and features. The cooler is compatible with the following AMD Radeon models: 7970, 7950, 7870, 7850, 6970, 6950, 6870, 6850, 6790, 5870, 5850, and 5830. The fan shroud has room to run the coolant hoses, and sits over the water block and heat sinks. It is angled to blow air from the back of the card towards the front and out the expansion slots. This is similar to most stock designs, except that a fan is used instead of a noisy blower. Cooling performance is listed on the back for a 7970; according to ARCTIC, the Hybrid cooler at 2,000 RPM fan speed runs 28°C cooler versus the stock cooler at 3,000 RPM. Noise levels were also compared with the same fan speeds, plus the water cooling pump. In their specifications, the Hybrid operated at 0.4 Sone while the stock cooler was at 5.2 Sone. Thermal Adhesive glue performance was compared against generic 0.15 mm Thermal Tape; adhesive looks to have a thermal transfer rate of 0.86 °C/W while the tape has a rate of 2.56 °C/W. Both were tested on an Accelero L2 PRO at 25°C ambient.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sides of the packaging feature a blue background with white lettering. The first side has several features listed out in a dozen languages. The other side shows a table with specifications, as well as several pictures showing some features and installation possibilities. The main features are the low power consumption – under 7.5 W – for both fans and pump, fluid dynamic bearings for both fans, 416 mm tubing length, 503 g heat exchanger, and 363 g module weight. Radiator installation requires an open 120 mm fan slot. Some cases won't have one, but there are fan adapters to convert to 120 mm from 80 mm or 96 mm mounting holes, which are the two other common sizes. That inevitably allows most consumers to install this cooler!

 

 

Opening the box, the water cooling kit is well protected against damage. The pump is integrated into the water block, with the whole loop sealed and placed into the formed cardboard case. A white sleeve protects the radiator's fragile fins from being damaged. The 120 mm PWM fan lays in the center, with tape holding it still. The other half of the package is a piece of plastic that holds the shrouds, heat sinks, thermal paste, and thermal adhesive glue.

 

 

The hardware includes a backplate and backplate pad, thermal paste and adhesive glue, one zip tie, four strips of lined plastic, an expansion port grill, a Molex to two-fan adapter, and three bags with screws and washers. 31 heat sinks are included to cool the memory and power circuits, actively aided by the fan shroud. A large foldout installation manual lists the separate pieces and shows how to properly install the heat sink.

 

 

On to the next page to see the cooler in detail!

Closer Look:

The cooling loop is intended to be maintenance-free and as such, does not offer any service ports. The loop is plumbed and ready to go. Users only have to uninstall the previous cooler on their video card and install the components. Having a closed loop makes installation far easier, as there is no need to do any maintenance. Plus, with separate cooling loops, there are less components at risk if a failure occurs somewhere, such with a pump or fan seizing.

The water block is also the pump – it can be powered by a fan connection or Molex. The base is copper – it is rough, but decently flat. Lapping could be beneficial here. The pump runs off 0.26 A at 12 V. Two black highly flexible tubes run between the pump/block and the radiator. Fin density is moderate – high amounts of fins require a loud fan to push air through, but provide the best temperatures, while a low density can use the slowest and thus, quietest fans, but aren't as capable. Having moderate fin amounts is ideal between both qualities – a decently quiet fan can still provide good temperatures!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fan shroud is black with a few stickers and white impeller to give it color. There are a few holes for airflow as well. Flipping the shroud over gives us a better view of the impeller, along with its wiring and connectors. Near the center is where the water block/pump sits. Most of the air exits towards the right and out your case. The fan is 80 mm and operates between 900-2000 RPM, flowing up to 13.1 CFM. The fan draws 0.13 A at 12 V.

 

 

The fan impeller is white and has a sticker for ARCTIC with a website link. It sits inside a black housing which has ARCTIC COOLING on the side. The fan has a fluid dynamic bearing and uses 0.22 A at 12 V through a PWM connection. The fan operates between 400 – 1,350 RPM and moves up to 74 CFM.

 

 

Assembling the cooler is simple enough, as long as you carefully follow the instructions. Some double-sided tape is included to attach nylon spacers to the pump/block for proper depth for the 7970. The pump/block is mounted to the shroud with four screws in the larger holes – rubber washers are applied to the shroud to keep the pump stable and prevent vibrating. The hoses are kept in place using two washers with screws. The Molex cable connects to the fan via its fan connection and also powers the pump, so the graphics card itself isn't taxed electrically. The shroud fan has the PWM wires separated from the power cables, so it could be actuated by the graphics card as it would the stock fan. A piece of paper in the shape of the block unit is included to help show users where to avoid heatsink placement. Lay it on top of the GPU core and line it up as if it were the block, do a test fit with the heatsinks and make sure none touch – leave a small gap. To know where you need heatsinks, look at the stock cooler and see where there was thermal tape and thermal paste! Any components that had either would probably need a heatsink. The 7970 series has a memory IC at the bottom that is too close to the core for a full-sized heatsink, so a long/narrow one is used in its place. For optimal airflow, I laid the heat sinks out parallel rather than having them all pointing to the core.

 

 

With everything installed, it is immediately apparent that the shroud will let most of the air recirculate back into the case rather than flow out. A positive-pressure case design (an abundance of incoming air versus exhaust capabilities) will aid this. The power cord exits right out of the side – some users may opt to run it a different route for better cable management. Sleeves would have been a nice touch too. The hoses are nice and flexible, but exit to the rear of the card, which could make it hard to mount the radiator to the top or rear of a case. The hose can get in the way of the power connectors as well. To help with this, I removed the nearest washer to get clearance. With the shroud installed, the card is slightly taller than two spaces, but may fit albeit tightly with a neighboring card. Just make sure the back of said card doesn't have any tall components nearby. A different shroud design could potentially improve cooling capabilities of the components, but isn't easily possible since this is intended as a more universal design.

 

 

Next is the Specifications and Features page, followed by testing!

Specifications:

 

Graphics Card Module

Max. Cooling Capacity
320 W
Fan
80 mm, 900-2000 RPM (Controlled by PWM)
Bearing Fluid Dynamic Bearing
Air Flow
13.1 CFM / 22.3 m³/h
Noise Level
0.3 Sone
Fan Current / Voltage
0.13 A / 12 V
Pump Current / Voltage 0.26 A / 12 V
Fan Power Consumption
1.56 W
Pump Power Consumption
3.12 W
Cold Plate Material
Copper
Dimensions 243 (L) x 112 (W) x 44.2 (H) mm
Net Weight
363 g

 

Heat Exchanger Module

Fan
120 mm, 400 - 1,350 RPM (Controlled by PWM)
Bearing Fluid Dynamic Bearing
Heat Exchanger Type
Aluminum 1.0"
Air Flow
74 CFM / 125.7 m³/h
Noise Level
0.3 Sone (F12 PWM Fan Only)
F12 PWM Fan Current / Voltage 0.22 A / 12 V
F12 PWM Fan Power Consumption
2.64 W
Tube Length
416 mm
Dimensions
150 (L) x 120 (W) x 52.8 (H) mm
Net Weight
503 g

 

Features:

 All information courtesy of ARCTIC COOLING at http://www.arctic.ac/en/p/cooling/vga/569/accelero-hybrid.html

Testing:

Temperature testing will be accomplished by loading the video card to 100% using Unigine's Heaven Benchmark Version 3.0, with MSI's Afterburner overclocking utility for temperature monitoring. I will be using a resolution of 1920x1080 using 8xAA and a five-run sequence to run the test, ensuring that the maximum thermal threshold is reached. The fan speed will be left in the control of the driver package and video card's BIOS for the stock load test, with the fan moved to 100% to see the best possible cooling scenario for the overclocked load test. The idle test will involve a 20-minute cool-down, with the fan speeds left on automatic in the stock speed testing and bumped up to 100% when running overclocked.

Settings

Overclocking:

 

 

 

 

 

Both idle and load temperatures definitely show a big difference. Another very important thing to remember is the noise factor – the Hybrid ran quietly the whole time whereas the stock cooler was plenty loud on automatic. Full speed on the stock cooler was similar to the noise of a vacuum cleaner! Thermal results are with both setups running 1220 MHz core and 1800 MHz memory. Voltage was set to maximum settings of 1.30 mV and 1.675 mV with power control at +20%. Stock clock results also include the stock cooler fan running at 100% to see its best possible performance. The Hybrid ran at full speed the whole time, as any noise it made was not discernible from the rest of the system. Confident with the cooling headroom of the Hybrid, I pushed the overclock to the edge of stability at a blistering 1250 MHz core, 1950 MHz memory! Memory voltage was increased to 1.7 mV. Pushing further resulted in artifacts. Temperatures did not show an increase between the tested and maximum overclocks.

Conclusion:

Aftermarket coolers are the way to go when looking to cut down on noise and heat, and push overclocks further. ARCTIC has designed a universal cooling kit that requires some assembly, but takes out the fear of water cooling for beginners. The kit is easy enough to get installed with care – anyone who has had a graphics card taken apart multiple times or likes gluing models together should do fine with assembly. Carefully read the instructions and wait to tighten the back-plate screws until you get all four in. To get the power cables to fit, I had to undo a washer to loosen the hoses. Once installed, however, everything worked properly. The fans operated very quietly and the lowered temperatures allowed for a safer experience, especially when overclocking!

The main con against this product is the suggested pricing! At $179.99, it costs more than double that of a Corsair H50 and is identical, save for the different tubing, base plate, mounting plate, and supporting components, such as the shroud and heat sinks. The added components do not add much justification to the sense of cost here. Full coverage blocks from EKWB or Danger Den, for example, both cost less and are smaller. Although, if a system lacked supporting components, it would cost more. For the price, it would be nice to see a smoother base too, as it is more important on a bare core than it would be on an IHS. Everything worked fine mechanically, although there were a few stumbling blocks during installation.

Pricing is paramount as to whether or not this product will succeed! Quiet, cool operation is nice, but a steep price will keep customers moving.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: