Prolimatech MK-26 Review
Reviewed by: RHKCommander959
Reviewed on: February 4, 2013
Prolimatech MK-26 Introduction:
Most graphics cards that come out now are designed to cool the card enough to keep the temperatures safe but not run optimally, while the blower or fans make tons of noise. It costs more to make larger coolers with quieter/higher flowing fans. Some higher-end cards come with improved solutions but the price reflects the change – they cost more and some still leave room for improvement.
For aftermarket graphics card cooling there are two real options. Air cooling systems are isolated to the card itself and increase the weight while watercooling kits have tubes and radiators ran elsewhere and weigh less on the card itself. Both are very viable options for cooling off the latest cards that have stock cooling with room for improvement. It is important to make sure if swapping cooling solutions whether or not the warranty would be voided, and decide if it is a risk you are willing to take on. Up for review this time is the Prolimatech MK-26 cooler. The MK-26 uses a large heat sink with six heat pipes for air cooling on the GPU core and smaller heat sinks to cool the other components. The cooler doesn't come with fans so Prolimatech also provided two Ultra Sleek Vortex 14 fans that are only 15mm thick will double ball bearings, 60,000-100,000 mean time between failures dependent on temperature, and push air up to 98 CFM / 0.9mm H2O at up to 18 dBA on a 17-blade impeller! These are great statistics that should allow the cooler to run very quietly.
The design is similar to the MK-13 while weighing slightly more, likely due to the more complicated plumbing of the heat pipes and increased size. The MK-26 has grown to 257x146x47mm over its predecessor the MK-13, which measures out at 205x100x43.5mm approximately.
Prolimatech MK-26 Closer Look:
The top of the box has the heat sink shown in white in an isometric view. The primary colors are the same as the company logo – white, blue, and gray. The model MK-26 is at the top right while the Prolimatech logo is at the bottom left. The bottom of the box lists some of the main features. The main points are: up to 320 watt TDP support, the six 6mm sintered copper heat pipes, lead-free Nickel solder, support for two 120/140mm fans, Omni-Mount Retention system for highly compatible tool-free installation, and Prolimatech PK-3 thermal paste is included. At the left is a picture of the Omni-Mount Retention System. The back of the box has the Prolimatech MK-26 logo and model at the top left.
The front of the box lists specifications of the cooler. The heat sink design type is called Dual Radiator, because of the two separately finned sections. The max TDP is rated up to 320 watts. The heat sink is intended to be a universal tool-tree mounting system Prolimatech calls Omni-Mount. The heat sink uses six 6mm sintered metal powder wick heat pipes that are Nickel-soldered to 0.5mm Nickle-plated Aluminum heat fins. Recommended fan setup is two 120mm or 140mm fans for cooling the heat sink with at least 87 CFM. The back side lists compatibilities ranging from AMD 7-series down to 3-series, and NVIDIA 600-series back to the 7-series. The first end of the box matches the top styling with the Prolimatech logo and MK-26 model. The other end has the bar code and says Made in China. In eight languages it suggests visiting their website for more information.
Upon opening the box, the first thing to be found is the instruction manual. For better installation details it is best to go to the Prolimatech website and find the MK-26; there is a tab there called Installation that shows in better detail how to get it installed. Immediately under the foam padding is the heat sink, protected from dirt by a plastic bag. Underneath that are the rest of the accessories needed for installation. Included are heat sinks, Prolimatech PK-3 thermal paste, mounting parts, and other instructions including a parts list and smaller instructions for heat pad and smaller heat sink installation.
Continue on to the next page to see the cooler in detail!
Prolimatech MK-26 Closer Look:
The Prolimatech MK-26 cooler uses a heat sink with six 6mm sintered heat pipes that are Nickel-soldered to 0.5mm aluminum fins that are also Nickel plated. The base is machine lapped and the grooves show, so the base flatness is pretty good while the texture is rough. The base has four screw holes to attach mounting brackets, and a plate is included to use the heat sink on AMD 7900-cards. Three bumps on the plate fit into three divots in the base plate. Thickness without fans added is roughly 44.5mm; the stock cooler was roughly 35mm tall. Prolimatech included two Ultra Sleek Vortex 14 fans and clips to install them onto the MK-26. These fans are 140mm in size with mounting holes set at 120mm spacing. The fans are 15mm thick, so with the heat sink it's nearly 60mm! The end of the heat sink has the Prolimatech logo and MK-26 model painted on in black and blue. The fin design allows fans to be mounted above or below the heat sink, if there is room, such as on a shorter card. This heat sink is massive in size, not much shorter than the dual 140mm fans!
The fans Prolimatech sent with the MK-26 are new Ultra Sleek Vortex 14s. The fans have double ball bearings, which have some of the best lifespan around, but these bearings are slightly louder than sleeve bearings. Well worth the life span increase though. The fan operates at roughly 500~1000 RPM while still pushing an impressive 98 CFM with static pressure up to 0.9 mmH2O. The sound ranges from 9~18 dBA, which using a sound chart is roughly equivalent to the noise of regular breathing up to the rustling of leaves. 10 dBA is around the threshold of hearing meaning that it's borderline silent.
The adapter plate has a rough base that has very obvious machining marks. It wouldn't take long to lap this smooth but would remove the Nickel plating. The backside is rough as well, but not showing machining marks like the other side. Three dimples help align and hold the base in place on the heat sink. Make sure to use the right mounting bracket, and apply a good amount of thermal paste between the AMD-plate and the base plate; it is a good idea to spread it out but it won't hurt anything (except maybe a small amount of performance using piles of thermal paste instead of spreading). Having an extra layer to transfer heat through usually affects heat but we will see how it does in testing. After preparing the heat sink it is good to do a mock up of which smaller heat sinks you will need as well as seeing how they fit and so forth. Then just peel the sticky backings off and apply a decent amount of pressure to get them to hold. After that it is a good idea to turn it upside down and see if anything falls off. That could be catastrophic if something fell off while it was running.
After everything else is assembled it is time to spread thermal paste evenly across the core; uneven applications can leave hot spots or worse for the core! Have the heat sink laying down and put the PCB down on top of it to make things simpler. Two different gaskets can be chosen from to make installation easier. Four white washers come with the AMD thumbscrews and placing them below the back plate keeps it more stable. Then just tighten the screws on either by hand or screw driver.
The Prolimatech MK-26 is huge; it makes the 7970 look small, which is absurd and far from being a small feat either. The two fans use the specific clips to mount to the heat fins and increases the size by far. It is almost able to reach the side panel in the Corsair case! There is plenty of clearance for the memory heat sinks underneath the main heat sink. Installation and cable management are harder now due to the increased size.
Prolimatech provided two separate packs of Magnetic Pins that use sound dampening fan connectors attached to magnets to mount fans easily wherever a magnetic surface is available. These handy devices weren't needed for this review!
Check out the Specifications and Features page!
Prolimatech MK-26 Specifications:
MK-26 VGA Cooler
|0 - 320 Watt|
||Omni-mount universal tool-free kit|
|6 x 0.5mm Nickel plated Aluminum|
|Ø 6mm, type; sintered metal powder wick.|
|Fin to pipe contact||Nickel solder|
Fan compatible & recommended specifications
|2 x 140mm fans or 2 x 120mm fans|
Recommended fans specifications
|140mm / 1000rpm / 87 CFM . 120mm / 1200rpm / 87 CFM|
|Dimensions||257.1 (L) x 146 (W) x 47.1 (H) mm|
Ultra Sleek Vortex 14 Fans
|140x140x15mm with 120mm mounting holes|
|Bearing||Double Ball Bearing|
|Air Flow||98 CFM|
||100,000 h/35°C or 60,000 h/60°C|
Prolimatech MK-26 Features:
- Best in its class 320 watts TDP.
- Industrial leading design and style.
- Six 6mm nickel plated sintered metal copper pipes.
- Nickel plated aluminum dual radiators.
- All lead-free nickel solder.
- Support for two 140mm or two 120mm fans.
- Omni-mount bracket mounting system for easy tool-free installation.
- Excellent performance PK-3 thermal compound included.
- Y-split 4-pin connector for powering two fans with the VGA board.
All information courtesy of Prolimatech at http://www.prolimatech.com/en/products/detail.asp?id=1672
Prolimatech MK-26 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.
- Processor: Core i7 2600K @ 4.4 GHz (100 MHz x 44)
- CPU Cooling: Corsair H100
- Motherboard: GIGABYTE Z68AP-D3
- Memory: Mushkin 991996 Redline PC3-17000 9-11-10-28 16 GB
- Video Card: XFX HD 7970 Black Edition Stock @ OC 1220 MHz core 1800 MHz memory
- PSU: Mushkin 800W Modular
- Hard Drives: Patriot WildFire 120 GB SSD
- Case: Corsair 600T
- Optical Drive: LG DVD-RW
- OS: Windows 7 Pro 64-Bit SP1
- Monitoring with MSI Afterburner
- Unigine Heaven 3.0 1920x1080 8x AA
- 5-run sequence
- 20-minute idle duration
- Temperature measured in degrees Celsius
Idle performance is substantially improved over the ARCTIC Hybrid and stock cooler, quite surprisingly to be honest after seeing a two part base with such a rough finish. The Hybrid cooler and MK-26 had a 14 °C difference between stock and overclocked loads with the fans running at 100%. I ran it this way because both aftermarket coolers were quiet; the speed increase made no real difference in noise as the system drowned it out and the stock cooler really needed it to maintain acceptable temperatures. Left on automatic control, the MK-26 ran at 63 °C stock load. Stock scores are not as important as overclocked because that is where things really get pushed; at both stock and overclocked load the MK-26 came in two degrees higher than the Hybrid cooler! Even at full speed the Vortex 14 fans were inaudible compared to the rest of the system.
For the temperatures and the night and day difference between stock and the MK-26 it is a no brainer— if you need lower temperatures and quiet operation this is it! Reliability is in favor of the MK-26 as the fans have extremely high lifespans and there isn't a pump like on the Hybrid—even if the fans fail the heat sink will passively cool the core. If the pump or radiator fan fails on the Hybrid things will get hot quickly!
Prolimatech MK-26 Conclusion:
The Prolimatech MK-26 is a humongous cooler design that also provides huge temperature decreases while operating silently when paired with the right fans. The instructions weren't always clear but covered the main issues so if you are good at putting things together then this won't be a problem. If you are a novice though, you might want to find a friend to help or have a second means of getting help. Installing the heat sinks for the memory and VRM is pretty typical (peel and stick), and only four spring-retention screws hold the heat sink to the card. Despite the massive size, this cooler is completely independent to the system with the graphics card: no cables being ran to auxiliary power or coolant lines or anything else.
Installation was pretty simple — 11 regular memory heat sinks and one short one at the bottom, one VRM heat sink, and six thermal dissipation pads although the stock cooler only showed two spots needing them. Apply paste to the GPU core and between the base and adapter plate, sandwich them all together, and use the washers and foam with the back plate and silver thumbscrews to mount the heat sink. Then hook the fans up if they haven't been already and installation is done!
The size could be considered a con; many cases may have trouble fitting the MK-26 due to its width and/or length. But if it fits it will provide high-end cooling! The instructions had some grammatical problems but covered most everything, although there were some vague spots. More detail may have been nice; someone seasoned with cooler installation should easily be able to handle this but to a novice they are already stressed out with the attempt of installation. Not a big deal just worth noting. Installation was quite a bit easier than the AC Arctic Hybrid I reviewed a while back, costs less, and performance is really up there! Otherwise there really wasn't any cons; the rough machining marks didn't stop the cooler from putting up great numbers, the size is just the nature of the beast, and the manuals were adequate but had room for improvement.
Silent operation, high performance cooling, and a self contained cooling system with high quality fans should last a very long time IF you can fit it in your system!
- Fits many cards from 3-series to 7-series AMD, 7-series up to 600-series NVIDIA
- Good clearance over the PCB components
- Fans can be powered and controlled by the graphics card or fan controllers/motherboard
- Packaged decently
- Simple installation
- Silent Operation