XFX Hard Swap Quick Change Fan Reviewccokeman -
Category: Video Cards, VGA Cooling
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XFX Hard Swap Quick Change Fan Introduction:
Having a fan fail on your video card is one of the times where you realize your pride and joy may have just taken a terminal hit if you did not catch the failure in time. The telltale artifacting and video card crashes are clues that you either need to clean out the cooler or that a fan may be on the way out the door for a long walk on a short street. On a reference style cooler there are not, and have not been, a lot of options to keep the card cool and running properly. Cards with non-reference cooling solutions often are in the same boat with fans that are hard to find, if you can find something at all. If your card is in the warranty period, shipping it back and waiting on the shipping both ways is always a pain, but a way to handle the failure for minimal cost.
If you are out of the warranty period, your low cost options are reduced significantly. A plethora of AIO style coolers are available for popular makes and models, but require the end user to take the card apart. Not the best option for some out there, to be perfectly honest.
Now, fan manufacturers have stepped up and added dust intrusion protection to a lot of the fans used in GPU applications, but you still can see failures that come at the most inopportune time. Several video card AIB partners started shipping cards with replaceable fans this year, including XFX. It's a great option should the fan fail or you decide to work inside your case while the fan is running and a blade departs from the fan hub. Sapphire started delivering cards with replaceable fans as well, but were met with some challenges when the replacement process was put to the test. I'm sure that problem has been fixed, but XFX comes out of the gate with kits available and ready to go for its line up, including the RX 480 8GB GTR and RS series cards. These are not free replacements, but new LED fan kits that are available in multiple colors to suit the needs of your build.
Let's take a look at this unique set up and see if these fan kits are indeed as simple as plug and play.
XFX Hard Swap Quick Change Fan Closer Look:
The XFX Hard Swap fan kits are available from the usual retailers for roughly $20 and include a pair of Hard Swap fans to replace the standard black fans on XFX's GTR and RS series video cards. I will be looking at the XFX RX 480 8GB GTX in the near future and will be using this card as my test platform for these fans. XFX ships these kits in three colors (red, white, and blue) to fit the majority of the color matching needs for system builds. Each pair of Hard Swap fans come in a well put together package. The front illustration shows the fan above the opening in the shroud. Across the top is the XFX logo and across the bottom is information regarding the color of the fans inside the package. The back side features detailed instructions on how to remove the original fans and install the new Hard Swap LED fans. Inside the package you get the bare bones treatment, as you get the Hard Swap LED fans in a plastic shell. Truthfully, you really do not need anything else with the detailed instructions on the back panel of the package.
To change the Hard Swap LED fans out or clean out the heat sink on your existing Hard Swap fan-equipped GTR or RS series XFX card, you first have to purchase the fans in the color of your choice and then remove the existing fans by pushing in on the two security tabs that retain them. There is one on each side of the fan assembly. Putting the new fan in is a simple matter of indexing the quick connections and the retaining clips, and then dropping the fan into place. No tools required to install or remove the Hard Swap fans. It's really just that easy. Underneath the shroud and attached to the aluminum fin array is a small PCB that connects to the video card PCB by a short cable. What you have are the contacts used to provide power and to manage the Zero dB technology used by XFX to manage fan speed and noise.
Available in red, white, and blue, the Hard Swap fans are 90mm in size and use bright LEDs to really add an additional visual to the RS or GTR cards this technology is used on. XFX uses a load sensing algorithm to fire up the rotation on the Hard Swap fans so that you can run cool and quiet at zero RPM when you do not need the airflow from the fans, and ramp up when the GPU goes into a 3D load scenario. The fan blades are an opaque white that diffuses the LED lighting so that you do not see just a static glow, but the glowing from the LEDs covering the whole of the fan. As a quick swap technology, whether used for cleaning or swapping the fans for these new LED fans, it's tough to beat this option.
XFX put a quick video together that gives a little primer on XFX Hard Swap techonology. Take a look!
XFX Hard Swap Quick Change Fan Conclusion:
After having a chance to play with these fans, I found that they are both silent and effective at cooling the XFX RX 480 8GB GTR video card. Using load sensing technology, the Hard Swap fans sit at a dead stop until a 3D load is applied. Even then, they are still quiet while keeping the card cool. Taking the fans out and reinstalling them either hot or when the system was shut down did not seem to change the operation of the card in any way.
As a technology used to improve its brand, I think XFX hit the nail on the head with this one. Even if you want to stick with the basic black fans in the GTR or RS series cards from the factory, the technology is still pretty cool. Cleaning out the dust bunnies is much easier since you can dig out those stubborn ones hiding in the crevices without the risk of tearing up a fan blade. If you choose to go for a set of colored LED fans, XFX has you covered as long as you want red, white, or blue for your system build. The one improvement I would suggest is to sell the Hard Swap fans with RGB LEDs controlled with a lightweight application, much like several other manufacturers do at this time. This way you can really color match your card to your system.
At $19.99, the Hard Swap fans are moderately priced and offer that next layer of color for your system.
- Zero dB Techology
- Bright LEDs
- Ease of installation
- Hot swappable
- Moderately priced
- Good looking
- Gimme some RGB!