Graphics Card Coolers Investigated

Written by bit-tech Staff

May 19, 2010 | 08:19

Tags: #graphics-card-cooler #hsf #overheating #quiet-computing #stock-cooler

Companies: #akasa #alpenfohn #arctic-cooling #scythe #thermalright

Alpenfohn Heidi

Manufacturer: Alpenfohn
UK Price (as reviewed): £32.99 (inc. VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): N/A

The cutely named Heidi from German-based cooling company Alpenfohn is one of the few coolers that’s compatible with all three graphics cards on test. As such we pitted it against the high-end ATI graphics card, the HD 5870 - a note on the box states HD 5870 compatibility but the website says it’s only compatible with the 4800-series and Nvidia’s GTX 280.

Retailing at £32.99, the Heidi is about middle of the road price wise, but this doesn’t stop it being greedy when it comes to expansion slots; it takes up four slots once it’s installed onto your graphics card meaning most of your motherboard will be obscured.

Graphics Card Coolers Investigated Alpenfohn Heidi and Scythe Musashi
Click to enlarge

Despite having quite a few separate components and size, the Heidi is straightforward to install. Four threaded pins pass through the PCB and are secured from the other side by locking nuts which ensure an even mount. The single 120mm fan is powered by a 3-pin connector but can also be connected to the power header on the graphics card although we found temperatures were noticeably higher doing this. Heatsinks for the RAM are provided, but the VRMs rely on residual air from the 120mm fan.

The Heidi proved to be an excellent cooler for the HD 5870, recording a load delta T of 49ºC - 16ºC below that of the stock cooler. Although Crysis ran okay with the Heidi mounted onto a GTX 280, Furmark proved too much, causing the system to crash after a few minutes. The Heidi is a good choice for HD 5870 owners and we’d certainly recommend it over any of Arctic Cooling’s offerings. The biggest problem, pun intended, is that it takes up so many expansion slots.

For Radeon HD 5870
  • Overall
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • -
  • -
  • -
  • 7/10
For GeForce GTX 280
  • Overall
  • x
  • -
  • -
  • -
  • -
  • -
  • -
  • -
  • -
  • -
  • 1/10
Score Guide

Scythe Musashi

Manufacturer: Scythe
UK Price (as reviewed): £37.80 (inc. VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): $37.43(ex. Tax)

At first glance the Musashi appears to be a little insubstantial to cope with the power output of a high-end graphics card. However the fins in the heatsink are plentiful and there are four heatpipes to transfer heat away from the contact plate, despite it being the same height as the stock ATI cooler.

Two Scythe 100mm SY1012SL12VM fans powered by 3-pin fan connectors are included. These are similar to Sythe’s skinny Kaze Jyu Slim 100mm case fans which we found to lacking compared to the 92mm fans in previous testing. Still, there are two fans, and being 12mm thick means the cooler only takes up two expansion slots. The speed of each fan is individually controllable via a rheostat on an expansion slot blanking plate.

Graphics Card Coolers Investigated Alpenfohn Heidi and Scythe Musashi
Click to enlarge

As it isn’t compatible with the GTX 280, we’ve tested it on the HD 5870. Installation was a bit of a challenge, as there are no instructions for this graphics card. However, it’s fairly obvious where to place the various heatsinks for the RAM and VRMs, both of which are cooled by the fans above the PCB. Mounting the heatsink to the PCB wasn’t as bad as the Arctic Cooling coolers. A backplate is included to reduce PCB warp and the nuts that secure pins that pass through the PCB lock at a certain point ensuring an even mount.

The fans are relatively quiet at full speed, managing a delta T of 46ºC at load - 19ºC below the stock cooler in Furmark although this was a fair way behind the likes of the Thermalright Trad 2 and Arctic Cooling Twin Turbo Pro. With the fans on low speed the load delta T rose to 59ºC - 6ºC below the stock cooler but the Musashi was inaudible even with the side panel off.

The Musashi offers much better cooling than the stock HD 5870 cooler, is quieter (just) at full speed and is definitely worth considering, especially as it occupies no more space than the stock cooler.

For Radeon HD 5870
  • Overall
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • -
  • -
  • -
  • 7/10
Score Guide
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