ATI's new X800 and NVIDIA's 6800 video cards are fast, powerful, power hungry -- and can get very, very hot, as well as very loud. Although the cooling solutions included with these cards can be considered adequate, it sometimes takes just a little extra to get the best performance possible. Today, we take a look at Arctic Cooling's ATI and NV silencers, which promise better performance from your already top-of-the-line card. Do they deliver on that promise, or are they just blowing a lot of hot air?
As chip manufacturers ramp up clock speeds, the excess heat that is increasingly generated is not only a useless byproduct, but can cause damage if not taken care of properly. Intel's latest Prescott processors are a great example of this. As the Pentium 4 now reaches the end of its lifeline, increases in speed come at tremendous costs in terms of heat. Regardless of optimizations (90nm process), heat is a bigger issue than it has ever been before. And while some makers are able to control power output while scaling their products faster better than others, everyone is affected with the issue of heat dissipation in a similar manner. Everyone. This includes ATI and NVIDIA.
Both ATI's latest AGP X800 and NVIDIA's 6800 series graphics accelerators use auxiliary power from a hard drive dongle (some even two). It's no surprise that these cards output a significant amount of heat. Luckily, reference coolers for both ATI and NVIDIA have progressed a long way. When ATI released the 9700 and 9800 series of video cards, the puny heatsinks left many people worried about their graphics cards burning up. Some people would even see with "artifacts" (random bits of information) and "snow" on their screen, right out of the box. NVIDIA fared no better. The FX5800's dust blower was an interesting sight and pretty harsh on the ears, although it did get the job done. With the 9800XT and FX5900, both companies stepped it up and provided solid cooling with less to complain about. Some manufactures, like MSI and HIS, put their own spin on things, and replaced reference coolers with signature coolers of their own. HIS (Hightech Information Systems) in fact uses re-badged Arctic Cooling VGA silencers on their line of IceQ video cards.
On top of all that, there are aftermarket VGA cooler manufacturers. Two that come to mind are Arctic Cooling and Zalman. Zalman's latest ZM80D-HP is a dual heatpipe cooler. With the optional fan, the ZM80D-HP is one of the best choices for VGA cooling. Plus, the way it is designed, it can be installed on any video card, ATI or NVIDIA, new or old.
Today, we will be talking about Arctic Cooling's latest line of VGA coolers, their ATI and NV Silencers. The VGA Silencer was perhaps Arctic Cooling's most successful product. ATI's stock cooling left many ATI owners uneasy and it was simple enough to slap on a $20 VGA Silencer and have great cooling, good looks, and a quiet video card. A major feature which made the VGA Silencer so popular was that it dumped hot air outside of the case rather than circulating it inside the case -- like virtually every other reference cooler does. Arctic Cooling is now looking to capitalize on the VGA Silencer's success with a new line of very specific Silencers for both ATI and NVIDIA, dubbed ATI & NV Silencers.
ATI and NV Silencers
The new ATI and NV Silencers come as nine different coolers that cover everything from the 9500 Pro to the X800 series on the ATI side, and everything from the GeForce 4 Titanium series to the 6800 series on the NVIDIA side. Each cooler features the same DHES (Direct Heat Exhaust System) design which means that hot air is pumped out of the case (like ABIT OTES), and also means that every cooler requires an empty PCI slot beneath the video card. Here is a listing of the available types:
You may be wondering as to why Arctic Cooling has decided to make so many different versions of the VGA Silencer. While the VGA Silencer fits almost all Radeons, it was not this way until revision three. Furthermore, it's pretty senseless to put a cooler capable of properly dissipating heat from an X800 on a 9600 Pro. Things like the onboard fan plug and memory placement on the PCB vary from card to card, and Arctic Cooling has done a tremendous job researching and accounting for every type of video card since the 9500 Pro and GeForce 4 Ti.
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