Thermal and Acoustic Performance
Since there are only two cooling systems in this test session, the temperature data for both the GPU and the graphics card’s PCB fit into one diagram:
For a fuller picture, the next diagram shows the amount of noise produced by each cooler:
Working in the quiet mode the Thermalright HR-03 Plus cools the GPU better than the reference cooler of the GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB card by 8°C under peak load and by 6°C in 2D applications. The new cooler is also quieter than the graphics card’s native blower at that. The latter is worse than the HR-03 Plus even at the max speed, although the gap is smaller at 3°C. As the manufacturer notes, increasing the speed of the 92mm fan of the HR-03 Plus improves its performance by only 2°C. Unfortunately, the replacement of the graphics card’s cooler with the one from Thermalright and the ensuing reduction of the temperatures did not affect the card’s overclockability.
It’s not so clear with the PCB temperature. The HR-03 Plus has an advantage over the reference cooler, but it’s not as obvious as with the GPU temperature. I suppose that the temperature of the PCB may be lower if you install all the heatsinks on the memory chips and power circuit elements but I couldn’t check this out on the graphics card I was given for the test.
Next I wanted to see how the cooler’s performance would change if I installed it hanging from the reverse side of the PCB. Here is the GeForce 8800 GTS with the cooler installed like that:
Note that the whole arrangement becomes more compact when the cooler is installed on the reverse side of the PCB, but I should note that the first PCI Express slot is placed rather far from the CPU socket on my ASUS P5K Deluxe mainboard and doesn’t interfere with even large super-coolers. On mainboards where the PCI Express slot is closer to the CPU socket you may find you cannot install the HR-03 Plus this way (for example, on ASUS’ popular P5B mainboard series). This also depends on the CPU cooler you use, though.
As for the cheapest heatsink/cooler, I can tell you there was a 15mm gap between the standard copper heatsink of the P5K Deluxe mainboard and the bottom of the HR-03 Plus. You can only find yourself unable to install the Thermalright cooler on the reverse side of your GeForce 8800 GTS/GTX if you’ve got an alternative cooling solution on the North Bridge of your mainboard. Besides that, in my case the tall heatsinks on the Corsair Dominator TWIN2X2048-9136C5D memory didn’t prevent the cooler to be placed at the reverse side of the graphics card, but touched it. There won’t be even such contact with ordinary memory sticks, of course.