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Cooling Efficiency on MSI Radeon HD 3870 512MB

First of all I would like to make a short introduction. We initially intended to test these cooling solutions not only on Radeon HD 3870 and GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB, but also on the hottest contemporary graphics accelerator – Radeon HD 2900 XT. And we have even got our hands on the corresponding solution from PowerColor. However, these tests never took place. AeroCool Double Power and Thermaltake DuOrb coolers failed to cool this graphics chip even at its nominal speed. GPU temperature got past 110ºC very quickly and then the notorious VPU Recover kicked in. Zalman VF1000 LED fought bravely until the end, but even at the maximum rotation speed of its fan the chip temperature remained at 98ºC, the system temperature around it was at 82ºC and the voltage regulator temperature hit 116ºC! However, the reference Radeon HD 2900 XT cooling solution managed to ensure much better results of 92ºC, 79ºC and 96ºC respectively, although it did howl vigorously.

Unfortunately, Arctic Cooling Accelero S1 with Turbo Module also didn’t prove up to our expectations here. To install it properly onto Radeon HD 2900 XT you will either have to remove the protective metal frame around the GPU (it stands out above the GPU heat-spreader a little bit) or file down part of the cooler base. Otherwise Accelero S1 has tight contact only with 1/3 of the chip surface and hence doesn’t provide proper cooling. So, we could only test our cooling solutions on Radeon HD 3870 and GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB. On the other hand, we doubt that the failed Radeon HD 2900 XT tests were of much practical value anyway, because these graphics cards are no longer manufactured.

MSI Radeon HD 3870 512MB graphics card (RX3870-T2D512E) features reference PCB design and is equipped with a standard cooling solution:

We immediately replaced the GPU thermal interface with Arctic Sliver 5. The card overclocked to 851/2412MHz with its default cooler.

The results chart below shows two groups of cooling solutions: with low level of generated noise and at the maximum rotation speeds of their fans. Here are the results:

The first thing I would like to point out is that all four alternative coolers for Radeon HD 3870 proved more efficient than the reference system. The latter manages to win a few degrees only at its maximum fan rotation speed, which will only be acceptable for some industrial environment because of extremely high level of generated noise. Speaking of other testing participants, I have to say that even the weakest cooler, AeroCool Double Power will cope well with an overclocked Radeon HD 3870, even in its quiet mode.

The best one in this mode is indisputably the Arctic Cooling Accelero S1 with Turbo Module. However, two other coolers, Thermaltake DuOrb and Zalman VF1000 LED could only cool the overclocked graphics processor by 3ºC and 2ºC better at their maximum fan rotation speeds having sacrificed the comfortable noise level. Thermaltake DuOrb fans have only one work mode at all, while the rotation speed of Zalman VF1000 LED fan can be reduced. In this case, however, it starts losing 4ºC on the GPU and 5ºC on the graphics card overall to Accelero S1. By the way, in terms of graphics card temperature Arctic Cooling Accelero S1 with Turbo Module proves the best cooling solution fro Radeon HD 3870 512MB.

Small temperature difference in 3D mode and in idle mode can be explained very easily. The thing is that if the graphics card is overclocked with RivaTuner v2.0.6 and its BIOS is not adjusted accordingly, the GPU frequency doesn’t drop down automatically (to 297MHz) in 2D mode as it happens at nominal speeds that is why the GPU temperature doesn’t get any lower. If you reflash corrected BIOS with the increased frequencies only for 3D mode the chip clock speed will drop. During our tests on MSI Radeon HD 3870 512MB we didn’t do it for certain reasons.

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