Water and Air for a Graphics Card: ARCTIC Accelero Hybrid Cooling System Review

Today we will talk about a very interesting cooling system for Hi-End graphics accelerators that combines the concepts of liquid and air cooling in one.

by Sergey Lepilov
01/02/2013 | 05:08 AM

The Arctic Accelero Hybrid is a combination of liquid and air cooling solutions based on the well-known Asetek platform. The engineers from the Swiss firm Arctic didn’t implement anything innovative in it. They just enhanced the cooler with components they had at hand. The most interesting fact is that the Accelero Hybrid is designed for top-performance graphics cards rather than for CPUs. We’re going to check out the highs and lows of the new cooling system and test its performance in practical applications.

Technical Specifications and Recommended Pricing

 

 

Packaging and Accessories

The Arctic Accelero Hybrid is shipped in a large cardboard box with a picture of the product on the front side.

There’s detailed information about the cooler on the sides of the box. You can even learn about the four ways of installing it in a computer case.

 

Inside the box there is a figured piece of cardboard with compartments for the cooler and accessories, topped with a plastic cap.

Here we can see three types of aluminum radiators, a syringe with high-efficiency Arctic MX-4 thermal grease, and the GPU part of the cooler.

The accessories include everything necessary to assemble and install the cooler on a graphics card and into a computer case. An installation guide is present as well.

Thermal glue and thermal pads can also be found among the Accelero Hybrid components.

Developed in Switzerland, the cooling system is manufactured in China and costs $179.9. It comes with a 2-year warranty.

Design and Functionality

It takes one glance over the Accelero Hybrid to realize that it’s the well-known Asetek 570LC platform with low-profile radiator we studied a year ago in our Antec KÜHLER H2O 620 review.

It is extremely simple in design, consisting of a pump with copper water block, two flexible pipes (416 mm long) and an aluminum radiator:

There’s nothing extraordinary about the radiator. It measures 150x150x27 mm and its weight is a mere 330 grams.

The 11 flat pipes with a ribbon of corrugated aluminum in between ensure the transfer of heat. The propylene glycol based coolant moves along the pipes from the pump water-block to the radiator and back again.

The compact pump with water-block is only 28 mm in height. Its job is to pump the coolant from the GPU to the radiator. Its performance is not specified but we would hardly be impressed if we knew it.

 

The water-block has a flat base with a rather mediocre finish. The pump’s ceramic bearing is supposed to last for 50,000 hours of continuous operation.

Part of the Arctic Accelero Hybrid, the plastic casing with 80mm fan is installed directly on the face side of the graphics card to cool its power system components and memory chips.

The casing is simple in design, too. Its 80mm fan is PWM-regulated in a range of 900 to 2000 RPM.

A 120mm fan Arctic F12 PWM is installed on the radiator. The fan has a black frame and a white 9-blade impeller.

 

By the way, it is also used in the CPU cooler Arctic Freezer i30 we’ve tested recently. Its speed range is 400 to 1350 RPM. The peak air flow is specified to be 74 CFM while the noise level is not higher than 0.3 sones. The fan’s electrical properties are indicated on the sticker:

They are perfectly ordinary: 12 volts, 0.22 amperes and 2.64 watts. The service life of the fluid dynamic bearing is not specified.

Compatibility and Installation

The long list of graphics cards compatible with the Arctic Accelero Hybrid can be viewed above. Besides that, you can check out the dimensions of the GPU water-block and plastic casing. There are two detailed design drawings at the Arctic website that show the position of the water-block’s mounting holes and other such parameters.

 

Hopefully, this information is sufficient to make sure that a particular graphics card is compatible with the Arctic Accelero Hybrid.

The installation procedure is simple and intuitive. You can refer to the user manual for step-by-step instructions. We’ll give you a brief summary, using an ASUS GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II TOP.

First of all, you take off the graphics card’s default cooler and scrape the remains of the thermal grease off the GPU.

Prior to installing the water-block, you must mount the included aluminum heatsinks onto the graphics card’s power components and memory chips, fastening them with thermal glue. In our particular case, the graphics card already comes with a decent heatsink on the power components. As for the memory chips, we just left them as they were. So, we proceeded straight to placing the water-block in the plastic casing with fan:

The water-block can be installed in one position only as defined by the shape of the casing. The pipes are fixed with two large-head screws. The pump gets covered by the casing, which should reduce its noise.

Next you install the casing with water-block on your graphics card and secure it with screws using a back-plate with insulating pads. The procedure is simple but requires some skill.

The cooler holds tight. You should take care not to fasten it too much lest you should crack the GPU die. In our case, the thermal grease imprint was perfect:

Finally, you plug the graphics card into your mainboard and place the radiator in one of the four possible positions suggested by Arctic:

There are in fact two positions but they differ in the direction of air flows. Only one position was possible with our Antec Twelve Hundred system case: with the radiator and fan on the back panel of the chassis, exhausting the hot air. Unfortunately, the pipes of the liquid cooling system turned out to be too short, by about 2.5 or 3 centimeters, to let us do that. That’s why we had to just take off the side panel of our computer case and put the radiator with fan next to it on a piece of foam rubber.

Yes, that’s not optimal in terms of testing and using the Accelero Hybrid, but that’s the best we could do with our computer case and PC configuration. Hopefully, people at Arctic will notice this problem and equip the next revision of their cooler with longer pipes.

That’s all about the installation process. We only have to connect the power and monitoring cables and proceed to our tests.

Testbed and Methods

The tests were performed inside a system case with the removed side panel. Our testbed was configured as follows:

Asus graphics card was overclocked to 1212/1277/7008 MHz frequencies without increasing the graphics processor voltage:

Its resulting settings look as follows:

The testing programs were installed under Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1. We used DirectX End-User Runtimes libraries (from November 2010), as well as Nvidia GeForce GTX graphics card drivers version 310.33. We warmed up the card with five runs of Aliens vs. Predator game in 2560x1440 resolution and with maximum image quality settings, 16x anisotropic filtering and 4x antialiasing:

With the settings we used this test loads even a powerful graphics accelerator very heavily, but can’t damage it, which could be the case with FurMark (that is why we decided not to use this benchmark fully in our test session).

We used MSI Afterburner utility version 2.2.5 Beta 1 to monitor graphics card temperatures and frequencies and GPU-Z version 0.6.6 utility:

The tests were run at least twice for each fan speed mode. The temperature stabilization period between the two test cycles was about 10-12 minutes. The ambient temperature was checked next to the system case with an electronic thermometer with 0.1°C precision that allows monitoring the temperature changes over the past 6 hours. During our test session room temperature stayed around 24.5°C. The rotation speed of all fans of the tested cooling systems was adjusted using our special controller by changing the voltage settings.

The noise level of each cooler was measured between 1:00 and 3:00 AM in a closed room about 20 m2 big using CENTER-321 electronic noise meter. The noise level for each cooler was tested outside the system case when the only noise sources in the lab were the cooler and its fan. The noise meter was installed on a tripod and was always at a 150 mm distance from the cooler fan rotor. The tested cooling systems were placed at the edge of the desk on a sheet of polyurethane foam. The lowest noise reading our noise meter device can register is 29.8 dBA and the subjectively comfortable noise level in these testing conditions was around 36 dBA (do not mistake it for the low noise level). The fan(s) rotation speed was adjusted in the entire supported range using our in-house controller by changing the voltage with 0.5 V increment.

Performance

Arctic claims that the Accelero Hybrid is twice as efficient as the reference GeForce GTX 680 cooler and nine times quieter. But does it mean anything to us? A liquid cooling system combined with air cooling must be far superior to any reference cooler, anyway! It is much more interesting to compare it against the best serially manufactured top-end GPU cooler, which is of course ASUS’s DirectCU II. No other solution has been able to outperform the DirectCU II in efficiency and noise level during our numerous GeForce GTX 680 tests. That’s why we’ll use that cooler to evaluate the performance of the Arctic Accelero Hybrid.

The following diagram shows you the results:

The Arctic Accelero Hybrid is just outstanding. At the maximum speed of the radiator’s 120mm fan (1350 RPM), the peak temperature of the GK104 chip overclocked to 1212/1277 MHz was only 45°C. That’s 15°C better than the performance of the DirectCU II at the maximum speed of its two fans (3390 RPM). We can also note that in the automatic regulation mode of the 120 mm fan (440 to 820 RPM according to our monitoring tools), the GPU is no hotter than 60°C, which is still better than the best the DirectCU II can do!

The Accelero Hybrid uses an 80mm fan and a plastic casing to cool the card’s power components. It doesn’t enjoy an overwhelming advantage over the DirectCU II in this respect, yet the VRM components of the overclocked ASUS card have a satisfactory temperature with it even when the cooler’s 80mm fan is regulated automatically. 80°C for an overclocked GeForce GTX 680’s VRM is quite a success.

So, the Accelero Hybrid is okay in terms of performance. Let’s see how noisy it is.

Covered by the plastic casing, the pump (the green dot in the diagram) is very quiet, producing no more than 33 dBA under our conditions. The 120mm fan remains quiet until 950 RPM. In other words, it is inaudible in the automatic regulation mode and remains comfortable enough up to 1110 RPM. The 80mm fan is good, too. It is comfortable even at its maximum speed. Our subjective impressions agree with the numbers. The Accelero Hybrid is just perfect in terms of noisiness.

Conclusion

As you may know from our reviews, Arctic produces rather ordinary CPU coolers and excellent GPU coolers. The new Accelero Hybrid solution follows this rule, delivering outstanding performance at an extremely low level of noise on a well-overclocked GeForce GTX 680. It completely outperformed the best proprietary ASUS DirectCU II VGA cooler. The Accelero Hybrid is compatible with many graphics card models. It is easy to assemble, install and use. Its radiator with a fan can be placed in different spots inside the PC chassis and it is bundled with highly efficient thermal grease.

The biggest downside we can see is the high price. The retail price of the Antec KÜHLER H2O 620, which is the basis of the Accelero Hybrid, is only $57. We don’t think that the additional two fans, accessories and GPU fasteners justify the tripling of that number. Even though no other brand offers anything like that, the Arctic Accelero Hybrid seems to be overpriced. One more downside we noticed with our computer case was that the tubes were too short for the radiator to be installed inside the chassis. Otherwise, ARCTIC Accelero Hybrid is an excellent high-performance and quiet cooler, which deserves our undivided recommendation and Ultimate Innovation title.