by Sergey Lepilov
03/12/2007 | 10:12 AM
Stock coolers of some graphics cards from ATI and Nvidia have been criticized on our site for being too noisy. I think that a graphics card cooler must be very quiet, besides just being good at cooling. Such factors as price, compatibility, ease of installation and others become unimportant when a high-performance cooler proves to be too loud.
Cooler Master seems to agree with me on that point as it has recently released a new graphics card cooler, CoolViva Pro (RV-UCH-P7U1-GP), with a declared noise of only 20dBA. And the low noise level is not the only strong point of the CoolViva Pro. This cooler is said to be able to cool effectively not only the GPU but also the PCB elements surrounding it. The manufacturer declares compatibility with all modern graphics cards and ships the product at a recommended price of $35.
The cooler comes in an average-sized transparent plastic box:
So, you can examine the face side of the cooler even before purchasing it. There is a paper insert between the two halves of the box with information about the cooler’s declared noise (20dBA) and compatibility with ATI and Nvidia graphics cards, and with icons that show the key features of the new cooler.
The back side of the insert is more informative:
The cooler’s key features are complemented with a picture of its bottom, a list of graphics cards you can install your CoolViva Pro on, a detailed specification, and other, less useful, information.
The following accessories lie inside the plastic tray under the cooler:
This is what the Cooler Master CoolViva Pro looks like:
It is a rather large cooler at 178.5 x 130 x 41mm (length x height x depth). The translucent plastic casing covers an aluminum heatsink and directs airflow from a small blower (74mm in diameter). There are stickers with the cooler’s name and the manufacturer logo on the casing and on the blower, respectively.
Here is the reverse side of the CoolViva Pro:
The cooler’s heatsink turns out to be not as large as you might guess from the dimensions of the whole system. This aluminum heatsink has a copper sole with three copper heat pipes (flattened out a little) that distribute the heat flow in the heatsink ribbing.
The heatsink is 145 x 112 x 38mm large:
The ribs are soldered to the bottom aluminum plate and to the pipes. The ends of the ribs meet in two points at the top, probably to make the heatsink more rigid.
The copper base of the heatsink is protected with a piece of polyethylene film. Don’t forget to remove it before installing the cooler. The finish quality and the flatness of the base (verified by the trace of thermal grease on the GPU) are perfect:
The area of the 25x25mm base totals 625 sq. mm, so I doubt the CoolViva Pro should be installed on GeForce 8800 series cards and, perhaps, on R600-based ones because they have GPUs with large heat-spreaders. On the other hand, Nvidia’s GeForce 8800 GTS and GTX are on the list of graphics cards supported by the CoolViva Pro.
The new cooler’s heatsink is cooled by a blower that is located in the top part of the plastic casing.
The blower is manufactured by Delta Electronics (it is the BFB1012L model). Its speed can be varied from 700 to 1800rpm at a max noise of 20dBA. The blower can be powered via two types of connectors, a 3-pin and a 4-pin one, and an adapter (if necessary):
So, if none of the two suggested connection types suits your graphics card, you can use the included adapter for a Molex plug and connect the blower to your power supply directly.
It takes a few minutes to install the cooler on a graphics card. First, remove the protective film from the aluminum heatsinks and glue them onto the memory chips.
Then identify a pair or two pairs of mounting holes basing on your graphics card model and on the picture in the installation guide:
You may need to replace the fastening clips attached to the bottom, which is going to take you a couple of minutes.
Then insert the included studs into the appropriate holes:
Then you just need to glue the soft frame onto the GPU, remove the protective film from the cooler’s base, apply some thermal grease, and mount the CoolViva Pro on the graphics card. The cooler is secured with spring-loaded screws on the reverse side of the card.
It is easier and safer (for the GPU die) to perform the installation by placing the cooler down on the table and then putting the graphics card on it rather than vice versa.
Installed on a GeForce 7600 GT, the cooler looks like that:
The CoolViva Pro is just a gigantic cooler for this graphics card. It looks more decently on a Radeon X1950 XT:
The blower stands about 30mm above the top edge of the graphics card. In the case of the GeForce 7600 GT you should also install a mesh card into the neighboring PCI slot to exhaust some of the hot air outside. The Radeon X1950 XT has this mesh already, so you don’t have to do that for it.
The specification of the Cooler Master CoolViva Pro is listed in the following table in comparison with that of its opponent Zalman VF900-Cu LED cooler:
The tests are going to be performed in a closed system case with the following configuration:
As you see, I take two graphics cards from different price segments and with different levels of heat dissipation. This will show us what graphics card the new cooler is most suitable for. The Radeon X1950 XT is a very hot device even at its regular frequencies, so I don’t overclock it for this test.
The tests are performed in Windows XP Professional Edition SP2 using DirectX 9.0c (released February 2007), ForceWare 93.71 and Catalyst 7.2.
The graphics cards are loaded up by running the Firefly Forest test from the 3DMark 2006 suite with 16x anisotropic filtering. I don’t turn on full-screen antialiasing. The graphics card’s temperatures are monitored with RivaTuner version 2.0 RC16.1. Each cooler is tested at least two times with a stabilization period of 10-15 minutes between test cycles.
The Zalman VF900-Cu LED is tested in two modes: at a quiet 1780rpm and at the maximum 2600rpm (when attached directly to the mainboard). Besides the Zalman VF900-Cu LED and the Cooler Master CoolViva Pro, the graphics cards’ stock coolers take part in the tests. The Radeon X1950 XT is by default equipped with an ordinary dual-slot blower (it is tested in the automatic speed management mode and with its speed manually set at the maximum) while the Sysconn GeForce 7600 GT has a non-standard cooler, which resembles the all-aluminum Zalman VF700 and is capable of cooling an overclocked GeForce 7600 GT with ease.
As for the noise factor, the Cooler Master CoolViva Pro proved to have a variable fan speed from 600 to 1880rpm when it was connected to the graphics card and the latter could control the speed of the fan. If the cooler is connected to the PSU via the Molex connector, or if the graphics card cannot control the fan speed (like the Sysconn GeForce 7600 GT I use in this test), the blower works at its highest 1880rpm speed. Its rumbling sound is barely perceptible then against the noise from a quiet system case. So, the new cooler is very quiet indeed. When the graphics card controls the fan speed, like the Sapphire Radeon X1950 XT does, the blower’s speed is varied from 600 to 1280rpm depending on the temperature thresholds written into the graphics card’s BIOS. The cooler is absolutely silent then. Controlling the fan speed manually, I found that the CoolViva Pro remained silent at speeds below 1450rpm. After that, you begin to hear the low rumble of its motor.
The average speed of the fan of every tested cooler is shown as reported by the monitoring tools. Here are the results on the GeForce 7600 GT:
Even though the GeForce 7600 GT doesn’t generate too much heat, the new cooler from Cooler Master shows its worth, outperforming the Zalman VF900-Cu LED by 5°C under peak load. The latter doesn’t cool the overclocked graphics card any better even when its speed is increased by 800rpm. Perhaps the card just is not hot enough for the Zalman cooler to show all it can do.
Now let’s see how the coolers perform on a very hot graphics card, a Radeon X1950 XT 512MB.
First of all, I’d want to say a couple of words about the native cooler of the Sapphire Radeon X1950 XT graphics card. In automatic mode the cooler performs unsatisfactorily. It is no good having a heater with a 90°C hot chip inside your system case. Moreover, the cooler’s fan is irritatingly noisy at 3800rpm. Even though it has no rivals in terms of performance at 5130rpm, the noise of the blower is downright unbearable then. To cut it short, the stock cooler of the Radeon X1950 XT is awful because you have to choose between having a very hot GPU at an acceptable level of noise (if you adjust the fan speed manually) or a cool GPU and unbearable noise. It’s good that ATI’s top-end graphics card, Radeon X1950 XTX 512MB, employs a different cooling system, quieter and more efficient.
But let’s get back to the hero of this review. Under peak load the CoolViva Pro in its quiet mode beats the Zalman VF900-Cu LED which works at its maximum 2600rpm. The high GPU temperature in idle mode is due to the low fan speed, which is only 600rpm. Working at a quiet speed of 1880rpm, which is its maximum, the CoolViva Pro leaves no chance to the Zalman VF900-Cu LED, outperforming it by 10°C!
So, the CoolViva Pro cools the GPU all right, but what about cooling the voltage regulator and the surrounding elements? The new cooler is claimed to cool them too, which is emphasized in the press release as one of its key features.
Here are the results:
Well, it is no worse than the Zalman VF900-Cu LED in terms of cooling and is better in terms of noise.
To wind up this review I’ll show you a diagram with frequencies, temperatures and the fan speed of the CoolViva Pro as it was being tested on the Radeon X1950 XT:
I just wonder if there’s any other air cooler for graphics cards that is able to work at a very quiet 1880rpm and yet keep the temperature of the Radeon X1950 XT 512MB that low?
Cooler Master has invented a superb cooler which delivers high cooling performance at low noise, is compatible with most graphics cards, and is also cheaper than its opponents (at least, if you compare the recommended prices). I might complain that the CoolViva Pro is not meant to be installed on GeForce 8800 cards (it would need a larger base, and perhaps a fourth heat pipe, for that), but they already come with a rather quiet and efficient cooler. So, this is not something to complain about seriously. I’ve found no other drawbacks. So, I just hope the CoolViva Pro will be available freely at prices not much different from the recommended one.