Gelid Icy Vision Graphics Card Cooler Review

Today we are going to talk about cooling efficiency and acoustic performance of another universal solution for graphics accelerators.

by Sergey Lepilov
06/27/2011 | 11:45 AM

Today finding an effective and quiet cooling system for a graphics card seems to be a harder task to accomplish than finding the most optimal CPU cooler. Despite this fact, however, there are about 10 times more CPU coolers than VGA coolers released these days. That is why the users welcome every new graphics card cooler with great interest and excitement. I believe I don’t have to explain that overclockers are even more excited about these coolers than common users. GELID Solutions Ltd. does its best to satisfy both user groups, and not so long ago they announced the second revision of their Gelid Icy Vision cooler (GC-VGA02-01), which is compatible with most contemporary graphics accelerators from the mainstream and high-end categories. Today we are going to check out its features and functionality, test its cooling efficiency and acoustic performance.

Package and Accessories

 

The cooler comes in a pretty traditional package, which is a clear plastic blister with a pretty informative cardboard insert inside:

 

This packaging allows you to check out the cooler and even some of its accessories without even opening it. All accessories are carefully sealed in the lower part of the box. Here is what’s inside:

The cooler is made in China. Its recommended retail price is set at $55 or €46, which is pretty expensive for a VGA cooler. At the same time, Gelid Icy Vision is available in retail for less than $50. It comes with a five-year warranty.

Design and Functionality

Gelid Icy Vision is a relatively small cooler measuring 216x95x52 mm and weighing 465 grams. It consists of a copper base, five copper heatpipes coming out of it, two heatsink arrays and two plastic frames with fans:

 

 

You can check out the cooler dimensions in detail on the following schematic illustration:

The heatsink is divided into two parts. The larger part consists of 46 fins and is pierced by two heatpipes, while the smaller part has 39 fins and is pierced by 3 heatpipes:

 

So, there is a total of 85 aluminum fins, each measuring 90x20 mm, which results into about 3,000 cm2 of effective cooling surface. The heatsink fins are 0.35-0.40 mm thick and are spaced out 1.8 mm from one another:

The heatpipes are soldered to the copper base plate as well as aluminum heatsink fins. You can clearly see soldering traces along the edges:

  

Note that the top of the heatpipes also contacts one of the heatsinks. The heatpipes fit tightly into the grooves and the thinnest part of the base plate beneath them measures 3 mm.

The contact surface of the heatsink base plate, which is 34x35 mm in size, is quite even, although it is finished averagely:

Although I have to admit that even though you can clearly see the machine marks on the base, you can’t really feel them to the touch.

Each of the heatsink arrays is topped with a fan in a plastic frame:

The fans have GC-VGA02-01 model number and are 90x15 mm in size. They feature 11-blade impellers glowing in UV-light. They rotate with a constant speed of 2000 RPM. At this speed Gelid declares no more than 26 dBA noise level, 67.14 CFM airflow and 1.3 mmH2O static pressure.

The fans rotors are 28 mm in diameter:

The Nanoflux bearing inside these fans should last without failing at least 50,000 hours or more than 5.5 years. The fans maximum power consumption shouldn’t exceed 6 W. Our tests showed that the fans didn’t consume more than 4.9 W and their startup voltage was 2.7 V. They come with a 200 mm long sleeved cable.

That’s about all we can say about this fairly simple cooler. Now let’s see how easy it is to install.

Compatibility and Installation Tips

Gelid Icy Vision is compatible with majority of contemporary graphics cards including AMD Radeon HD 68xx and HD 69xx, as well as Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 (Ti), GTX 570 and even GTX 580. You can download detailed installation instructions for AMD and Nvidia graphics cards from the official company web-site. As for us, we are going to study the installation process using reference AMD Radeon HD 6970 graphics accelerator as an example.

First of all, you have to remove the default cooling system and clean the GPU surface, VRM components and memory chips removing the traces of thermal paste and thermal pads:

After that you have to attach enclosed VRM heatsinks using double-sided thermal pads from the Gelid accessories bundle:

 

Unfortunately, the long aluminum VRM heatsink turned out incompatible with our Radeon HD 6970, so we had to use only small individual heatsinks.

After that you fasten the retention plate to the bottom of the cooler using enclosed screws. Insert the threaded mounts into the appropriate holes and secure them in place with screw-nuts on the other side:

  

Use the table and illustration below to determine into which holes to insert the mounts:

If you don’t see your particular graphics card in this table, you can simply measure the distance between the retention holes on your graphics card PCB and then install the mounts into the corresponding holes in the cooler retention plate.

The only thing left to do at this point is to apply a layer of thermal paste to the GPU surface, install the cooler and tighten the screw-nuts over the washers evenly on the other side:

  

And that’s all: Gelid Icy Vision is successfully installed onto an AMD Radeon HD 6970:

Inside the system case the installed cooler will block two PCI slots next to the graphics card:

It is best to keep the third PCI slot free as well, to ensure that there is proper airflow going towards the Gelid Icy Vision fans. It is possible to use this cooler in CrossFireX or SLI configurations, but in this case we will need a mainboard with two PCI Express slots that are pretty far apart and a long flexible connector bridge. I also have to add that all graphics card coolers like Gelid Icy Vision have one drawback in common: they keep most of the warm air inside the system case, while most reference coolers push it outside the case. Therefore, we would like to stress once again that it is important to have a larger system case with well-organized internal ventilation to ensure that coolers of this type work effectively.

Technical Specifications and Recommended Pricing

Testbed and Methodology

The tests were performed in a closed system case. Our testbed was configured as follows:

Even in nominal mode AMD Radeon HD 6970 runs pretty hot. Nevertheless, we increased its GPU clock to 950 MHz at 1.175 V nominal voltage:

The testing programs were installed under Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64. We used DirectX End-User Runtimes libraries (from November 2010) and Catalyst 11.5 graphics card driver. We used two 12-minute runs of FurMark version 1.9.0 in stability test mode with “Burn-in” option enabled and resolution set to 1920x1080 resolution. We enabled anisotropic filtering 16x in the driver control panel in order to increase the GPU operational load:

We also measured the graphics card temperatures in game mode using six runs of Aliens vs. Predator game in 1920x1080 resolution with maximum graphics quality settings but without antialiasing:

By testing the graphics cards in this mode we should be able to see their temperatures under typical gaming load.

We used MSI Afterburner utility version 2.2.0 Beta 3 to monitor graphics card temperatures and frequencies and GPU-Z version 0.5.3 utility:

The tests were run at least twice for each type of load. 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 21.9-22.3°C.

We are going to compare the cooling efficiency of the new Gelid Icy Vision cooler against that of the reference cooler on AMD Rade as well as against a pretty efficient Arctic Cooling Accelero XTREME 5870

Here I would like to add that we replaced the default thermal interface on all graphics cards with Gelid GC-Extreme.

Cooling Efficiency Tests

First of all let’s see how Gelid Icy Vision and its competitors cool the graphics card GPU:

 

First of all we have to point out that Gelid Icy Vision is dramatically ahead of the reference cooler of our Radeon HD 6970 with the radial fan in the default mode. Under gaming load Icy Vision is 21°C more efficient than the reference HD 6970 cooler in quiet mode, 28°C more efficient at medium fan rotation speed, and 31°C more efficient at maximum speed of 2150 RPM. Note that 65°C even in the quietest mode is a remarkable result for a Radeon HD 6970 overclocked to 950 MHz GPU. The reference cooler of the Radeon HD 6970 graphics card can also work wonders, although in this case its radial fan should spin at least at 3500 RPM, which is extremely loud. And I am not even mentioning the maximum speed of 5750 RPM at all for that matter.

However, when we compare Gelid Icy Vision and Arctic Cooling Accelero XTREME 5870, we will see equal cooling efficiency under gaming load. At the same time, in FurMark test Gelid Icy Vision and Arctic Cooling Accelero XTREME 5870 at the lowest rotation speed of their fans can no longer cope with an overclocked High-End AMD graphics card (the airflow is insufficient to properly cool the VRM components). This is why you will see on the diagram the results in FurMark start at medium fan rotation speed. As we can see, Arctic Cooling solution turns out more effective in this case: it outperforms Gelid Icy Vision by 8°C at 1500 RPM and 2°C at maximum fan speed. I have to remind you, however, that Accelero XTREME 5870 has three 92 mm fans and a larger effective heatsink surface, while Icy Vision only has two fans, though they have higher maximum speed.

Now let’s take a look at the coolers efficiency when it comes to VRM components:

In gaming tests the temperature of the VRM components remains normal even at the lowest fan speeds of alternative coolers, which, however, doesn’t happen in FurMark. As we can see, we can’t expect the graphics card to remain stable and reliable in long-term prospective. And we should definitely blame the weak small heatsinks on the voltage regulator components. Had they been at least twice bigger, or had the long one-piece heatsink from the Gelid Icy Vision accessories bundle fit properly onto our Radeon HD 6970, we could have seen completely different outcome. The results demonstrated by the reference Radeon HD 6970 cooler show that clearly. The VRM units are significantly cooler in this case, even when the radial cooling fan works in auto mode.

Acoustic Performance

The graph and table below show the results of our noise tests with Gelid Icy Vision, Arctic Cooling Accelero XTREME and the reference Radeon HD 6970 cooler:

Gelid Icy Vision turned out to be not so quiet after all. Only when both of its 92 mm fans work at 1000 RPM, it can be considered acoustically comfortable. For example, Arctic Cooling Accelero XTREME 5870 fans rotate at 1300 RPM with the same level of noise. Besides, at maximum fan speed Icy Vision also is noticeably louder. As for the comparison against the reference AMD Radeon HD 6970 cooler, both alternative products are significantly quieter than the default cooler of the top graphics accelerator in question. The replacement is totally justified.

Conclusion

So, what is the verdict? Gelid Icy Vision is a high-quality universal cooler that offers superb cooling efficiency, rich accessories bundle, simple installation, beautiful glowing fans and a 5-year warranty. It is a little behind Arctic Cooling Accelero XTREME 5870 in cooling efficiency and quite noticeably behind it in noise, however, it costs about $15-$20 less, which is an important advantage in the considered price range.

Among drawbacks we discovered with Gelid Icy Vision, we should point out the missing PWM control for the fan rotation speeds and a VRM heatsink, which is incompatible with the AMD Radeon HD 6970 and HD 6950 graphics accelerators. If the company fixes these issues without increasing the price of their product, it will make the new cooler even more appealing to those looking for efficient and quiet solutions. In any case, the today’s market of graphics card cooling solutions doesn’t have much to offer, therefore we are happy to welcome Gelid Icy Vision, which stands out positively among super-loud and inefficient reference coolers.