Besides the unique PCB design and increased GPU frequency, this graphics card features a nonstandard cooler. It is not really innovative, however, representing a variation of the reference cooler from GeForce 7900 GTX.
This simple design is often employed by graphics card makers who want to equip their products with a quiet and effective cooler. Contacting with the GPU die, the copper core is connected with heat pipes to a large heatsink consisting of thin aluminum plates locked together. There is a cutout in the center of the heatsink for an axial fan that blows sideways and down. Thus, the fan cools the sections of the heatsink as well as the PCB components such as memory chips or power transistors of the voltage regulator. Some of the hot air is exhausted out of the system case through the slits in the card’s mounting bracket, but some of it remains within the system, which is the main drawback of this design.
The cooler is fastened to the PCB with only four spring-loaded screws. This fastening may not look secure but the GPU is protected with a metallic frame. The translucent plastic casing covers the cooler from above. The crystal pattern on the casing makes the card look not unlike Nokia Prism phones.
An unusual material is used as a thermal interface for this card. Although it resembles the traditional dark-gray thermal grease, it is very dry and seems to glue the sole of the heat-exchanger to the GPU die like thermal glue. Perhaps it was just dried-out thermal grease. We had to replace this thermal interface when dismantling and putting the card back together, and it was quite difficult to scrape the dry stuff off the GPU and cooler.
Despite the 4-pin connection, the speed of the fan is fixed at 50%. We’ll check out in the next section if this setting ensures silent operation and high cooling performance. On the whole, the cooler of the Gainward card looks highly promising.