- The Graphics Card
- Initial Thoughts
- Technical Data
- Testing Methodology
- Idle Temperatures
- Load Temperatures
- Noise Output
Q and A
Arctic Cooling has brought an all-in-one water cooling solution to the graphics card segment with the release of their Accelero Hybrid GPU cooler. Closed-loop water cooling solutions for CPUs (such as the Corsair H series and Antec Kuhler 620/920) have gained popularity in recent years, so it should come as no surprise that similar systems would become available for graphics cards as well.
The Accelero Hybrid’s water cooling mechanism is supplemented by air cooling to further increase its performance. This fusion of water and air cooling is likely the source for the “Hybrid” moniker it carries. The liquid component of the cooling system is comprised of a copper block with an integrated pump, flexible tubing and a standard 120mm radiator with a fan for heat dissipation. Accompanying this system is a plastic shroud that houses an 80mm fan to cool the graphics card PCB, directing airflow and improving the overall aesthetic appeal of the card.
The EVGA GTX 670 FTW graphics card will be the centerpiece of today’s Accelero Hybrid testing. It will also be compared against the factory turbine cooler and Arctic Cooling’s own Twin Turbo II. This GTX 670 model is unique in that it uses a reference GTX 680 PCB and circuitry layout.
I would like to thank Arctic Cooling for providing me with the test subject for today’s review.
The Graphics Card
Pictured below is the EVGA GTX 670 FTW along with its GPU-Z screenshot.
Given the Hybrid’s thoughtful design and maximum cooling capacity of 320w, it should be capable of cooling even the most beastly GPUs. An interesting aspect of the Hybrid is that it was designed with the GTX 680 in mind and it can accommodate its stacked power connector configuration, unlike many currently-available performance air coolers. Going from the technical data, the Hybrid appears to be very versatile. It has a wide range of fan speed control and is well-equipped to handle demanding loads. It should be able to accommodate silence-oriented users, performance enthusiasts, and everyone in between. Like typical water cooling solutions, the amount of weight placed upon the graphics card will be lower than that of hefty air coolers, which benefits hardware health by reducing strain on the graphics card PCB.
Arctic Cooling has all of the pertinent technical data regarding the Accelero Hybrid listed on their website. As per their website, some of the important specifications are found below.
Key figures to note include the tube length, which may be important for larger or awkwardly-arranged cases, the product dimensions, which pertain to fitment, and the various noise/airflow levels the system will produce.
Arctic Cooling has packaged the Accelero Hybrid quite well. It is capable of enduring the trials of shipping while being housed in an aesthetically pleasing container.
Despite the straightforward packaging, I did find fault in one area. Arcitc Cooling has utilized especially-adhesive tape to secure heatsinks to the top clamshell (the one containing the shroud) which resulted in complications with their removal. After removing the heatsinks from their packaging I was greeted by residue on the heatsink bases which proved to be quite difficult to remove, even with the help of some friendly chemicals. This aggravating phenomenon is pictured below.
Courtesy of the Arctic Cooling website, below is an overview of the parts included with the Accelero Hybrid.
The included installation manual was fairly comprehensive, so I’ll simply include a few in-progress photos/notes and open the floor to any questions you may have at the conclusion of the review.
This structural diagram from the Arctic Cooling website encapsulates the installation process nicely on a high level as well as provides us with an idea of how the Accelero Hybrid dissipates heat.
The water cooling assembly – note the ample tube length.
Three rubber pads are inserted on the inside of the shroud prior to installing the GPU block.
A “cooler mounting mask” is provided to help with RAM heatsink installation. Use it as a guide to avoid RAM heatsink conflicts with GPU cooler installation.
Arctic Cooling has opted for thermal glue that does not require mixing by the end-user, which is quite nice. The amount above was sufficient for affixing the memory heatsinks. The recommended cure time is 60 minutes, but I tend to err on the side of caution and let it cure for a longer period of time. The end result was a firm, confident grip that I found pleasantly surprising.
This is the PCB with all of the memory/VRM heatsinks installed. They are reusable aluminum heatsinks.
This is the backside of the graphics card with the cooler backplate installed. The Accelero Hybrid is attached to the card via four screws in the backplate.
The Accelero Hybrid installation has been completed! Note that the ample tubing length should allow for some installation flexibility. As I mentioned earlier, the hybrid is designed to accommodate the GTX 680’s (GTX 670 FTW, in this case) stacked power connectors.
The Hybrid looks great in person and it can be utilized in small form factor systems with some creativity.
Two load states were measured during testing. The first is at idle with an inactive desktop. The second is under heavy load during Crysis 2 gameplay. Temperatures will be given as degrees Celcius over the ambient room temperature to ensure comparability.
I have taken measurements of the factory heatsink, Accelero Twin Turbo II, and Accelero Hybrid at three fan speeds (Low – 30%, Medium – 55%, and High – 80%) as the GTX 670 FTW model only allows for 30-80% fan speed control. Keep in mind that if you choose to control fan speed manually for the Twin Turbo II or Hybrid (bypassing the graphics card) you will be able to use higher fan speeds than the 80% maximum fan speed used in this review.
Temperature measurements were recorded at three locations: The GPU core (Afterburner), the PCB (Infrared Thermometer), and the PCI exhaust (Infrared Thermometer).
Differences in idle temperatures are less significant than those under heavy load conditions, but they are still of interest to study and we do observe minor differences between the three coolers. You can see some measure of scaling with increased fan speed as well. The Accelero Hybrid has a healthy advantage across all three fan speeds while the factory cooler eclipses the Twin Turbo II at the maximum fan speed - at the expense of noise output, of course.
PCB temperature is an important metric that tracks how well the graphics card cooler manages heat output across the card as a whole, as opposed to focusing only on GPU core temperature. The factory cooler and Hybrid outpace the Twin Turbo II by a small margin at idle.
Exhaust temperatures are less significant at idle than they are under load. Under load they provide insight as to how much heat is being expelled from the case, rather than within it. The heat dissipated from the graphics card has to go somewhere and internally-exhausting coolers can affect ambient case temperatures and operating temperatures of other components if the exhausted heat is not dealt with. The Hybrid is a unique case, as it will also exhaust heat through its radiator. While little heat leaves the case through the card’s exhaust, it is still effectively moving heat outside of the case. I will return to this issue when addressing the load exhaust temperature.
Unfortunately, the factory cooler could not withstand load testing at the minimum fan speed. At 30% fan speed the core temperature breached 100C. The card clocks throttled and the fan kicked in, overriding the manual settings. As a result, exhaust and PCB temperatures were not recorded at this setting. Both the Twin Turbo II and Hybrid vastly exceeded the performance of the factory cooler at all but its maximum fan speed. It’s worth noting that at 80% fan speed the factory cooler is quite unbearable, but I’ll touch on acoustic performance later.
At its best, the factory cooler managed 40.4C over ambient. The Twin Turbo II at its worst came in at 45C over ambient, which is quite impressive considering that its minimum fan speed is completely inaudible. At the maximum fan speed it managed an impressive 37.4C over ambient. The Hybrid did not disappoint, either. It managed 32C over ambient (56C actual) at minimum fan speed and 23.6C over ambient (48C) at maximum fan speed. Keep in mind that the performance of the Hybrid cooler will be greater if you have a card that allows for 100% fan speed settings, manually control the fan speed (bypassing the graphics card), add a second fan, or replace the stock fan with a higher performance model.
You can optimize your fan setting for minimal noise and your overclocking efforts will not be limited by core temperatures. For comparison, at the 55% fan speed setting the Hybrid-cooled GTX670 FTW was 21% cooler (63C vs. 50C) than the Twin Turbo II and 44% cooler (89C vs. 50C) than the factory heatsink.
The factory cooler does a good job of maintaining healthy PCB temperatures thanks to its directional airflow and contact with board circuitry. It shows its cooling potential at maximum fan speed, but if you plan on being anywhere near your computer it is an impractical setting. The Twin Turbo II sees less improvement in temperature as fan speed increases, which is likely due to its low-pressure, low-noise fans. The Hybrid scales a bit better with fan speed. Keep in mind that both the shroud fan and radiator fan will change speed in unison if you control them through the graphics card. At maximum fan speed the Hybrid and factory cooler are on par with each other. The included shroud fan has a noticeable impact on PCB/circuitry temperatures and unlike DIY solutions it is also quite aesthetically pleasing.
The main strength of the factory cooler is that it expels nearly all of its heat outside of the case, whereas the Twin Turbo II exhausts most of it within the case. The Hybrid is interesting, as I previously mentioned, because it’s not only exhausting heat at the PCB level, but also through its fan and radiator assembly. You have quite a bit of airflow/heat management options with the Hybrid. You can install it wherever you like in the case (Within the range of its tubing, which is fairly long) and choose an intake or exhaust configuration that best suits your needs.
Unfortunately, my sound level meter was defective and I had to return it, so I’ll provide a rough comparison of the coolers’ relative noise output.
I have color-coded groupings of each cooler and fan speed by noise output. They rank as follows (in order from quietest to loudest):
Twin Turbo II MIN
Twin Turbo II MED
Twin Turbo II MAX
At the quietest end of the spectrum the Twin Turbo II and Hybrid are differentiated only by a very mild, unobtrusive pump hum from the Hybrid. The factory cooler starts to show its true colors at the medium fan speed, where it’s slightly louder than the other two coolers at their maximum fan speeds. When cranked to its maximum fan speed of 80%, the factory cooler is simply intolerable unless you’re a) cranking tunes, b) hard of hearing, or c) keep your computer in a distant room.
The best option for all three coolers is to set up a custom fan profile that will enable you to find an ideal balance of noise output and cooling performance.
The Accelero Hybrid has met or exceeded my expectations on all fronts, from thermal and acoustic performance to ease of installation. Despite tape-related issues, I found the packaging to be adequate and secure. The installation directions were straightforward and left little room for confusion. I also enjoyed working with the new thermal glue. The Hybrid is appealing aesthetically and it offers compelling performance. All together it’s an impressive package that will tame any blazing graphics card you have to offer.
Arctic Cooling has put together a compelling product that exceeds expectations… but it comes at a price. The suggested MSRP per the Arctic Cooling website is $179.90 USD. NewEgg offers it for a bit less at $169.99, but that is still a difficult pill to swallow. Arctic Cooling offers a 2-year limited warranty with the Accelero Hybrid, which is reassuring. Is the Hybrid worth a much higher price tag compared to the Twin Turbo II, which is also a strong performer? It depends on what you’re looking for. The Twin Turbo II is a cooler that requires width-clearance beyond the PCB, occupies a third expansion slot, exhausts heat within the case, and supports only one orientation. The Hybrid, on the other hand, is a bit slimmer (although it still encroaches slightly into a third slot), has flexible installation options, and offers even better performance than the Twin Turbo II with a much higher cooling ceiling (With the capacity for an additional radiator fan or higher-performance fans).
The Arctic Cooling Accelero Hybrid is a premium product and it commands a premium price. It is a great option for consumers looking for an alternative to a custom water loop and it is a very well thought out, well-built product. I highly recommend this cooler to anyone looking for water-cooling performance without the hassle and expense of a custom loop.
Excellent thermal and acoustic performance
GTX 680 Compatibility
Encroaches on a Third Expansion Slot
Thanks again to Arctic Cooling for generously providing me with the Accelero Hybrid for this review. They've been a pleasure to work with on my first "official" review
Q and A
Please feel free to ask any questions you may have and I'll do my best to answer them or get in contact with someone who can. I may update the review with additional benchmarks, such as results at different clock speeds and push-pull configurations in the near future. Thanks for reading my review, I hope it was informative!