In a word, not by much. On air, there's unfortunately limited room for improvement. In short, 3 slot designs already exist. They do a decent job of cooling, although they dump air into the case. Very simply put, I don't think you can make a cooler that does not dump air back into the case and make it better than existing axial coolers from a performance after adjusting for noise standpoint, at least not without taking a ton of PCI slots.
Let me give an example, the MSI r9 290X Lightning cooler. It is arguably the best air cooler every produced for GPUs.
Axial type cooler, thick fin density of around ~17 fpi, and cools relatively well.
Note the width and fin density
Shot of the different layers
Shot from the bottom
Shot from the PCI bracket
In a case (3 slots as you can see)
Backplate to prevent warping
With a waterblock. Note the 3 PWM fan controls (black, white, and blue). There's also 3 2 pin voltage checkpoints.
By cools relatively well. The 290X is a pretty hot card. This cooler was able to sustain overclocks of up to 1250-1300 MHz at times, and water cooling only got perhaps ~50 MHz more, assuming good silicon lottery luck.
The only drawback I see is that it dumps the hot air back into the case, which warms everything up by a few degrees. To be honest, I'm not sure that's even a huge drawback. I'd rather have my GPU cooler and everything else a bit warmer, than a hotter GPU and everything else cooler, because GPUs are the hottest single component right now. The issue is that a blower-type of cooler might not even with triple slot outperform this. Blowers tend to have too little airflow for this, even if they do have the advantage of exhausting the hot air out of the case.Areas for improvement
I said there was not much room for improvement. Well, there are a few things I would like to see:
- A secondary bracer on the top for even more protection against PCB warping (although this card already has a backplate and foreplate).
- Better VRM cooling. I'd like to see a heatpipe go directly from the VRM to the heatsink. Granted the design is so overkill that the VRMs won't run too hot, but it'd be nice to have.
- Higher static pressure fans. This is huge and could have a huge leap over current cards. The middle fan also does not do much. Instead of those 3 fans, I'd like to see 2 120x25mm case fans directly over the heatsinks. My ideal would be a high speed 4250 rpm PWM Gentle Typhoon over each heatsink or the Delta AFC1212D. This might make it a 4 slot GPU though.
- Even higher fin densities (as much as 30 fpi, up from the current 17 fpi) to take advantage of the fans above.
- For each of the fins, I would like to see them soldered onto the actually heatpipes. The Noctua D15 and Cryorig R1 series already do this.
- Maybe a fan on top to direct air to the top of the GPU?
- Could also make the cooler a bit taller, as to maximize cooling surface area
- Would also like to see 60A chokes paired with the DirectFET. I think MSI"s SFF chokes are rated for 45A. Probably a non-issue.
The end result would be a cooler good enough that water cooling would not give a much higher overclock, if at all, along with very cool VRMs. Only drawback about my proposals is that it would need even more bracing to prevent warping (which I had addressed) and that it would doom it for smaller cases.
Originally Posted by doyll
I'm not a gamer so have no need for more than one card anyway. But do gamers really need 2, 3 or 4 GPUs? 2 mabye, but 2 could be space so a 3x socket cooler could be used.
I have an older ASUS GTX580 DirectCU II 3x slot card that I custom shrouded with 2x TY-100 fans. It's whisper quiet.
In a word, for 4k and high resolution setups, yes.
Scaling is pretty good for a 2nd card. 3rd card and 4th card are diminishing returns, but decent.
AMD cards in particular do well at higher resolutions with 3 and 4 card setups.Edited by CrazyElf - 10/14/14 at 8:04pm