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[Project] Hterag's GPU cooling adventure!

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
I've had this write-up done for a while but haven't posted it here and thought I should. I decided I wanted to get some extra performance out of my XFX 8800 Ultra XXX graphics card, so the obvious first step is to invest in better cooling when it's already running at borderline extreme temperatures. I did a lot of research and finally settled on the Arctic Cooling Accelero Extreme (8800) as it seemed to give the best cooling on the 8800 Ultra while still being really quiet.

So, here's the write up.

I'm now running the new and improved 8800 Ultra with the new cooler on! Let's have a look at what I encountered along the way, apologies for the nasty looking pictures, they really don't do it justice and I'll try to get some better ones next time.


Introduction

First off, the 8800 Ultra has a pretty amazing stock cooler. It's amazingly quiet, it's seriously good at it's job and it looks pretty damn nice too. I was really regretting setting out on this adventure when it came time to remove it. After much reading on what aftermarket solutions are out there, I finally settled on the Accelero 8800 because I've used Arctic Cooling products in the past and their quality and value has always been fantastic, it also seems that the Accelero 8800 performs exceptionally well when paired with an 8800GTX or 8800 Ultra, the 8800GTS doesn't get completely covered by the Accelero and some of the cooling is wasted on it.


Deconstruction

After much grieving and alcohol, it was time to remove the XFX branded heatsink, 11 sprung screws, 2 normal screws and 2 screws on the back plate later and I had the cooler off...




Cleaning up

With the heatsink removed, I found the mess that used to be thermal pads and paste. The XFX 8800 Ultra XXX has 12 RAM chips, each containing 64MB of GDDR3 running at 2300MHz. They don't generate a whole lot of heat, but they definately need cooling to maintain stability at that speed. You can also see the NVIO chip on the far left, surrounded by green silicon, this chip handles the multiple display, TV in/out etc operations, seperate to the GPU.



After cleaning the GPU and removing most of the thermal interface material from the memory chips, VRMs and NVIO chip, I had to whip out a rubber (eraser) to get them really clean so that I could stick the new thermal pads and VRM coolers on.

This took quite a bit of time and effort because the greasy thermal material didn't want to move, but Arctic Cooling know what they're talking about when they said to use a rubber, it really did make life easier, especially on the VRM chips, which are tiny and awkward to clean with tissue paper.




Installing the thermal pads and mini VRM heatsinks

With the board clean, you can see the legendary G80 A3 core, the massive GPU that is the 8800 Ultra! Time to start putting this thing back together, the next stage is to add the RAM and NVIO chip pads to link them to the main heatsink, as well as the VRM chip mini heatsinks.

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post #2 of 5
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End result

The final stage is to put the massive heatsink and fans on, this process was probably the easiest part, just a case of putting it on a flat surface, turn the board over, slowly lower the board towards it and line the screw holes up (there are 6 total, compared to the 15 I had to remove...), then the screws get done up and it's finished.







Just for comparison, here's the original stock cooler next to the Accelero 8800...






Issues

I came to my first issue, albeit minor, when putting the card back in, as the new cooler is a triple slot solution, it needs more room below it, obviously. I had to get creative with the cable management in my case, but it was no more than 5 minutes to move some SATA cables out of the way to get the card back in.


Testing

I'm sure some people are interested in how this thing performs? Well, rather than just show you some numbers, I'll show you some bar graphs! Just like the pros.

I should add that while testing, ambient temperature was around 20 degrees C and it was tested in an Antec Nine Hundred case with the equivalent airflow of the stock fans on medium.



Yeah, that's a pretty big difference, I'm impressed already. Actual numbers:

Stock: 57°C idle, 78°C load
Accelero: 38°C idle, 51°C load

The full load temperature is now lower than the old idle temperature! This drop in temperature was fantastic, more than I could have hoped for and the fans are just as, possibly even more quiet than the stock fan. This is just unacceptable, let's see how far this thing can overlock now...

I've started with my previous maximum overclock of 685/1667/2300MHz, from the stock of 675/1667/2300MHz, so it isn't much of an overclock, but any performance increase is a good one.



Actual numbers:

Stock: 58°C idle, 82°C load
Accelero: 39°C idle, 55°C load

Again, the Accelero proves it was a good choice to replace the stock cooler, I'm convinced I can get this beast even higher than 685MHz now, but I'll leave that for another time.


Conclusion

The Arctic Cooling Accelero 8800 VGA cooler is certainly a big improvement over the stock nVidia solution, it's massive, quiet, hits heat hard and gives plenty of room for overclocking the best single GPU card so far to hit the market.

I'm very pleased with the temperature drop, and it didn't break the bank the way a water cooling kit would, so if you're looking for more performance from your 8800GTS/GTX/Ultra, I recommend giving serious thought to the Accelero 8800.

It gets Hterag's seal of approval.

UPDATE: Just thought I'd add that for the past 2 hours, I've been playing Crysis with the GPU at 700MHz! The temperature was 52 degrees C (still below my old idle temperature, but it's worth saying that the room is colder than usual), this is insane!

I feel like the cooler is challenging me, it's mocking me! I will find the new maximum speed! (no pun intended)
Edited by Hterag - 5/16/08 at 10:51am
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post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 
Addendum

Well, after much tweaking, messing and playing, I've finally found the maximum speed this GPU can run at without volt mods. It'll sometimes complete a 3DMark06 run at 725MHz with some minor artifacts, but other times it'll lock up and stop. It'll happily run at 715MHz, however, but I don't think it's a safe level to run it 24/7. Even at 725MHz, the temperature won't go above 80 degrees, which is amazing, it seems as though the limit now is the voltage, or maybe the GPU is at it's limits.

I've uploaded a score I achieved with the card at 710MHz, which I think I could potentially run 24/7, but I'm going to leave it at 700MHz, which is still a seriously impressive clockspeed for such a powerful GPU.

Here's the 3DMark06 result: 15946

That's with the CPU running at 3.4GHz... I bet with a bit more tweaking, I can break 16k!

Note: Since this was first posted, I've broken that score, see signature for most up-to-date result. I'll get some in-rig shots soon, just to conclude this project properly.
Edited by Hterag - 5/16/08 at 7:47am
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post #4 of 5
Hm, 700MHz core clock, that is good! Either 1) They bin chips and Ultras have higher potential, 2) The Accelero is much better than the Thermalright, 3) I suck at attaching heatsinks or 4) my fan is crap. Maybe a combination? It doesn't get awfully hot, it gets to 70C which is a lot but not for this card..

In any case, mine doesn't get above 650 without artifacting. What about your shader clock?

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post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 
Well, the Ultra uses the G80 A3 core, which is a different revision, I'm not sure what exactly was changed or how much better/worse that makes it (I heard it runs cooler because it's at lower voltage, but that could be wrong), but I know that XFX do get the very best chips binned as their "XXX" range, so it has a few things going for it. 650MHz is really good for the GTX though, regardless.

The shaders are running at 1700MHz (from stock of 1667MHz), I haven't tried messing with the shader clocks much because I didn't really notice much of an improvement in performance, but they may be able to give a bit more. I'll get a GPU-Z screenshot up when I'm next at my machine and have a few minutes to spare.
Edited by Hterag - 5/16/08 at 10:42am
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