CPU coolers are a dime a dozen. Go to any specialty computer shop and you’ll find a variety CPU coolers from tons of manufacturers. On the other hand, GPU coolers are actually quite rare, with the number of companies actively producing coolers in the single digits. One of these companies is ARCTIC, who’s one of the top producers of GPU coolers on the market.
Today we’re going to take a look at the ARCTIC Accelero Xtreme 7970. As the name implies, this GPU cooler is designed for AMD’s new flagship graphics card, the Radeon HD 7970; however, this will work for a number of other older AMD GPUs such as the 6970, 6950, 6870, 6850, etc.
So, will ARCTIC actually put your GPU in the ARCTIC? Let’s find out!
|Max. Cooling Capacity||300 Watts|
|Heatpipe||Ø 6 mm x 5|
|Heatsink Material||Aluminum fins x 84, thickness 0.3 mm|
|Fan (mm)||92 mm, 900 – 2,000 RPM (controlled by PWM) x 3 fans|
|Bearing||Fluid Dynamic Bearing|
|Noise Level||0.5 Sone|
|Current, Voltage||0.12A / 12V|
|Dimensions (Product)||288 (L) x 104 (W) x 54 (H) mm|
|Dimensions (Packaging)||292 (L) x 110 (W) x 60 (H) mm|
|Net Weight||653 g|
|Limited Warranty||6 years|
|Screw (M2)||4 pcs|
|Spacer (3.0 mm)||4 pcs|
|Spacer (3.5 mm)||4 pcs|
|Insulation Tape||5 pcs|
|G-1 Thermal Glue (2.0 g Grey Compound)||1 bag|
|G-1 Thermal Glue (2.0 g White Compound)||1 bag|
|Mixing Wand||1 pc|
|4-Pin Fan Power Adapter||1 pc|
|VGA Bracket||1 pc|
|GPU Back Plate||1 pc|
|EVA Foam||1 pc|
|Gross Weight||1 kg|
A Closer Look
Included in the package you get everything you need to install the GPU ccoler. Unfortunately, this GPU cooler doesn’t have a single piece VRM cooler, but this allows this GPU cooler to be compatible with a wide range of graphics cards. Additionally, in order to attach the heatsinks (VRM, memory, etc.), ARCTIC has included a pack of their new G-1 thermal glue for attaching the heatsinks. Also notice that there’s no thermal paste. That’s because ARCTIC has already pre-applied their flagship MX-4 thermal paste on the baseplate itself.
Up front we’ve got those 3x 92mm white PWM fans.
Around the bottom, we see the baseplate along with a thick layer of thermal paste attached. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize there was thermal paste down there until I touched it which is why it looks a bit messed up in the picture. If you do happen to mess it up, make sure to fill in the area using additional thermal paste to maximize heat dissipation. ARCTIC obviously recommends their own flagship MX-4, but anything should work.
Attached to the fans is a 4 pin connector along with a 3 pin connector. Fortunately for those with 4 pin headers on their graphics cards, you’ll be able to take advantage of the PWM fans, which means the fans will spin down when they’re not needed and spin up when they are.
Running across the entire length of the heatsink, we see five 6mm heatpipes. The heatsink itself includes 84 quite densely packed fins at 0.3mm thick each. The build quality is excellent. Of course, with a 6 year warranty I wouldn’t expect anything less.
Here’s a top view of the heatsink along with the plastic fan enclosure. As you can see up top, the cooler is clearly branded “Accelero Xtreme 7970”. I’m going to be mounting the cooler on my reference HD 6970, but this cooler is designed primarily for the HD 7900 series as the name implies.
The installation process is quite long and quite complex, and maybe even tedious. Be sure to leave a couple hours or so for a good installation. Also, make sure to go print out a copy of the instructions first or do the install in front of a computer. For some reason (ARCTIC’s green initiative) an instruction manual was not included. While I think this is fine for easy-to-install peripherals such as mice and keyboards, I’m not so sure this is a good idea on a GPU cooler. Unless you’re an expert at this type of install, you’ll need the installation guide.
Below are some of the highlights of the installation process:
- Remove the stock heatsink. This required the removal of a lot of screws, but other than that it wasn’t difficult.
- The second step is to clean off all the memory chips and the VRMs (Use a pencil eraser), and apply the memory/VRM heatsinks. This is probably the most time consuming and most challenging part of the entire install process. In order to do that, you’ll need to mix the glue, and apply it to the heatsinks. After that, just stick the heatsinks onto the memory/VRM chips and wait a couple hours for the glue to dry. Make sure not to rush this as you might run into heat issues if one of the heatsinks fall off. Unfortunately, the installation instructions on the ARCTIC website only instruct you on how to install the memory/VRM heatsinks on the HD 7970, so you’ll have to figure it out if you’ve got any of the other compatible GPUs. It’s not too hard though, just make sure you get everything and the glue actually sticks.
- Finally, you need to install the heatsink assembly itself onto the GPU. Unfortunately, this process is a bit more difficult than it needs to be, but if you do it a certain way, it’s not too bad. Of course, I had to find that out the hard way, but take a look at the picture below and I will explain…
As you can see, the backplate is attached via screws to the baseplate of the GPU cooler. There are no bolts at the end. Instead, the holes in the baseplate are threaded, which allow you to screw the screws in. Between the backplate and the GPU, you will need to place 4 spacers, which are very small and very easy to lose. Additionally, between the GPU and the baseplate, there are an additional 4 spacers that must be placed prior to screwing the entire setup together. As you can imagine, installation of this is quite difficult. Here you can also see a couple of the VRM heatsinks mounted. They’re attached only by the glue and not accessible after the heatsink is installed, so be sure they’re stuck on there good!
That being said, this the order of install I found to be the easiest to install the cooler:
- Lay the Accelero Xtreme 7970 down fan to the table first
- Place the 4 white spacers on the screw holes of the Accelero Xtreme 7970
- Slowly lay the GPU on top of the spacers, and make sure it’s balanced
- Place the 4 black spacers on the screw holes of the GPU
- Drop in the 4 screws and screw them in
As you can see here, once the massive cooler is installed, the entire GPU will take up 3 slots. An additional slot cover is included for additional case ventilation.
Finally, we have a frontal view of the GPU with the Accelero Xtreme 7970 installed. The monstrosity of a cooler covers the entire length of the GPU for maximum cooling performance.
CPU: Intel Core i5 2500K
Motherboard: Asrock Z68 Fatal1ty Professional Gen 3
Graphics: MSI Radeon HD 6970
Memory: Gskill Sniper 1866MHz DDR3 1.5v
Storage: Patriot Pyro SE 120gb
Power Supply: Corsair HX650
Case: HSPC High Speed Tech Station
Special thanks to HSPC for providing us with the High Speed Tech Station (Large) for our test bench.
For testing, we used the FurMark 1.9.2 GPU Stress Test. FurMark is a GPU stress test that pushes the GPU to its maximum limits – limits games will never reach, which means we’ll be able to load the graphics card up to get maximum possible temperatures as well.
Here’s a screenshot of the MSI HD 6970 under full load with fan set to auto. As you can see, the temperatures hit 80°C.
Next we loaded the GPU up once again except this time we cranked the fan to 100%. As you might imagine, the stock turbine fan on the HD 6970 was enough for me to want to punch a dolphin. Yeah, it’s that bad.
Next, we tested the HD 6970 with the Accelero Xtreme 7970 GPU cooler. First, we have a screenshot of some idle temperatures. 30°C. Not bad…
Next, we fully loaded Furmark, and yes, the Accelero Xtreme 7970 performed wonderfully. Under full load, the GPU temperature stayed under 57°C, which is a full 23°C drop in temperatures. However, that’s only half the story. Since the fans are currently set to auto and have PWM capability, the fans ran very quiet, almost as quiet as the stock fan at idle speeds. Impressive!
Finally, while trying to find out just exactly how much performance can be squeezed out of the Xtreme 7970, I decided to crank the fans up to a full 100%, or 2,000rpms. As you can see, the temperatures dropped significantly again going from 57°C to 46°C, a full 11°C! Once again, I was completely impressed with the performance. Unfortunately, at this point the fans do make themselves noticeable, so I do prefer the fans on auto.
- The performance is outstanding. With the fans on auto, the Accelero Xtreme 7970 was able to lower temperatures by 29%. With the fans at full speed, the temperatures went down by another 20%. The Accelero Xtreme running on full speed was able to beat the stock cooler on full speed by 10%, which doesn’t sound like a lot temperature wise, but acoustically, the difference is night and day.
- Which, brings me to the second point. The Accelero Xtreme 7970 is really quiet. The triple 92mm PWM fans did their job very quietly with the fans nearly inaudible at idle with the fans only slightly ramping up during load.
- The 6 year warranty is awesome. It’s always great to see manufacturers who believe in their products.
- Installation is going to take you a bit of time. GPU cooler installation is lengthy and the Accelero Xtreme 7970 is no exception. Additionally, the heatsink mounting mechanism could be easier. Having to place 8 spacers perfectly then dropping in some tiny screws is probably one of the most difficult mounting mechanisms I’ve encountered to date. Luckily, installation only needs to happen once…
- Speaking of installation difficulties, I was definitely caught off guard starting the install without an instruction manual. You’ll definitely want to find it online before you start.
- This cooler is definitely on the pricey side. It’s worth it, but at ~$100 it’s probably the most expensive GPU cooler out there.
- Performance not as good as the cheaper (and smaller) Gelid Icy Vision, which managed to outperform the Accelero Xtreme 7970 by 2°C. However, the Icy Vision doesn’t come with PWM fans, so the included 2,000rpm fans become very annoying very fast.
All things considered, the ARCTIC Accelero Xtreme 7970 is the best GPU cooler we’ve tested to date. For those interested in a good blend between cooling and noise, or even maximal cooling for that maximal overclock, but don’t want the maintenance hassles or risk associated with water cooler, this is is the next best thing.
Special thanks to ARCTIC for making this review possible.
The ARCTIC Accelero Xtreme 7970 is currently available direct from ARCTIC.