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Conclusion: When It Comes To GPU Cooling, Bigger Is Better

Three Aftermarket Graphics Coolers On GeForce GTX 480
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All of these coolers are impressive when compared to Nvidia's reference model. Let’s not forget that we’re testing them on the GeForce GTX 480, a card that comes equipped with the largest and hottest GPU available. Folks who plan to use these coolers on cards like the Radeon HD 5800-series will see even lower load temperatures. With impressive thermal and noise performance, how could we complain about these monster VGA coolers?

Well, none of them are perfect. There are two main drawbacks tied to these mammoth aftermarket upgrades: price and size. The buy-in is significant, ranging between $50 and $75 USD, depending on the model. On high-end cards, this is a smaller percentage of the total cost, but on mid-range cards like the GeForce GTX 460 or Radeon HD 5850, that price will almost always bridge the gap to a more capable solution. As for size, all of these monster specimens take up three expansion slots, meaning that users intending to run a CrossFire or SLI setup will need to be careful about the motherboards they choose.

But the enthusiasts most interested in coolers like these desire silent operation and strong enough cooling performance to look past the price and inconveniences (something the GeForce GTX 480 didn't exactly offer out of the box). Power users willing to pay for the best graphics cooling available will be quite satisfied with the performance provided by some of the models we’ve looked at today.

Arctic Cooling Accelero XTREME Plus

Arctic Cooling’s entry demonstrates some of the best cooling performance and noise characteristics we’ve seen from an aftermarket heatsink and fan combination. The ~$70 price tag is high, but the hardware is capable.

While we’re not super excited about gluing heatsinks to graphics cards, for most users, this probably isn’t much of an issue. We're swapping hardware in and out all of the time, but most folks will install the Accelero one time and leave it there. Thermal tape is also an option if the user isn’t happy with glue. It’s also noteworthy that the Accelero XTREME Plus is the only cooler in the roundup capable of plugging in to the graphics card’s onboard fan header, an ability that doesn’t sound like much, but allows the fan to be controlled by graphics card software.

DeepCool V6000

The V6000 is not yet available in the US, the test sample came with defective thermal tape, and it will probably cost somewhere around $60 if it ever arrives.

The good news is that the company claims that the thermal tape problem is fixed for the mass production version, and the actual hardware is quite capable of handling hot GPUs like GeForce GTX 480. We do think the $60 MSRP is a little high compared to its competitors, but if the street price ends up being lower the V6000 might be an attractive option for folks who want improved noise and thermals but aren’t willing to spend ~$70 on an aftermarket VGA cooler. With that said, DeepCool has some work to do on the distribution of its product first.

Zalman VF3000F

The Zalman VF3000F demonstrates cooling performance on par with Arctic Cooling’s solution, but without adhesives of any kind, with user-adjustable fan control, and laden with far less weight than its competitors. One downside is that the VF3000 models are specific, and can't be used on one graphics card today and another tomorrow. But this is no worse than the Accelero XTREME Plus, with its permanent thermal adhesive.

Some users might prefer a fan solution that plugged into the graphics card, rather than requiring a header on the motherboard. Fortunately, while the VF3000F might cost ~$70 (and will soon be rendered less relevant by a new flagship from Nvidia that won't be PCB-compatible), the VF3000A and VF3000N can be had for under $50, which is a real steal for such a well-built aftermarket cooler.

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