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Extreme Air Cooling: Our Five-Slot (Quiet) Radeon HD 7970

Extreme Air Cooling: Our Five-Slot (Quiet) Radeon HD 7970
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The good news is that it’s possible to cool AMD’s flagship Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition to less than 75 degrees Celsius under full load, maintaining a quiet 32 dB(A) at the same time. The bad news? It'll cost you five expansion slots and more than $100.

One of our biggest complaints about AMD's Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition is the card's noise under load. Its radial fan is loud enough to drive anyone who cares about acoustics insane. Particularly compared to the GeForce GTX 600-series cards that were already available, we're surprised that AMD didn't put more effort into improving its reference design. Fortunately, we've seen a number of board vendors implement their own aftermarket coolers to solve the reference board's noise problem.

It'd be laborious to do all of that work yourself. It'd cost a lot of money. And you'd void your warranty. But it seems like a better idea every day we have to hear our Radeon HD 7970 cards whirring away.

Rather than go the conventional route, with a two- or even three-slot cooler, we're taking Radeon HD 7970 cooling to an entirely different level.

Our installation requires three things to be successful: the right parts, five free expansion slots, and some patience and care. There’s no need to be afraid of dismantling your expensive new card, even if you've never done something like this before, so long as you follow our instructions. Just don’t expect a lot of help from the manual included with the heat sink we're using, the Alpenföhn Peter from cooling specialist EKL. You'll also find the Peter sold as Deepcool's Dracula here in the U.S.

By all accounts, this thing is a beast. And we're using it with modifications for AMD's Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition in the form of new brackets and two Noiseblocker BlackSilentPro fans. All of this can be had for about $140 through a couple of different enthusiast-oriented online vendors. That's not cheap my any measure, but you get a lot of technology for the price.

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Top Comments
  • 28 Hide
    ShadyHamster , July 26, 2012 5:36 AM
    how about comparing this with other aftermarket coolers? such as arctic coolings accelero extreme
  • 27 Hide
    jossrik , July 26, 2012 5:24 AM
    Seems to me if you're willing to go 140$ or whatnot to cool your Gfx card, you might be interested in water cooling. 80$ for a Noctua and 100+ for this put you into cheap water cooling territory, and while you could easily spend double or more water cooling, that seems the route to take. Just my two cents.
  • 22 Hide
    amuffin , July 26, 2012 6:02 AM
    I'd rather have invested the money spent on this into watercooling!
Other Comments
  • 3 Hide
    Maximus_Delta , July 26, 2012 5:00 AM
    Love it !! Fantastic bit of kit.
  • 14 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , July 26, 2012 5:11 AM
    this cooler is the Double FF equivalent of geek pr0n.
  • -4 Hide
    Hazle , July 26, 2012 5:17 AM
    that is so sexy... too bad it's not compatible with a 6870, pointless as it seems (to me, at least) , but goddamn, them temps and noise make it hard not to consider the idea....
  • 27 Hide
    jossrik , July 26, 2012 5:24 AM
    Seems to me if you're willing to go 140$ or whatnot to cool your Gfx card, you might be interested in water cooling. 80$ for a Noctua and 100+ for this put you into cheap water cooling territory, and while you could easily spend double or more water cooling, that seems the route to take. Just my two cents.
  • 28 Hide
    ShadyHamster , July 26, 2012 5:36 AM
    how about comparing this with other aftermarket coolers? such as arctic coolings accelero extreme
  • 11 Hide
    esrever , July 26, 2012 5:44 AM
    Even tho this is a little extreme, it is still extremely badass.
  • 1 Hide
    bak0n , July 26, 2012 5:53 AM
    I wonder how it'll fix on my ITX motherboard? /joke off
  • 22 Hide
    amuffin , July 26, 2012 6:02 AM
    I'd rather have invested the money spent on this into watercooling!
  • 3 Hide
    JOSHSKORN , July 26, 2012 6:02 AM
    what a waste...unless a manufacturer comes up with a motherboard and case specifically made for this so you don't waste expansion slots.
  • -2 Hide
    memadmax , July 26, 2012 6:54 AM
    Wowzers
  • 2 Hide
    JebbyC , July 26, 2012 7:19 AM
    Why is there an empty slot between the fans and the heatsink? Looks like there could be some space and efficiency savings there. Also, why did you test 120mm fans when 140mm fans are supported?

    Where do the additional two fans you haven't tested fit? I guess they might go in the empty slot, but that seems strange to me - why have a fan blowing directly into another fan.
  • -1 Hide
    monkeymonk , July 26, 2012 7:26 AM
    jebbycWhy is there an empty slot between the fans and the heatsink? Looks like there could be some space and efficiency savings there. Also, why did you test 120mm fans when 140mm fans are supported?Where do the additional two fans you haven't tested fit? I guess they might go in the empty slot, but that seems strange to me - why have a fan blowing directly into another fan.

    its called push/pull you see it on cpu coolers and watercooling all the time. There are 120mm fans available
  • 1 Hide
    FormatC , July 26, 2012 7:48 AM
    @jebby:
    This looks just like an empty slot, but it is not enough and the mounting rail will not fit.
    You can still mount up 2 fans horizontally or 140mm fans, but that brings no improvement.
  • 3 Hide
    JebbyC , July 26, 2012 7:49 AM
    Push/pull implies fans on either side of the heatsink - it doesn't look to me like there's enough clearance between the main heatsink and the VRM heatsink.

    Quote:
    There are 120mm fans available

    There are 140mm fans available too, why are you telling me that?
  • 0 Hide
    JebbyC , July 26, 2012 8:01 AM
    @FormatC I see what you're saying, but compare the picture on the benchmarks page to these:

    http://extreme.pcgameshardware.de/luftkuehlung/182842-ekl-peter-lueftermontage-update.html#post3578374
    http://www.hardwareluxx.de/community/f136/alpenfoehn-peter-821451.html

    It looks like the bracket overlaps the heatsink, so the fans are much closer. Maybe it's just the angle.

    Edit: They're on different cards, (a 570 and a 480, if my German isn't too bad), my mistake.
  • 1 Hide
    FormatC , July 26, 2012 8:29 AM
    This is a HD 7970 problem - the GPU sits higher on the PCB.

    Quote:
    it doesn't look to me like there's enough clearance between the main heatsink and the VRM heatsink.
    < 10mm ;) 

    Edit:
    I've experimented with different VRM coolers (on some photos you can see a slightly lower silver VRM heatsink) and slim fans but only the big black one (original from EKL) gives you the full performance.
  • 0 Hide
    JebbyC , July 26, 2012 9:32 AM
    Cool. It looks like this is a better solution than the GB Windforce X5? Is there any chance of getting an English translation of that review?
  • -5 Hide
    freggo , July 26, 2012 11:37 AM
    Kinda sad that a manufacturer is not able to do this in the first place. Gives the impression that they simply do not care as long as your check clears.
  • 2 Hide
    FormatC , July 26, 2012 11:42 AM
    @JebbyC
    The Gigabyte thing is in translation (I hope so) :) 

    The Windforce 5X @1,25 GHz is (under full load) quieter (!) than a Sapphire Toxic 6GB (1,2 GHz, Tahiti XT2) - thats fact. In a few minutes I will try a showdown between this two cards on 3840 x 3240 (6 cheap monitors, DVI only) and 3 active splitters.

    Who wants to bet, can transfer me the money to my private account (which is unfair because I know the result - already) :D 
  • 4 Hide
    xxplosiv88 , July 26, 2012 12:22 PM
    When I see something like this behemoth, it reminds me that we really have a long way to go in terms of technology. I think you can tell silicone/transistor technology is really starting to hit a brick wall when 5 slot aftermarket VGA coolers come onto the scene. For that matter, stock 3 slot products like the ASUS Mars II go without mentioning too.
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