Using the highest performance graphics hardware comes at a cost. Actually, it has many costs: money, power, heat, and noise. Money can buy you a high performance graphics card, and a strong power supply can provide the power it needs... but no matter what you do, that monster graphics processor is going to output a very substantial amount of heat. To make matters worse, cooling that hardware is probably going to be pretty loud, to boot.
Take, for example, the ATI Radeon X1900 XTX, arguably one of the hottest graphics accelerators on the planet. Out of the box, and under load, our test sample came a lot closer to 90°C (194°F) than we'd like - and made an unpleasant racket while doing it.
Cooler is always better when it comes to graphics processors, as it allows for more aggressive overclocking and longer component life. And if we're making a wish list anyway, quieter would be nice, too.
Who will come to the consumer's rescue? Lucky for us, some knights in shining armor have arrived: companies that have indeed built a better mousetrap.. er, cooler. These are heat-pipe VGA coolers, to be precise; let's have a look at some of the notable contenders.