Conclusion: Bigger Is Better!
Thermalright's new Shaman graphics card cooler delivers irrefutably superior cooling and noise performance compared to the competition we've tested. All it really asks for in return is a lot of space and a notable monetary investment. It's admittedly large, but shouldn't be so sizable as to be problematic in a majority of full ATX enclosures.
The Shaman can be purchased for $80 from frozencpu.com, and at this price the Shaman is a solid value compared to competing VGA coolers that we tested, products that are all priced similarly. The Thermalright representative suggested that it will be available on Newegg.com in the near future for a few dollars less.
(Ed.: Extra emphasis is put on the comparison above because we have to remind you that superior thermal performance does not guarantee your graphics card is going to overclock significantly higher. Deriving an extra $80 worth of value from a board that simply might not want to operate any faster is difficult using any of these products. You'd be infinitely better off saving up for a second GeForce GTX 460 or Radeon HD 6850 used in SLI/CrossFire.
With that said, perhaps you're simply trying to quiet down a card you have no interest in replacing. Fair enough. Who're we to tell you where to spend your money? Be warned, though, knocking 10 degrees from your load temps doesn't translate to an extra x MHz of headroom, especially if you don't have control over your card's voltage settings.)
There is only one real problem that we have with the Shaman, and that's the bundled VRM heatsinks that suffer from thermal tape too weak do the job. While this can be fixed with better thermal tape or thermal adhesive, the problem is unacceptable for a critical cooling component like the VRM.
Yes, Thermalright offers the VRM-G2 dedicated VRM cooler, and it can be used as an alternate VRM cooling solution on the GeForce GTX 480. This is an interesting product in its own right and is quite attractive for overclockers. Priced at $35, however, this is a sledgehammer for a job that calls for a claw hammer. It's also quite large, and can create even more case compatibility issues than the Shaman itself, due to the large offset cooling surface.
In the final analysis, we cannot deny that the Thermalright Shaman VGA cooler has market-leading potential, and there probably isn't a better graphics card cooler available on the market. Having said that, it deserves to have a bundled VRM cooling solution that simply works out of the box. Be sure you're buying aftermarket graphics cooling for the right reason, and you won't be disappointed by what this product can do.