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Arctic Cooling Accelero Xtreme Plus GPU Cooler

Accelero Xtreme Plus is an unapologetic three-fan monster GPU cooler that Arctic Cooling claims can tackle cards drawing up to 250W. It may be the VGA heatsink noise-adverse gaming enthusiasts have been waiting for.

November 4, 2010 by Lawrence Lee

Product Arctic Cooling Accelero Xtreme Plus
GPU Cooler
Manufacturer Arctic Cooling
Street Price US$70~75

The high-end GPUs of today are extremely power hungry, with some models gobbling up more than 200W on their own. Their complexity and energy draw has increased faster than CPUs in recent years resulting in a paradigm shift when it comes to quiet computing. In a serious gaming rig, the stock cooler on the video card or cards, not the processor, is typically the loudest component. The position of the graphics chip in a standard ATX tower makes it extremely difficult to cool efficiently and modern stock solutions only do so with high noise levels.

Of course the simplest way to deal with all that extra heat is to just make a larger heatsink, and that’s exactly what Arctic Cooling has done. Makers of iconic VGA coolers like the VGA Silencer and Accelero S1, their latest model is an unapologetic, monstrous cooler with three 92 mm fans, the Accelero Xtreme Plus.

Accelero Xtreme Plus package vs. HIS Radeon HD 5870 stock cooler.

To those of you screaming ‘overkill!’ at your screen, keep in mind the best dual fan cooler we’ve tested, the GELID Icy Vision, cooled down our Radeon HD 4890 fairly well, but by our estimates, it’s only a 150W card. For cards with power draws in the 200W range, it might not be that effective, particularly if the fan speeds are turned down to keep the system quiet. It will be interesting to see how how much better the Accelero Xtreme Plus is at cooling an Overclocked HIS Radeon HD 5870, which by our estimates can pull 215W on full load.

Included accessories.

The Xtreme Plus ships with a 7V/12V molex fan adapter, screws and washers, and a PCI bracket vent for the slot below the card after it has been installed. Eight ramsinks, four sets of four different sized VRM heatsinks, and a small tube of thermal adhesive came in a separate accessory package.

Arctic Cooling Accelero Xtreme Plus: Key Features
(from the product
web page
)
Feature & Brief
Our Comment
Unmatched cooling performance – 250 Watts – for a multi-compatible VGA cooler Given its sheer size and three fans, we believe this claim.
3 ultra quiet 92mm PWM fans with low noise impeller Our experience with Arctic Cooling fans have generally been positive.
5 heatpipes and 84 fins for efficient heat dissipation With five heatpipes and a massive fin stack it should be a topnotch performer.
Patented fan holder eliminates buzzing and vibrating sound As long as the plastic surrounding the fans is secure, this shouldn’t be an issue.
Pre-applied ARCTIC MX-4 Arctic Cooling’s MX series of thermal compounds are highly regarded.
Compatible with CrossFire and SLI Requires a minimum of two slots separating the cards.

 

Arctic Cooling Accelero Xtreme Plus: Specifications
(from the product
web page
)
Dimensions 290 L x 104 W x 56 H mm
Fan 92mm x 3 fans with 120mm cable
Fan speed 900 – 2000 RPM (controlled by PWM)
Air flow 81 CFM / 138m3/h
Max. Cooling Capacity 250 Watts
Bearing Fluid Dynamic Bearing
Weight 622g
Warranty 6 year
EAN-Code 0872767002531
Important Notice
The Accelero XTREME Plus does not have any additional heatsinks for VR and RAM. To use the cooler on a VGA board it needs to be purchased with a specific set of heat sinks. Please find the according sets underneath.
Set Compatible Models
VR001 ATI Radeon
HD 6870, 5870, 5830, 4890, 4870, 4850, 4830, 3870, 3850
nVIDIA GeFORCE
GTS 250, 9800GTX+, 9800GTX
VR002 nVIDIA GeForce GTX
285, 280, 275, 260+, 260
VR003 nVIDIA GeForce GTX
470, 465
VR004 nVIDIA GeForce GTX
480
VR005 nVIDIA GeForce GTX
460

Arctic Cooling offers different sets of memory, VRM heatsinks, and mounting plates for different cards (listed above) rather than including them all in one package for universal compatibility. They offer a couple of pre-bundled versions, the Xtreme 5870 with VR001, the set with the highest compatibility, and the Xtreme GTX Pro with VR002 for the GTX 260/275/280/285. They also sell an Xtreme 5970, a larger version that can handle the Radeon HD 5970’s dual GPUs.

PHYSICAL DETAILS

The Accelero Xtreme Plus consists of a copper base, five extremely long heatpipes running down the entire length of the heatsink, 84 aluminum fins, and three 92 mm fans. It is 29 cm (11.4″) long and weighs in at approximately 650 grams according to our digital scale, a bit more than the specified 622 grams.


With three 92 mm fans and a massive fin stack underneath it, the Xtreme Plus is easily the most massive GPU cooler we’ve seen.

Notice that on the backplate side of the cooler there are two heatpipe ends that are shorter than the others. This design was employed to avoid interference with the large metal boxes covering the DVI connections on ATI’s recent cards.

The fins are approximately 0.32 mm thick and spaced 1.78 mm apart on average. The plastic holder securing the fans extends outward by 9 mm.

Once installed, there is only 12 mm of clearance under the fins so larger aftermarket ramsinks are not compatible with the Xtreme Plus.

The copper base is large with a slightly rough surface and has AC’s MX-4 compound pre-applied.

INSTALLATION

The most critical aspect of installation is for the heatsink to be securely
mounted. A firm mating results in good contact between the heatsink’s base and
the GPU core and more efficient heat conduction. Ideally installation should
also be a simple procedure with as the user having to handle as few pieces of
hardware as possible.

The Xtreme Plus is exceptionally easy to install, being secured to the card with just four screws with washers on the trace side of the board. There are no double-sided screws, nuts, or spring-loaded bolts to mess around with.

After years of complaints about the weak thermal adhesive tape on their memory and VRM heatsinks, AC responded by shipping the Xtreme Plus with thermal adhesive instead. The included tube is small and the adhesive itself is very thick and has a short lifespan. According to AC it only lasts a week after being opened unless it is refrigerated.

The adhesive worked fairly well, but remember to clean both the chip and heatsink surface before application. Once you pull a heatsink off, you won’t be able to get it back on, though the chalky residue comes off easily after a 24 hour cure.

Fully installed on our HIS Radeon HD 5870.

We opted to reuse the memory heatsinks from the Gelid Icy Vision but the large mounting plate interfered with the ones at the edge of the card. The ramsinks cannot overlap the memory chips, so we had to turn them 90 degrees.

Installed in our test system. The final product takes up three slots, but the right side of the card sags downward considerably. The Xtreme Plus also increased the effective length of the card to 30.6 cm or just over 12 inches.

TEST METHODOLOGY

Our test procedure is an in-system test, designed to determine whether the
cooler is adequate for use in a low-noise system. By adequately cooled,
we mean cooled well enough that no misbehavior related to thermal overload is
exhibited. Thermal misbehavior in a graphics card can show up in a variety of
ways, including:

  • Sudden system shutdown, reboot without warning, or loss of display signal
  • Jaggies and other visual artifacts on the screen.
  • Motion slowing and/or screen freezing.

Any of these misbehaviors are annoying at best and dangerous at worst —
dangerous to the health and lifespan of the graphics card, and sometimes to
the system OS.

Test Platform

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • CPUBurn
    processor stress software.
  • FurMark
    stability test to stress the GPU.
  • GPU-Z to
    monitor GPU temperatures.
  • Infrared Thermometer to measure VRM temperatures.
  • A custom-built variable fan speed controller to power the system
    fan
  • PC-based spectrum analyzer:
    SpectraPlus with ACO Pacific mic and M-Audio digital
    audio interfaces.
  • Anechoic chamber
    with ambient level of 11 dBA or lower


A summary of how our video card/cooler test platform is put together can
be found here.

Today’s coolers are tested on a HIS Radeon HD 5870 iCooler V Turbo, a factory-overclocked single GPU card that draws about 215W by our estimates. The stock VRM heatsink is left on for convenience.

Our main test consists of FurMark stability test running in conjunction with
CPUBurn to stress both the graphics card and processor simultaneously. This
combination produces more CPU/GPU stress than a typical gaming session. As our
test system has very limited airflow, our results are not indicative of a real-world
situation, but rather a worse-case scenario. If the heatsink in question can
cool the card and its components adequately in this environment it means there
will be some degree of thermal headroom when deployed in a more conventional
situation. The GPU temperature is recorded using GPU-Z, and an infrared thermometer is used to manually take the temperature of the VRMs on the trace side of the card.

The coolers are tested at various speeds to represent a good cross-section of
its airflow and noise performance. Noise is measured and recorded with our test
system on with the heatsink installed. Our mic is positioned at a distance of
one meter from the center of the case’s left side panel at a 45 degree angle.

TEST RESULTS

Noise

Stock Fan Measurements
(in system)
Fan Voltage
SPL@1m
12V
24 dBA
9V
19 dBA
7V
16 dBA
5V
14 dBA
Ambient noise level: 11 dBA
(14 dBA with the test system on)

The Accelero Xtreme’s fans were fairly quiet below 9V, and effectively inaudible at 5V in our two fan VGA test system. The fans sound remarkably smooth and soft, though it develops a small degree of whine above 9V and turbulence about 10V. At 8V and below, the acoustic profile is completely benign and innocuous.

The Accelero Xtreme Plus measured 16 dBA@1m at 7V in our VGA test system.

The wave form showed a lot of noise at lower frequencies, but this was caused mainly by the other components in the test system. The contribution from the Xtreme plus had higher frequencies in the 400 to 900 Hz range, but it was not enough to subjectively alter the overall sound quality of the machine.

Performance

Test Results on OC’d 215W Radeon HD 5870
Fan Voltage
SPL@1m
GPU Temp
VRM Temp
System Power (AC)
Stock Cooler
Auto
34 dBA
87°C
unknown
415W
GELID Icy Vision
12V
27 dBA
87°C
100°C
399W
9V
23 dBA
90°C
108°C
403W
7V
21 dBA
91°C
113°C
405W
5V
17 dBA
fail, throttle
AC Accelero Xtreme Plus
12V
24 dBA
66°C
96°C
386W
9V
19 dBA
67°C
106°C
386W
7V
16 dBA
68°C
115°C
387W
5V
14 dBA
82°C
147°C
402W
Ambient temperature: 23°C
Ambient noise level: 11 dBA
(14 dBA with the test system on)

The best dual fan cooler we’ve tested, the GELID Icy Vision was absolutely destroyed by the Accelero Xtreme Plus. Though it is a big improvement over the stock cooler, the GELID was simply outclassed by the three-fan Arctic Cooling behemoth. At similar noise levels, the Xtreme Plus delivered massive improvements in GPU and VRM temperatures, about 24°C and 12°C respectively.

At 5V/17 dBA, the Icy Vision wasn’t able to keep the GPU cool enough and we saw the card’s clock speeds throttle in response. With the Xtreme Plus, the 5870 remained stable with the fans at 5V, a level that generated no measurable noise increase in our test system, though the VRM temperature was quite high. Cooling a 215W card while remaining essentially inaudible is simply astonishing.

MP3 SOUND RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high
resolution, lab quality, digital recording system
inside SPCR’s
own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber
, then converted to LAME 128kbps
encoded MP3s. We’ve listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation
from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of
what we heard during the review.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds
in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer
or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient
noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware
that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn’t hear it from
one meter, chances are we couldn’t record it either!

The recording starts with 10 seconds of room ambiance, followed by 10 seconds
of the VGA test system without a video card installed, and then the actual product’s
noise at various levels. For the most realistic results, set the volume
so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don’t change
the volume setting again.

Comparatives:

FINAL THOUGHTS

The factory-overclocked HIS Radeon HD 5870 iCooler V Turbo is a most power hungry single-GPU card, and the Arctic Cooling Accelero Xtreme Plus cooled it almost casually, delivering comfortable temperatures in our hot, low airflow VGA test system with very little additional noise. Our testing loads are more strenuous than any modern PC game, and our low airflow testbed hotter than that of most web reviewers, so in more conventional conditions, there should be plenty of headroom for hotter cards and higher ambient temperatures. The cooling proficiency of the Accelero Xtreme Plus is just plain ridiculous, blowing the best dual fan models out of the water.

The fans are acoustically sound and can be controlled via software if plugged into the graphics card’s fan header, a rarity for a GPU heatsink. If you prefer to power them externally, it also ships with a 7V/12V molex adapter. For a HD 5870, using the 7V connector is perfectly fine — it’s very quiet at that level and having the fan spin faster is overkill.

The AC’s other big strength is the dead simple installation procedure. Only four screws are required to get the main heatsink on, a step that can be completed in seconds. We were pleased to skip the part where we fiddle with the big bag of nuts, bolts, caps, springs, and what have you used by other manufacturers. The thermal adhesive included to secure the memory and VRM heatsinks works well and it is a big step up from the weak thin film AC has used in the past. However, the adhesive is rather thick, making it particularly difficult to apply in small amounts. Thankfully it can be cleaned off fairly easy if the heatsinks need to be removed for any reason.

Of course all this GPU cooling goodness comes at a cost. An Xtreme Plus with a complete set of memory/VRM heatsinks will run you US$70~75, which is about double the price of most dual fan heatsinks. It is a steep price, but the performance benefit is substantial, allowing end-users to cool 200W+ cards quietly without worry. We would have preferred a smaller cooler to get the job done, but reality is a harsh mistress. The mammoth Accelero Xtreme Plus is a necessary evil for serious gamers who value low noise levels as much as high frame rates.

Arctic Cooling Accelero Xtreme Plus
PROS

* Amazing performance
* Quiet fans
* Fan control via PWM
* Dead simple mounting system

CONS

* Very expensive
* Enormous

 

Our thanks to Arctic Cooling for the Accelero Xtreme Plus sample used in this review.


Accelero Xtreme Plus: SPCR Editor’s Choice Award

* * *

Articles of Related Interest
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HIS HD Radeon 5870 iCooler V Turbo
Scythe Setsugen GPU Cooler
ZEROtherm CoolMaxx 2000 GPU
Cooler

Scythe Musashi Dual Fan GPU Cooler
[PostScript Added]

Thermaltake Duorb VGA Cooler:
Are Two Orbs Better Than One?

* * *

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