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Prolimatech MK-26 Multi-VGA Cooler

The Prolimatech MK-26 is a sprawling nickel-plated GPU heatsink with six heatpipes and enough surface area for two standard 140 mm case fans. It offers excellent performance and cross-compatibility for a premium price.

October 1, 2012 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Prolimatech MK-26
GPU Cooler
Manufacturer
Prolimatech
Street Price
US$80?

Prolimatech burst onto the scene a few years ago with great success thanks
to the superb performance of the Megahalems. It became a top-tier CPU heatsink
brand almost overnight. Still, the landscape wouldn’t look much different if
Prolimatech disappeared, thanks to strong competition from the likes of Noctua
and Thermalright. The market is so mature and saturated, it’s not difficult
to find an excellent CPU cooler no matter where you live.

GPU cooling, on the other hand, is more challenging. High-end graphics cores
power requirements have long surpassed that of desktop CPUs. The TDP of the
most power hungry CPUs has hovered around 130W for many years, while the top
GPU requirement has actually exceeded 250W (for example, the Radeon HD 7980),
and we’re only talking about single core cards. At the same time, discrete graphics
cards remain in more thermally disadvantaged positions on the motherboard and
inside most cases, with much less room for huge heatsinks. Installing a third
party video card heatsink is often a more difficult and delicate operation.
Casual PC enthusiasts are less keen on potentially voiding their warranty on
an expensive graphics card, so aftermarket VGA heatsink demand isn’t as great.
Take all this into consideration, and it’s easy to see why there aren’t that
many high-end VGA cooler options available.

Enter the MK-26, a sprawling nickel-plated GPU heatsink from Prolimatech with
six heatpipes. The heatsink ships bare, taking either one or two standard sized
120/140 mm case fans. According to Prolimatech, it can handle cards with up
to a 320 Watt TDP which is more than any current generation single GPU model.
According to the compatibility
list
, the MK-26 is essentially a universal cooler, supporting almost every
mid-to-high end video card that NVIDIA and AMD has released going back four
years or so. Of the current generation, the only notable omissions are the GeForce
GTX 660 and 660 Ti.

Prolimatech MK-26: Specifications
(from the product
web page
)
Design type Dual Radiator
TDP* target 0 – 320 Watt
Mounting system Omni-mount universal tool-free kit
Dissipation Fins x 0.5mm Nickel plated Aluminum
Fin spacing 2.0mm
Pipes Ø 6mm, type; sintered metal powder
wick.
Fins to pipe contact Nickel solder
Recommended Fans 2 x 140mm fans or 2 x 120mm fans
Recommended fans specifications 140mm / 1000rpm
120mm / 1200rpm
package dimensions & shipping weight 257.1 x 146 x 47.1 mm / 583g

 


The box.


Package contents.

Despite supporting so many cards, there’s surprisingly little mounting hardware in the package. Included are just two different sets of mounting clips and bolts, eight ramsinks, and a motley crew of heatsinks for the VRMs and miscellaneous chips that may require additional cooling. The only unexpected amenity is a dual fan adapter that allows users to power and control standard 4-pin PWM case fans using the small 4-pin header found on most graphics cards.

PHYSICAL DETAILS

The Prolimatech MK-26 is composed of a copper base, 6 x 6 mm thick copper heatpipes and 65 aluminum fins, all nickel-plated. By our measurements, its dimensions are 23.0 x 14.6 x 4.7 cm or 9.1 x 5.7 x 1.9 inches (L x W x H) and it weighs approximately 590 grams or 1.3 lb.


Like most high-end video card coolers, the MK-26 isn’t symmetric, with
disproportionately sized fin-stacks on each side of the base. It is a
necessity to increase surface area as the GPU core on modern video cards
is located relatively close to the rear panel.


The fins are approximately 0.54 mm thick placed at 2.00 mm intervals. They’re more loosely packed than on most GPU heatsinks and it should perform very well with low airflow.


Solder is visible in the nooks and crannies between the base and where the heatpipes curl into them. There are 6 x 6 mm heatpipes.


Prolimatech has never been fastidious about getting a mirror shine on
their heatsink bases and the MK-26 is no exception. The finish is slightly
dull and fine machine marks are visible. To our surprise, like their CPU
coolers, the base is slightly slightly convex, which seems somewhat dangerous
when paired with a bare GPU die.


A closer look at the accessories.

INSTALLATION

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


For most Radeon cards the installation procedure is simple. Mounting clips with multiple holes for different GPU layouts are screwed onto the base. A backplate is placed on the trace side of the PCB with an insulating rubber pad to prevent short circuits and over-tightening. Spring-loaded bolts are inserted through the back to secure the parts to one another.


There are some problems with this method. It’s difficult to line the bolts
up with the holes the circuit board casting a shadow over the whole operation.
Furthermore, the bolts go through long slits on the backplate rather than
individual holes so positioning is a concern. The backplate can slide
slightly in every direction making it difficult to center. Without vigilance,
it’s easy for the bolts to end up at an angle, creating uneven tension.


We reused some ramsinks from a previous cooler which almost got in the way of the heatpipes.


The heatsink didn’t add any length to our HD 5870 test card but it hung over the side, stretching 5.3 cm past the edge of the circuit board.


The fan clips intended for the area near the rear panel are loose on one side as there aren’t enough fins grip on to. Both 120 and 140 mm fans are supported but the clips are designed in such a way that only works with square framed fans. As our reference 140 mm Noctua NF-P14 fans have round frames we used our reference Nexus 120 mm models instead.


A dual fan adapter is included to use the PWM control of the graphic card’s fan header. When 3-pin fans are used with this splitter, they run at full speed.


Installed in our test system, the finished product appears to take up five expansion slots but only because the right side dips down so far. It’s really a four slot solution if you prop it up so that the board is parallel with the slot.

TEST METHODOLOGY

Test Platform

Measurement and Analysis Tools

Test Procedure

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.

Heatsinks are installed on an HIS Radeon HD 5870 iCooler V Turbo, a factory-overclocked single GPU card that draws about 236W by our estimates. The stock VRM heatsink is left on for convenience. 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. The GPU temperature is recorded using GPU-Z.

Our main test consists of FurMark stability test running in conjunction with Prime95 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 cooler’s fan(s) (if applicable) are connected to a custom external fan controller and tested at various speeds to represent a good cross-section of its airflow and noise performance. If the heatsink is passively cooled, we use different predefined system fan speeds to determine the effect of system airflow on cooling performance.

GPU Test System:
Anechoic chamber measurements
Setting
System Fan Speed
System SPL@1m
High
1130 RPM
26 dBA
Med
820 RPM
18 dBA
Low
580 RPM
12~13 dBA
Note: mic is positioned at a distance of one meter from the center of the case’s left side panel at a 45 degree angle.

 

For heatsinks that support but don’t include standard case fans, our reference fans are used. The measured details
of these models are shown below, derived using our standard fan testing methodology.

Reference Noctua 140mm fan
Anechoic chamber measurements
Voltage
SPL@1m
Speed
12V
28~29 dBA
1250 RPM
9V
21 dBA
990 RPM
8V
18 dBA
880 RPM
7V
15~16 dBA
770 RPM
6V
13 dBA
660 RPM

 

Reference Nexus 120mm fan
Anechoic chamber measurements
Voltage
SPL@1m
Speed
12V
16 dBA
1080 RPM
9V
13 dBA
880 RPM
7V
12 dBA
720 RPM

 

Reference Nexus 92 mm fan
Anechoic chamber measurements
Voltage
SPL@1m
Speed
12V
16 dBA
1470 RPM
9V
12 dBA
1150 RPM

TEST RESULTS

Load Test Results: Prolimatech MK-26
(2 x Reference 120mm Fans)
Fan Voltage
GPU Temp
CPU Temp
Sys. Power (AC)
SPL@1m
12V
70°C
60°C
297W
18 dBA
9V
74°C
64°C
304W
15 dBA
7V
78°C
69°C
306W
14 dBA
System noise level without GPU fans: 12~13 dBA@1m.
Ambient temperature: 24°C

With a pair of our 120 mm reference fans, the MK-26 delivered solid results.
The GPU temperatures were very good, never exceeding 80°C even when the
fan voltage was lowered to 7V. At that level, the system noise was only 1~2
dB higher than ambient, so the fans had a minimal acoustic impact. Keep in mind
this is an extreme torture test on a ~230W card with very little case airflow.
It doesn’t get much better than this.

GPU Temperature Comparison
Sys. Noise (dBA@1m)
20
19
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
Prolimatech MK-26
(2 x 120mm ref. fans)
70
74
78
Arctic Cooling Accelero Xtreme Plus
67
73
84
GELID Icy Vision
86
90
GPU fail
System noise level without GPU fans: 12~13 dBA@1m.
Ambient temperature: 24°C

When generating noise levels of 18 dBA@1m and 15 dBA@1m, the MK-26 performed on par with the AC Accelero Xtreme Plus which features three 92 mm fans. The MK-26 pulled away by a healthy margin at 14 dBA@1m — it excelled with low airflow. The GELID Icy Vision, which has only two 92 mm fans, wasn’t competitive at all; the GPU exceeded 90°C at lower speeds prompting it to throttle to prevent overheating.

CPU Temperature Comparison
Sys. Noise (dBA@1m)
20
19
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
Prolimatech MK-26
(2 x 120mm ref. fans)
60
64
69
Arctic Cooling Accelero Xtreme Plus
67
70
75
GELID Icy Vision
68
69
GPU fail
System noise level without GPU fans: 12~13 dBA@1m.
Ambient temperature: 24°C

The MK-26 produced noticeably lower CPU temperatures than the Accelero Xtreme
Plus. This is somewhat strange as the GPU temperatures were similar and the
MK-26 isn’t designed to exhaust heat out through the back panel of the case.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Prolimatech MK-26 is a high performance video card cooler that does especially
well with low airflow, making it an excellent choice for a quiet gaming system.
Not only is it a superb performer, it offers a fair degree of versatility. Numerous
AMD and NVIDIA graphics cards are supported, from old favorites like the HD
3870 and 8800 GT, to the latest and greatest HD 7970 and GTX 680. Considering
how well it did with our overclocked Radeon HD 5870, it’s overkill for all but
the hottest, high power models.

Standard case fans may take up more space than thinner all-in-one solutions but they provide better cooling and give users more options. You can choose whatever model suits you — low speed whisperers or high speed screamers. It’s also easy to find replacements if the fans ever fail. Prolimatech has even provided a dual fan adapter to reuse the small 4-pin PWM fan header on most cards, providing fan control and freeing up power supply connectors or valuable motherboard fan headers for other uses.

The MK-26’s main drawback is its sheer size. It weighs 590 grams bare. Tack
to that another 240 grams or so for a pair of typical 120 mm fans; combined,
it’s the heaviest GPU cooler we’ve encountered. All this weight forced the back
side of our graphics card to bend downward by an alarming amount putting stress
on the PCI-E slot and the card’s contacts; it would have been nice for Prolimatech
to include something to prop the card up. The dimensions are also massive, taking
up four slots total (if you lift up the right side so it’s level with the slot).
Our only other complaint is that the installation procedure makes it difficult
to ensure a centered setup that delivers equal pressure to all four corners.

The MK-26 doesn’t appear to available in North America as of yet, but it can
be found in the UK for approximately £52 (incl. VAT) as can Arctic
Cooling’s latest, the Accelero Xtreme III (very similar to the Xtreme
Plus
). The Xtreme III costs about US$80 on this side of the pond
so using it as a reference, the MK-26 should cost about the same. The pricing
seems appropriate considering the MK-26 is the best GPU heatsink we’ve tested
thus far, but depending on the fans you choose, the final bill could very well
end up over US$100.

Our thanks to Prolimatech for the MK-26 video card cooler sample.

* * *


Prolimatech MK-26
is Recommended by SPCR

Articles of Related Interest
SPCR’s 2012 Graphics Card/Cooler Test System

ASUS GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II OC

Sapphire HD 7750 Ultimate Edition

Thermalright Shaman 140mm Fan GPU Cooler

Arctic Cooling Accelero Xtreme Plus GPU Cooler


GELID Icy Vision Dual Fan VGA Cooler

* * *

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