As a company, Arctic Cooling needs no introduction. They are the dominant force in third-party GPU cooling and are currently creating a sizable impact in the CPU cooling market, too, with products such as the stupidly cheap Freezer 64 Pro. If you’re on the hunt for a high-performance cooler for your swanky new video card, you should not ignore Arctic Cooling.
Arctic Cooling is currently refreshing their high-end GPU coolers, and the first to arrive are the Accelero X1 and X2. The X1 has been designed to fit the 7800 GT or GTX, including the GTX 512MB, while the X2 is for (you guessed it) the X1800 and X1900 ranges from ATI.
It’s not hard to find people who’d assume that Arctic Cooling’s NV Silencer range was already the performance leader in GPU cooling, mainly because this is pretty much true. But this hasn’t stopped the folks at Arctic Cooling from bringing us some revamped coolers to drool over. The X1 and X2 drastically differ from the NV silencer range that ruled the earth before them. They have introduced heat pipe technology into the equation—a first for GPU cooling. Arctic Cooling claims that this increases cooling efficiency across the NV silencer range. The specifications for both are the following:
- On paper, they look impressive with their deficient noise levels combined with high performance, but some questions need answering. The airflow no longer travels outside of the PC case it’s installed in. Instead, the airflow blows directly onto the motherboard. This may or may not be a problem, and we will try to address it with this review.
- I will examine the X1 and X2 and test them on a 7800 GT (X1) and X1800 XT (X2). I’ll test them at different fan speeds to get a solid idea of what you can expect from them under all possible circumstances.
Arctic Cooling Accelero X1 and X2
The X1 and X2 are almost identical, so for that reason, I’m mostly going to cover the X2 on this page.
Both coolers are packaged the same and come with a small installation leaflet, thermal memory pads, screws, washers, and, in the case of the X1, a memory bracket just in case you have an Nvidia card with memory on the back, like a 7800 GTX 512MB.
As you can see, this is different from Arctic Cooling’s Silencer range of coolers.
Performance is meant to be increased due to the use of heat pipes, of which there are three that run through all the fins.
As you can imagine, once this is installed, the GPU will be vertical in this image, and the hot air will no longer be exhausted from the case. It blows the hot air directly onto the motherboard…
The heatsink area is quite large on the Accelero coolers, which contain a copper base with aluminum fins. This makes it reasonably light for its size and much lighter than the reference cooler on the X1800 XT.
The build quality is typical of Arctic Cooling products; in other words, they are very well-designed and built. The cooler’s base is not polished to a mirror finish but is even and well-lapped.
Installation is effortless and identical for both the X1 and X2. The first thing to do is to unscrew the reference cooler and remove it. Then clean the core and memory chips with tissue paper. At this point, you need to place the provided thermal pads onto all the memory chips like in the below image:
You should then place the cooler on a hard surface and slowly lower the card onto the cooler, ensuring all the screw holes align correctly.
The final step is to put a washer on each screw and give them what they desperately seek—a good screwing. This is one of the most accessible third-party coolers to install and should take no more than 5 minutes.
Test Setup and Performance Tweaks
We are using a 7800 GT for the X1 and an X1800 XT for the X2. If you own an X1800 XL or 7800 GTX, your results will no doubt be a little different, so keep that in mind.
The testbed is water-cooled using a custom radiator from a Ford Sierra. I can run it passively and keep my CPU temperatures below 35 degrees. In other words, the testbed is eerily quiet. Also, the hard drive is in a suspended hard drive bay, and all case fans were switched off for noise testing.
So that you know, the fans in the case were a single 80 mm Papst over the memory and two 120 mm fans running at 5 volts for case airflow. The case is closed for testing to give real-world results. The rest of the testbed specifications are as follows:
Because Arctic Cooling products run off the GPU’s fan header, you should understand how to get the best noise/performance ratio from these products. You can plug and play and get vastly superior results over the stock cooler, but if you tweak the fan speeds, you can achieve even greater results.
Tweaking the Accelero X1 (Nvidia)
To run your 7800 with some of the fan speeds we used, you should install Riva Tuner, which allows you to control your card’s fan speeds in both 2D and 3D. Once installed, you can find this tab under:
• Driver settings / customize / system settings/ fan,
Here’s a picture of the fan section in Riva Tuner:
You can see three different settings above. We will concentrate on Standard 2D and Performance 3D. Standard 2D is when you are in Windows or any 2D application. “Performance 3D” is when you are in a 3D game or 3D application. In the results table below, you will notice the column “Fan Speeds,” which will tell you exactly what settings we used for both 2D and 3D. One last thing: idle temperatures are taken in the 2D mode at low fan speeds.
We chose to test with the following three modes:
• Default method: 28% in 2D, 43% in 3D
• Mode Minimum :25% in 2D, 25% in 3D
• Maximum mode: 100% in 2D, 100% in 3D
The default setting is the mode that Nvidia sets. In other words, when you install a 7800 GT, it automatically has these speed settings.
Tweaking the Accelero X2 (ATI)
For the X2, we’ll use the ATI Tool to control the fan speed on the X1800 XT. You need to click Settings and select Fan Control using the drop-down menu on this page. This will bring up the following options:
For our tests, we will concentrate on using the default fan speed settings of the X1800 XT, which are displayed in the above picture. If yours differ, click the reset button, and these settings will be selected. We’ll also test using a fixed percentage of 100% to show what this cooler can do with its fan at maximum.
Test results: Accelero X2
ATI: Noise levels
ATI’s reference cooler does a reasonable job of cooling the core but has horrendous noise characteristics. When the core temperature is below 70c, the fan is noisy but nothing more than background pollution. At 74c, the fan RPM and, thus, noise levels dramatically increase. It’s not the whooshing or ticking noise of a high-RPM fan; instead, it’s an alienating sine wave noise—a constant whining shoots me now, please. When the core hits 80c, the fan speeds up yet again.
Surprisingly, though now louder in decibels, it’s more bearable than the increase at 74c. It’s now a typical whooshing noise synonymous with a high RPM fan. The fan speed increase at 80c creates a lot more airflow, so the core temperature drops to 77c. After a few seconds at 77c, the fan spins back down to the sine wave noise, so temperatures increase back to 80c, and so on. This game of table tennis continued for the entire test and was very annoying.
This, of course, is when it’s in dynamic mode. I’m not going to try to describe what it sounds like with the fan RPM at 100%; it’s as loud as a hair dryer! It should be no surprise to hear me say that I’m not a fan of ATI’s reference cooler.
X2: Noise levels
In comparison, the X2 is absolute bliss. In dynamic mode, it’s just plain…silent. Okay, it’s not entirely silent, but I couldn’t hear it on my PC with all fans turned off. The only parts running were the X2 and a Hydor L30 water pump.
With the X2 set up in ATI Tool to run at 100%, it’s still quieter than the reference cooler when it’s just bumming around idle! The X2 at 100% is noticeable, but it’s a moderately quiet whooshing noise.
As already mentioned, the X2 is leagues ahead of the reference cooler in terms of noise, and these results clearly show it has better performance to boot!
In dynamic mode, the X2 is so quiet you’d be hard-pressed to hear it under any circumstances, and it’s a full 60C cooler. With the fan at 100%, it’s still quieter than the reference cooler in dynamic mode but is 14C cooler. I won’t compare the reference cooler’s performance with its fan running at 100%, as it’s unbearable.
No wonder X1800 and X1900 cards are the performance beasts when it comes to GPU cooling. But their fans’ loud noise is a growing concern among people. To combat this issue, the brand has launched its new Arctic Cooling Accelero X2.
There may be various other options in the market, but the Arctic Cooling Accelero X2 has all the features you would want in an additional cooling system.
The installation goes smoothly, and even inexperienced people can easily do it. Temperatures and fan noise have decreased significantly and are likely to blend seamlessly with the other fans operating in your system.