VGA Coolers: Thermalright V1 Ultra, Zalman 700 & 900, AC Silencer 5 v.3

Cooling
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Product
Thermalright V1 Ultra
Aftermarket VGA Cooler
Manufacturer
Thermalright
Market Price
US$45

Thermalright is well known for making high-end CPU heatsinks, so it is no surprise that they have an offering for VGA cards. The V1 Ultra is the successor of the original V1 cooler, which was rendered obsolete when ATI and nVidia released their latest generation of GPUs. Aside from fixing compatibility, the V1 Ultra also adds a third heatpipe.

Thermalright has dealt with the space constraints around the VGA card by relocating the most bulky parts. A medium-sized passive heatsink provides a small amount of direct cooling, but the bulk of the heat is transferred to a smaller heatsink that is suspended 6mm above the back of the card. A low profile 80 mm fan dissipates heat away from the heatsink. For cards that require extra cooling, an second fan can be attached to the passive heatsink.

All these heatsinks and fans make the cooler quite thick. Like the NV Silencer, the heatsink protrudes into the slot below the card, preventing its use. The fan and heatsink on the top also add take up space equivalent to another two slots, rendering any slots above the card useless as well. The V1 Ultra is unlikely to work well in a dual VGA configuration, since even if the fan can be forced to fit, the fan on the lower card will likely end up blowing all of the heat from the upper card down onto the lower card.


Thermalright's signature brown box and a wide gamut of bits and pieces.

SPECIFICATIONS: Thermalright V1 Ultra
(from
Thermalright's web site)
Dimensions
Heat sink (base, front): L30 × W24 × H2 (mm)
Heat sink (body, front): L80 × W80 × H20 (mm)
Heat sink (body, rear with fan): L80 × W80 × H28.5
Rear heat sink to VGA card: 6 mm
Weight 310g (heat sink only)
Stock Fan
Maker: OEM
Size: 80 × 80 × 15 (mm)
Bearing: Two Balls
Voltage: 12V
Speed: 2500 rpm
Air Flow: 24.84CFM
Noise Level: 31.3 dBA
Compatibility
ATI:
Radeon 9800, X700*, X800*, X850, X1800*, X1900* (*: Check for details)

NVIDIA:
GeForce 6600*, 6600 GT*, 6800, 6800GT, 6800 Ultra, 7300GS, 7600G, 7800GT, 7800 GTX, 7900 GT,
7900 GTX*
(*: Check for details)


Individual components add up: The V1 Ultra is exceptionally thick.


Passive base in the foreground, main heatsink in the background.


A low profile 80mm fan is included, but a standard fan can be used if there's room.


A trio of heatpipes move heat away from the GPU.

Installation

Installing the V1 Ultra was much more complex than the NV Silencer. The cooler was designed to work with a wide range of cards, so instead of fixed position bolts, it uses a bracket with adjustable arms that can adapt to various configurations of mounting holes. The system is somewhat similar to those used in some northbridge heatsinks (Zalman's come to mind).

There were two main steps and numerous intermediate steps in the installation. Step one: The bracket was screwed onto the card in preparation for step two: The heatsink was screwed onto the bracket. The difficult part was the first step, which was imprecise and required a little experimentation. And, despite an instruction booklet that is well illustrated and looks complete, there were a number of small details that needed to be figured out on their own.

Problems arose from the very beginning, starting with the cushion pad that is intended to protect the delicate corners of the GPU while maneuvering the heatsink into place. Unfortunately, the cushion was too small to fit around the twin chips on our card; had we left it in place the heatsink would not have made good contact. In addition, the metal frame around the chip did not allow the cushion to lie flat. Oddly, the cushion didn't seem to be very well matched with the mounting bracket either, as two of the edges would not have provided any cushioning at all. Eventually, we gave up and installed the cooler without the cushion.


This soft silicone pad is designed to protect the GPU chip, but it was too small to fit our card.

The next challenge was to install the bracket. Unlike the NV Silencer, which used all four of the available mounting holes, the V1 Ultra used only two flimsy machine screws to hold the bracket in place. In fact, the screws weren't even attached to the bracket itself; instead, they screwed into metal arms that were then attached to the bracket. The illustration below shows the correct installation. Tension on the bracket is controlled by the tightness of the machine screws, which bend the arms as they are tightened.

The arms themselves are worthy of note. Thermalright includes two sets of arms, a long set and a short set. Contrary to the advice in the instruction booklet, we found it best to use the longer arms to avoid warping the bracket. Although we were able to complete the installation with the short arms, they did not allow the bracket to lie flat under tension.

The fully installed bracket felt quite flimsy, and seemed unlikely to hold the cooler in place if the card is dropped or jostled in transit. The individual screws and the threads on arms also seemed less secure than they should have been.


The bracket, fully installed.

The next step was to maneuver the heatsink into place. Thankfully, this was much easier than installing the bracket, although it too required several intermediate steps. First of all, the RAM chips had to be cooled. Thermalright includes six individual heatsinks for the RAM chips which were easily applied by peeling off the protective backing and sticking them in place. However, our card, like most others, shipped with eight RAM chips, not six.

This was no accident; the remaining two chips are cooled by the main heatsink via an extra-thick heatpad. Two 1mm pads and a 2mm pad are included so that the height of the pad can be adjusted from 1~4mm. For our card, the single 2mm pad was adequate. The pad needed to be applied before we slid the heatsink onto the card.


The heatpipes extend well above the top edge of the card.

The main heatsink would have slipped easily over the end of the card were it not for the aluminum backplate from the NV Silencer. This backplate was left in place for all of the coolers, since the NV Silencer was the only model to ship with a rear-mounted heatsink. As it was, it took a little force to move it into position but everything worked out in the end. The heatsink was secured to the bracket with four hefty machine screws that pulled the bracket up so it was snug against the heatsink, adding some much needed tension. The final result seemed tight and secure, whatever our worries about the security of the bracket.


The back side. The aluminum plate is left over from the NV Silencer, and does not come with the V1 Ultra.



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