Sytrin KuFormula VF1 Plus graphics card cooler

Cooling
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TEST RESULTS

Ambient conditions during testing were 16 dBA and 22°C. Thermal and acoustic tests were run with the Sytrin fan and the 120mm system fan at different speeds.

Thermal testing consisted of running CPUBurn and the artifact scanner built into ATI Tool simultaneously to generate as much heat as possible. An initial test was run with the system fan running at 12 volts, and then the fan was progressively slowed down to make the thermal environment more difficult.

Once the temperature on the card stabilized, the stress software was left running for at least another 20 minutes while we watched the screen carefully for visual artifacts that might indicate overheating. The last test, with the system fan running at 7 volts, was left running for more than an hour. Even during our most strenuous test, none of the coolers ever allowed our test card to get hot enough that there were visual artifacts on the screen.

Sytrin KuFormula VF1 Plus Test Results
Test State
GPU
VGA Ambient*
AC Power
CPU
Overall Noise
dBA@1m
VGA Fan: High
System Fan: 12V
60°C
53°C
229W
65°C
42
VGA Fan: Low
System Fan: 12V
65°C
57°C
230W
65°C
29
VGA Fan: Low
System Fan: 9V
66°C
59°C
231W
65°C
28
VGA Fan: Low
System Fan: 7V
68°C
61°C
232W
68°C
27
VGA Fan: 5V
System Fan: 7V
76°C
67°C
232W
68°C
24
* This is the temperature readout of a sensor somewhere on the 6800GT card

With all fans going full tilt, the VF1 cooled our test card better than any other VGA cooler we've tested. The 60°C load temperature was 5°C lower than even the Zalman VF900 (the cooling champ, so far, crowned in our last VGA cooler roundup) at full speed. On the other hand, the noise level was way too high, more than 10 dBA@1m higher than with the Zalman, so perhaps the accomplishment isn't all that impressive.

With the Sytrin fan at Low, performance remained impressive, but its fan remained the noise bottleneck. Even with it set on Low, we would not be happy with the noise of this fan in our own PCs. It was relatively unaffected by the case airflow: Changing the case fan voltage from 12V to 7V caused only a 3°C rise in GPU temperature with the Sytrin fan set on Low.

Only when the supplied controller was bypassed and the fan fed 5V directly did the noise come down to what we'd consider a nicely quiet level. With the system fan at 7V, the overall noise finally dropped below 25 dBA@1m. The price was an 8°C increase in temperature. Still, the 76°C load temperature was well within the bounds of safety for our test card, although a hotter card might struggle.

A summary comparison against the competitors from our last VGA coolers roundup helps to put the VF1's performance into perspective. The comparison is hampered by the fact that in the previous roundup, the coolers were tested only at 12V and 5V fan voltage.

Sytrin KuFormula VF1 vs. Other VGA Coolers
Cooler Model
GPU temperature and Overall Noise (dBA@1m) at
Various System Fan and Cooler Fan Voltages
12V / 12V
9V / Low or 5V*
7V / Low
7V / 5V
Sytrin VF1
60°C / 42dBA
66°C / 28dBA
68°C / 27dBA
76°C / 24dBA
Zalman VF900CU
63°C / 30dBA
65°C / 24dBA
-
67°C / 23dBA
Zalman VF700CU
72°C / 32dBA
78°C / 24dBA
-
81°C / 23dBA
Thermalright V1 Ultra
61°C / 34dBA
75°C / 24dBA
-
78°C / 23dBA
* The system fan was at 9V for all the tests; the cooler fan was at 5V for all except the Sytrin, which was set on low. This is approximately 6.5V.

At full fan speeds, the VF1 was the top cooler by a single degree. However, the 41 dBA@1m noise level makes it unusable in a quiet system. With its fan on the Low setting (6.5V), it basically matched the Zalman VF900CU, but still trailed significantly in the noise department.

From a noise perspective, the results with the VGA fans at 5V make a fairer comparison, as the differences in noise level between the various coolers are less noticeable. Unfortunately, the 8°C increase in temperature at this level put the VF1 well off the pace set by the VF900, although it remained competitive — even slightly better — with the other coolers we've tested. At any rate, the 76°C load temperature was well within the bounds of safety for our test card, although a hotter card might struggle.

Although the noise level at 5V was much preferable to the noise level on Low (6.5V), it seems likely that the VF1 was a bit starved for airflow. The 8°C jump between 5V and 6.5V was equal to the total cooling loss between 6.5V and 12V. So long as the card in question is cooled adequately by the fan at 5V, this doesn't matter, but it does mean that a hot card might have trouble when the fan speed is reduced to 5V.

NOISE RECORDINGS IN MP3 FORMAT

Sytrin KuFormula VF1 Plus: 5V-L-M-H, 5s Ambient between levels: One Meter, One Foot

Sytrin KuFormula VF1 Plus: *Not* mounted on heatsink, fan on Low: One Meter

Comparatives:

Zalman VF900CU: 5V-7V-9V-12V, 5s Ambient between levels: One Meter, One Foot

Arctic Cooling Accelero X1: 5V-7V-9V-12V, 5s Ambient between levels: One Meter, One Foot

Nexus 92mm Axial Fan: 5V-7V-9V-12V, 5s Ambient between levels: One Meter, One Foot

HOW TO LISTEN & COMPARE

These recordings were made with a high resolution, studio quality, digital recording system and are intended to represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review. Two recordings of each noise level were made, one from a distance of one meter, and another from one foot away.

The one meter recording is intended to give you an idea of how the subject of this review sound 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. For best results, set your volume control so that the ambient noise is just barely audible. 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 one foot recording is designed to bring out the fine details of the noise. Use this recording with caution! Although more detailed, it may not represent how the subject sounds in actual use. It is best to listen to this recording after you have listened to the one meter recording.

More details about how we make these recordings can be found in our short article: Audio Recording Methods Revised.

CONCLUSIONS

If noise is no concern, the KuFormula VF1 Plus is certainly a most capable heatsink — at full speed (an ear-splitting 42 dBA@1m) it cooled our test card better than any other cooler we've tested, by a small margin. Unfortunately, its noise character is undesirable to most users, and the fan's noise character was far from good even when undervolted.

With noise taken into account, it falls from being the best to being merely good. It is far off the pace of the VF900, but manages to pull a respectable second-place, even with the significant drop in cooling efficiency when the fan is turned down. And, with the fan bumped up just a little, it can almost match the VF900 while still maintaining a noise level that is acceptable for a system where noise is not the first priority.

Installation is a little more involved than usual, but is reasonably straightforward so long as the correct parts are used. It doesn't have the slap-on simplicity of Zalman's heatsinks, but it's not difficult to put together.

The best use for the VF1 is in a case with a vent for the video card (Intel-defined TAC). The smallish intake at the top of the video card slot positions it right at the vent of such cases, which means cooler outside air can be fed directly across the heatsink fins. In such a setup, with the ambient at 22~23°C as in our lab, the CPU temperature would easily drop another 5°C; most likely, considerably more. For gamers who have the sound turned up, the extra noise from the side vent at the Low speed setting would be trivial. And for extreme gaming overclockers, perhaps even the noise of the Sytrin fan at full speed is an acceptable price to pay for being able to eke out an extra 5 or 10 MHz from their video card.

For most of the SPCR audience, the VF1 is an interesting alternative to the Zalman ZF900. As delivered, the Sytrin is not quite the equal of the Zalman, but it does provide options for experimentation with ducting off the side. A standard axial style fan could also be used. With a very quiet 80mm or 92mm fan mounted on the side vent, blowing directly into the tunnel of the VF1 and all around the card, it may be possible to improve both cooling performance and acoustics beyond any products we've tested in stock form. We'll entrust these experiments to the more adventurous members of the SPCR audience.

Many thanks to Sytrin for the review sample of the KuFormula VF1 Plus and to AOpen for the VGA card and the motherboard in the testbed.

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SPCR Articles of Related Interest:
Fanless PCIe Graphics Cards from Asus and Aopen
Gigabyte GV-N66256DP Fanless AGP video card
VGA Cooler Roundup: A Thermalright, two Zalmans, and an Arctic Cooling

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