Arctic Cooling Accelero S1 VGA Cooler

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There's no ignoring the size of the S1 — it's much larger than the card(s) it was designed to cool. Pictures just don't do it justice — when you actually have it in your hand and realize you can't wrap your fingers the entire width, you'll be in awe. But is the S1 too big? The height won't be an issue for most as it only obstructs one extra expansion slot. Lengthwise, the S1 measures 21.5cm (~8.5"), but it doesn't extend all the way the edge of the PCI covers — it sits about 1cm away. In effect it's about the same length as most modern high-end video cards. That leaves only the width, which extends past the edge of the video card by approximately 4cm. In my Antec Solo, the S1 is only a few millimeters longer than my Scythe Ninja and I reckon any case with a 120mm fan in the back will be wide enough to accomodate the S1. The area beteween the edge of the expansion cards and the side panel in most tower cases typically goes wasted so its only logical to take advantage of this space.

The S1 side-by-side with the (fairly large, or so we thought) Zalman VF1000.

As with most heatsinks you see today it is comprised of a copper base, copper heatpipes, and aluminum fins. The fins are friction-fit, with ample gaps of approximately 3.5mm — perfect for passive cooling in a low airflow environment. It weighs in at only 290 grams because most of the S1's area is just air. Attached to the final fins at each end are plastic covers which appear to be a flimsy way of binding the whole thing together. Despite this, the fins are quite secure and difficult to bend, especially where they contact the heatpipes.

The S1's base.

Arctic Cooling pre-applies their MX-1 thermal compound to the base of all their heatsinks — it's a fairly good product according to various reviews around the web. We immediately cleaned it off however as it's important we use the same thermal interface material in all of our heatsink tests. It was also necessary to take a look at the base, which turned out to be very flat but not polished at all — machine marks were clearly visible. The ends of the heatpipes appeared to be well soldered to the base as there were no visible gaps as far as I could tell.

Unlike Zalman's VGA heatsinks, there are only one set of mounting holes, which limits compatibility. If you own an incompatible card, there are alternatives: The Accelero S2, which has half the number of heatpipes and is slightly narrower, and the recently announced Accelero S1 Rev. 2, which is identical to the S1 only with a revised mounting scheme. Most of today's medium to high-end video cards are in the compatibility list with the notable exceptions of ATI's HD 2xxx series and the Geforce 8800GTS/GTX/Ultra.


The first step in installing the Accelero S1 on our Radeon X1950XTX test card was to attach the ramsinks. This unfortunately proved problematic as the 3M thermal adhesive was incredibly weak. Each memory chip was painstakingly cleaned eto make sure the surface was immaculate, and pushed down firmly on each ramsink for a good minute. Upon flipping the card upside down however, several of them decided they no longer belonged on the card and fell off like lemmings into the sea. Perhaps application with longer, more persistant pressure, or possibly heating them up beforehand would have made them adhere better, but who has the time or the patience!? Bottom-line: They should work right out of the box but they don't. Zalman low profile ramsinks were used instead — these have never fallen off despite being re-used numerous times in the past.

The ramsink adhesive was weak and ineffective.

Thermal compound was applied to the GPU core, and the card was flipped upside down to be placed onto the heatsink. The S1 is mounted with four fine-threaded screws with thin washers placed in between them and the back of the card. Arctic Cooling's instructions dictate that the two screws nearest the gold contacts of the card should be partially installed, then the opposite end of the card be lifted up to install two L-shaped plastic clips.

Both "L" clips firmly in place.

The top side of the "L" clip grasps the edge of the card while a limb on the bottom side is inserted through the fins. On the other side, T-shaped clips go in between the same fins and latch on. These clips act as spacers, maintaining a set distance between the card and the fins of the heatsink. This prevents the heatsink bending downward (say if you decide to attach a fan to it) and also keeps board components away from the fins.

A closer look at a"L" clip.

The fins may interfere if your card has tall capacitors, but luckily such components are absent on our X1950XTX. The spacers should be placed between the 1st/2nd and 3rd/4th heatpipe, but they might need to be adjusted if anything gets in the way. Also note that these clips are somewhat difficult to remove, so think twice before you place them. If you do not plan on adding a fan, you can probably omit this step altogether.

A top-bottom view gives better context to the size.

Fully installed. If you plan on adding a fan pressed directly against the heatsink, don't use the spacers, or spread them far apart so they do not interfere.

A view of the base.

Heatpipe clearance.

Installed in our test platform.

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