now includes photos and analysis.... if you don't care for my rambling, please skip to the results section,
adjusted space between raven and CPU heatsink as suggested by stealthgirl. added photo of new setup. sorry for the crappy cell phone photo. my parents took my camera on a trip.
last month, SPCR ran an article about the condor cooler from aerocase... the article can be found here: http://www.silentpcreview.com/article650-page1.html
but of course not all of us have the latest and greatest GFX cards. i happen to be among those in the aforementioned group. i own a BFG 6800GS and i didn't see a need to have such a huge cooler (did you see the torque it was putting on the card? [shudders...]). but i did want a passive cooler to replace the stock cooler i had, which was only on there because my AC NV5 silencer decided to call it quits after a month. so i decided to give the raven a try. despite a lack of reviews or any kind of feedback from anyone, i went ahead and bought the raven anyways... so here i am. sort of a raven guinea pig. hopefully what i post here will be useful to someone. please don't expect a professional SPCR review. i lack any kind of lab equipment. all i have is my eyes, ears, hands and any other appendage that might come in useful. on with the review...
ordering the raven was a breeze. paid through paypal. no problems there... their ordering system could use a little work. i would suggest confirmation emails and maybe some kind of status updates from their end. i did have some complaints about their shipping but they have been resolved and need no further attention in this review. all i can say is that their customer service is fantastic and quickly turned my complaints into praise.
the raven arrived today, neatly packaged in a box filled with bubble wrap, and foam peanuts. all the little accessories came in a plastic baggie (yup... those famous toothpicks too,
) along with my invoice and an instruction booklet. aerocase also provides one extra screw and one extra rubber/brass spacer just in case you lose one. good idea... more on that later.
when i got home i took out the heatsink and got to work. one thing i noticed right off the bat was that the heatpipes weren't bent 90 degrees like the diagram. i knew this would be trouble right away. more on that later... the instructions seemed pretty straightforward but i did manage to run into a few snags.
first of all, the toothpick method wasn't as easy as it looks in the instructions, or the SPCR condor review. i'd suggest everyone go grab 2 extra toothpicks and put them through each hole because i found that the 2 non-toothpicked holes kept getting misaligned from the rubber pads. (sorry for the lack of photos. just look at the condor review. it's pretty much the same deal...)
also, when they suggest that you can reuse the stock backplate, DON'T. just use the little brass rings they give you. my stock backplate wasn't agreeable with the screws aerocase provided. i had a HORRIBLE time trying to get them in. i threaded one of the screws and another one actually got stuck. when i tried to force it through using brute force i actually BROKE the head of the screw... stupidity on my part, but aerocase may want to look into stronger screws? also, maybe they should provide more than one bonus screw for idiots like me...it's not hard to imagine losing or breaking more than one screw. i messed up 2 of them and i started to panic... after i got the headless screw out (a mentally and physically taxing process that i will never speak of again...) i abandoned the stock backplate and went with the brass spacers. easy as pie...
now comes the screwing in part. the instructions tell you not to over-tighten. but it also doesn't tell you when to stop. you kind of have to eyeball it (unless i missed something in the instructions). i just kept screwing until i could feel some reistance.... DO NOT DO THIS! when i looked at my board, it was bending.... i guess the advice i can give is to just watch it as you screw it in... look for solid contact between the GPU and heatsink. don't rely on the rubber pads as an indicator. your board may start to bend and creak before the rubber even starts to compress...
as noted earlier, the heatpipes weren't bent at a 90 degree angle. it was probably something like 70 degrees or something. i knew right away that this would mean that my XP-90 heatsink and fan would get in the way of the raven. sure enough when i tried to put the card in the AGP slot it did encroach on my CPU heatsink space. it took a little time before i mustered up the courage to bend the heatpipes myself. i was so scared of breaking them. i hope aerocase makes sure that future builds are consistent with the specs the provide on the site.
i put some ramsinks on my ram even though the official SPCR condor review says that this is not necessary. although i have no temperature measure i must say that the memory gets REALLY hot. the only quantifiable measure i can give you is to say that i can only touch the ramsinks for less than a 1/2 second before my finger gets burned. so while the RAM debate goes on somewhere on these forums, i feel safer with the ramsinks on...
ok. so finally the cooler is on and the installation nightmare is over. i've got multiple cuts all over my hands now and bleeding all over... what a nightmare. at this point i'd like to make clear that most of my installation mishaps were due to my own stupidity. it should have been a breeze to install although there were a few things i thought they could fix as noted above.
cooler is on. let's take some performance measurements...
test set up:
--AMD athlon64 3000+
--thermalright XP-90 & nexus 92mm fan
--enermax noisetaker 420W PSU
--antec P180 case
rthdribl 1.2-stress GPU (also pushes CPU load to 100%)
rivatuner 2.0-monitor GPU temps
speedfan 4.28-monitor CPU, NB temp
stock cooler mounted on BFG GeForce 6800GS OC 256MB DDR3 (unlocked to 16pp,6vp)
raven passive GPU cooler mounted on BFG GeForce 6800GS OC 256MB DDR3 (unlocked to 16pp,6vp)
ambient temperature in my room is approximately 25 celsius
photos of whole setup:
one case fan has to clear out all the heat from the CPU and GPU now. the raven also seems to block the nexus fan...
LEFT: original test setup. not too much room for the heatsink. if you have a tower cooler, then you can order the wings reversed so that they cover the PCI slots instead.
RIGHT: retest setup. note the extra clearance after adjusting the raven as suggested by stealthgirl.
run rthdribl.exe until temp remains constant for 5 mins. take temps for GPU, CPU, NB, and ambient (some sensor on the GFX card).
i'm including CPU and NB temps so that you can get an idea of how the passive heatsink affects other components. all values are in celsius...
stock cooler idle/load
* after the raven was installed, i had enough room again to get rid of the noisy NB fan and put on a zalman NBJ-47
raven idle/load - RETEST**
**the retest was stopped when the GPU hit 100 degrees since it was clear that the new configuration was detrimental to performance.
at idle, the raven is virtually on par with the stock cooler but obviously MUCH quieter. i even had the added bonus of freeing up some real room for my zalman NBJ-47 chipset heatsink. so really, i got rid of two fans with the raven.
under load the GPU temperatures really soar. surprisingly, given the close proxmity of the raven to the XP-90, the CPU temperatures weren't as high as i expected them to be. overall, the load temps are pretty high leaving no room for anyone with overclocking aspirations (unless you have really excellent air flow in your case).
it's almost counter-intuitive but the extra space given to the raven caused a DECREASE in performance both in the idle and load states. my best guess is that the raven is now too far from the airflow path created by the rear case fan and too close to the side panel of my case. hopefully aero-case can shed some light on this. i'm guessing the optimal position is somewhere between the original spacing and the new spacing.
two variables that may be inconsistent with the original test are the ambient temps in my room and the break in time of the thermal paste. my room SHOULD be the same temp as the original but the weather outside is different this week. thermostat still says 25. the other error factor i can think of is the break in of the thermal paste. my original test was done within a few hours of installing the raven. basically enough time for my computer to return to normal internal temps. this test was conducted over week later giving time for the thermal paste to settle. in theory this should increase performance which means the retest results might've been a little worse had i conducted it immediately after the original.
i think 96 degrees is a little high for my tastes. the chip doesn't throttle down til 120, but i never want to get that close. however, i think that it's a reasonable temperature to endure for complete silence.
i've used 3 different coolers on this card now. NV5 silencer, stock and now the raven. performance wise, the NV5 silencer was defintitely the best. as i recall my load temps were somwhere in the 70s with the silencer. however the raven provides the benefit of a completely silent solution and if you're reading the SPCR forums then i'm assuming that will be a huge selling point. if you have anything lower than a 6800GT, then the raven should be pretty safe and you probably won't be pushing the thermal limits of your components like i am. personally i am quite happy with this cooler. the silence part of it anyways. not too wild about running my card at almost 100 degrees but sacrifices must be made right?
with a little tweaking of my system airflow, i'm certain i can probably lower my temps by a few degrees across the board.... perhaps i will try using a different thermal paste. the raven came with some white stuff on it and an unmarked tube of extra thermal paste. maybe some arctic silver 5 may drop my temps a shade. but i probably won't try it cause the screws on the raven are nearly threaded and i don't want to risk taking it off for any reason. maybe stealth girl can send me some extra screws for my experiment?
i'm writing this really late. i bet i missed a whole bunch of stuff. if you have questions let me know and i'll try to fill in the gaps at work tomorrow...