Artic Coolings latest graphics card cooler is bigger than ever, it covers basically the entire width and height of the graphics card, but to what end? better cooling of course!
'stock cooling' as its called on graphics cards is a mixed bag really. Occasionally you get a good one like the Nvidia 7800gtx that was quiet and cooled the card well. On the other hand the 8800gt I had was not very good. Despite being noisy the card still ran at over 80 degrees. Lowering the fan speed with special software saw it hit near 100 degrees, upto or at where the videocard can fail due to heat. In comes this great value product to save the day.
The interesting thing about this product is that it outperforms most stock coolers without a fan. For example this review has it 10 degrees lower than the stock cooler.
That said I'd still recommend users add fan. The simplest way is to add the companian artic cooling 'turbo module' which is a convenient way to add dual 120mm fans. Alternatively a 120mm fan and some cable ties can get the job done. Overall despite its height its and width its not too obtrusive in a case. The whole setup blocks the next 2 slots with the turbo module, which sounds a lot but other aftermarket solutions can take up 3.
Installation was a bit fidly but not awful. The plate is designed to be semi universal so it can do a number of cards from ATI and Nvidia. The list is:
HD 3870, 3850, X1950, X1900, X1800 series
GeForce 8800GTS(G92), 8800GT, 7950, 7900, 7800, 6800 series (except 7X00 GS AGP)
The thermal paste came pre applied to the heatsink, easing installation a little. Screwing the heatsink onto the main chip was easy, but then there are clips that are a bit fidly to get in through the card. They help tension the heatsink to the card so persevere. The ramsinks are the biggest problem, the adhesive just isn't good enough, bump them and they fall off. There are workarounds like heating up the thermal tape first, but it should be just a matter of stick it on and it stays there even after a light bumping (but no too much that they can't come off). I certainly had to a couple of ramsinks more than once as i'd accidently bump them while trying to put the clips on.
The turbo module was thankfully a bit easier, though the care has to be made to make sure the fan cable doesn't get in the way of the fans since there is no fan guards at all. Interestingly it plugs into the motherboard, so fan speed control is done there. Alarm bells might be ringing here, but don't worry as i'll explain.
Once installed I compared the temperatures to the 80 degrees or so i was getting previously. Instead of idling at 50-60 degrees it now idles at 30. While gaming its around 50-60degrees, a huge improvement over the stock cooler. Again note that this is with the turbo module, as my case doesn't have enough airflow to confidently do passive. If your case has intake and exhaust fans you might do passive fine. Either way they are great results. But the best thing is the noise reduction. The graphics card is now so quiet i can't hear it. Even with no fan control set (so turbo module running at full speed) the card is only audible when you put your ear next to it. Lower the speed in the bios and its inaudible even with your ear next to it, its that good. So no need to worry about fan speed control, just leave it at 12V and enjoy the silence and improve temperatures.
So in conclusion is this worth getting? definately! it lowers the noisy and temperatures, a great feat. And best of all it doesn't cost that much, even with the turbo module its cheaper than pretty much any other aftermarket cooler, and outperforms pretty much all of them. Can't ask for much more than that! (other than easier installation, try to do better next time Artic Cooling!)