Arctic Accelero Xtreme III Review

Arctic is one of the most well-known manufacturers of heatsinks for both graphics cards and processors (as well as a popular producer of thermal pastes and case fans). Today we will be taking a look at Arctic’s newest GPU cooler – the Accelero Xtreme III. Supporting a large list of models from nVidia (GTX680 to the 7000-series), and AMD (HD7870 to the HD3000-series). In this review the cooler will be installed and tested with an Asus GTX 580 Matrix.

Specifications and Features

Below is a list of specifications from Arctic’s website including the accessories, package contents, fan speeds, noise levels, and cooling capacity.

Accelero Xtreme III (Official Site)

MSRP $119.95 ($77.99 @ newegg.com)
Max Cooling Capacity 300 Watts
Heatpipe  Ø 6 mm x 5
Heatsink Material Aluminum fins x 84, thickness 0.3 mm
Fan (mm) 92 mm, 900 – 2,000 RPM (controlled by PWM) x 3 fans
Bearing Fluid Dynamic Bearing
Noise Level 0.5 Sone
Power Consumption 4.323 W
Dimensions (product) 288 (L) x 104 (W) x 54 (H) mm
Net Weight 653 g
PCI-E Slots Used 3
SLI/Crossfire Compatible? Yes
Accessories *
Heatsink 31 pcs
Screw (M2) 4 pcs
Spacer (2.5 mm) 4 pcs
Spacer (3.5 mm) 4 pcs
Spacer (4.5 mm) 4 pcs
Adhesive Tape 2 pcs
Insulation Tape 5 pcs
Thermal Pads 3 pcs
EVA Foam 1 pc
GPU Back Plate 1 pc
Thermal Adhesive Glue (3 g) 1 pc
VGA Bracket 1 pc
4-Pin Fan Power Adapter 1 pc
Limited Warranty 6 years

 

Marketing Feature set from the Arctic Website:

neweggSuperior Cooling - Featuring three 92mm PWM fans with a maximum cooling capacity up to 300 Watts, the Accelero Xtreme III manages to transfer heat efficiently away from the GPU. Besides the 84-fin heatsink with 5 copper heatpipes, the pre-applied MX-4 thermal compound accelerated the heat disappation process to ensure the VGA board is running under optimal temperature.

 

newegg

Enhances RAM and VR Cooling – The Accelero Xtreme III comes with 31 RAM and VR heatsinks to cool your RAM and VR. This included thermal adhesive lowers RAM and VR temperatures significantly and assures proper bond.

 

newegg

Virtually Silent - With three PWM-controlled 92 mm fans, the Accelero Xtreme III cools efficiently and silently. Thanks for the PWM control, the fan spins according to the temperature of the GPU. This means that the fans just spin up if necessary and will rest at a minimum speed otherwise. PWM settings and be modified to fix the priorities between performance and noise.

 

newegg

Multi-Compatible - Aside from it being CrossFire and SLI compatible, the Accelero Xtreme III comes with a versatile and interchangeable mounting mechanism along with 31 RAM and VR heatsinks to fit different models. New accessory sets will be available to make the VGA compatible with future models.

 

Compatibility Notes: 

- The compatibility list is based on AMD and nVidia’s reference board layout only. Arctic holds no responsibility for incompatibility on non-standard cards. Please refer to ax3.arctic.ac for the height restriction drawing (see note below) and the latest compatibility data.

- This heatsink is not compatible with video cards that have a stacked (double height) power socket (see image below)

 

Single vs Stacked Power Sockets (image courtesy of Arctic.ac)

 

Packaging/Product

The Accelero Xtreme III (henceforth referred to as AX3) is shipped in a clear plastic clam shell case with the heatsink and the accessories each in their own compartments, preventing the pieces from possibly becoming damaged by one another. The cooler itself is made of 84 aluminum fins and 5 copper heatpipes attached to a copper base, which has Arctic’s MX-4 thermal paste pre-applied. The included accessories make it possible to install the AX3 onto a wide range of graphics cards, ranging from (but not including all of the models in-between) the AMD HD3000 series to the HD7870, and the nVidia 7000 series to the latest and greatest GTX 680 (as long as there is not a stacked power connector). The included small aluminum heatsinks can be attached (via thermal glue adhesive) onto any of the aforementioned model’s VRAM and VR (voltage regulator) sections. This will help dissipate their respective heat as well.

Retail Packaging (Front)

Retail Packaging (Front) – Courtesy arctic.ac

Retail Packaging (Back)

Retail Packaging (Back) - Courtesy arctic.ac

Product Front

Accelero (Front) - Courtesy arctic.ac

Accelero (Back) - Courtesy arctic.ac

Accelero (Bottom) - Courtesy arctic.ac

AX3 Package Contents (Courtesy Arctic)

Accelero Xtreme III with Accessories - Courtesy arctic.ac

 

Installation

The installation of the Accelero Xtreme III was a relatively simple process. I first had to remove the stock (DirectCUII Cooler) heatsink from my GTX 580 (4 screws), then clean the GPU with 97% isopropyl rubbing alcohol to remove the leftover thermal paste. Once that was completed, I attached the spacers to the mounting hardware to allow proper and even pressure from the heatsink to the GPU. I then lined up the proper mounting holes between the backplate and the cooler, and finally screwed down the heatsink with the included screws.

Note: Because the Asus GTX 580 Matrix already has a backplate and built-in heatsinks for the VRM section, I did not use the EVA Foam for the mounting plate or the included VR heatsinks.

AX3 Installed (Front)

AX3 Installed (Front)

AX3 Installed (Back)

AX3 Installed (Back)

AX3 Installed (Bottom)

AX3 Installed (Bottom)

AX3 Installed (Side)

AX3 Installed (Side)

 

Testing and Methodology

  •  Intel Core i7 3770k
  • Asus Maximus V Gene
  • 2×2 GB G.Skill PIS DDR3-2300
  • Asus GTX 580 Matrix
  • Arctcic MX-2 Thermal Paste
  • nVidia Forceware 301.42 Drivers
  • Navig Benching Station
  • Ambient Temperatures = 24 °C (+/- 0.5 °C)
  • Tenma Sound Level Meter 72-935
The methodology used for this review was as follows:
The various coolers were set to their maximum fan speed and the GPU Vcore was increased by 0.025 V between each test, starting at 1.025 V and finally reaching a BIOS-modified 1.213 V maximum, while running the GTX 580 at its stock speeds (772 MHz core clock, 1002 MHz memory frequency). The GPU was put under load by running Unigine Heaven 2.5 with the Extreme preset at a resolution of 1920 x 1200. All were set at their maximum (Extreme Tessellation, High Shaders, 16x Anistrophic Filtering, 8x Anti Aliasing). The maximum temperatures were measured after a full pass of the benchmark with MSI Afterburner. I allowed 3 minutes of downtime to allow the card to cool between the tests, then I changed the voltage and started the next test.
In order to remain consistent with the other products used for comparison, I removed the Arctic MX-4 from the Accelero Xtreme III and replaced it with Arctic MX-2. This will keep the variables to a minimum, and should isolate just the difference in performance between the comparison samples.
For sound levels, the fans were set to 100% (or 12v). I used a sound meter to record decibel readings from two feet away.

Results

The competition for the AX3 are a stock (reference) cooler from a Zotac GTX 580, the Twin Frozr III on an MSI Lightning,  the Accelero Xtreme Plus, a Thermalright Shaman, and the included DirectCuII cooler that came with the Asus GTX 580 Matrix.

Temperature

Below are the results after running a full pass of Unigene Heaven on the Extreme Preset. I started the benchmarks at a voltage of 1.025 which was the lowest point I could get the Matrix to pass Heaven (any lower and it would crash).  The ambient temperature in the room was approximately 24 °C and the idle temperatures sat around 28-29 °C on each of the coolers.

 

Heatsink Temperature Performance

Heatsink Temperature Performance

As you can see in the graph above, the Stock/Reference cooler was the worst performer of the collection throughout each of the voltage levels, hitting a maximum of 66 °C at the highest voltage (1.213 V). The AX3 out-performed the rest at almost all of the voltage points (minus a small lead taken by the Shaman at 1.15 v) by reaching a maximum temperature of 57 °C at 1.213 volts during a full pass of Heaven. Let’s see how much noise was created in order for these coolers to produce these results.

Noise

As a reminder, each of the heatsinks were measured using a sound level meter from two feet away. The fans were set to 100% speed, and the results were recorded while running the benchmarks.

Heatsink Noise Levels

Heatsink Noise Levels

Looking at the results above gives you an idea of the noise level the stock/bundled fans can produce when they are pushed to their limit, and also the vast difference an aftermarket cooler can make. While the Thermalright Shaman lead the pack producing only 24 dBA, the AXP and AX3 both tie in second place, still creating a relatively-silent 36 dBA. When comparing those noise levels versus the 56/57 decibels of the TwinFrozr3 and DirectCuII coolers, it sounds like more of a light breeze rather than a vacuum cleaner. For those that have a separate room for their computer(s), having a GPU (or any fan) running at high speed may not be an issue. However, for those that have the computer in their bedroom for example, the likelihood of leaving a noisy fan (such as one on a reference cooler, the DCuII, or MSI’s TwinFrozr design) running at or near its max speed (e.g. for Folding or Bitcoin farming), the sound could become quite annoying, or at least distracting.

Conclusion

Arctic’s Accelero Xtreme III cooler performed extremely well against the competition it faced. Compared to the stock reference cooler, it cooled between 9 – 13% (5-9 °C) better at all voltage levels. It also managed to produce significantly less noise than all but one of the coolers tested (the no longer available Thermalright Shaman). Also, compared to the Shaman, the AX3 uses 3 PCI slots compared to the 4 required slots for the Shaman, making it more SLI/Crossfire friendly. As always, check your motherboard and spacing before purchasing any aftermarket cooler. The AX3 wins against its older sibling, the Accelero Xtreme Plus (AXP),  as it supports both a stacked DVI connector and comes with all of the necessary accessories/heatsinks to fit all of the compatible models. There will be no need to buy a different heatsink kit for the AX3, as was the case for the AXP (as noted in my previous review).  For about $75 the Accelero Xtreme III gives a huge boost in GPU cooling, as well as giving you some peace and quiet.  And for that, this heatsink has earned our Overclockers Stamp of Approval.

Click the Approved stamp for an explanation of what it means.

- Don Fisher (Janus67)

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Discussion
  1. I have just retrieved the acx3 along with a nh-d14 thursday evening. My first coolers ever!!! Let the virgin alerts bellow aloud. Some tl;dr - Installed the nh-d4 on my 1100t yesterday, 'twas more rook-friendly than I could ever have hoped, this despite it being my first time removing/installing any stock/aftermarket cooler. Hardware still lives! My new temp highs are now lower than my previous-stock lows, and what an amazing feeling it is! =) Also loving the silence!

    Now my hd 6970 is up! My second virgin voyage in 48 hours! If everything doesn't explode I'll be happy a happy lad. =)
    I've had this piece bookmarked in my "Stuff to Buy" folder for a while. I've seen several good reviews on it all over the place. Would love to get my hands on one. Some new case fans would be nice too.
    I guess they couldn't do it because of the fan. If it was just because of the fins... well, IMHO, it's a design fail. They fixed the dual DVI problem they had back then with the 5xxx series, why did they not fix this one with the dual 6p, that seems to be standard because it seems NVIDIA proved it has better performance that way.
    Janus67
    It's hard to tell, I'm looking at it right now. If it did fit it would be incredibly close as the heatpipe is approximately 1/4'' from the edge of the fins if that gives you an idea.


    Thanks :thup: . Don't want to take a chance so it looks like reference cooler it is for now. :(
    bmwbaxter
    It says it is incompatible with stacked power connectors, but does it look like it can be modded to fit by trimming aluminium fins? or will it still run into one of the heatpipes? (I have the reference gtx 680 in mind with this question)


    It's hard to tell, I'm looking at it right now. If it did fit it would be incredibly close as the heatpipe is approximately 1/4'' from the edge of the fins if that gives you an idea.
    Janus67, I just find a little thing your review is lacking. Some photos of the installation procedure. It's one of the things I'm most curious about. Just thought that might help! :thup:

    Everything else is great as I told you before.
    It says it is incompatible with stacked power connectors, but does it look like it can be modded to fit by trimming aluminium fins? or will it still run into one of the heatpipes? (I have the reference gtx 680 in mind with this question)
    It could fit. It won't fit perfectly, but the part of the copper block that is supposed to contact with the core would also contact the 7870 core.

    http://www.coolingconfigurator.com/upload/pictures/AMD-Radeon-HD7870-PCB.jpg

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-Rg9Wl-okVio/TxWRXikt3tI/AAAAAAAAGzQ/RcH1OCY4Zuo/s640/7970+PCB.jpg
    Maybe it's the 7970 chip design? The lack of IHS, and the die being lower than the metal thingy, that's the only difference I can find between the A7970 and the AX3.

    It would also explain the fact that the 7870 fits, since in 78xx, the metal plate is more "standard".

    You could put a piece of copper there and "mod it".