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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 paste and case fans. In this review we will be looking at Arctic’s flagship graphics air heatsink, the Accelero Xtreme 7970. This heatsink is capable of cooling a dozen different AMD video cards, including support for the not-yet-released 8-series from AMD (also note there is an Overclockers.com Approved NVIDIA compatible version). In this article, the cooler was installed onto a MSI HD 7970 Lightning Edition, and then compared against other coolers (both reference and non-reference) from different manufacturers.
Specifications and Features
Below is a list of specifications from Arctic’s website including the package contents, fan speeds, noise levels, and cooling capacity.
Accelero Xtreme 7970 (Official Site)
|Specifications Provided by Arctic
|$99.99 ($79.99 @ Newegg)
|Max Cooling Capacity
|PCI-E Slots Used
|Yes (Arctic MX-4)
|Ø 6 mm x 5
|Aluminum fins x 84, thickness 0.3 mm
|92 mm, 900 – 2,000 RPM (controlled by PWM) x 3 fans
|Fluid Dynamic Bearing
|288 (L) x 104 (W) x 54 (H) mm
Marketing Feature Set from the Arctic Website
|Superior Cooling – Featuring three 92mm PWM fans with a maximum cooling capacity up to 300 Watts, the Accelero Xtreme 7970 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.
|Enhances RAM and VR Cooling – The Accelero Xtreme 7970 comes with the non-conductive G-1 thermal glue which is used to affix RAM and VR heatsinks on the VGA board. It is especially formulated to offer excellent thermal conductivity with long-lasting adhesiveness of over 10 years. Moreover, removing the G-1 is as easy as removing a thermal tape.
|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.
|Crossfire-Compatible – The Accelero Xtreme 7970 is compatible with the AMD CrossFire technology. It allows you to intelligently scale graphics performance by combining multiple AMD graphic cards on a single CrossFire-Certified motherboard.
The Arctic Accelero Xtreme 7970 is compatible with the following models:
|8970, 8950, 8870
|7970, 7950, 7870, 7850
|6970, 6950, 6870, 6850, 6790
|5870, 5850, 5830
Of note: Arctic is currently listing compatibility with the currently unreleased 8-series GPUs from AMD, so it should be ready if you upgrade in the coming months!
The Accelero Xtreme 7970 (henceforth referred to as AX7970) is shipped in a clear plastic clam shell case with the heatsink and accessories each in their own compartments. This prevents 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 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.
The installation manual can be found online here.
The installation of the heatsink took about 25 minutes and was relatively easy. If you will be installing the VRM and RAM heatsinks the process will take longer due to the cleaning of the chips, application of the thermal glue, and then waiting for the glue to cure (Arctic recommends about 5 hours). Please note: Because the MSI Lightning has built-on RAM and VRM heatsinks I did not install the ones from Arctic for this review.
Testing and Methodology
- Intel Core i7 3770k (Overclockers.com Approved!)
- Asus Maximus V Extreme (Overclockers.com Approved!)
- 2x4GB G.Skill TridentX DDR3-2666 (Overclockers.com Approved!)
- MSI HD 7970 Lightning Edition
- Arctic MX-2 Thermal Paste
- AMD 13.1 Catalyst Drivers
- Navig Benching Station
- Ambient Temperatures = 24 °C (+/- 1 °C)
- Tenma Sound Level Meter 72-935
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 1.000 V and finally reaching a maximum of 1.300 V, while running the HD 7970 at its reference speeds (925MHz core clock, 1375 MHz memory frequency). The GPU was put under load by running Unigine Heaven 2.5 with the Extreme presets at a resolution of 1920 x 1200. All options 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 used 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.
- Accelero Xtreme 7970
- Stock (Reference)
- Twin Frozr IV (MSI)
- Accelero Hybrid 7970 (Overclockers Approved!)
- Accelero Hybrid 7970 with High-Speed Panaflo Fan (114.7 CFM)
Below are the results after running a full pass of Unigine Heaven with all settings on their maximum. The ambient temperature in the room was approximately 24 °C (+/- 1 °C).
From the results above, one can see AX7970 manages to be neck and neck with Windforce and the Accelero Hybrid 7970 when paired with its stock fan. Compared against the rest of the bundled coolers (the ones that come with the cards), the Accelero Xtreme manages to beat most of them by at least 10% (8-25 °C depending on the data point). The only heatsink that out-performed the AX7970 is the same Accelero Hybrid when installed with a 120x38mm high speed Panaflo fan that creates some significant noise.
The sound levels for the available coolers were measured from 2 feet (~61 cm) away using a Tenma Sound Level Meter 72-935. One of the main benefits to the Arctic Accelero heatsink line-up is the performance for the amount of noise created. I was unable to personally measure the sound levels of the Windforce and Reference coolers, so I checked around online for various reviews of the cards and found the Windforce to have a load dBA of 52 and the reference cooler 50.5 dBA.
When compared against the competition the AX7970 manages to blow almost all of them away in terms of noise production (or the lack-thereof). The only heatsink that produced less noise is the Hybrid 7970 when using its stock fan, which gives slightly less cooling performance than the significantly cheaper and still very quiet AX7970.
For approximately $80, Arctic has released an excellent cooler for the mid to high-end line of AMD graphics cards. The cooling performance meets or beats the stock Arctic 7970 Hybrid, which costs up to $90 more than the Xtreme 7970 at the time of this article ($160 at Newegg.com). From a noise perspective, the unit is about as quiet as you can find without having a passive cooler, even with the fans set to 100%. The only “negative” is that it takes up 3 slots on a motherboard. So, if you plan to (or already have) a multiple-graphics card solution it would be important to measure and check if you have the PCI-E slot spacing available to house the cards. With a relatively simple installation and excellent price/performance, I am happy to award the Arctic Accelero Xtreme 7970 heatsink with the Overclockers.com Seal of Approval.
Click the Approved stamp for an explanation of what it means.
– Don Fisher (Janus67)