Back in the olden days of, like, three years ago, GPUs were quite loud and didn’t cool very well, so aftermarket coolers were not necessarily required but were a good idea, and absolutely necessary if you wanted to heavily overclock the card.
We installed the Accelero Hybrid cooler on our GTX 680 card in just over an hour with minimal profanity.
Even if you didn’t want to overclock but were a hardcore builder, installing liquid coolers made for a fun weekend project. Those days have mostly ended, now that Nvidia has gotten its act together with regards to quiet, well-designed coolers (AMD is getting closer, but isn’t quite there yet for the high-end cards), and modern GPUs overclock quite nicely even with a stock cooler. But that hasn’t stopped Arctic Cooling from developing exotic aftermarket coolers for all of today’s high-end GPUs (Nvidia 600 and AMD 7000 series), so this month we strapped its Hybrid water-and-air cooler to a GTX 680 to see what the fuss was all about. Even though the cooler worked wonderfully, this is not a project for the faint-of-heart, as it would be tough to undo, but the gains it achieved in noise and heat dissipation were quite impressive.
The kit includes three separate pieces that must all be joined together: the water block and radiator, the cooling shroud with built-in fan, and the fan for the radiator. First, you must remove the stock cooler from your GPU, then whip out the Accelero Hybrid’s Ikea-like step-by-step instructions, and start assembling the cooler. To do so, you glue some heatsinks to your board’s VRMs, then attach the water block to the shroud, then attach the shroud to the card, then connect power for the fan and the pump. Finally, you connect the included fan to the radiator and then attach the radiator to your case’s exhaust port above the PCIe slots. Installation took us roughly one hour, though that doesn’t count leaving the card overnight for the thermal glue holding the heatsinks to dry. Overall, the instructions were easy to follow, and we had zero issues in testing, too, so we feel that means the instructions did their job, letting us install the cooler without breaking the card.
Once we had it up and running, we were astonished by the card’s noise level, or better yet, the lack of noise. It’s so quiet that you could play Crysis 3 in a library, with your case door off. Even when putting your ear next to the card under 100 percent load, you still don’t hear much except for the occasional gurgle of water moving through the tubes, and we had the card overclocked to 1,100MHz from 1,006MHz. The temperatures were also superb, hitting only 60 C under full load overclocked, compared to 85 C with the stock cooler at stock clocks. We can definitely say this cooler works as advertised, runs silent and cool, and didn’t break our GPU, nor was it difficult to assemble.
Now, should you buy it? Well, the performance gains we saw from overclocking the card were modest, as they always are. Also, this cooler cost $110 on Newegg as we went to press, which is a pretty penny to pay for an extra four frames per second in Crysis 3, for example. It is quiet, though, and it certainly runs cool, so if you’re having heat and/or noise issues, this is one cooling solution we can wholeheartedly recommend. It definitely kicks ass.