Water-cooling, which was once the domain of the true geek/enthusiast, has become quite the thing over the last year or so. Those crazy geeks have graduated to using liquid nitrogen and other glamorous, if not down-right dodgy, cooling liquids.
But a number of DIY CPU cooling kits have recently flooded our labs. And there are more of them on the way from the likes of Enermax. What we haven't seen is that enthusiasm being transferred over to the GPU cooling arena.
Arctic Cooling has taken the bull by the horns and released a DIY liquid cooling kit, but this time not for a CPU - instead it's for keeping a graphics card cool. Be warned, though - it comes at quite a price.
As you might be able to summise from the name, the Arctic Cooling Accelero Hybrid is not a pure liquid cooler. Rather, it's a hybrid between liquid cooling and standard air cooling. The graphics core is cooled by the closed loop liquid cooling system while the air cooling looks after the memory and power chips.
It fits a wide range of both AMD and Nvidia cards from the AMD 7 series (7870, 7850) down to the 4 series (4890, 4870, 4850) and Nvidia's GTX (680 down to 460), including the latest GTX 660 Ti and even the wee GT 520. There's a full list of compatible cards on the Arctic Cooling website, so it's definitely worth checking before you buy to see if your card is okay to use.
Bear in mind, though, the list is for reference designs, but there are enough kinds of fittings included that you should be able to find ones that fit. We used a non-reference Sapphire HD7870 FleX to test with and didn't have any problems.
If you're new to dismantling a graphics card, especially one that costs around £200, then what you want from the instructions is a complete guide that holds your hand. Arctic Cooling has got this spot on with the step-by-step fold-out guide. There are illustrations throughout and the parts list is very clear - it's a good job, too, as there are quite a few bits and bobs in the box.
There are 31 heatsinks of all different shapes and sizes alone. It's a pretty lengthy process, so put aside a couple of hours to get it fitted. We followed the instructions until we got to the part about gluing on the heatsinks for the memory and power modules. The card we were using was due to be returned to Sapphire and we didn't fancy the hassle of trying to prise the heatsinks off, so we used thermal pads instead of the glue provided.
In terms of actual cooling performance it acquitted itself well, keeping the GPU cooler than the stock Sapphire cooler on the card tested. It was particularly impressive when the card was being pushed, which is quite something, because the cooling system on a stock 7870 FleX is impressive in its own right.
Idle: Degrees celcius: Lower is better
ACCELERO HYBRID (1,200MHZ OC): 28
SAPPHIRE HD 7870 FLEX (1,200MHZ OC): 30
ACCELERO HYBRID (STOCK): 26
SAPPHIRE HD 7870 FLEX (STOCK): 26
Full load: Degrees celcius: Lower is better
ACCELERO HYBRID (1,200MHZ OC): 51
SAPPHIRE HD 7870 FLEX (1,200MHZ OC): 57
ACCELERO HYBRID (STOCK): 44
SAPPHIRE HD 7870 FLEX (STOCK): 46
In some ways it was a bit sneaky to compare the Accelero Hybrid with the FleX, as the card already has one of Sapphire's top Dual-X coolers keeping temperatures down. However, it shows how well the Accelero Hybrid performs if it can keep the GPU cooler than a system already around 20°C cooler under load than the reference design.
Compared to a reference-design cooler from Nvidia or AMD themselves and the cooling performance will be even better.
Despite the impressive performance, the package is tempered by that price tag. It makes this niche product appeal to an even narrower audience.