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Antec’s VCool

Introduction

Antec say they are the #1 brand in computer cooling, but graphics card cooling seems to be a new branch for the huge Antec company. Does their first attempt meet the mark?

About Antec

(From Antec’s website)

The year was 1986. Starbucks had only a few stores. Don Johnson was actually cool. The average PC had less memory than today’s cellphones. And in Fremont, California, a little company named Antec was born. Antec’s first employees never imagined that their upstart firm would rise to the very top of the high-performance computer components industry. But rise it did. And rather swiftly, too.

Features

  • Provides fresh cool air to your VGA card, keeping it cooler and maximizing its life
  • 3-speed switch lets you balance quiet performance with maximum cooling
  • Fits in 2 expansion slots
  • Blue LED illumination included

Packaging

The packaging was very annoying to say the least. Lets say I didn’t start off on the right foot. The packaging is of the clam-shell nature i.e. everyone’s worst nightmare (I exaggerate a little…). And to further annoy me, the package is literally bolted together!

Once the box was ripped apart and burned, I checked out the contents.

I found a fan, an extender piece, and the PCI back plate.



A Closer Look

The back plate consists of two normal PCI plates stuck together with a little switch to change the fan speed of the unit. The plate has several vertical holes formed into it where the air is sucked in. This product is actually intake based. This means that cool air that is outside of your case is pumped directly onto the core of your GFX card. All this means that your GFX card should run much closer to your rooms ambient than before.

The use of two PCI slots would mean that the product cannot be used by people who use a SLI configuration. Also, small form cases wouldn’t be able accommodate the coolers large footprint.

Installation

The installation of the unit is as easy as putting a PCI card in. All that needed to be done, was to screw in a single screw to keep the unit in place. It would have been nice to see Antec give a couple of screws with the product, although this isn’t a major gripe.

To make sure that the airflow is centered on the GPU, I used the extender first. With the extender on the unit, the fan is positioned in the wrong location for my card. So I removed it and it was still not in the right place, but slightly better than before.

To improve the product here, Antec could have used flexible tubing instead of this solid version. With this said, there are advantages and disadvantages to each option.

Another point to make, is the fact that the wire that connects the switch to the fan unit has to go through the ducting. This means that the airflow is restricted, but the worst problem is that if the wire is in the wrong position, the airflow would cause whistling or other annoying sounds. Fortunately, this did not happen to me.

Testing

To test the unit, I used my aging Radeon 9200 256mb GFX card mainly for the fact that the GPU is passively cooled and therefore I should be able to see the biggest difference in temperature.

I used an external temperature probe to test the temperature of the GPU during the testing as the 9200 does not have a built in temperature diode. Whilst this will give an impression of the cooling capacity of the VCool unit, it will not give exact results.

Once the unit was installed, I ran 3Dmark05 excessively (30min). I then took the temperature.

I then did some overclocking, and ran 3Dmark again.

High: 15.9 CFM @ 37 dB

Medium: 13.6 CFM @ 35.5 dB

Low: 11.5 CFM @ 29.3 dB

The full results are below (250mhz/165mhz):

Temperature
No extra cooling 55°C
With V Cool (low) 54°C
With V Cool (medium) 50°C
With V Cool (high) 50°C

And once again with a slight overclock (300mhz/197mhz):

Temperature
No extra cooling 69°C
With V Cool (low) 67°C
With V Cool (medium) 65°C
With V Cool (high) 64°C

Just to let you know, these temperatures are averages. The actual temperature at any one point varied by a few degrees, mainly due to where the temperature probe was touching.

I also managed to eek an extra few mhz out of my overclock which was a bonus.

Whilst these results look very promising, I don’t think that I could have the unit on maximum speed for too long; the sound that it makes is too much for my ears. I’m probably just being picky, but I find that the whine of the fan is too much for everyday computing, and I usually turn the fan to low. I would change the fan to high whenever I play a game, but its just not worth the effort of bending down… :D. It would have been nice for an easier way to change the temperature.

Once I completed the testing, I took a look at the blue LED’s. Considering as my case is already themed with blue lights, the LED’s complimented it perfectly.

Conclusion

I have to say that this product did surprise me with its cooling power. I’m guessing that it won’t be the same for everyone. I found that the fan did make a fairly impressive amount of noise. With top-range GFX cards, I don’t think that the cooling performance will be anywhere as impressive as the results that we see here. All the same, I’m impressed with this product and it gets a well deserved 7 out of 10.

ProsCons
Looks great (blue LED’s)Make’s a lot of noise on high power
Cools wellUses 2 PCI slots
Cools whole case
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