At long last NewEgg had the Arctic Cooling NV Silencer 5 Rev.2 for the nVidia 6800 GT/UT cards in stock at the same time as the cables I wanted! I ordered early Wednesday using FEDEX Saver, and I got it Friday at 1 PM PDT. In this case NewEgg charged about $8 more for the Silencer than some vendors, but when I added the Vantec cables they had at cheap prices, the total cost was a wash compared to using multiple vendors to get the same goods.
I’ve long awaited this GPU cooler, since it was crucial to my strategy of getting the noise level down in my system without killing performance.
Semi-Quiet/Warmish/Speedy Attempt History:
1) I got the Lian-Li PC-V1200B case assuming that a couple of big 120mm fans were going to be quieter than lots of little fans, and that the case had plenty of room for mod possibilities. The V1200 comes with two120x120x25mm ADDA fans, one for cooling the HDD bay, and one to exhaust hot air out of motherboard area. In practice, it cools the HDD and PSU bay great since they are virtually isolated, but the PWM/chipset receives marginal cross-flow ventilation from the single 120mm exhaust fan on the rear of the case. The CPU and RAM receive some cooling since they are right next to the 120mm exhaust, but using air that’s already warm from the GPU/PWM/chipset.
2) I replaced the stock front 120mm ADDA HDD cooling fan with a Nexus, since this was the closest, loudest, and most unneeded fan. After this mod, no appreciable heating of the RAID 0 Raptors or any increase in other temperatures has been observed. The top of the lower Raptor feels about 30°C to my fingertip, which is close to case ambient. The Nexus 120mm is very quiet compared to the ADDA, but it’s bright orange and has the filled mount corners problem. I wish I could just get plain black with open mount corners, but otherwise it fits the job perfectly.
3) I tuned the DFI chipset fan to never get above 6000 RPM using the BIOS. At 5444 RPM the chipset fan is pretty quiet, but anything above that whines like a turbocharger. I just locked mine into 5444 using BIOS. This probably didn’t lower dBA by much, but it was an annoying varying frequency. Once the chipset fan speed was lowered, the next most obvious noise polluters were the stock AMD CPU HSF and the stock nVidia GPU HSF.
4) I didn’t like the chipset temperatures of over 50°C and PWM of over 51°C under maximum load at this point, so I moved the video card from PCIE1 to PCIE4. I did test moving the SLI jumpers vs. not moving them, if you move the card to PCIE4 without moving the jumpers to SLI 2-4 configurations; ForceWare Display Properties shows your PCI-e bus speed to be at 2x. If you move the jumpers to SLI 2-4, ForceWare says your PCI-e bus speed is 8x, again as indicated by the manual. So if you want to use 8x PCI-e in PCIE4, you should move the jumpers to SLI configuration on the Ultra-D! After moving the video card away from the chipset, I got a 1-2°C drop in chipset and PWM temperatures.
5) I replaced the stock CPU HSF with a Thermalright XP-90 and Nexus 92mm fan. The Nexus 92mm doesn’t move much air (<=27 CFM?), but it’s virtually silent. I run it full speed (1700 RPM) at full 12v using a PSU Molex connector and monitor off the DFI motherboard CPU FAN header. After this modification, my CPU temperatures dropped about 10°C at full load with StressCPU. Better yet, my idle temperatures went down about 5°C, and PWM and chipset temps dropped 2-3°C as well with the fan in the “suck up” direction. Installation was easier than expected, but the XP-90 base wasn’t very smooth. I probably put too much AS5 on there to overcompensate in panic, but that is going to wait until I feel like lapping or replacing it with a new CPU and XP-120.
6) At this point the stock nVidia 6800 GT fan was the biggest noise source. Time to put in the Arctic Cooling NV Silencer 5 Rev.2! Start time: 2:00 PM PDT.
Consumer Packaging: It looks attractive, but it is almost impossible to open. That plastic is tough! I used 10cm scissors and a lot of 20kg pulling and it still was a struggle to mangle it open. You would have to use an Exacto or Dremel to open the package and make it salvageable for resale. Elapsed time to open: 5 minutes! Ecological and psychic damage: immeasurable. Still, I should have taken this as a forewarning that this was to be the easiest step.
Instructions: The video card in the installation pictures is obviously an ATI card, so step 1 and 2 didn’t apply. I figured out how to remove the stock GPU HSF assembly using intuition. You really need 3 different size Philips head screwdrivers to do the job right. The rest of the instructions are basically correct, except Arctic Cooling assumes it’s going to fit! The best guide I found was at http://www.nvnews.net/reviews/arctic_coole...cer/index.shtml. Unfortunately, I found this information after I tried to install the NV Silencer 5 the first time!
Installation: As the reviewer Clay Angelly found, the BFG voltage regulator heatsink interferes with the bottom of the fan casing. If you have a thin black heatsink strip near the Molex connector on your 6800 GT/UT, you might have problems installing this cooler without lots of work. The silver heatsinks on some 6800 GT brands seem to be shorter and may give you no problems. A trial fit of the HS on the card proved to me that there were visible light gaps between the HS and the RAM chips on one side that even the Arctic Cooling 1mm thick TIM pads weren’t able to bridge.
After deciding it was indeed the voltage regulator heatsink that was the main mounting issue, I removed it! I put some AS5 on the two GPU areas using the regular CPU/HS TIM application method (modified Angry Game technique), removed the protective plastic from the TIM pads for the RAM on the HS, and mounted the card on the HS. I had to run all 4 HS mounting nuts to their limit in order to get reasonable contact pressure for the GPU and RAM pads, but the GPU does get good contact and the thick RAM pads do sort of touch both the HS and RAM. The clock says 5 PM PDT, over 3 hours since I’ve started this “simple upgrade”.
I reinstall the card and cooler, plug everything back in with the case open, and boot into Windows without any problem. It’s really quiet! And nVidia ForceWare is showing me GPU core temperatures 2-4°C lower than stock! What about those voltage regulators with the now-missing heatsink? Hmm … I can’t reach them from the top of the card now with my fingertip, but I can touch the bottom side of the board opposite of those chips. Ouch, it’s hot… way too hot to keep my finger there for long. This is worrisome. I run a 3DMark01, just to see if capacitors start exploding or smoke starts pouring out of the card. They must have put that heatsink there for a reason, right?
10 hours into the “simple install”, it is midnight, and I’m pulling everything apart again. I grind the tops of the voltage regulator heatsink fins down about 1.5mm using a small metal file, then I carefully remove the plastic insulators from the bottom of the heatsink and filed down the mounting base about 0.3mm so that I could get better contact pressure without using TIM pads. Next I sanded down the tops of the plastic pushpin retainers for the heatsink by about 1mm using a Dremel sanding wheel, then finishing with a nail file emery board to remove the chaff. Wash and blast with canned air, apply and spread Arctic Silver Ceramique in tiny amounts (1/4 mice-turd) on the tops of each cleaned voltage regulator IC, spread evenly using the edge of a credit card trimmed to a narrow tip. Clean the mating surface of the heatsink, stick the plastic insulators back between the mounts and the card, lower into place and mate, pop the modified plastic pushpins back in for the umpteenth time. Dry mount the HS on the card, verify indeed we have a nice 1mm of clearance on the pushpins, close to 1.5mm on the fins now. Phew, that little mod only took about 3 hours!
Now it is 3 AM PDT and finally time to try to mount the Silencer the second time. Against all recommendations, I put a tiny layer of Artic Silver Ceramique on each RAM top just to make sure those TIM pads were going to interface with something thermally conductive! I put a thinner layer of AS5 on the GPU surfaces, based on the previous coverage pattern. Screw on the back-plate retention nuts, again tightening them all down to the stops using finger tension.
Reinstall the card, power up! OMG, its 5 AM! It took 15 hours to install! But my rig is now quieter than my reference noise generator (a Dell 8200 workstation) and everything is running cooler than before!
Pros: The Arctic Cooling NV Silencer 5 did indeed eliminate my 6800 GT screaming fan problem. Other noise sources are higher now than the GPU cooler, and those are pretty quiet. I would guess my rig is around 32-35 dBA now compared to 40-45 dBA before. GPU cooling appears quite effective, especially at full load. I use to hit over 70°C GPU core but now I can’t seem to get over 61°C even running several 3D games and benchmarks at once. I give the setup high marks for being cool and quiet compared to the stock HSF.
Cons: It took 15 hours to install (more like nerve-wracking precision re-engineer on a $500 card) and it’s still not really installed right. Even with the voltage regulator heatsink modified to avoid interference with the fan cowling, the GPU RAM will never approach mating closer than 1mm because the GPU is fully mated before the RAM gets near the base. I should note that even after all that paranoia about how hot the voltage regulators were and customizing the heatsink to fit, the bottom of the board is still too hot to touch for long under those chips. The modified chip heatsink is also hot to the touch, so at least the ICs apparently have decent thermal transfer after all that work.
I would rate this installation as Difficulty 9 (Trial & Error + Dremel time). If I had to do it again, I would start with a 6600 GT instead of the 6800 GT. Out of the box, the 6600 GT is going to have lower cost, power, heat, and noise than the 6800 GT without giving up much speed.