We’d never tried an aftermarket cooler before but after our experiences with the incredibly noisy and warm r9 290 we thought we’d give it a shot. £45 from Amazon got us the whole kit which comprises of a large backplate, protective film, a three-fan cooler and heatsink, a small group of thermal pads, a bracket for the GPU and a bunch of screws. Notice there are no individual heatsinks there. The idea behind the Accelero Extreme IV is to make installing a cooler simple and to make it even simpler to reverse it. That being said it is very important to note that installing a cooler like this requires you to invalidate the warranty of your GPU.
As a reference, before the installation our card was regularly reaching around 90 degrees under load and the sound was absolutely unbearable. This was in a large case with plenty of airflow and nothing overclocked.
This cooler is designed for higher end cards including –
NVIDIA GeForce: GTX Titan (Black), 780 (Ti), 770, 760, 750 (Ti), 680, 670, 660 (Ti), 650 (Ti,Ti boost), 580, 570, 560 (Ti,SE), 550 Ti, 480, 460(SE), GTS 450, 250, 240 (OEM) AMD: R9 290(X), 270(X), R7 265, HD 8870, 7870(XT, GHz), 7850, 6970, 6950, 6870, 6850, 6790, 5870, 5850, 5830, 4890, 4870, 4850, 4830, 3870, 3850, 3690 Xtreme IV 280(X)
So quite a range! We have only tested it with an r9 290 so cannot speak for how it works with any other cards. It seems like the installation and function is very similar across the board.
To complete the installation you will also need some kind of modelling/stanley knife, some cleaning alcohol, a sharpie, a microfibre cloth and a set of of screwdrivers – make sure you have these before you start because it’s not an easy thing to stop half-way through.
The first job was to remove the stock cooler. This is fairly easy, you just need to disconnect the card from your PC and then unscrew all the screws around the edge, the two on the connections bracket and the four around the processor. After that you can simply slide the cooler off from the connections bracket end and the whole thing will come off at once. Do it fairly gently as you don’t want to damage any part of the GPU. The thermal paste might be holding it on a little but will come off with some light twisting. Once it is off you’ll be able to see the grey goo on the GPU, just use a little cleaning alcohol on a microfibre cloth and it will wipe off incredibly easily.
Now comes the trickier parts. You first need to work out which screws go onto the new cooler, there’s a helpful guide listing model numbers so it shouldn’t be too hard and you can screw those in ready to receive the rest. Now on the card itself you need to identify the hot areas. If you’re at all unsure about this you could come into difficulty here. You’re looking for any of the large black chips and also the VRM modules which are much smaller. We just googled for images to them highlight on the card. For each of these areas you need to break off a bit of the thermal padding (blue sticky stuff) and stick in on the other side of the card. This is going to connect to the large heatsink and ideally draw heat away from the card. Arctic don’t give you very many so we had to do the best we could and try and get the most coverage possible.
Once you’ve stuck on all the blue pads you get the sheet of protective film and place it over the pads. You then need to use your sharpie to mark out where all the blue pads are. After you’ve done this you take the film off again (difficult because the blue pads are sticky but if you move them you need to start again) and use a sharp blade to cut holes in the film so the blue pads will fit through it. The idea of this film is to stop other delicate parts of the GPU from touching the backplate (which could get quite hot) but this is the most incredibly irritating and fiddly part of the whole task. It doesn’t help that the instructions at this point are largely unclear and we needed to use some youtube videos to help us through this part.
Once that’s done the rest is largely straightforward, you just put on a foam block to protect the GPU, put the film down properly, then screw on the backplate and attach little clips around the edge to hold the whole thing together.
Once it’s assembled you’ll realise how absolutely huge this thing is. We had to unplug the USB ports from the front of our case as the connector they used to the motherboard is covered up by the top of the heatsink, if we use a lower PCI slot the PSU would be right up against it. If you have a lot of PCI devices or two cards, this is probably unusable unless you have a freakishly large motherboard and case.
Once the whole thing is assembled you just plug it back in like you would any other card and start it up. Arctic suggest using a fan profile with a set of instructions they provide so we’ve done this too.
The first impression was that it is much much quieter. It is not silent by any means but compared to the r9 290 stock cooler, it is in another league. We can comfortably leave the PC running all day in the lounge without the noise bothering anyone. If the PC is idling you can even turn off the fans altogether as they’re not really needed until there’s some load on the GPU.
Temperature wise we were expecting a larger drop. The range previously was around 60-80 degrees. Now with this fitted it’s more like 40-70. When we run stress tests it easily gets up to 70 degrees but with the fans on full it doesn’t go past there. The VRM can get up towards 90 still and if you’re worried about that you can buy tiny little heatsinks off amazon for a couple of pounds and just stick them directly onto the heatsink. It didn’t cause any problems for us however.
If you are trying to quieten them down while being able to do some overclocking, we can recommend it. It’s not very easy to put together and putting the original cooler back on is certainly possible, but not straightforward. I imagine if you were trying to make use of a warranty they would still be able to tell that you had taken it apart in the first place due to marks on the screws or the edge of the card due to the holding clips.
Our main recommendation would be to simply buy a GPU with a better cooler due to the hassle with installing this, if you want extreme cooling then maybe splash out a bit more on a water system. However if you’re set on something simple and relatively cheap, the Accelero Extreme IV is an excellent air cooler and keeps noise and temperatures down at least enough to keep the r9 290 bearable.