Looking for a silent or near silent Radeon X1950 Pro card to power your new gaming rig or media center PC? If so, you’ll definitely want to check out the latest graphics offerings from PowerColor. PowerColor has recently partnered with the cooling aficionados at Arctic Cooling to deliver a range of X1950 Pro cards that should appeal to the performance crowd, or those who feel that silence is golden. Let’s take a look at the silent card first…
PowerColor’s Radeon X1950 Pro SCS3
While heat pipe coolers do an excellent job of dissipating heat off the GPU, as anyone who has owned a Zalman ZMP series heat pipe unit can tell you, they do so while pumping out an extraordinary amount of heat that usually goes right on your graphics card and nearby system components. To help solve this problem, Sapphire for instance shipped their latter 9800 XT Ultimate cards with an external cooling fan. Without the fan in place, the card generated so much heat it could literally burn your finger to the touch!
Because heat pipes do such a good job of drawing heat off the GPU, NVIDIA for instance has implemented heat pipe cooling into the reference designs in all of their high-end graphics cards dating back to the GeForce 7800s. To help keep heat at bay, these heat pipe coolers are paired with powerful fans that are designed to keep cool air flowing across the heat pipes and the fins of the heatsink that is also designed to help keep the heat pipes cool. But what if you could deliver a heat pipe cooling system that ran silently while also minimizing heat output?
That’s precisely what PowerColor and Arctic Cooling have teamed up to do with the X1950 Pro SCS3, and it comes oh so close to heat pipe cooling perfection. The card is essentially a Radeon X1950 Pro card with a souped-up version of one of Arctic Cooling’s S2 cooling units mounted on top.
Arctic Cooling start the package off with a massive array of heat pipes. Four very long heat pipes start directly above the GPU and then run across the top of the graphics card. In fact, the heat pipes are so long, they extend beyond the graphics card. We estimate they’re so long they’re roughly 6” in length from start to finish, making them one of the longest heat pipes we’ve ever seen on a graphics card.
Flanking the copper heat pipes is a massive aluminum heatsink. This heatsink helps to keep the heat pipes cool. The heatsink Arctic Cooling has employed is composed of very long fins to help increase its effectiveness, and as you can no doubt tell in the pictures, the cooler is dual-slot, so you will need to leave the PCI slot adjacent to your graphics card empty in order for the card to fit.
In operation, the system Arctic Cooling has developed works quite well. The cooler is so large that heat is dispersed over a very large area, and as such, the PCB and card itself don’t get very hot, in fact idle temps are pretty comparable to your typical X1950 Pro card and even under load the system works well (we’ve got temp results later in this review). The only downside to the system that we found was that the backside of the card ran hotter than the reference ATI Radeon X1950 Pro card. This could have been fixed with a heatsink on the back of the card, but placing a heatsink here could cause interference problems with motherboards with large cooling units on the North Bridge of the chipset. Many AMD-based nForce 590 SLI motherboards for instance ship with very large heat pipe coolers on the system chipset.
Besides the heat pipe cooling system, PowerColor also adds individual heatsinks on each of the card’s memory modules, as well as an additional heatsink over the power circuitry on the back of the card.
If silence isn’t a priority for you, or you just want the peace of minding of having one of the most powerful aftermarket coolers on the market, PowerColor also offers their stock Radeon X1950 Pro with Arctic Cooling…