by Rob Williams on November 8, 2010 in Water-Cooling
NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 470 is one of the better GPU offerings on the market right now, but it’s also one of the hottest. It’s for that reason that after-market coolers exist, although few get quite as high-end as CoolIT’s Omni A.L.C. – and the ~$200 price tag proves it. Given that price, let’s take a look and see just what this thing is made of.
As our graphics cards continue to get faster and faster from one generation to the next, they’re also becoming more power-efficient thanks to the valiant efforts of AMD and NVIDIA. The problem, though, is that unlike our CPUs, which seem to reflect their increased power efficiency with lower temperatures, we don’t quite see the same thing with our graphics cards.
The reason is simple. Graphics cards today have a tremendous number of transistors packed in, and overall, the die sizes are generally much larger than that of a CPU. Thanks in part to this, and also the fact that GPU vendors are keen on packing in as much performance as possible, even today’s latest cards can run quite hot – upwards of 80°C or more at full load. Compare that to a typical ~60°C for even the highest-end of processors.
Although even at 80°C, the temperatures are still well within the specs that GPU vendors set, it’s natural that gamers would want to take some steps to see them go down. After all, if GPU temperatures go down, then the temperatures inside of the chassis will as well. To feed that desire, cooler companies have put out many different DIY products that prove to be far better solutions than reference designs.
In the case of CoolIT’s Omni A.L.C. (Advanced Liquid Cooling), this is a solution that’s not for the feint of heart. No, it’s not because it’s Ã¼ber-complex and difficult to install, but rather because it’s expensive. Oh so expensive. While NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 470 retails for around $260, the Omni sells for about $200. Yes, that’s one high Cooler-to-Product price ratio.
Self-contained liquid coolers are not exactly new, but over the years their designs have been improved upon quite a bit. At the same time, products like these aren’t common for GPUs, but rather CPUs, so CoolIT is doing something quite unique here. Similar to other designs, the Omni includes a radiator/fan combo that hooks up to the back fan location of your chassis, and the tubing runs down to the block, which you must pre-install to your GPU.
With CPU coolers that use a similar design, such as Corsair’s H50/H70, the water pump is attached to the block, making installation a breeze. Because CoolIT locates the pump for the Omni on the radiator, it results in a water block that’s about as slim as could possibly be.
For the sake of not getting dust on the thermal pads prior to installation, I left the protective plastic tabs on for the sake of this photo. Because each one of these waterblocks (interposer plates) are designed for a specific GPU, the block is designed to perfectly sit atop your card’s PCB. Screw holes will align, and so will the thermal pads. Figuring out the orientation of how to install this block is made easy, since you can only rotate your card one way and have it line up with the copper GPU heatsink.
If you’ve seen self-contained liquid coolers before, this is a sight you are likely familiar with. In all liquid-cooled designs, heat is dissipated with the help of a radiator, which in this case is a single 120mm design. To help keep things even cooler, and get heat out of the problem area, a fan is also used to get the flow moving.
In this particular case, CoolIT also located the pump as part of this same unit, rather than locate it on the block itself. The reason this is done is so that the GPU keeps as slim as possible, preventing blockage from occurring if you want to fill up all of your PCI or PCI Express slots. This implementation is smart, but does carry a rather large caveat, which I’ll cover on the next page.
In this side view, you can likely begin to understand what that problem might be:
CoolIT’s Omni is quite a good-looking product, and has major potential to keep your cards about as cool as they could be without getting into more extreme measures. But, while some self-contained units are simple to install, others are not. Let’s see which club the Omni belongs to.