by J.D. Kane on July 21, 2014 in Cooling
There’s no question about it: AIO water cooling solutions are here to stay. They’ve been around for CPUs; but what about GPUs? Arctic has that base covered, and it sent us its Accelero Hybrid II-120 with the unspoken promise that it is superior to any stock cooling solution. But just how good is it?
Testing the effectiveness of the Arctic Accelero Hybrid II-120 was a straightforward process. It basically came down to two things: 1) Is it easy to install onto a video card? and 2) Would installing it result in a cooling performance benefit for your GPU?
As I said before, I’d classify the installation process as an intermediate-level job. I’d say the most complicated aspect of assembling and installing the Accelero Hybrid II-120 onto your graphics card is the preparation of both the thermal pad material and cutting out the correctly-sized and -positioned openings on the clear protective film. I used scissors for the thermal pad material and, as stated previously, a very sharp X-Acto knife for the clear protective film. If you can work a screwdriver with no issues, the rest of the assembly is pretty straightforward. Arctic’s instruction sheet goes a long way towards making the task of installing the cooler less daunting that it might appear at the onset. I’d say that the whole installation process would take around two to three hours in total if you’re careful and take your time.
Some salient information on the thermal performance tests: 1) All tests were performed with an ambient room temperature of 72ºF/22.22ºC; 2) the stock cooler data is merely copied over from my original tests from January 2014. I did not reinstall the video card’s stock cooler and re-run the temperature testing since no other variables have changed in the tests; 3) temperature data was collected ten minutes from a cold boot for the idle temperatures, and load temperatures at around 20 minutes of maximum load conditions.
At idle conditions, the Accelero Hybrid II-120 lowers the GPU temperature by a whole 50°F/10°C. Quite impressive, for sure.
The gulf in the cooling performance of the GTX 680’s stock cooler (177.8°F/81°C) and the Accelero Hybrid II-120’s (125.6°F/52°C) is monstrous. Shedding 52.2°F/29°C is a massive gain in thermal headroom, something graphics card overclockers will certainly appreciate. But even if you don’t overclock your GPUs the huge improvement in maximum load temperatures should still be a boon. High operating temperatures are said to accelerate the degradation of computer components, so lowering temperatures ought to give users a theoretical bonus in component reliability. Another way to look at the maximum load temperature: The temperature delta between the ambient room temperature and the maximum load temperature of our GTX 680 with the Accelero Hybrid II-120 is a mere 53.6°F/29.78°C.
Plus there is another advantage to the Accelero Hybrid II-120: Arctic’s supplied 120mm fan is much quieter compared to the stock cooler. As a reminder, I have an open-air test bench; even in that open environment, I literally could not detect any fan noise, even during the maximum load temperature tests. If I couldn’t hear it working in an open test bench, users who use in a closed PC chassis won’t, either.
So what’s the verdict on the Arctic Accelero Hybrid II-120?
It’s obviously a supremely effective way to reduce your GPU’s thermal output compared to any stock cooler. Whether or not you overclock your graphics card, the massive near-30°C improvement our performance tests show is impressive. The fan’s lack of noise is also an appealing benefit. Basically, if you crave either great temperature, particularly at maximum load conditions, or quieter operation, the Accelero Hybrid II-120 is something you should consider.
Installation might be intimidating for some users, particularly enthusiasts who may be delving into aftermarket graphics card cooling for the first time. However, Arctic did a great job with its instructions. RTFM, take your time, and you’ll be okay.
Just to compare with a fully custom water-cooling solution for graphics cards, the Accelero Hybrid II-120 is overall a simpler solution. Everything you need is there in the box.
Moreover, cost-wise, at a MSRP of $129.99, the Accelero Hybrid II-120 is comparable to a typical custom water-cooling solution for a graphics card as well. Back when I bought my other GTX 680’s EK water block, it cost roughly $120.00. Add in the costs of tubing and fittings, and the costs match up pretty well. And I haven’t even mentioned the water pump and reservoir costs of a custom water cooling solution yet.
Before closing this review, a note about the backside heat sink: I must confess that, at first I was shocked at how the Accelero Hybrid II-120 had zero contact with the graphics RAM and voltage regulators on the front side of the PCB (where the GPU block is installed). I mean, think about it: Most users who have stripped off their graphics card’s stock coolers off have surely noticed that these RAM chips and voltage regulators contact the heat sink on the front side. Full-coverage water blocks do the same. But the Accelero Hybrid II-120 does not.
I thought about Arctic’s design philosophy here, and while the design is unusual (at least, that’s how the design struck me), I basically concluded that there is just zero chance for Arctic to expose itself to potential liability by designing and selling a fundamentally-flawed design. I mean, wouldn’t the company be on the hook for a ton of grenaded video cards from exploded voltage regulators not cooled through direct contact on their front sides, as per the usual design in video cards?
In practice, the backside heat sink works a treat. While I couldn’t get any temperature data on the graphics card’s RAM and voltage regulators, I did take a bit of a risk and ran MSI Kombustor’s GPU burn-in test (thereby putting the GPU at maximum load) for test periods up to three hours long. The test machine performed brilliantly, with zero reliability issues. I’m therefore confident enough to say that Arctic’s backside heat sink works quite well, as unconventional a design as it is.
All told, the Arctic Accelero Hybrid II-120 easily earns Techgage’s Editor’s Choice award.
Arctic Accelero Hybrid II-120