Although the GeForce GTX 480 offers a very good level of performance, the noise levels associated with its high energy consumption will have discouraged many high-end enthusiasts. Since the summer, several alternative coolers have come onto the market, all promising to shut the GeForce GTX 480 up at the same time as cooling its GPU. We wanted to run these solutions through their paces and check them out for current users of the GeForce GTX 480 and forthcoming potential buyers looking for a good deal. With the arrival of the Radeon HD 6900 and the GeForce GTX 580, the last stocks of the GeForce GTX 480 will probably be on offer over the next few weeks…
An ineffective stock cooler
It seems obvious that there were several problems during the design of the GeForce GTX 480, pushing NVIDIA to revisit the card’s spec, energy consumption and cooling system several times. In its rush to get the card to market, NVIDIA didn’t really manage to refine the cooler properly. While it’s true that it has to manage extreme temperatures, it also seems somewhat inefficient to us. On the one hand some of the heat is dissipated via a plate at the front of the card, placed where there’s no airflow in many casings. On the other hand, it’s very noisy, which has forced NVIDIA to recalibrate it so as to reduce noise levels as much as possible, but this has the effect of making it less effective in terms of heat management which in turn causes the fan to accelerate to turbine levels.
Is it possible to do better? NVIDIA themselves have officially recognised that it is by unveiling a much improved cooling system with the GeForce GTX 580. We’ll be publishing the test for this card shortly. This new cooler will call on vapour chamber technology for more effective and quieter cooling, with NVIDIA announcing slightly lower noise levels than for the GeForce GTX 285.
In the meanwhile, we’re going to see how the 3 models on offer from Arctic Cooling, Gelid and Zalman do. Note that in the case of the Arctic Cooling cooler, not having received any response from the manufacturer, we turned to the Sparkle Calibre X480, which uses this cooler.