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Modifying Gigabyte's Windforce 5X Cooler

Gigabyte Radeon HD 7970 Super Overclock: Now With Windforce 5X
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Gigabyte’s Radeon HD 7970 Super Overclock is huge, heavy, overclocked, and very different-looking. Its Windforce 5X cooler employs five 40 mm fans. We benchmark the card, spend some time tweaking it, and measure the noise those blowers make.

The Vapor Chamber: Just A Tad Too Small

Even though the Radeon HD 7970 Super Overclock's vapor chamber is huge, it’s not quite large enough. It’s easy to see that it was originally designed for Gigabyte's GeForce GTX 680, and would have needed about 1 cm more to properly fit the 7970.

Just look at the large yellow rectangle in the picture below. You can see that the two memory packages at the bottom aren’t completely covered. But because the vapor chamber doesn't touch the RAM at all (even the ICs that are covered), Gigabyte uses thermal pads on them. This turns out to be counterproductive, since the pads isolate the memory from circulating air.

Not surprisingly, we saw graphics glitches when we overclocked the card’s RAM. They went away after we scraped off the thermal pads using a box cutter. Even if you don't go to that extreme, you should be alright, so long as you keep the memory running below 1500 MHz.

The heat sink does a better job of cooling the card's voltage transformers and coils, which have their own aluminum plate dedicated to drawing thermal energy away.

Thermal Paste: Room for Improvement

The Radeon HD 7970 Super Overclock's thermal paste proved to be thick in both consistency and application. After an initial round of (disappointing) temperature benchmarks, and after talking to Gigabyte, we decided to replace its compound with our own and repeat the benchmarks.

We settled on Gelid Supreme as our thermal paste of choice due to its easy application and short time to reach maximum transfer performance. We also found that four of the six screws holding the cooler’s frame either hadn’t been screwed in tightly or came loose in shipping.

It was important to us that the thermal paste stayed elastic, even after being exposed to high temperatures, so that it could handle any possible board flexing. Prolimatech’s thermal compounds have worked well for us in the past, but they need a longer burn-in time to reach their peak performance. We put the card through a four-hour stress test before running our benchmarks.

The following tests weren't conducted with Gigabyte's thermal paste, but with our substitution. We believe that the card would have shown similar results to our own had it not encountered transport problems and suffered incorrect application of its original thermal compound.

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  • 1 Hide
    whatsthatnoise , 7 August 2012 00:03
    Noise fail, as it was to be expected since the first picture of the card was released. The design might be a good idea in theory, but it's doomed because of those 40mm fans.
  • 0 Hide
    tulx , 7 August 2012 22:55
    whatsthatnoiseNoise fail, as it was to be expected since the first picture of the card was released. The design might be a good idea in theory, but it's doomed because of those 40mm fans.


    "happy to report that our initial fears of ghastly acoustics were unfounded"
  • 0 Hide
    Jony93 , 12 August 2012 19:06
    Uau,new design!Awsome,I like this Ideea...but would be nice if the noise would be not so big.