The Swiss tradition of precision engineering has found an unlikely representative in Arctic Cooling, a specialist firm in the niche industry of cooling devices for processors, graphics cards and PC enclosures. Its latest cooling solution for mainstream graphics cards, the Accelero S2 is now here and of course we had to see if it lives up to its Swiss reputation for excellence.
The Accelero S2 is fully passive heat-pipe cooling unit that has strikingly large and widely spaced fins (31 fins altogether). With its size and thin fin design arrayed closely along two copper heat-pipes - which has the heavy responsibility of conveying the heat from the graphics core - the Accelero S2 resembles metallic Venetian blinds rather than something that could be feasibly attached to a graphics card.
The tall height and large size of the cooler belies the fact that due to its substantial aluminum content, the Accelero S2 is actually quite light, weighing in at only 202g. Hence, despite its bulk, which makes it unsuitable for low-profile enclosures popular for HTPCs, there is no danger of its weight warping your graphics card. Included too are eight small aluminum heatsinks for your card's memory chips, making this a very complete cooling package.
Designed to use with mid-range graphics cards, the Accelero S2 supports both ATI and NVIDIA GPUs, ranging from older ones like the ancient GeForce 4 series to the contemporary Radeon X1650 and GeForce 7600 series.
Different mounting holes are found on the cooler, with corresponding sets for the various chipsets. Installation was simple enough with the mandatory spacers and screws. Arctic Cooling also includes a pair of plastic support clips that hold the massive aluminum fin array in place so that there is no chance of it damaging any components onboard the graphics card due to mishandling.
Naturally, a fully passive cooler like the Accelero S2 has an indisputable audible advantage over the standard heatsink and fan combo favored by most manufacturers. Performance is another factor though, so how will it stack up against similar competition? Performing a quick comparison, we replaced the default passive heatsink on the ASUS Radeon X1600 XT graphics card with the Accelero S2 and ran it through our temperature tests.
With the graphics card idle in our closed chassis, the Accelero S2 hovered around 40 degrees Celsius. During peak loads however, that reading went up to 50, a very impressive number when compared against the temperatures recorded with the card's default passive cooler, which shot up to a scalding 80 degrees Celsius at full load.
The cooling improvement on the Accelero S2 is quite obvious, but as Arctic Cooling reminded us and we repeat here again, passive coolers like the Accelero S2 works best in a closed chassis with proper air circulation. This is an important detail to take note off as passive coolers count on natural air flow for optimal heat dissipation. An open or poorly ventilated case will not provide the Accelero S2 with an ideal operating environment, so that's something to consider before going all passive.
Combining the Swiss spirit of innovation with the low cost manufacturing prowess of China is how Arctic Cooling manages to stay competitive in this cut-throat business. Consumers benefit by getting these unique designs at fairly reasonable prices. This too is true for the new Accelero S2, which retails for around US$22, though you will have to wait till the end of March before the cooler becomes available in retail. Personally, we feel that most modern mid-range graphics cards are none too noisy, even for the heatsink-fan variants. However, if you're more sensitive to noise, the Accelero S2 represents a good alternative. It is a decently priced and excellent passive cooler that performs to the high standards that we have come to expect from Arctic Cooling. Arctic Cooling also has a quad heat-pipe version known as the Accelero S1 for those with a more powerful graphics card.