At last count, the new DirectX 10 compliant GeForce 8 series of graphics cards from NVIDIA was already pushing in access of 680 million transistors on die, easily doubling that of the previous generation and one wonders what ATI has planned to counter that. Though vastly improving in power and performance, one of the unavoidable side effects of this GPU arms race has been the increasing amount of heat generated by these powerful graphics processors. Manufacturers have devised ever-larger heat sinks, even utilizing formerly exotic methods in order to solve this problem. Cooler Master's latest solution for graphics cards, the sizable CoolViva Pro looks to be an interesting new twist on silent heat-pipe cooling.
The first thing you'll notice about the CoolViva Pro is the substantial size, followed by its rather unorthodox shape. Although it's smaller than some of the reference coolers from ATI and NVIDIA, the CoolViva Pro is still a two-slot solution that will take up an adjacent expansion slot. The elevated design that towers over other most coolers initially reminded us of another competitor, Arctic Cooling's Accelero X2, popularized by PowerColor's adoption for its Radeon X1950 PRO and it looks just as chunky too.
Both coolers share a similar goal of achieving silent cooling, with the Cooler Master CoolViva Pro rated at a mere 20 decibels and below. If you're wondering just what the number means, 20dBA is about as loud as mosquito buzzing or quiet rural ambiance. Of course, hearing is very subjective, so it is probably just safe to say that you won't hear the cooler over the other noises of your PC. The smart fan operation of the cooler varies between 700 and 1800 RPM, depending on the prevailing temperature of the graphics processor. Because of its design and size, the front MOSFETs and memory slots also benefit from better air circulation as the fan (which overhangs these components) draws cool air over them for constant air flow. Whether that is really as effective as claimed is open to discussion, though the fact that so many manufacturers are employing similar techniques do say something.
Despite its large footprint, the cooler is actually not that heavy at 320g. The cooler is mostly made up of aluminum fins and plastic housing. Even the 74mm fan is mostly plastic. The base and the three heat-pipes distributing heat along the array of aluminum fins are the only components made of copper, the most popular choice for performance heat sinks due to its excellent thermal conductivity. The package comes with eight individual mini heat sinks for the memory chips on your graphics card and there is also a porous PCI bracket for the adjacent expansion slot where warm air can be expelled out of the chassis.
The Cooler Master CoolViva Pro is suited for both ATI and NVIDIA based cards. There are basically two different clips, each corresponding to one chipmaker or the other so all you need to do is to change the clip to the correct one. Most of the recent generations of graphics cards should be compatible with this cooler, exceptions being the GeForce 7950 GX2 for obvious reasons and some of the AGP variants of new GPUs. You may want to check the specifications below for the list of compatible GPUs.
Gone are the days when noisy coolers are required for high-end graphics cards. Many reference designs now already have decent coolers that are adequate for most users, but trust the enthusiast to have need for third party models that offer better performance. Therefore, Cooler Master has to come up with a product that is more appealing and significantly better than the default. Personally, we like the versatility of the cooler and its quiet operation is always welcome. Its size and height however, may be a problem for users with limited chassis space. If size doesn't matter, the CoolViva Pro warrants more than just a look. Particularly the older ATI graphics cards' notoriously noisy operating levels would really benefit from this GPU cooler. Keep a look out as the Cooler Master CoolViva Pro should be arriving in retail by March 2007 and we expect it to be affordable to a certain degree (like its predecessor).