Posted: January 28, 2004
Author: Jason Kohrs
Evercool is a Taiwanese manufacturer of products designed to address the cooling needs of numerous computer related heat sources. With thermal solutions for cases, processors, chipsets, video cards, and notebooks, they have a device to cool just about any system. The VC-RE Twinkling VGA Cooler provided for this review is one of their newest solutions to keep your video card running cool. With today's games demanding all the performance your video card can offer, and with overclocking requiring little effort, added cooling can greatly improve the life of an aging card being pushed to its limits.
The Twinkling VGA Cooler is sold in the yellow package pictured in the below left image. Through the clear plastic, the contents are clearly visible; the VGA cooler, a 3-pin to 4-pin power adaptor, and a syringe of "Silver Grease" thermal paste. As pictured in the below right image, the back of the packaging features the devices specifications and other technical data.
From the specifications, you can see that it is designed for use on older Nvidia GeForce, ATI Radeon, and SIS Xabre cards, and gets the 'twinkling' from LED lighting located in the hub of the fan. It seems that just about any computer upgrade is available with some sort of lighting effect, so why leave your video card out of all the excitement?
The below left image shows the two accessories; the Silver Grease and the 3-pin to 4-pin power connector. The Silver Grease looks strikingly similar to the stuff Overclockers.com recently proved contained zero silver, and even before reading that article I noted that it looked a bit more silver in color than other pastes I had seen. The middle image below provides a look at the cooler, and it makes a positive first impression. The cooler features all copper construction with a clear plastic fan rated for 5000 RPM. The below right image shows a side view of the cooler which reveals the folded design of the heatsink fins which provides a significant surface area to dissipate heat. The folded fins surround the fan and are affixed to the base, which is substantial in itself, measuring close to 1/8" thick.
To protect it during transit, the base of the Evercool VC-RE is protected by a film of blue plastic, as seen in the below left image. With the film peeled away an amazingly flat, smooth, and shiny surface is exposed. The middle image doesn't quite do it justice, but even a quick glance at the below right image reveals that the base of the VC-RE provides a near perfect mirror image of the wire and syringe placed in front of it. In general, a flat, smooth, high-polished surface will provide better heat transfer from the mating chip, so I am very impressed by the finish provided on this device.
Taking a further look at the images above, you'll note that the white pins used to secure the cooler to the card seem to point outward. This is another feature which will prove beneficial... The metal clip that attaches the pins to the cooler is bent to create a slight spring force to ensure that the VC-RE is held tightly in place. Other VGA coolers I have used had a loose fit since they did not have this extra force, and the heatsink could actually be wiggled slightly once installed. Installing the VC-RE Twinkling VGA Cooler may have taken slightly more force to seat, but once it popped into place, it was on there very well!
The below left image shows the video card to be used for testing, a MSI GeForce4 MX 440, which came with the golden heatsink pictured pre-installed. The stock cooler is physically similar to a Vantec Iceberg, and I have had no real complaints about it. The image on the below right shows the VC-RE installed on the same card, and the first thing you'll note is the size difference. Although the fans are the same size on both coolers, the diameter of the stock cooler is barely larger than the fan, with the mounting pins located on tabs that extend beyond this outer diameter. Notice how the diameter of the VC-RE is slightly larger than the diameter of the mounting pin centers. Considering the pins are the same distance apart on either cooler, it is obvious that the base of the VC-RE is much larger. With the larger diameter, greater surface area provided by the folded fin design, and the substantially thicker base, I have high expectations for the VC-RE to be able to absorb and dissipate the heat generated by this card much better than the stock unit.
With the cooler installed (with a thin film of the included ‘silver’ grease) onto the video card, it was now time to install the card back into the computer and begin testing. The image below provides an excellent look at how the Evercool VC-RE looks in action. The lighting effect isn't overpowering, and the red and blue LEDs provide a nice glow that would compliment a windowed case nicely. The only problem I have with the lighting is that there is no "twinkling"... The lights are static, and to me, twinkling implies flickering or blinking.
Testing consisted of monitoring and recording the idle and load condition temperatures with both the stock cooler and the Evercool VC-RE installed. Temperature monitoring on the video card's processor was accomplished by using the GeForce4 MX 440's built in thermal sensor and results reported by MSI's 3D Experience utility. Ambient temperatures were monitored using a SenFu Super Thermometer from HighSpeed PC.
First, "idle" results were obtained with the video card core at default speed (270 MHz) and no applications running for several hours. Next, the "load" results were obtained by overclocking the card to 320 MHz and 3DMark2001SE was launched and allowed to loop in demo mode for a period of one hour. The idle conditions will provide a good baseline for comparison, and the added heat generated by overclocking and running the 3DMark2001SE demo will put the performance of each cooler in the spotlight.
The case side panel was removed during all stages of testing to eliminate any added cooling from two fans located there, and an ambient temperature between 20-21 Celsius was maintained.
As seen in the chart above, the cooling performance of the Evercool VC-RE easily outshined the stock unit. Dropping two degrees off of the idle conditions, and a healthy 7 degrees off of the load conditions, are accomplishments which point to two beneficial possibilities. 1) Cooler components generally have longer usable lives, and 2) the lower temperatures at these conditions should provide more headroom for an even greater overclock. Not being overly concerned about this video card being with me into old age, I decided to test possibility 2, and pushed the overclock a bit higher. The testing used an overclock of 50 MHz, but the stock cooler had a maximum overclock of about 70 MHz before it became unstable and games were speckled with artifacts. With the Evercool VC-RE, I was able to push the core all the way up to 380 MHz (an overclock of 110 Mhz), and still had no signs off artifacts, tearing, or overheating. A respectable overclock, with no signs that I have hit the ceiling.
I'll admit I wasn't expecting much from the VC-RE before opening the package. I was confident it would work, and perhaps look cool, but was in no way prepared for how well it would work. The design truly is robust, which isn't particularly common in the general aftermarket choices of VGA coolers. Couple this with a retail price of about $14.95 (US), and you really can’t go wrong! The problem is finding one... I searched all over and couldn’t find one for sale in the US, but if you wait about 10 days, and look north to Canada, ADPMods will have them for sale at about $19.95 (Canadian).
The size, finish, and aesthetics are all impressive and lead to the Evercool VC-RE Twinkling VGA Cooler receiving 4 out of 5 stars... "Recommended". Besides the fact the lights don't actually "twinkle", they are attractive and add to the appeal of the device. If I could request one addition to the kit, it would be for matching ramsinks to complement the aesthetics and increase the overall performance.
• Excellent thermal results
• Spring loaded clip holds cooler securely to core
• Low noise
• Attractive with or without the lights on
• “Twinkling” just isn’t a cool word!
• Lights don’t actually twinkle
Special Thanks to Evercool for providing the VC-RE Twinkling VGA Cooler to BigBruin.Com for review!
Please drop by the BigBruin.Com forum and feel free to discuss this review.
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