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Coolink GFXChilla GPU Cooler Review

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SKYMTL

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Coolink GFXChilla GPU Cooler Review




Manufacturer Product Page: Coolink - the cooler manufacturer
Product Number: KL-02
Availability: Mid-March in Canada
Price: $30CAD (MSRP)
Warranty: 3 Years



Coolink isn’t a name which anyone outside of Europe has heard much about but they are ready to make their North American debut in the next few months and with it they will bring some very interesting cooling solutions to our shores. As a company, Coolink isn’t actually a stand-alone enterprise but rather it is the retail arm of the Kolink International Corporation which has acted as an OEM manufacturer for some of the most popular heatsinks on the market today. They are also partnered with Noctua in order to provide R&D support but Coolink represents their main foray into the retail marketplace. Since Coolink’s inception, they have been mostly focused on the European marketplace but as their stable of products has increased in size, so too have their aspirations of expansion into the lucrative North American marketplace.

Spearheading this push into North America is their new graphics card heatsink; the aptly-named GFXChilla. This cooler represents Coolink’s first graphics card heatsink and with it they are aiming straight at some of the most popular graphics cards on the market: the 8800GT and HD3870. Even with compatibility for these two best-selling cards, the GFXChilla also boasts compatibility for nearly every other graphics card made within the last few years including the Nvidia 7x00-series, 6x00-series as well as ATI’s X1800 and X1900 series. This broad compatibility coupled with the fact that Coolink advertises this as a silent, dual-slot cooling solution should make the GFXChilla a very popular choice among consumers.

The one thing about the GFXChilla that stands out the most is its price since our contacts tell us that once it hits Canadian retail shelves, it should retail for about $30CAD. This represents a 35% savings over the Thermaltake DuOrb and a whopping 45% savings over the Thermalright HR-03 GT. However, the GFXChilla doesn’t have any lofty expectations of taking the performance crown away from either of these two other heatsinks since it is billed as a drop-in replacement for a stock cooler with focus on silence rather than all-out performance. Performance aside, as we will see later that Coolink has provided some innovative additions to the GFXChilla in order to improve cooling performance by replacing the stock 80mm fans.

While a warranty of 3 years on any cooler is extremely competitive, the GFXChilla will be in tough company in this review. It will be competing against the massive HR-03 and the Thermaltake DuOrb while being asked to perform up to our expectations on the highest-end card it is compatible with: an 8800GTS 512MB.


 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Specifications & Compatibility

Specifications & Compatibility


 

SKYMTL

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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories


As with most coolers, the GFXChilla comes in a box which is adorned with flashy graphics which will stand out in a brick-and-mortar retail store environment. There is a plastic window on the front of the box which showcases the twin 80mm fans while be back of the package holds all the specifications and features of the GFXChilla.


The entire heatsink as well as all of the mounting hardware and other accessories is packaged in a clear clamshell package which is held together with seven round tabs.


With the GFXChilla you get the usual no-frills accessory package but what is included is of surprisingly high quality for a cooler which costs a mere thirty bucks. You (of course) get all the necessary mounting hardware in addition to more ramsinks and VRM heatsinks than you can possibly use on one card, a tube of generic thermal compound, a 3-pin to Molex adaptor and some spacers for around a GPU without a metal shim.


The instruction manual is without a doubt one of the best we have come across with all of the instructions printed out in an easy-to-understand manner. There are however some caveats we had with these instructions which we will touch upon a little later in the review.
 

SKYMTL

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A Closer Look at the Coolink GFXChilla

A Closer Look at the Coolink GFXChilla


The first thing you will notice about Coolink’s GFXChilla is that it is very thin compared to many of its competitors. This is achieved by using a pair of low-profile 80mm by 10mm cooling fans which push air down through the aluminum fins in order to quickly disperse the heat generated by the core. The only real problem with this type of design is that the heat produced will stay within your case instead of getting exhausted out the back.

Coolink has decided to use a quartet of relatively large 6mm copper heatpipes which run from the base to equidistant areas which bisect the fins. According to Coolink, these heatpipes will provide more than enough heat transfer to efficiently cool off even an overclocked G92 core.


Both of the 80mm fans are 10mm thick, 11-bladed units which spin at a constant 2000RPM while producing a mere (claimed) 18dba. These thin fans would not do any good if they were trying to push air through a large confined space but luckily, since the fins are quite thin they should have no trouble at all.

The fans are linked to a single 3-pin fan header through a white sleeved cable. This is actually a great solution since it combines two fans into one connector while cutting down on the amount of wires coming from the cooler. Unfortunately, we would have much rather seen black sleeving as opposed to white but I guess you can’t win them all…


The bottom of the GFXChilla shows us a better view of the fins and how the heatpipes intersect with them. As you can see the copper contact plate is slightly offset from the center of the heatsink so the fins themselves do not come too close to your motherboard.


The bracket around the base serves as a universal mounting bracket for every graphics card the GFXChilla is compatible with. This means that you will not have to jump through hoops for mounting it even though there is a pair of small screws on each bracket which allow it to be moved for better contact with the GPU core.


Even though the base of this Coolink heatsink is copper, it is evident that not much care was given to it. While it is nice and flat, there are some major machining marks and it is far from polished to a mirror finish. Even with this lack of quality finishing, it should still provide a good contact surface between the heatpipes and the core of your graphics card.
 
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SKYMTL

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Installation

Installation

Overall, the installation of the GFXChilla went without any problems and that is not a surprise considering how well the instructions are laid out. Below, we will have a look at the installation process for this cooler.


After removing the stock heatsink from our 8800GTS 512MB the next step was to clean both the core and the ram modules so no thermal compound residue remained. The next step was to install the ram and VRM heatsinks which came with the GFXChilla. Unlike some heatsinks, these have VERY sticky thermal tape installed on them so while they may stick well, make sure you pay special attention when you remove them.


Every one of these heatsinks is made of chrome-painted aluminum which works quite well in conducting heat away from the VRM and ram modules. They are designed in such a way that their fins will work with the natural airflow in your case in order to speed up heat dissipation.


There are two additional, shorter heatsinks which are used so the low-slung heatpipes will pass over them. However, as you will see we highly recommend that you DO NOT install these heatsinks. This is due to the fact that these heatsinks are slightly too high and you will not be able to properly tighten down the GFXChilla.


The next step is to install the spacers onto each of the four corners of the bracket and then slide plastic washers over each of these spacers. Depending on what the offset is between the heatsink mounting holes around your GPU, you will have to place the spacers in their corresponding holes on the mounting bracket of the GFXChilla.


Finally, all you have to do is line up the spacers with your card, install a washer over each corner and then tighten down the screws. It is very important that you do not over-tighten these screws since they have the ability to screw down far enough to cause damage to your card. As a rule of thumb, tighten them with your fingers and once you can’t move them anymore, leave them be and do not use a screwdriver.


Well ladies and gents, we’ve done it; the GFXChilla is installed and looking damn fine on our 8800GTS 512B. We can forgive the blue fans since they are keeping with the Coolink corporate colors and looking a bit closer, it really is amazing how compact this cooler is.


The cooler is perfectly positioned to blow air onto the ramsinks but here we can see that even with the GFXChilla slightly loose, the heatpipes touch the lower ramsinks. This is why we recommend that in order for the base plate to make proper contact with the GPU core, you remove these two heatsinks. We will see later the remarkable difference this makes in performance.


As already mentioned, this is a dual slot cooler which means it take up no more room height-wise than the reference cooler which comes with an 8800GTS 512MB and some 8800GT cards. This is perfect for those of you who want extra cooling for an SLI setup but don’t have the space for the hulking HR-03 GT.
 
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SKYMTL

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Adding Aftermarket Fans / Case Installation

Adding Aftermarket Fans

The GFXChilla is unique in the fact that it allows the user to easily remove the stock 80mm fans and replace them with something a little more powerful. As long as it is an 80mm fan with standard mounting holes, you can mount whichever 80mm fan you want.

We recommend that you swap fans with the GFXChilla uninstalled from the graphics card since the heatpipes flex quite a bit when any pressure is applied to the top of the cooler. If you end up pressing too hard, you can damage your card which is much more expensive to replace than a $30 cooler.


Unlike Thermalright’s completely user-unfriendly fan brackets, Coolink has gone with a blissfully simple way of installing and uninstalling fans on their cooler: screws. All you will need is a thin Phillips-head screwdriver to remove the four screws on each fan.


Once the four screws are removed you just have to lift clear the fan which exposes the aluminum fins below. The next step is to line up the holes of your chosen 80mm fan with the screw holes on the heatsink.


Finally, all that needs to be done is to reinstall the screws and you have your new fan(s) installed. While an aftermarket fan may stand a bit higher than the stock ones, it should also provide additional cooling.


Case Installation


Since the GFXChilla doesn’t take up any more room that the stock 8800GTS 512MB cooler, there is plenty of space to spare for a second graphics card. There were absolutely no conflicts with the motherboard or anything else in our case.


Even with a pair of Zalman 80mm by 25mm fans installed there is still about ¾ inch between it and the card installed below it so airflow into the fans should not be constrained too much.

All in all, installing the GFXChilla onto a graphics card and then installing it into a case was a dream come true and couldn’t have been easier. Having such a low-profile CPU cooler is something customers have been asking for and this one looks like it delivers…so far.
 
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SKYMTL

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Performance Testing Methodology

Performance Testing Methodology

System used:

Processor: AMD X2 3800+ (at 2.6Ghz)
Processor Cooling: Arctic Cooling Freezer 64
Motherboard: DFI Lanparty SLI DR Expert
RAM: 2GB Corsair XMS PC4000 DDR (at 520Mhz)
Hard Drive: Samsung Spinpoint 250GB, 7200Rpm SATAII
Case: Gigabyte 3D Aurora 570
Case Cooling: 4x Noctua NF-S12-1200 fans @1200rpm (2 intake, 2 exhaust)
PSU: Silverstone Decathlon 650W
Graphics Card: XFX 8800GTS 512MB Alpha Dog Edition

Coolers Used:

Stock Cooler @ default fan speed profile
Thermaltake DuOrb
Thermalright HR-03 GT w/ Zalman 92mm fan @ 1600RPM
Coolink GFXChilla w/stock fans @ 2000RPM


Testing Methodology:

We have installed the Coolink GFXChilla on our 8800GTS 512MB card and then installed the whole setup into our Gigabyte Aurora case. All of the stock results are taken with the stock cooler in its default fan speed profile. All coolers (including the stock heatsink) were installed with Arctic Cooling MX-2 thermal compound. For all of these tests, we disabled the additional front 120mm fan unless otherwise specified since the Gigabyte Aurora does not originally come with this fan installed nor has the mounting holes for it. All of the tests were conducted with the side panel of the case closed.

The room where the test was conducted was kept at a steady 20.2°C (+/- 0.3°C) for the beginning of each test. Since we want to replicate real-world conditions, the temperature of the room was allowed to climb as the 30 minute tests were run. Before every subsequent test was run, the room was allowed to cool off to its original 20.2°C temperature.

For all of the performance tests we used Rivatuner’s temperature logging feature to log the GPU temperature throughout each of the 30 minute tests.

All load tests were conducted by running a 30 minute loop of 3DMark 06’s Batch Rendering Test with 32,768 Triangles along with 4xAA and 16xAF enabled. This test puts a constant and high load on the GPU and represents a worst-case scenario for any graphics card.

Any benchmark-specific methodology will be explained in its own section.

 

SKYMTL

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Idle / Load Temperatures

Idle Temperatures

In this test we allowed the graphics card to sit for 30 minutes on the Windows desktop.



Since there is so little heat produced by the G92 core, most of the aftermarket coolers are clustered right next to each other in terms of performance with the stock heatsink producing the highest temperatures. The Coolink GFXChilla performs within a few degrees of the Thermaltake DuOrb throughout this entire test while operating at a much lower noise.


Load Temperatures

The “Load” tests were conducted after 30 minutes of the graphics card being in idle mode. We then ran 30 minutes of the 3DMark Match Rendering Test which puts significant and constant load on the GPU.

We have found that 3DMark’s standard tests are some of the worst “load” conditions to use when testing the cooling capabilities of a graphics card. This is because the graphics card is left to idle during the CPU tests in 3DMark06 and will then cool down significantly. The same goes for many games as there are points in games where the GPU is put under less load than at other points.



Here we see the GFXChilla performing slightly worse that the Thermaltake DuOrb but it is still able to cool off the core about ten percent better than the stock cooler. It seems that even though Coolink’s heatsink is quite compact, it is quite efficient in moving the heat away from the GPU core. We also have to remember that there is also a huge difference in price between the GFXChilla and the competitors we put it up against in this review.
 

SKYMTL

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Overclocked / Interior Case Temperatures

Overclocked Temperatures

In these tests we overclocked our 8800GTS 512MB card to 820Mhz core speed and 2200Mhz (DDR) on the memory. The same 30 minute Batch Rendering test from the Load tests was run and the temperatures were logged with Rivatuner.



Interestingly, even with an overclock on the core approaching 200Mhz over stock speeds, the only products which really suffer are the stock cooler and the Thermaltake DuOrb. The GFXChilla is able to effectively cool down the overclocked card without a problem and actually posted some extremely impressive results. Considering its price, we were not expecting such a strong showing here but lo and behold…this compact cooler surprised us quite a bit.


Interior Case Temperatures

All of the interior case temperatures were taken using an Extech Type-K thermometer in the location shown in this picture (note the red circle). The GPU was then run through the Load test for 30 minutes and the temperature reading form the thermometer was then recorded.


Between each test, the system was shut down for 2 hours in order for the room temperature and the system temperature to normalize. The next test was then begun and the process was repeated for each cooler configuration.


The Coolink GFXChilla kept the temperatures within our case surprisingly low for a cooler which exhausts hot air into the case. We actually reran this test twice to make sure of the results and came up with the same temperatures. Thus, we have to conclude that this cooler is quite efficient at keeping your interior case temperatures at a good level compared to some of the other products on the market.
 
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SKYMTL

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Aftermarket Fan Performance / Acoustical Footprint

Aftermarket Fan Performance

Since the GFXChilla is compatible with nearly every other standard 80mm fan on the market we decided to go out and buy a pair of the least expensive ones we could find. We finally settled on a pair of Zalman ZM-F1 “Ultra Quiet” 80mm fans which cost us a mere five bucks each. Even though each of these fans is rated to spin up to 3000RPM, we manually set their speed to 2000RPM in order to keep noise to a manageable level.

Here are the results we achieved.



Right across all of the load tests, the Zalman fans lowered temperatures quite a bit over the stock fans. This puts the load temperature results right inline with those posted by the DuOrb while the overclock results are further lowered by about 3*C. As we saw before, the Zalmans are about twice the height of the stock fans but due to the limited height of the GFXChilla, they still have enough space to draw in cool air in an SLI setup.


Acoustical Footprint

One word comes to mind when thinking of the acoustical footprint of the GFXChilla: quiet. Even though it as two small 80mm fans, they only spin at a leisurely 2000rpm so they make next to no noise and even with the “upgraded” Zalman 80mm fans, near-silence was the name of the game. Considering the stock 8800GTS 512MB heatsink makes an unholy racket once a certain core temperature is reached, this Coolink cooler is head and shoulders above it in this department as well.

As for the competition, the DuOrb is quite a bit louder than the GFXChilla as well and the amount of noise produced by the HR-03 GT is largely dependant on which fan you pick for it and how quickly that fan is spinning. It should also be mentioned that not all 80mm fans are created equally and while we tried some cheaper fans, they kicked up such a racket, we quickly went back to the Zalmans. That being said, we believe that Coolink chose right with the low profile fans they used for this cooler.
 
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