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Thermalright HR-03 GT GPU Cooler Review

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Thermalright HR-03 GT GPU Cooler Review





Manufacturer Product Page: Ultimate CPU Cooling Solutions! USA
Product Number: HR-03-GT
Availability: Now
Price: $60CAD (MSRP)
Warranty: 1 Year




According to recent statistics, the launches of both the Nvidia 8800GT and the ATI HD3870 have been the most successful launches in each company’s recent history. Unlike what happened with the G80 launch (with both the GTX and GTS) where manufacturers were extremely slow to produce aftermarket coolers these new launches have sparked an almost immediate response. Companies have announced compatibility for both new and old coolers alike due to both of these new cards having the same heatsink mounting locations as cards which have already been on the market for some time. There have been a few modifications to many of the accessory packages of these older and now compatible heatsinks but we will get into that later. Considering the popularity of these cards it isn’t surprising to see a manufacturer like Thermalright looking to jump into action as soon as possible.

For now we will concentrate on the subject of today’s review: the Thermalright HR-03 GT. Thermalright is known among the enthusiast community for making the best air cooler on the market and they rarely disappoint. Here at Hardware Canucks we have reviewed several of their products and every one of them has proven to be head and shoulders above the competition. Their HR-03 graphics card coolers span the spectrum of compatibility with nearly every graphics card available and the GT model is just the latest iteration.

Considering it carries an MSRP of around $60 here in Canada, it can’t be counted among the more budget-oriented graphics card heatsinks but if past indications are anything to go by, you are paying for performance. It is great to see Thermalright on their game considering the HR-03 GT was announced about two weeks after the release of the 8800GT and quite a bit before the HD3870 release. Something that we also haven’t mentioned is the compatibility of their HR-03 GT with the newer 8800GTS 512MB cards. Since the mounting locations on these hotter-running cards are the same, compatibility is a given and it is on one of these GTS cards which we will be installing our HR-03 GT on today.


 
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SKYMTL

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Compatibility / Packaging & Accessories

Compatibility



Packaging and Accessories


Once again we see the plain old brown Thermalright box which is perfectly functional and it protects its contents quite well. The only thing which distinguishes this box from any other package in the HR-03 series is the small HR-03 GT logo printed on one of its sides.

Thermalright’s packaging goes to prove that what they have inside is what really matters and this holds true when you see how well this cooler is protected in its benign box. The heatsink itself is first wrapped in plastic and then it is cushioned on all sides with contour-fitting foam. All of the accessories and mounting hardware are held in a small box which is pushed off to the side.


Thermalright really doesn’t skimp on the accessories and this is something else we have come to appreciate with their products. Not only do you get all of the necessary mounting hardware but you also get a blissfully full tube of thermal compound as well as a perfectly diagramed instruction manual and a sticker with the Thermalright logo on it.

The only area where I would like some additions is with the mounting hardware where Thermalright could have added a few extra rubber stoppers. The small black rubber stoppers are easily misplaced during installation and in my past experiences with Thermalright products; I have lost my fair share of them.
 
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SKYMTL

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A Closer Look at the HR-03 GT

A Closer Look at the HR-03 GT


Here is the HR-03 GT in all its nickel-plated glory and without a doubt, this isn’t what you would call a “beauty first, cooling second” cooler. This thing is made to cool your GPU above all else and it does so through the use of six closely-placed heatpipes. It is big, brutish and takes up a lot of space in your case but it should be able to provide you with some of the best temperatures an air cooler can provide.

Interestingly, I was half expecting the GT to be based off of Thermalright’s older yet still popular HR-03 Rev.A which has four heatpipes and should be able to sufficiently cool any 65nm GPU core. Instead, Thermalright used their larger G80-based HR-03 PLUS which has a larger contact plate, two more (and larger) heatpipes as well as more fin area.


Regardless of its industrial look, the HR-03 GT’s fabrication is absolutely top-notch. The heatpipes make excellent contact with the heat-dispersing fins while there are small holes in the sides to provide mounting locations for the fan brackets and additional cooling. You can also see that there is a pair of small raised areas on the top of this heatsink and they are used to hold a 90mm fan in place once the brackets are installed. Even though all of Thermalright’s coolers can be used in passive mode, it is highly recommended that you install a fan.


The heatpipes do not terminate at the large base but rather continue through it and are capped off on the other end. Once again, the level of construction seen here is next to flawless.

The base itself is nickel-plated copper which is buffed but its surface does not have a mirror-like finish. There are faint tooling marks but it is completely level so it should conduct heat quite well.


All of the fins are evenly spaced which makes for optimal heat transfer regardless of which fan you choose to install onto the HR-03 GT. I could go on and on about how well Thermalright has put together their newest heatsink but I think that these pictures speak louder than anything I could say.
 
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SKYMTL

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Installation

Installation

The installation of the Thermalright HR-03 GT was quite easy since there are very well laid-out diagrams and explanations in the instruction pamphlet. However, if you need additional installation instructions you can visit Thermalright’s website where they have some excellent installation photos: Ultimate CPU Cooling Solutions! USA

In this review we will be installing out GT onto an XFX 8800GTS 512MB Alpha Dog Edition graphics card.


Once the process of uninstalling the stock cooler and cleaning off the pre-applied thermal compound is complete, it is time for you to install the ram and VRM heatsinks. Unlike some manufacturers, the thermal tape which Thermalright provides sticks very well as long as your clean the ram modules reasonably well. We have seen far too often a manufacturer provide thermal tape under their ramsinks which doesn’t stay stuck.


Thermalright has gone down bit of a unique route with some of their ramsinks; instead of smaller individual pieces, some of them come in lengths long enough to cover two ram modules in one fell swoop. Not only will this increase the cooling potential but it makes them infinitely easier to install.

Due to the size of the heatpipes on the HR-03 GT and their proximity to the PCB and ram modules, Thermalright provides you with sorter ramsinks for two of the modules.


The next step is to install the heatsink onto your card along with the x-shaped retention plate. It is best to install the screws first and then slip them through the mounting holes so you won’t have to do some acrobatics with your fingers. Just make sure you have pre-tightened them onto the retention bracket because tightening them after it is installed is next to impossible.


The final thing you will have to do is to flip over your graphics card, mount the x-shaped backplate (with rubber washers) and then tighten down the four corners with the included screw caps. Make sure that you don’t over tighten these bolts.


Here is what the HR-03 Looks like once it has been completely installed You may notice that this is in no way what you would call a one-slot cooler since it takes up two expansion slots without the 92mm fan installed.


Depending on the thickness of the 92mm fan that you install, the HR-03 GT can take up to four expansion slots which is quite a bit especially if you are panning on running a Crossfire of SLI setup. That being said, installing the fan brackets are a bit of a pain but the end result is a mounting system which is secure enough that whichever fan you install won’t move anywhere.
 
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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: 3x Noctua NF-S12-1200 fans @1200rpm (1 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



We have installed the Thermalright HR-03 GT on our 8800GTS 512MB card and then installed the whole setup into a Gigabyte Aurora 570 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. 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 nTune’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 Size Test with 32,768 triangles. 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 Temperature Results

Idle Temperatures

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



Overall, it looks like the HR-03 GT is able to cool off the 8800GTS 512MB better then both the stock cooler and the Thermaltake DuOrb. The difference between it and the stock cooler is quite significant but was a bit less clear-cut when compared to the cheaper DuOrb. That being said, even though the 65nm G92 core does not produce much heat, a reduction of over 12*C is quite remarkable. Let’s see if this holds true for the load tests as well.


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 3DMark 06’s Batch Size Test which puts significant and constant load on the GPU.

We have found that 3DMark’s standard tests are some of the worst programs 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. These rendering tests represent a “worst case” scenario.



The results posted by the Thermalright HR-03 GT in the load test are nothing short of amazing. Not only does it show a stunning reduction of 13*C over the stock cooler but it also begins to pull away from the venerable DuOrb by a few degrees. It should also be noted that since you can use whichever 92mm fan you want on the HR-03 GT which will guarantee you a quieter running environment than you would encounter with the horribly noisy stock cooler.
 

SKYMTL

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Overclocked / Interior Case Temperatures

Overclock 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 Size test from the Load tests was run and the temperatures were logged with nTune.



Here we can really see the power of the HR-03 GT come into play. While the Thermaltake DuOrb is completely overpowered by the extra heat produced by the overclocked G92 core, the stock cooler puts out an absolute racket. Its fan was spinning for all it was worth while trying to keep the temperatures at a manageable level.

However, even though the Thermalright HR-03 GT was able to shave off nearly 20*C off of the stock cooler’s temperatures we could not achieve any higher overclocks. Both the memory and the core reached the same 820 / 2234 Mhz overclocks as were achieved on the stock cooler. This leads me to believe it is core and memory voltages that are limiting the overclock rather than temperatures.


Interior Case Temperatures

All of the interior case temperatures were taken using a 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 temperatures we saw inside our Gigabyte Aurora 570 case were about what was expected considering the HR-03 GT does not exhaust hot air outside the case like the stock cooler does. Thus there is a slight increase in interior case temperatures when compared to the stock 8800GTS 512MB cooler but this increase is not as much as we see with the Thermaltake DuOrb.
 

SKYMTL

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Joined
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Messages
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Conclusion

Conclusion

Once again Thermalright has taken the lead in performance, construction and engineering with the release of their HR-03 GT heatsink. Considering this cooler is made to be compatible with some of the most popular cards on the market and there is (believe it or not) very little competition at this time, it will probably reign supreme for some time to come. There is always so much to like about Thermalright’s products and with what we have seen here today, they are continuing their tradition of excellence into the New Year.

Not only does the GT have awe-inspiring performance but there are so many other things to like about it as well. The installation of such a large cooler could post quite a few problems but with well-written instructions, the whole process is made much easier than it could have been. This may not even be a blip on most consumers’ radars but the inclusion of a full tube of thermal compound in a world full of pre-applied junk is great to see. We also like the fact that Thermalright doesn’t include a fan with any of their products. This means they can cut down on the cost while leaving the ultimate decision of which fan to buy in your hands.

However, this kind of performance does not come without any sacrifices. The height of the HR-03 GT is a bit extreme considering it takes the space of four expansion slots with the optional 92mm fan installed. There is also the small matter of price and at around $60 it is definitely not the least expensive solution on the market.

Since the 8800GTS 512MB is the hottest-running of the current cards the GT is compatible with, the performance we saw here today should be comparable or better with cooler-running cards as well. That means that for now, if you have an 8800GT, 8800GTS, 8800GS, HD3870 or HD3850, the Thermalright HR-03 GT provides the best cooling solution for your card. Period.


Pros:

- Amazing cooling performance
- Easy installation
- High quality construction
- Full tube of thermal compound included


Cons:

- Price
- Size




Thanks to Thermalright for providing us with this review sample

 
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