PerformanceIn order to test how this cooler performs I ran 3DMark06 for an hour and then made a bench round where I recorded the peak temperature of the card. The cooler I will be benching the Thermalright HR-03 Plus against is the standard NVIDIA dual slot cooler provided with almost every 8800GTS card on the market today, and the recently reviewed Zalman VF1000 VGA cooler.
When benching the stock cooler I turned up the fan's RPM by adjusting the fan duty cycle in Rivatuner. All the tests were done in a room where the room temperature was 20° Celsius. All of the temperature data was collected with RivaTuner v2.02.
To test the cooling capacity of the HR-03 Plus I ran the tests with both a 92 mm fan low noise fan and a 120 mm medium performance fan mounted on it. The 92 mm fan used was a Nexus Real Silent fan running at full speed mounted with the fan clips provided by Thermalright. The 120 mm medium performance Papst fan was mounted using four plastic strips to fix it in place.
Bench system specifications:
- Intel Core 2 Duo E6420 @ 3.2 GHz cooled by GIGABYTE 3D Galaxy water cooling system.
- 2 x 1GB Cell Shock DDR2-1000 @ CL4-4-4-12 with active cooling.
- 36 GB Western Digital Raptor.
- Inno3D 8800GTS (320 MB version) @ 648 MHz Core and 1000 MHz RAM.
- GIGABYTE 3D Mercury
The cooling performance of the HR-03 Plus is way ahead of the competition. Managing to beat the Zalman VF1000 with an extreme low noise 92 mm fan is quite a feat. Even at idle the HR-03 Plus does a considerably better job at keeping the temperatures at a decent level. If we take a closer look at load temperatures it's evident that the only cooling performance bottleneck with the HR-03 Plus is the fan mounted on it. A temperature difference between using a 120 mm and a 92 mm is easily noticeable. Since the amount of air going over the heat sink is the only thing holding back performance it's possible to get even better temperatures by going with a high RPM fan. I think that it's great that you can use your own fan with the cooler because it leaves you with the choice of going for either a silent setup or a performance setup. Another bonus of this design is that you can easily change the fan once its bearing is worn down.
When it comes to cooling the surrounding components on a graphics card it seems that the HR-03 Plus solutions pulls ahead as well as in keeping the core temperature down. This caught me off guard because I thought that the more extensive Zalman VF1000 (with RHS 88) cooling solution would be able to cool the rest of the card better due to its lager dissipation area. Even with the 92 mm Nexus low noise fan mounted the Thermalright HR-03 Plus it leads the pack by a substantial margin. Keep in mind that the HR-03 Plus only uses "stick on" heat sinks for the RAM and MOSFETs whereas the Zalman cooler uses the way more comprehensive RHS 88 profile solution.
Overall the HR-03 Plus outperforms both the stock cooler and the Zalman VF1000 with the RHS 88 profile mounted. Managing to outperform both the Zalman 8800-series cooling solution and the stock cooler with an ultra low noise 92 mm fan mounted is unbelievable. The noise/performance level with a Nexus Real Silent 92 mm fan mounted on the HR-03 is out of this world. On the package of the Nexus fan it says 19 dB and it's probably the only fan on the market where that is true it’s inaudible even if you put your head alongside the case.
The HR-03 Plus stands out from the crowd because it enables you to use any 92 mm fan. This means that you can customize the cooler to fit any need you might have. As if this wasn’t enough you can also quite easily mount a 120 mm fan if you want better performance. Probably the most amazing thing about this cooler is that its cooling performance scales really well compared to the amount of air being blown over it.