Building a new PC (page six)

Vortexx Neo installation

The BFG 8800 GT OC is a factory-overclocked graphics card with a fairly basic cooler on it. As soon as you put the BFG to work on a modern game with intensive graphic effects, the fan on the stock cooler spins up to full speed and makes a very noticeable noise with a relatively high pitch. In fact, the fan on the stock cooler makes a noise that heavily distracts from the game you're playing, as it almost sounds like the card is in distress. The highest core temperature RivaTuner recorded while playing the Crysis demo was 90°C, and the highest recorded while playing the Call Of Duty 4 demo was 86°C (ambient room temperature in both cases was between 22 and 23 degrees Celsius). I believe these temperatures are perfectly acceptable, but the fan noise was a real nuisance.

The exposed chip of the BFG 8800 GT OC graphics card, with old thermal interface material still coating it.
The BFG 8800 GT OC card with the stock cooler removed, the chip still covered in old thermal grease.

To improve things, I installed an Akasa Vortexx Neo GPU cooler. This was fairly easy work, and the included instructions were nice and clear: just remove the BFG card from the motherboard, unscrew the stock cooler, clean the old thermal interface material off of the main chip and the memory chips, apply the supplied thermal pads to the memory chips, apply the supplied thermal grease to the graphics chip, place the Vortexx Neo over the card so that it lines up correctly, and then screw the Vortexx Neo to the BFG 8800 GT OC.

I used Akasa TIM Clean to get the old thermal grease off of the graphics chip, and it worked very nicely (apart from the TIM Clean bottle coming with a very poor nozzle). You wouldn't know on first sight that there had ever been any thermal grease on the chips, the TIM Clean did that good a job. Instead of the anonymous thermal grease that was supplied with the Vortexx Neo, I used Arctic Silver 5, skimming a fine layer of it over the graphics processor before screwing the Vortexx Neo onto the card.

The Vortexx Neo installed in the motherboard, with the Audigy 2 sound card relegated to the cramped lower slot.
The Vortexx Neo is much larger than the stock cooler, so the Audigy had to move down.

All that felt easy enough, but by the time I'd fitted the Vortexx Neo to the BFG card, unplugged enough cables from the motherboard to get access to the PCI-E slot, moved the Audigy 2 sound card (which would no longer fit in the second PCI slot with the Vortexx Neo making the graphics card so much fatter), added another fan cable to the Dark Power Pro PSU (to avoid using the motherboard fan headers which can be turned to automatic speed control, which the Vortexx Neo forbids) and then plugged everything back in again, I'd spent a total of four hours from start to finish.

After a quick test to make sure that the newly-fitted Vortexx Neo was at least keeping the BFG 8800 GT OC chip at a safe temperature, I left the card for seven days before testing the maximum temperatures, because Arctic Silver 5 needs about 200 hours to settle in for best performance. One week later, though, I took the maximum temperatures with RivaTuner again. With the Vortexx Neo fitted, Crysis reached a peak core temperature of 83°C, a full 7°C lower than the stock cooler had been able to achieve. And after playing through the Call Of Duty 4 demo, the peak core temperature was 79°C, also 7°C lower than the stock cooler had achieved. This despite the fact the room temperature was one to two degrees higher than it had been when I was testing the stock cooler. So the Vortexx Neo is certainly a better GPU cooler than the one that comes with the BFG 8800 GT OC.

Better than that, though, the Vortexx Neo does a better job without making any obvious noise. It runs at a constant fan speed, so there's no spin-up when you start playing a demanding game, and I didn't notice an overall increase in noise output with the Vortexx Neo fitted. So I'm very happy with this replacement cooler, and I'm left wondering why BFG didn't just fit something like this in the first place, given how low the cost of it is.