Spire SkyMax VGA Cooler Review
Spire-Corp, an established but lesser known company in the states, have been slowly releasing new products across 2012’s first quarter. Averaging just over one product a month, their new releases consist of a chassis, power supply, CPU cooler, and what we’ll be taking a look at today, the SkyMax VGA Cooler. A VGA cooler featuring five direct touch heat pipes and three PWM (Pulse-width Modulation) cooling fans. Before we continue on with the review we wanted to mention that our review unit was a pre-mass production sample and the packaging used is not the retail packaging.
Packaging and Design
I confirmed with Spire that the packaging our sample came in wasn’t final, but that the final packaging would just be a beefed up version. Overall, very basic, includes a full face view of the card and hidden behind a spec sheet is a white box. To the right is what’ll come in the box, the installation instructions were tucked under the cooler.
Blanketing the aluminum heat sink is the semi-gloss fan assembly, comprised of two 80mm side fans and a single 90mm in the center. We immediately diagnosed the SkyMax with being lengthy and while it’s not outrageous, it will certainly detour potential customers.. The fan design is laid out in a very unique way, unlike any cooler we’ve seen. It utilizes the two outside 80mm fans to intake, and the larger 90mm center fan to exhaust. In theory the design is meant to create a wind tunnel that brings in cool air from the sides to cool the GPU and PCB and then quickly expel the warm air through the center. All fans use sleeve bearings, which at 100% speed will produce 36.5 CFM and 41.5 dBA.
Flipping the unit over you’re presented with the underside of the heat-sink, set on top of the GPU block. The block itself is made of aluminum with a copper sliver that sits atop the 5 heat-pipes and makes contact with the GPU. Rather than rely on attaching different mounting brackets for the numerous supported GPU’s, the SkyMax utilizes the large aluminum block and drills different mounting holes along the outside. The heat pipes run in the center of the split heat sink, two on the GPU block side and 3 on the other. Overall you’ve got a very solid piece of hardware that has quite a bit of weight behind it. The fans are connected through a single 4 pin that also stems to a 2 pin.
Compatibility & Specifications
|Material||Aluminium + Copper|
|Heatpipe||Five (5) heatpipe|
|Rated power||9.6 W|
|Rated Voltage||12 V|
|Noise level||19~41.5 dBA|
|Air flow||36.5 CFM Max.|
|Connector||4Pin With 2Pin|
|Thermal paste||BlueFrost – SP802 blue grease(Injection Tube,0.5g)|
|Static Pressure||2.18 mmH2O|
|Operating Temperature||-10~70 oC|
|Storage Temperature||-40~70 oC|
|Packaging type||blister box|
|Package includes||clip 1 set / ST-802 grease / manual /Warranty Registration Card|
|Life hours||Sleeve: 30.000|
Installation was pretty straight forward as far as VGA coolers go. The first thing you’ll want to do is remove your existing heat-sink. This can be a scary task but in actuality its a very simple and quick process. The instructions included were not very thorough but workable. I suggest running your card a little if it’s old, to get the paste warm along with any existing thermal pads or mini heat-sinks. Once the old cooler is off, thoroughly clean your GPU and misc. modules.
Pro-tip: Use a clean eraser to clean the existing adhesive off the RAM and VRM chips. The new heat-sinks would not stick unless I used an eraser to clean the chips. Make sure to completely blow any eraser shavings and bits off the card.
You’ll start by attaching the miniture heat-sinks onto all RAM and VRM modules, don’t worry too much about being exact with your placement, unless your overclocking these cards can general operate at 100% load while naked. Spire also includes two anti-vibration foam blocks, that’ll attach to your specified points on the PCB. Once those are all attached, follow the instructions to where things should be placed in the sandwich style assembly. Don’t forget to peel off the block proctector and apply thermal paste before attaching. Our reference GTX 470 had issues with some of the RAM’s heat-sinks interfering with the coolers heat-pipes, so they were excluded..
For testing, we decided to use a GTX 470, a power hungry beast that’ll double as your home’s furnace. The stock heat-sink runs the GPU at almost 90°C under load and that’s with the fans at 100 percent which is noisey to say the least. The Spire SkyMax dropped the idle temp a nice 10°C with an even larger drop under load coming in at 19°C. On top of the improved thermal performance you’re looking at a nice step down in volume, you can remove your ear plugs now.
The Spire SkyMax’s cooling performance isn’t anything to be laughed out, but, it wouldn’t be fair to say there isn’t anything better. The previously mentioned comprehensive compatibility list matches and goes beyond what you’ll find most others offer, and includes an extensive roster of “legacy” cards. The design uses an interesting fan layout which sounds like it might work better, but we’ve seen more conventinal coolers produce better results. Style wise, the SkyMax is an easy card to over-look due to its silent design, but in no way would we call it an ugly product. We did unfortunately run into a couple things that stopped the Spire SkyMax of getting a better award. Like we said before, the performance is good, but nothing special. Second, the cooler is going to charge you an extra expansion slot, taking a combined three slots when installed. Lastly, depending on your card, you most likely are going to end up attaching a bit of unneeded length to your setup. If you’re in the market for an aftermarket cooler for a reasonable price, the Spire SkyMax VGA Cooler, is an extremely viable option and I couldn’t see anyone including myself being disappointed with it. Update : I have confirmed with Spire that unfortunately the SkyMax VGA Cooler will not work with AMD’s 7800 / 7900 series as well as Nvidia’s Geforce 600 series. We want to thank Spire Corp for providing the review unit and encourage you to check them out at http://www.spire-corp.com