Home > Features > Product Review: AMD-ATi Radeon X1900

Addendum - Silencing the X1900 XT

The first thing that stuck us about the ATi X1900 XT card was the noise: lots of it. It could range from a mildly-annoying base whine to a high-pitched scream, exacerbated by the fact that the fan on our test unit had a tendency to rattle a bit as well.

After a few weeks putting up with this we decided that we had to do something about it. A search of the relevant sites turned up the ThermalRight HR-03 cooler (www.thermalright.com). This appealed simply because it was a fanless design. No fan equals no noise. We ordered one at a very reasonable $44.99.USD, and set about installation.

The cooler itself is extremely well made -- all heatpipes and machined aluminium fins. To fit it, you simply detach the supplied cooler (loosening six small screws in the process), apply new thermal paste to the GPU and re-fit the new cooler. (see image 01).

01 - Installing the Cooler
02 - Installing the Cooler

Well, that's the theory. In practice, fitting was a very fiddly business, made fiddlier by having to reach underneath the fins to get at the bolts that attach the clamp that secures the cooler to the GPU's board. A simple set of longer, allen-headed bolts that go through the heatsink body itself would make everything easier. Also, while it's claimed that the cooler can be fitted in two different ways, we couldn't get it fitted in the more space-saving 'wraparound' configuration. We're sure it can be done – we just didn't have the patience.

Another problem is that when fitted, there are four knurled thumbscrews sitting 1/4" / 5mm proud of the underside of the card. This will obviously preclude the card sitting in the double-height slot – the thumbscrews will foul on the Mac Pro's RAM housing. Also, the height of the cooler will cover up some PCI slots as well.

03 - Cooler Installation on Card
04 - Cooler installed in Mac Pro


The problem is where to put it: it won't go in the first (16x) slot, so where do you put it? The answer seemed to be the second, where it sits nicely, leaving the double-height slot open for another card. The drawbacks are that the second slot can't run at 16x, and you're losing a slot, covered by the new cooler. To configure the slots we used Apple's Expansion Slot Utility (in /System/Library/CoreServices) and set the first two slots to run at 8x speed.

03 - ATI Displays app (click on thumbnail)

You may think that this would cause a slowdown, but we re-ran all our tests and can report no slowdown at all. Even with its high throughput, the X1900 XT can't saturate an 8x PCI slot. And we can report after two weeks intensive use, the card / cooler combination is doing sterling service -- in complete silence. The fans in the Mac Pro have never once in all that time risen above their base idling rate. Bliss. --- TIM DANAHER, Associate Editor.

Published: 2 July 2007.


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