The Prolimatech MK-26 is a very well regarded graphics card cooler, but how well can it perform when the objective is silent / quiet computing? To find out, I installed the MK-26 on an EVGA GTX 780 SC ACX video card along with 2 Noiseblocker M12-S1 fans running at 500rpm. This setup is essentially inaudible from more than a couple feet away, even in an open air environment (i.e., not in a case, or in an open-air test bench style case).
However, being silent will only work if the temperatures can be kept to an acceptable level while under load. How did this setup fare? Read on to find out!
Because the testing was done on an open air test bench, the results may not be what you will find in a regular enclosed computer case with differing amounts of airflow. With my setup, there were no case fans to create a stream of air; the only fans were the 2 Noiseblocker’s on the MK-26 itself.
Keep in mind that the power draw of the GTX 780 is rated at 250 watts TDP, so it may not work as well with even more power hungry cards. The Prolimatech MK-26 is rated at 32o watts TDP of cooling capacity, but it is not mentioned how much airflow needs to occur for this to happen. Thus, the rating is not that useful, and actual testing needs to be done (as always to verify such claims).
I should also mention that my room’s ambient temperature is somewhere just over 80 degrees F (or about 27 degrees C). The GPU temps reported below are all in Celsius.
Using this setup, idle temperatures for the GTX 780 generally hovered in the low 30’s, ranging from 30-33 depending on the room at the time. Using Furmark to generate 100% load on the GPU, load temperatures maxed out at around 80-83 degrees, within the 95 degrees maximum specified for nVidia GPUs.
The load temperatures fluctuated a bit as I swapped out a different CPU cooler during the tests. When I used a Scythe Kotetsu with a single Noiseblocker M12-S1 fan also running at 500rpm blowing perpendicular to the GPU fans (and had the GPU installed in the first PCI-E 16X slot closest to the CPU) on a Dimastech nano test bench, the load temp stayed at a max of 80 degrees. When I changed the setup to use a Nofan CR-95C fanless CPU cooler (and installed the GPU on the second PCI-E 16X slot to give it some breathing room) as well as the case to a Cooler Master XB Evo with both side panels and the top panel removed, the load temp hovered around 82-83. My guess is the CPU fan helped move some of the hot air away from the GPU, while the passive CPU cooler let the hot air build up more, causing a slightly higher GPU load temp.
The bottom line is that it is in fact possible to run a powerful graphics card like the GTX 780 silently while under full load. Choosing the right 3rd party heatsink and low noise/rpm fans will allow you to maintain acceptable temperatures at maximum GPU utilization while not increasing noise levels at all.
I mentioned swapping out a lot of parts during my testing, and that is because I am currently trying to build a silent air-cooled PC. Contrary to my earlier water-cooled build, the goal here is to see how much performance can be squeezed out of a PC that is effectively silent. Air builds are a lot easier to change out parts than water builds, and should generally cost less to construct as well. Look forward to some more articles testing the various components I mentioned above (and some I didn’t) as well as possibly a system build guide later on.