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Old Oct 24, 2007, 11:41 PM   #1
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Lightbulb The standard HD2900XT cooler disected. Or 10 things I hate about the 2900 cooler

Intro
This is not a post about the mod's I have done to overcome this or a request for technical support. It is a discussion of the shortcomings of the HD2900XT's standard cooling system based on a complete teardown of the card's cooling system.

From the start I have had stability problems with my Saphire HD2900XT. At first I figured it was dodgy drivers but they've changed and the problem hasn't gone away. The rest of my PC has changed around it and the problems remain.

Basically, the card overheats and my PC reboots. This happens both during gaming and video playback, the delay between starting the game/video and the shutdown seems to depend on the processing power required from the card and the operating temperature at the start of the process. I had a similar issue with my first Radeon (64MB ViVo) but it only crashed when TV out was enabled during 3D gaming.

The 2900 Cooling System
As we all know by now thw 2900 series get very hot, idle temperatures can be as high as 75C, this can be put down to ATi/AMD's descision to produce the R600 GPU on 90nm rather than the 65nm that the 2600 and 2400 use. Power consumption is higher than an equivalently fast nVidea product as a result.

The standard cooling system consists of a relatively thin aluminium backplate/heat spreader (black), a comparitively thick heatspreader (red) on the front. These connect to the memory and VRM via thermal pads and are thermally connected to oneanother by 9 screws. The front plate holds a 75mm radial fan which has software configurable speed setting and a degree of thermostatic control. The fan sucks in air which is blown through a copper radiator in a laminar flow. The radiator is not thermally connected to the memory or the heat spreaders.

The radiator has two heatpipes. in a normal ATX tower the radiator is at the low end so unless they have wick's the will not function correctly as they would be upsidedown.

The radiator and red heat spreader on the red side of the card are cooled by the fan. The radiator and heatpipes are soldered onto what looks at first glance to be a copper HX plate. The radiator fins account for 75% of the 'plate's surface. The heatpipe connection accounts for15-20%. the remainder are small gaps between the fins and an octagonal ring (inspired by the Ringbuss?).

The copper plate is infact a heatpipe. There is a coolant inlet near the botton left hand corner.

Issues and Concerns
1: The thermal pads on the RAM do not show strong sings of having been squashed (the VRMs do).

2: The memory on the back side of the board is only cooled by a thin, flat sheet of black painted aluminium so effectively passive. Things are slightly better on the front side but there are no fins or other impingement structures on the aluminium plate so the fan has to work hard to cool the memory. This might explain why many users report lower stable overclocks on DirectX10 titles as it has higher memory usage than Directx9.

3: I suspect that the heatpipe embedded in the heat transfer plate may impede heat transfer rather than enhance it since there is effectively a vacuum between the 2mm of copper in contact with the CPU and that above. All the heatpipe appears to be doing is distributing the heat around the block. I'd like to see an explanation from ATi.

4: Fan control is too simplistic, low or full.

5: On the board the words 'Hinge' and 'Latch' are printed by the side of the GPU nearest the ports and the side nearest the fan, respectively. There are also three holes, one each between a corner of the GPU and the cooler screw hole. Ditched alternative GPU/heatsink retention plate.

6: I suspect that heat from the GPU may heat the memory while the card is 'idling' at low fan speed.

7: There is paint on the RAM and VRM contacts on the heatspreaders. There is paint insulating the heatspreaders. Black is a good colour for absorbing heat.

8: Why do some cards come with three heat pipes?

9: Idle temp dropped 30C by switching to water, "the main benefit to water cooling is noise reduction", yeah right

10: So this is why there's no GT
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Old Oct 25, 2007, 12:29 AM   #2
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i think this is a user issue not an ATI prob. As my HD2900XT from Palit reaches 65-68 degres max under 3D load in current games and idels in 2D mde (desktop) at 47 degres sometimes as low as 44. If i was you I'd buy a bigger Case and look at expert cable management and new fans.

I think my Gigabyte 8800GTS was just a hot if not hotter under load.
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Old Oct 25, 2007, 02:39 AM   #3
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Yes, the airflow of your case matters. A lot.

For the record, my 8800GTX at Ultra clocks reaches a balmy 81C in Crysis MP Beta. It usually idles at 58C. This is, however, letting the card manage its own fan, and G80 cards have the fan connected to a diode and the fan speed changes dynamically depending on the load and your temperature target. I haven't tried running the fan all the way up to 100% but I suspect that it might be cooler than 81C if I did that under load. It's perfectly happy and stable the way things are so I'm not inclined to mess with it.
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Old Oct 25, 2007, 04:31 AM   #4
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Not convinced airflow was the problem, I have a 140mm fan sucking air into the front of the case and at the time the HDD was level with the card so most of this air would go past the card and cables were routed OK. It's academic now, the stock cooler has been destroyed (with comical results) and replaced with a DangerDen waterblock. Gutted to see others getting 44C at idle on stock air. Could do with a bigger case though, the radiators take up a lot of space.
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Old Oct 25, 2007, 04:44 AM   #5
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I have 2 stuck in my case and they idle between 55-63 degrees. Under full load they hardly ever reach above 80.

That being said the HD2900XT stock cooler is probably the best standard cooler a company has put on a card, they didnt cut any corners on it.
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Old Oct 25, 2007, 05:56 AM   #6
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I RMA'd my 2900pro. After the stock cooler failed, and burnt it to a crisp.

I have a CM 690 case, my airflow was great.

I agree, I was not impressed at all with that cooler.
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Old Oct 25, 2007, 06:41 AM   #7
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While the cooler is cooling the cards properly (my card is 55C in idle (desktop), and full load (any game ~30min and reading "max" in AMD clock tool) is aroudn 80C).

This is in my opinion perfectly in terms of cooling as the cards are made for 105C or less (as per sirerics post).

However, the sound is the issue for me. They are a disaster (and nothing less) when it comes to noise.

The sad part is that there is almost no thirdparty cooler for this card out there. The HR-03/R600 is "the one", yet its no where to be found in some countries, with sweden being one of them..
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Old Oct 25, 2007, 07:15 AM   #8
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If I recall the R600 is 80nm not 90nm as you stated.

Also, black is only good at absorbing sunlight for heat.
The colour of material for thermal contact heat transfer of components makes no difference whatsoever.

Cheers.
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Old Oct 25, 2007, 07:20 AM   #9
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Only thing I can comment on here is this:
Quote:
Originally Posted by initialised View Post
7: There is paint on the RAM and VRM contacts on the heatspreaders. There is paint insulating the heatspreaders. Black is a good colour for absorbing heat.
Quote:
Originally Posted by {0}Salamander{0} View Post
Also, black is only good at absorbing sunlight for heat.
The colour of material for thermal contact heat transfer of components makes no difference whatsoever.
Black is also the best color for radiating heat. Here's a good little article on black body properties.
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Old Oct 25, 2007, 08:28 AM   #10
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Must be your side. I'm in the tropics, ambient is about 27-30 Celsius, and it never reaches 85. Even 80 is a rarity unless I o/c and do a safety/reliability precaution overvolt.

These chips can run until 100 degrees Celsius (I heard nVidia tested theirs at 150 degrees, but I'm not quite sure) so it's not the cooler nor the chip's fault.


Anyway, I'll be getting a overclockable RS790 (780?) for keeping the card cool when it's not in use (and switching to the IGP instead). If you are tending to switch to AMD (for the Phenoms) kinda consider it.
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Old Oct 25, 2007, 06:22 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DayLate View Post
I RMA'd my 2900pro. After the stock cooler failed, and burnt it to a crisp.

I have a CM 690 case, my airflow was great.

I agree, I was not impressed at all with that cooler.
So you unlocked the extra pipes? (you fried your card). Different situation.
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Old Oct 25, 2007, 06:28 PM   #12
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don't know why i only get under 70degres when most are getting 80+.

In reguards to initialised water cooler that onlt 3-4 degres cooler than mine at idle. Something is obviously worng their. Maybe 38 might be a better number.

Anyway i have 2x140mm sucking from front to back and a 80mm sitting directly under the 2900XT. I also have a 140mm fan on the PSU and a 120mm on the side case.
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Old Oct 25, 2007, 06:41 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bertross View Post
So you unlocked the extra pipes? (you fried your card). Different situation.
Not very aware of what the 2900pro really is are you?


On a side note, it was not even overclocked. And I was not even playing anything high demand. I was afk, with a game just basically sitting there. The fan, which cycled constantly up and down struggling to keep the card at about 70C, decided to die, and took the card with it. The fan was noisy, and I found it very lacking. My brothers 8800 is dead silent, I don't think I have ever heard it get nearly as loud as my 2900pro.


I loved the card, its too bad it ran so molten hot.
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Old Oct 25, 2007, 06:48 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bertross View Post
don't know why i only get under 70degres when most are getting 80+.

In reguards to initialised water cooler that onlt 3-4 degres cooler than mine at idle. Something is obviously worng their. Maybe 38 might be a better number.

Anyway i have 2x140mm sucking from front to back and a 80mm sitting directly under the 2900XT. I also have a 140mm fan on the PSU and a 120mm on the side case.
My card ran consistently at about 70C-72C under full load, while heavy gaming. My CM 690 case has 6 120mm fans in it. 1 intake on the front, 1 rear exhaust, 2 side intake, 1 bottom intake, and 1 top exhaust. That puts 2 fans feeding air directly to my video card.

When I switched to the new case, my CPU temps dropped by over 5C from my old case. My 2900pro temps, did not change even a single degree. The cards just run hot, all the time. And Sapphire built mine with the 2 heatpipe reference cooler, instead of the 3 heatpipe ones that some of the other cards come with.
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Old Oct 25, 2007, 11:06 PM   #15
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The 2 pipe version lacks the vapor chamber, while the 3 pipe version has it. This was told by a guy who has reference drawings of R600 and Rv670. He said the 3 pipe version cost more to manufacture.
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Old Oct 26, 2007, 05:54 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SuperBORG View Post
The 2 pipe version lacks the vapor chamber, while the 3 pipe version has it. This was told by a guy who has reference drawings of R600 and Rv670. He said the 3 pipe version cost more to manufacture.
I'm sure it does cost more to make, but when they are selling chips that are heat monsters, I would think it would be a wise upgrade. The 2 pipe cooler on the card that I had, just wasn't enough to keep that fan from being a jet engine.
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Old Oct 26, 2007, 09:16 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bertross View Post
In reguards to initialised water cooler that onlt 3-4 degres cooler than mine at idle. Something is obviously worng their. Maybe 38 might be a better number.
That was a figure taken after it came down from 97 (running without a pump, relays not wired in yet).
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Old Oct 27, 2007, 11:21 AM   #18
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Case cooling plays a vital roll in the temp of the 2900xt, if i place any intake fans on the lower mounts (side panel) of my CM Stacker 832 the idle temp of my 2900xt increases by 6c.
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Old Nov 2, 2007, 08:36 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by madmossy View Post
Case cooling plays a vital roll in the temp of the 2900xt, if i place any intake fans on the lower mounts (side panel) of my CM Stacker 832 the idle temp of my 2900xt increases by 6c.
How's this for case cooling?

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2159/...24edd8.jpg?v=0

Think it'll be enough to keep the temps on my 2900 down?
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Old Nov 2, 2007, 05:07 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Debello View Post
I have 2 stuck in my case and they idle between 55-63 degrees. Under full load they hardly ever reach above 80.
Same here, and that's with the fan running at 25% in idle and 31% in 3D.
With higher fan speeds, the temperatures would be quite a bit lower still.
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