A history of graphics card coolers – Part IV

HARDWARE
A history of graphics card coolers – Part IV

The 3rd installment of this series ended with a dual GPU card, so that’s where we’re going to pick up here today. More specifically, we’re going to have a look at the backplate.

In the beginning, backplates were mostly used on cards with RAM on the flipside of the PCB, and served mainly to cool memory. HD 3870 X2 is a good example.

HD3870 X2, AD 2008

HD3870 X2, AD 2008

In this card, the backplate also reinforced PCB rigidity – take a look at the black part that is bent at 90 degrees and overloops the top edge of the PCB.

The backplate on the HD 4870 X2 didn’t differ much, but one look at its successor, the HD 5970, shows you that aesthetics were also part of the designers’ concerns. As the backplate covers nearly the entire back of the card, it also provides physical protection.

HD 5970, AD 2009

HD 5970, AD 2009

 

HD 5970 Toxic, AD 2010

HD 5970 Toxic, AD 2010

The Toxic Version of the HD 5970 has a backplate similar to the reference card’s, but the cooler was much bigger. It is the Arctic Accelero Xtreme in iteration that evolved from what could be seen on the HD 2900 XT. You can say that this is the final form of this cooler – the newest version of Accelero Xtreme looks nearly identical from the outside.

The introduction of the HD 5xxx series was also an important moment for backplates, as it was here that they were introduced to single-GPU high-end cards.

HD 5870, AD 2009

HD 5870, AD 2009

With the HD 6xxx came a different approach to dual GPU cards. Before there had been two chips in a row and one fan in the back. This caused hot air from the first chip to raise the temperature of the second.

Cooler of HD 5970

Cooler of HD 5970

The new setup introduced a fan in the centre and two chips on the far edges of the PCB.

HD 6990, AD 2011

HD 6990, AD 2011

This design reduced temperatures of GPUs but increased overall temperatures inside the PC chassis. Hot air from one GPU was thrown outside the case, but air heated by the second GPU was blown back in.

At that time, Thermalright debuted a very interesting aftermarket cooler, the Spitfire.

Truly one of a kind, the Spitfire was designed to be placed perpendicular to the card and had big heat dissipation surface and was designed to accommodate a 140-mm fan.

The Thermalright Spitfire, AD 2009

The Thermalright Spitfire, AD 2009

It could be mounted upwards (and hence could easily obstruct the CPU cooler)

It could be mounted upwards (and hence could easily obstruct the CPU cooler)

Or downwards (please note the additional Thermalright VRM cooler)

Or downwards (please note the additional Thermalright VRM cooler)

Unfortunately, this cooler’s double-sided design prohibited the use of heatsinks for the top VRAM row – the heatpipes were nearly touching the chips.

Another interesting Thermalright solution is its cooler for the back of the card. It was designed to help the main graphics card cooler and cool the GPU directly from the flipside of the PCB.

It actually worked, though it didn’t offer a tremendous thermal gain.

Thermalright HR-11, AD 2007, it could accommodate an additional 80-mm fan

Thermalright HR-11, AD 2007, it could accommodate an additional 80-mm fan

The next installment of this series will cover the interesting HD 79xx series cooling and another legendary aftermarket GPU cooler.

Grzegorz Iwan
Grzegorz Iwan
Amateur extreme overclocker from Poland, one of two Poles who broke the 8 GHz CPU clock barrier. Hardware enthusiast and collector, envoy of PCMasterRace philosophy; You can find ivanov's fanpage here.

JOIN THE NATION

SIGN UP

MORE FOR YOU