One of the annoying realities of buying aftermarket coolers for CPU
s or video cards is that the heatsink component of the cooler can end up with a relatively short lifespan, particularly if you prefer to upgrade at a fairly quick pace. This is arguably more of an issue for GPUs
than CPUs, and the cost of keeping one's system temperatures and/or acoustics at the desired level can easily tack an extra $100-$200 on to periodic update costs.
CoolIT Systems claims to have designed its way around the need for such replacements through the use of what it calls a universal cooling plate. We reviewed a BFG-built GTX 295 that uses
a CoolIT-designed liquid cooling system last month—the company isn't kidding about the thermal benefits of water or the improved overclocking it makes possible—but this new ATI cooler is particularly interesting. According to the company, the GPU cooler is also designed to fit future cards that have yet to launch. There was no information on which cards these might be, or whether the future-proofing is locked to further iterations of the HD 5000 series.
Water cooling. It's kinda like that.
"I think the implementation of the universal design has addressed the need for performance cooling in the GPU space with the added benefit of upgradeability," said Dr. Gamal Refai-Ahmed, AMD fellow and lead thermal architect, AMD Graphics Product Group. "Using the liquid system has a tremendous cooling advantage over traditional air cooling, allowing our enthusiast community to push the limits of our latest architecture."
Oddly, the only "photos" available are actually 3D renders of the product. CoolIT
Systems CEO Geoff Lyon gave additional color on why the company had set its sights on designing a cooler with a longer lifespan. "Since starting our work with AMD several years ago, one of the challenges has been the fast succession of technology advances. By working hard to develop a solution that can keep up to the pace of technology advancement as well as providing the end user the flexibility to upgrade their cards while keeping the cooling system intact, we feel this is a winning combination. The solution showcases an ultra-reliable, brazed heat exchanger to ensure that it will provide excellent performance for years to come."
CoolIT isn't sharing pricing information yet, but the company's self-contained liquid cooler for the Radeon HD 4870 has an MSRP of around $135, so it's reasonable to think the new HD 5870 unit will debut in this range (possibly with a premium tacked on top). That's not cheap—third-party GPU heatsink/fan combos typically run $30-$50 at the upper end—but depending on just how future proof CoolIT's new design is, the larger up-front investment could save money over the long run. There's no realistic danger that a later card will exceed the cooler's heat-transfer capabilities—water stomps all over air in this regard—and it's quieter as well.
Everything you'd expect to find in a factory-built radiator system, minus the exhaust fan. The speed toggle for said fan is presumably hiding on the other side of the device (or would be regulated via the motherboard BIOS)
If you're the type of enthusiast who grits his teeth over high GPU temperatures, hates fan noise, or are looking for a multi-generational cooler, this new liquid cooler could be quite interesting. Hopefully CoolIT will provide additional color on the time frame they're targeting for future compatibility—knowing that the company intends today's system to still be relevant in 2-4 years would doubtlessly help leery consumers overlook the high price tag (or justify the purchase to their wives).