If you mention Gigabyte, people tend to think about motherboards, but their GPUs and laptops are starting to gain mindshare quickly. We discussed the new laptops at CeBIT, but have been far to quiet about their GPU innovations.
There are three interesting cards from the good people near Dapinglin, the GV-N580SO-15i, GV-N570SO-13i, and GV-R697SO-2GD. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that these three cards are based on the GTX580, GTX570, and HD6970 respectively, but they all have one thing in common, cooling. Gigabyte is pretty proud of the custom cooling solutions for these cards, something they call Windforce.
A Windforced GTX580, note the shroud
The most obvious thing on all three cards is the triple fan setup, but the interesting bits are under the black metal shroud. If you look closely, you will notice three things, the shroud is not flat, it is angled, the fins under it are not all in the same direction. There is also a large vapor chamber poking out of the bottom.
Windforce and not Windforce, from the side
Looking at the side of the cards, you see what Gigabyte did much more clearly. The cards above are older GTX480 and GTX460 models for comparison, but the components are similar in the other variants. The first thing to note is the difference in height on the metal shroud, note the angles and how the heatsinks are similarly angled. It is much more dramatic when you are holding the card, but you can see about a 2x difference in depth from one side to the other.
The next bit is how open the card itself is. There is a GTX460 with a lower end cooling solution below it, and that one is much more fully shrouded. The open design tends to drop temperature a lot, mainly because the card can move a ton more air than one that breathes through part of an end plate. The down side is that your case gets the heat dumped in to it, but if you are buying a high end overclocked GPU, you probably have a decent case to put it in.
Another interesting bit is the orientation of the fins. In the 480 here, you can see that the first and last are at 90 degrees to the middle heatsink, and 180 degrees to each other. The middle set of fins is also angled up to blow away from the motherboard. Other variants like the 580 above have different orientations too, each GPU line can be different. That tells me that Gigabyte is actually doing it’s engineering homework instead of making something that looks cool but works like a GTX590 power circuit.
All of these bits and pieces are connected with a a huge vapor chamber, aluminum bases on the fins, and a fair number of heatpipes for good measure. It you want cooling, this looks to be several steps above the reference design.
If you haven’t guessed by now, these cards are all overclocked variants, with highly binned GPUs at their heart. Gigabyte calls this sorting ‘GPU Gauntlet’, and the results are not bad, but not the best on the market. As usual with overclocking parts, consider them a starting point with cherry-picked components that will probably go notably higher than they ship with.
The GV-R697SO-2GD runs at 900MHz, up from the standard 880, but has already been supplanted by a newer 920MHz variant dubbed OC2. Faring a bit better is the GV-N570SO-13i, it runs 780MHz, up almost 50 from the stock 732MHz. This is thoroughly beaten by the GV-N580SO-15i’s overclock though, up to 855MHz from the 772 the stock cards run at. That is more than 80MHz up, almost 10%, not bad at all.
In the end, the cooling solution looks like a fairly interesting take on how to remove heat from a high end overclocked GPU. Gigabyte doesn’t appear to have done the same thing as everyone else with a different color shiny sticker slapped on the case. These cards appear to be well thought out and engineered rather than just marketed loudly. Any thermal engineers out there care to weigh in on the science behind these parts?S|A