Modding The Radeon 9500 Cooler
Since the GeForce 2 days, active cooling on the graphics processor has become absolutely necessary. It has become virtually impossible to make any graphics processor run reliably without active cooling. The power consumption of GPUs keeps increasing as faster and newer ones appear and this trend shows no sign of abating. And why not? Each new design incorporates more and more transistors which increases the GPU's power consumption. Ditto for increases in clock speed.
The current leaders in graphics performance, the ATI Radeon 9800 XT and the NVIDIA Geforce FX 5950 require a prodigious amount of cooling. Don't be fooled by ATI's stock cooler on their Radeon 9700-9800 series. Although their heat sinks are relatively small when compared to the heat sinks NVIDIA prefer, the ATI Radeons are undoubtedly one of the hottest components in any computer.
I bought my 128MB Radeon 9500 not too long ago. I used hacked drivers to mod it into a Radeon 9700. The hacked drivers allowed me to enable the extra 4-pixel pipelines without the dreaded 'checked board' effect.
The PCB and cooling solution of my Radeon 9500 was virtually identical to any Radeon 9700 in the market. So, the default cooling should work just fine even after modding it to a 9700. However, on closer inspection, I found the heat sink to be burning hot, even with the default core speed of 275MHz and memory speed of 270MHz.
As a principle, I would never leave anything running at default speed. Everything has to be overclocked! While I can try to overclock using the stock cooler, it would be rather stupid since it was already very hot at stock speed. To be honest, I'm quite surprised it can even run at stock speed!
There are many third party coolers out in the market. For example, the Zalman heatpipe coolers, the Vantec Iceberg4 and the Thermaltake Crystal Orb. But I don't think they are any better than the stock cooler, especially the Iceberg and the Crystal Orb. I wouldn't recommend using them on Radeon 9700-9800 cards.
The Zalman heatpipe coolers (ZM50 and ZM80A), which we reviewed some time ago are very good coolers especially when you provide some airflow across the heat sink. The ZM80C is their latest model. Sadly, good things usually don't come cheap.
It is highly recommended that you use a waterblock for your GPU if you have an existing water cooling system. Provided, of course, you can afford the rather pricey waterblock. But that normally isn't a problem if you can already afford a water cooling system.
Unfortunately, I do not have the money to get any of the third party solutions so I decided to rig something up instead.