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Replacing a Noisy 9800 Pro Card Fan:Return to News Page

Verax G03 Heatsink/Fan Swap on Mac OEM 9800 Pro
By Mike
Posted: 12/10/2003

NOTE: This article covers the install on a G5's OEM/BTO 9800 Pro card. A Mirror Drive Door G4 tower owner w/retail 9800 Pro (OEM 9800 won't work in pre-G5 AGP slots) wrote that the Verax G03 heatsink hits the optical drive bay enclosure when trying to close the case. Not sure if this would be a problem in other G4 towers, but just a warning/FYI about potential fit issues.

Intro/Background:
Regular readers remember the past news page posts on noisy 9800 Pro graphics card fans (most complaints come from G5 owners typically). I really didn't notice the fan noise of the retail 9800 Pro card I had used for previous tests of the OEM 9800 Pro vs Retail 9800 Pro and retail 9800 vs 9600 OEM card, but after buying an OEM (BTO) 9800 Pro card from a reader, I clearly understood why some owners were complaining. (Granted not every owner of these cards has complained about the noise.) By opening the G5's side cover, tilting back the plastic shield (not removing it, which kicks the system fans into high gear) I could press my finger on the 9800's fan to temporarily stop it and hear the high pitched whine cease. This clearly proved the 9800's fan was the source of the noise.
About a month ago Verax (who originally made a name for themselves in the mac market with their MDD cooling fans) came up as a source of quieter coolers for the 9800 Pro. After looking at several (much lower cost) alternatives, nothing other than a (fanless) heatpipe was as quiet as the Verax G03. (The Zalman heatpipe works with the 9800 pro in the G5 -if- you assemble it with the (normally) backside heatsink on the top side, which takes up 2 PCI slots, rather than just one with the G03. The Zalman heatpipe also weighs more than twice as much, but costs less than 1/2 the price of the G03.) I ruled out the heatpipe due to the height and weight. I even tried swapping the fan/heatsink from an OEM 9700 Pro on the 9800 card, but that really didn't help the noise level very much. So I bit the bullet and bought the Verax G03.

Verax G03 Cooler Info/Specs:
The Verax U.S. dealer site (www.veraxfans.com) now has the G03 listed under the "GPU coolers" (framed site - the frame for the G03 is a link to the main german (verax.de) site english page version of the G03 product page.) I'll summarize the specs on the G03 as well as (in my opinion) its Pros/Cons.

    G03 Specs: (from PDF data sheet, P/N 0200225)
  • Size: 68x24mm
  • Anti-vibration (rubber isolators) fan-to-heatsink mounts
  • Noise: 11-14dB(A)
  • 2 ball bearing fan, 3700 RPM
  • Nickel plated Copper Heatsink (Radial)
  • Weight: 116g
  • Pkg Contents: Heatsink/Fan, mouting/retaining pins (+2 spares), thermal paste, 3pin-to-4pin (molex) power cable adapter, instruction sheet.
  • Cost: $69 (current US price, plus shipping)

    Pros:
  • Quietest GPU fan I have ever heard (literally silent, hopefully will stay that way)
  • More Efficient Cooling (per vendor test data -see graph below)

    Cons:
  • Expensive
  • Due to height, results in losing access to one PCI slot
  • Heatsink (including contact surface) is nickel-plated/sandblasted (see this scan of surface)

I was disappointed at the surface finish for such an expensive cooler, but after a few more days of hearing the 9800's OEM fan whine I decided to keep the G03 rather than return it. The difference in noise level is dramatic.

Here's the reply from Verax (Germany) to my first mail regarding the surface finish.

" Dear Mike,
the G03 is a cooper profile which is made by laser cutting. Then the flat profile gets sand-blasted.
After sand-blasting the final form is bent and the heat sink gets ni-plated. Then the bottom side gets polished.
The G03 heat sink (has) got a little rough surface. We proved the cooling power in our laboratory and the cooling performance is better than the cooling performance of the original coolers.
Please take a look on the enclosed graphic. I think you can understand the graphic, although it is in German.

If you got any further questions please feel free to contact me.
Best regards, Christof Huonker
http://www.verax.de/ "


Although the G03 comes with an instruction sheet, I took photos for a more detailed guide covering some things that are not mentioned elsewhere.

Removing the OEM Heatsink/Fan:
First disconnect the OEM Fan's power connection.

Disconnect Fan Power
Disconnect Fan Power

Using a pair of needle-nose pliers, pull the OEM retaining pins straight up out of the mounting posts.

Remove OEM Heatsink Retaining Pins
Remove OEM Retaining Pins

Once the press-pins are removed, press out the two plastic posts from the rear of the card. (If necessary, compress the tips a bit - but the shape of the tips usually does that automatically when pressing down on them.) Note: Avoid using any sharp/metal tools that might slip and cause damage to the board.

Press Out the Two Retainers from Back of Board
Press Out Retainer from Rear

Once the retainers are pressed out from the board, you can then remove the heatsink. Verax's instruction sheet suggests removing it by turning to break the thermal compound (which is almost a cement literally on this card), but I just lifted it off. Take care to not damage the GPU chip. Using a hair-dryer to warm up the heatsink may also help. The photo below shows the mating surface of the OEM heatsink - note the raised contact patch area (not flush).

Raised Contact Patch on OEM Heatsink
OEM heatsink contact patch

Here's a photo of the card with the heatsink removed (and GPU cleaned).

9800 Pro w/OEM Heatsink Removed
OEM 9800 pro w/o heatsink

Alcohol is recommended to clean the GPU surface, but that wasn't nearly adequate to remove the OEM thermal cement from the GPU surface on this sample. Had I heated it up that may have helped, but the photo below was taken after about 15 minutes of cleaning attempts with Alcohol, including scraping with a plastic tool. (Do not use anything metal or harder than the GPU, which could chip or scratch the surface.)

Alcohol didn't fully remove the OEM Cement
Alcohol didn't work

Although I can't suggest you do so (it's *highly flammable* and a health hazard), I keep a can of Acetone (purchased at Lowe's) around. I avoided Nail Polish Remover which in some brands may also have oils. Acetone cleaned the GPU to a mirror finish. (The photo angle doesn't do the actual surface justice.)

Acetone Clean (Mirror Finish)
clean 9800 GPU chip

(NOTE: Do not get Acetone on your skin or breathe the vapor, as it is hazardous to your health. Read all the Cautions/Warnings on the container before considering its use.)

Now that the OEM heatsink is removed and the GPU's contact surface is clean, you're ready to install the G03 heatsink/fan.


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