The guinea pig for this install will be my EVGA GTX 260 card, reviewed earlier this year. I have been anxiously awaiting some kind of aftermarket air cooling for this card to see just what it is capable of above and beyond the stock limitations. The GT200-based cards utilize a fully-enclosed cooling solution that covers the rear of the card in order to provide cooling for the memory chips on the back side. To separate the halves we must start by removing these 10 screws.
Once the screws are out, gently pry the rear shield away from the card, taking care not to damage the hidden clips placed sporadically around the outside edge that help to hold the halves together. Once the rear of the stock cooler is removed, four additional screws must be taken out, two on the back and two on the end and then the entire front section should come away from the card. The consistency of the thermal paste used on the core causes it to stick to the copper base. A small amount of sliding and wiggling helps to break it free. Then the last thing is the fan header which must be disconnected.
After the card is bare, use a lint-free cloth and either isopropyl alcohol or a xylene based cleaning solution to remove any thermal pad or paste residue from the memory chips, voltage regulators and GPU core. This is especially important because the thermal tape on the RAM heatsinks will not stick to an unclean surface. The VRM and HSI heatsinks are installed with spring-loaded push pins. The VRM sink is already fitted with thermal pads in the appropriate locations; the HSI and GPU core must be applied with thermal paste such as the included Chill Factor. Other than the difficulty in removing the stock cooler, the only other issue I encountered was that the RAM sinks do not seem to be made with the GTX 260 in mind, only the 280. The single sink shown installed on the lone left chip is actually from my HR-03 GT kit. The HR-03 GTX cooler comes with a double-size unit similar to the triple on the opposite side, however the 260 only has 896MB of memory vs. the 280's 1024MB. The missing memory chip is from the bottom left position, and as such the double RAM sink can't be used. I ran into an identical problem on the back side of the card, where the reverse is also missing. I don't know if all GTX 260 cards are constructed the same but it would be nice if Thermalright included single sinks to use here rather than the double.
The HR-03 GTX itself is mounted to the card with a bracket and posts using the four stock holes surrounding the GPU. These are tightened with an X-brace and thumb screws from the rear. Rubber cushions are placed at the four corners and center to prevent contact with other components. Although Thermalright recommends installing a 120mm fan, height restrictions in my case preclude me from using one, so I had developed this method of attaching two 80mm fans side-by-side. Although a bit unorthodox, this dual-fan setup should produce about the same amount of airflow as a single, larger fan.
Let's run some testing and wrap up this review.