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*R9 290X Prolimatech MK-26 Fitting Guide*

Discussion in 'Graphics Cards' started by WalderX, Oct 31, 2013.

  1. WalderX

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Oct 15, 2013

    Posts: 1,097

    For all of those looking to install this beast of a GPU cooler to their reference 290X, I have written this step-by-step guide for you follow, along with 30 pictures! The install went fairly smoothly however did come across a couple of minor issues which I will detail below.

    **IMPORTANT UPDATE** BEFORE going ahead with this PLEASE read the guide IN FULL and ALL the comments between me and Uncle Petey. I had issues with this after install and it looks like we narrowed it down to either shorting fans or the mounting screws were too tight. I 'think' I am stable now and my temps are excellent so would still recommend doing this if you are very careful! Sorry for shouting but I don't want anyone to go through the pain I had with this!

    Kit Required:
    1x Prolimatech MK-26 Multi-VGA Cooler
    1x Akasa AK-TC TIM Clean CPU & Heatsink Cleaner
    1x Alpenföhn Passive VRAM Chip Coolers (optional, however they are better than the Prolimatech supplied ones)
    1x Akasa AK-TT12-80 Thermal Adhesive Tape (Only needed if using the Alpenfohn sinks above)
    2x 120mm or 140mm fans. I used 2x NZXT 120mm case fans that I had sitting around spare, these are 3-pin so I had to plug them into my fan controller rather than into the 290X header. If you want fan control through the 290X you will need to use 4-pin PWM fans.

    Everything you see in the picture below helped, although the essentials are a medium size Phillips screwdriver and a small jewellers type (I only used the large red and smallest black screwdriver in the pic). Also a rubber eraser to clean vram chips, a blade, an old credit card (to spread paste), some plastic scrapers and gripping tweezers helped (saved these from an iPhone screen replacement set). An adjustable spotlight or torch is very useful, even in a brightly lit room. Also some cotton buds and kitchen towel to apply and remove TIM cleaner were used.
    [​IMG]

    Step 1 – Removal of stock cooler:
    Firstly need to remove the 16 screws from the reverse, circled in red. I used the medium size red screwdriver for the 12 large ones and smallest scredriver for the 4 securing the backplate:
    [​IMG]

    Then need to remove the 2 screws securing the cooler to the back plate, I used the tiny phillips screwdriver for these:
    [​IMG]

    I used a gentle twisting/prising along all the edges of the board whilst holding the blower assembly in my other hand. After no more than a few twists it came away easily. Beware of the fan cable attached at one corner of the board, I used a flathead screwdriver to gently prise the fan connector out of it’s socket:
    [​IMG]

    Board detached from stock blower assembly, note the half-ton of thermal paste on the die!:
    [​IMG]

    Step 2 – Cleaning up VRAM, VRM & GPU surfaces:
    I used a rubber eraser on the surfaces of the 16 vram chips and the vrm surface, this cleans off the layer of reside left by the stock thermal pads. I found I didn’t need to press much harder than just the weight of gravity, when I pushed hard it left more rubber reside on the chip. You can clearly see the difference in the below picture, circled green is after cleaning with the rubber, in red are those chips that have not yet been cleaned (glossy shine and cannot read the writing easily). The eraser left tiny bits of rubber on the chips which I simply brushed away with a cotton bud.
    [​IMG]

    To clean the old paste off the gpu die I applied some TIM cleaner to a cotton bud and wiped it all over the surface. I used a plastic scraper to scrape the large deposits from the sides of the die:
    [​IMG]

    I used a cotton bud and kitchen towel to clean up all the remaining thermal paste from the die, resulting in a mirror finish after 15 minutes or so careful work:
    [​IMG]

    I was wondering whether I would need to use a ‘shim’ on the bottom of the Prolimatech in order for it to come into contact with the die. I can confirm this is definitely not needed, when placing a flat surface across the die and supporting surround you can see it is all level (I think the die is actually a fraction of a mm higher than the support bracket:
    [​IMG]

    Step 3 – Attaching VRAM & VRM heatsinks:
    After much deliberation and discussion with Uncle Petey & rjkoneill I decided to use the 4 small vrm sinks supplied in the Alpenfohn kit. I wanted to use the very large Aplenfohn sink however doing a test fit I found it fouled the Prolimatech heatsink so that was out of the picture. The reason I didn’t use the Prolimatech vrm sink is that it being a single piece and heavier I was concerned it might fall off, plus the small Alpenfohn sinks had thinner metal so therefore thought they would perform better, but I could be wrong on that. I cut a strip of Akasa tape to match the length of the vrm:
    [​IMG]

    I didn’t use any insulating tape between the vrm sinks and the other components as I was happy that there was sufficient clearance:
    [​IMG]

    I then cut 16 squares of Akasa thermal pad to size for each of the vram sinks. FYI the size needed is 16mm x 13mm. This took a bit of time, get the girlfriend to do this if she is up to the job ;)
    The picture below shows them ready to go, in this pic you will notice 12 full-height sinks & 4 half height, in the end I needed to use 10 full-height and 6 half-height as the Prolimatech mounting bracket pushed 2 of them off when fitting the cooler. See next pic for details on this.
    [​IMG]

    This is probably the single most useful image in the whole guide, detailing what size sinks to use where. This is the result of a few hours of frustration on my part ;)
    Marked in yellow are the 3 small oblong heat spreaders from the Prolimatech kit. In red are the 10 full-height sinks from the Alpenfohn kit. In green are the 6 half-height sinks from the Alpenfohn kit (note that 2 of these in the pic are full-height however I found these fell off when I fit the main heatsink to the board, so I replaced them with half-height later). In blue are the 4 small vrm sinks, again from the Aplenfohn kit.
    [​IMG]

    Pic detailing the 3 oblong heat spreaders attached to the 3 chips on the top-left of the board:
    [​IMG]

    Step 4 – Preparing the main heatsink base:
    This step isn’t necessary however I have always done this with new CPU heatsinks with good results. I dabbed some of the Prolimatech PK-3 compound on the base of the heatsink, spread it around with a credit card and used a blade to scrape the excess off:
    [​IMG]
    This process in theory fills all the micro grooves and such on the base of the heatsink, resulting in a flatter surface, better prepared to take the new thermal paste. Note there was no visible paste left on the surface, just a change in visual appearance (much more dull). This Image clearly shows before and after results of this process:
    [​IMG]

    Step 5 – Fitting the rubber bracket spacer & heatsink mount:
    You need to use the smaller rubber spacer for the 290X, I found that it clipped in around 6 resistors so is nice and easy to fit:
    [​IMG]

    For the 290X you need to use the mounting brackets with the 3 holes. When fitting the heatsink to the card you are aiming for the 54mm spaced holes as per this picture:
    [​IMG]

    Step 6 – Prepping the die & fitting the heatsink:
    Nearly there! You now need to prep the die for mounting the heatsink. There are many methods for applying thermal compound, I decided to use the spread method along with a half-pea sized amount in the middle, which will spread itself when screwing in the heatsink. This pic shows the die with PK-3 compound spread out (a little more than I would normally use, however I wanted to be sure there was enough, I can always re-mount it if need be).

    For mounting the heatsink itself I flipped it over and then used the silver screws from the kit, lowered the board down onto the heatsink and after a bit of fiddling I managed to get one of the screws to find the correct hole, I just turned it one revolution to get it to grip. I then did the same with the diagonally opposite screw and then the last 2. The last screw feels like it is not going to line up with the last hole but it does self-correct once all 4 are in place. I then tightened each screw a couple of turns each, alternating between diagonally opposite ones to get the compound to spread evenly on the die. Once I couldn’t turn by hand anymore I used a screwdriver to turn the last half turn, being careful not to go too tight. This picture shows it mounted, the vram sinks circled in red are the ones that popped off shortly after this (due to the metal bracket pushing them off), I replaced these with half-height sinks afterwards.
    [​IMG]

    Step 7 – Fitting the fans:
    Very nearly there! I followed the Prolimatech guide on which fan clips to use where, this will depend on what size fans you go for. I fitted them with the power cables towards the pci slot so as to keep them tidy once installed into my PC. One of my fans was not perfectly flat so I found it brushed against the clip, the pic below shows how I bent the clip slightly to get round this problem (circled green). Circled in red is the other fan clip that was incorrectly placed, I ended up moving it so it was in the middle of the fan as per the other side (otherwise the blades clipped on it).
    [​IMG]

    Step 8 – Install the card & test!:
    Now is finally time to mount the card! In my PC you can see I have about 1.5cm room between the Prolimatech and my side panel:
    [​IMG]

    The whole assembly is quote heavy however I didn’t notice much board flex and the gpu power cables take a bit of the pressure if needed. Got it successfully fired up and with all my case lights on, does fit nicely with the Phantom white theme - not that you will ever see it from this angle!
    [​IMG]

    So the temps I hear you ask? Well upon windows loading I checked GPU Tweak which read 27c, nice! This is at idle and stock clocks/voltage. With the stock cooler I was getting around 41c. These temps were read this morning, without central heating on – not sure of ambient temps but I should think around 20c. I have the fans set to max on the fan controller, although unfortunately I don't know the RPM, all I can say is that you can barely hear them.

    I ran heaven 4.0 at extreme preset 1080p and after the bench had finished it was reading 77c, the GPU Tweak logs showed no throttling too =D With the stock cooler on auto fan speed it would always hit 85-95c and throttle the clocks down to 950/850. At 60% fan speed the stock cooler would actually do pretty well and only hit 66c in the same test, however the noise was unbearable.

    I haven’t had time to do any more testing but will do tonight, and any test you guys want me to run I will be happy to do so. I wasn’t able to read the VRM temps with any software so cannot comment on those unfortunately.

    So there we go – hope this helps everyone who is considering this mod – I say go for it! Many thanks to all the forum members, especially Uncle Petey who answered many questions for me! Also rjkoneill & gibbo for doing this mod initially and letting us know it was compatible with the 290X. One side effect of this is that my H100 fans spin faster now, due to the 290X heat being dumped into the case. Not an issue for me however and was expected.
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2013
  2. MDPlatts

    Man of Honour

    Joined: Oct 18, 2002

    Posts: 4,422

    Location: 2nd City - Manchester.


    usually people post it in the test forum and then RTM it to ask a mod to move it here
     
  3. Uncle Petey

    Capodecina

    Joined: Jul 22, 2012

    Posts: 14,622

    Location: London

    *slow clap* :p
     
  4. Donpaolo

    Associate

    Joined: Oct 23, 2013

    Posts: 62

    Great work my man and thank you for doing the guide i am going to try this some time next week i think depending on you findings.

    Just wondering what kind of OC you can get on this now and does it differ much from full water blocks i guess the full water blocks will be a bit cooler but i was just wondering how they compair when you have high OC.

    Great work dude.
     
  5. WalderX

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Oct 15, 2013

    Posts: 1,097

    No problem!

    Actually I have just done some more testing and have come across a bit of an issue. On the stock cooler I was working my way up through the core clocks and voltages to find stable levels and had got to 1175MHz @ 1.318v stable, however running the same profile after doing this mod I am getting artefacts. Also getting artefacts at 1150 @ 1.293, which I didn't before :(

    The vram sinks are all in place and I am happy with the core temps (they seem to match what gibbo was seeing on their modded card). Could insufficent vrm cooling cause this? I held my finger on the vrm sink whilst running 3dmark and it was only warm to the touch so don't think it is that, and I know they are rated up to 125 degrees or so...

    Ho-hum - nothing's simple eh!
     
  6. Uncle Petey

    Capodecina

    Joined: Jul 22, 2012

    Posts: 14,622

    Location: London

    Really nice and detailed write up there. Good job and good pics :)

    Shame about the 'beast'... Pretty sure Rjk said there was enough clearance.
    As for your artifacting, I'd put money on the VRM cooling. More specifically, the tape.
    To get the best out of it, you really do need to use the glue (and ideally the beast if possible), but I'd understand if you didn't want the potential hassle with that.

    I'd also consider running a pair of Scythe GT 1850's. These were the only dual 120mm fans that came close to the temps I got with the custom fan solution on my setup. fwiw.
     
  7. WalderX

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Oct 15, 2013

    Posts: 1,097

    Thanks Petey, I will get it out tonight and reapply the vrm sink. Will probably go with the prolimatech one as gibbo etc used that with no issues. I am worried about the glue, as although I know I have technically voided my warranty already, I would be able to fit the stock cooler back on with no evidence that I had removed it. Removing thermal glue is a bitch no?
     
  8. Uncle Petey

    Capodecina

    Joined: Jul 22, 2012

    Posts: 14,622

    Location: London

    It is a bitch, but it is possible to completely eradicate it with a bit of patience. Depends how much you use in the first place.

    The sinks you used are still pretty good with the glue tbh. By all means try different options and see what you get though :)

    ED: Check out page 1 and 2 here http://forums.overclockers.co.uk/showthread.php?t=18552242
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2013
  9. LtMatt

    Caporegime

    Joined: Jul 12, 2007

    Posts: 31,779

    Location: United Kingdom

    Excellent work Walder!
     
  10. MDPlatts

    Man of Honour

    Joined: Oct 18, 2002

    Posts: 4,422

    Location: 2nd City - Manchester.

    Excellent post/pics

    Is there some adaptor in the kit included to connect/control TWO PWM fans from the single header or does it need some additional/splitter cable or the use of a fan controller as you did ?
     
  11. WalderX

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Oct 15, 2013

    Posts: 1,097

    Everything you need is included in the prolimatech kit, apart from the fans and tim cleaner. Even following their included 7970 guide will get you there, minus adding the shim which you dont need.
     
  12. WalderX

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Oct 15, 2013

    Posts: 1,097

    I have done extensive testing in my lunch break and the card deffo won't allow more than 1.3v through it without artefacting. Even at stock clocks if I set it to 1.35v it artefacts and then around 5 seconds later the driver crashes. Same in 3DMark11.

    What a bugger. I'm happy with the temps and noise though, but not so happy that overclocking potential has been reduced :( I can push the core and mem up around 10% on stock voltage no problem, it just seems to be when the card needs to draw more power that it bums out. On the stock cooler I was able to get 20% on the core and 15% on the memory no problem (much hotter and louder mind) - but no go with the prolimatech.

    I used Akasa tape on the vrm sinks, and they don't feel very hot to the touch :confused:
     
  13. Addicted

    Mobster

    Joined: Jul 23, 2007

    Posts: 2,629

    Location: Worcester

    That will be because you don't have a good cooling solution for the memory/vrms.

    That's why the stock cooler is (imo) better, because it cools all of it, not just the main GPU die.

    Watercooling would be the allround best way to cool it.
     
  14. Donpaolo

    Associate

    Joined: Oct 23, 2013

    Posts: 62


    Hi WalderX

    Just out of interest are you using GPU tweak if so whats the max volt value your card is pulling ? I set mine to 1.375v and it will not pull more then 1.33v in 3Dmark11 now i am not sure if this is some sort of vdroop or is something weird going on with the card / bios / gpu tweak.

    will be a shame to get less performance after all that great work and have to put the stock cooler back on sad times :( i guess the Vrm gets super and the passive stuff is not good enough.
     
  15. Uncle Petey

    Capodecina

    Joined: Jul 22, 2012

    Posts: 14,622

    Location: London

    Well, you've reduced the core temp, so that really leaves the finger pointing at the VRMs which are fairly critical when it comes to OC'ing.
    They might be rated to 125°C or so, but I found (on a 7950/70) that they can start being arsey at over 75°C give or take when you're trying to overclock. Obviously, that differs from card to card...

    I found there to be around a 10°C difference between using the small sinks with a thermal pad and using the big sink with thermal glue for what it's worth.
    Personally, if the big sink isn't going to fit, I'd use a small amount with the small sinks and see what happens.

    Better fans will also make a difference as that air has to push through a chunky heatsink to get to those VRM sinks.
     
  16. WalderX

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Oct 15, 2013

    Posts: 1,097

    Yeah mine is exactly the same, I assume it must be vdroop giving us those readings.

    Ok I think it is likely my NZXT case fans not being up to the job, with the fan controller on max I cannot even hear them so they must be quite low RPM. I have bitten the bullet and placed an order for the below:

    2x Noiseblocker BlackSilent Pro Fan PLPS - 120mm PWM
    Stock Code: FG-032-NB
    1x Akasa AK-TT12-80 Thermal Adhesive Tape
    Stock Code: TH-001-AK

    I appreciate you recommended the Scythe ones, however they are not PWM and jkoneill/gibbo recommend the Noiseblockers for this particular setup. I bought the extra Akasa tape incase I feel like reinstalling the stock cooler or other heatsinks (you don't get much in 1 pack!).

    I will also install the prolimatech vrm sink if the new fans don't help. jkoneill used this and just stuck it on with the pre-applied thermal tape, he hasn't reported any issues. So it is either that or the fans not moving enough air across the vram/vrm sinks below.

    Fingers crossed!
     
  17. rjk

    Caporegime

    Joined: Aug 8, 2007

    Posts: 25,260

    Great post. Nice guide indeed.
     
  18. WalderX

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Oct 15, 2013

    Posts: 1,097

    Cheers :) Sorry to keep asking the same thing but as you did this mod yourself did you have any of the issues that I'm having with regards to overclocking the 290X after fitting the Prolimatech?

    If not, what fans did you use and what was the situation with the case cooling?

    Sorry to be so demanding!
     
  19. Donpaolo

    Associate

    Joined: Oct 23, 2013

    Posts: 62

    So we are looking about about 0.4v~ vdroop on the 290X (i have a sapphire) i am not sure if that is normal but might be good to know when pushing the cards a bit more. Its also good to know that if the Vrm goes over 75°C like Uncle Petey said we could start seeing problems wonder when we will be able to monitor these temps i think that would really help find that 75°C sweat spot or find out what the 290x swear sport is for max Vrm temps.

    Good luck dude and thanks again.
     
  20. Uncle Petey

    Capodecina

    Joined: Jul 22, 2012

    Posts: 14,622

    Location: London

    Those noiseblocker fans are decent, but they're not even close to Scythe Gt's I'm afraid.
    They've been recommended mainly for low noise purposes and not outright performance. The GT's provide both low noise and great static pressure and I'd be surprised if the Noiseblockers give much, if any improvement over your NZXT fans tbh.

    I thought you were using a fan controller btw? Is it built into the case or something?