I'm an owner of an nVidia 8800GT 512MB video card, an eVGA reference design model to be exact, and performance wise it's great. I'm able to play all my games at my 20" widescreen LCD's native resolution, usually with anti-aliasing and high quality settings. My one quirk with the card is that sometimes it gets quite hot. I know this because the whine of the temperature controlled fan increases high enough that I can pick it out of the background with ease. My hate of high pitch fan noise set me forth on a quest to find a way to quiet down the card. With my other video card, an 8800GTS 640MB, I never really had any noise issues. In comparing both cards, the 8800GT and the GTS, you can easily pick out the differences in the coolers. The 8800GT cooler is a mere single slot design, with a thin heatsink and smaller fan, whereas the 8800GTS cooler is a dual slot design, with a taller heatsink with more surface area and a bigger blower (not to mention it exhausts hot air directly out the case).
In looking at cooling alternatives of the 8800GT, I looked to the 8800GTS for inspiration. The 8800GTS cooler is better than the 8800GT because it has a bigger heatsink with more mass and surface area and a bigger blower, able to move a higher volume of air while producing the same amount of motor noise.
There are lots of heatsink/fan options for the 8800GT, many from the usual suspects including Thermalright, Thermaltake and Zalman. The options all looked great and would probably provide a huge difference in thermal dissipation performance compared to the stock heatsink. Price wise though, coupled with the cost the 8800GT 512MB video card itself, puts the total cash dished out in 8800GTS 512MB video card territory.
In our quest for an effective cooling system, we'll limit ourselves to easy-to-do and cheap solutions. For the enthusiast with lots of spare parts hanging around, they may even be free. I'll outline the solutions that I will test, and describe them as well as a quick how-to. Testing results will be displayed after all of the descriptions.