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Cooler Master V10 CPU Cooler Review

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AkG

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Cooler Master V10 CPU Cooler Review




Manufacturer Product Page: V10 - Cooler Master
Part Number: RR-B2P-UV10-GP
TechWiki Info: Cooler Master V10
Availability: Now
Click Here to Check Prices: Coolermaster V10 Hybrid Tec CPU Cooler LGA775
Warranty: 2 years





In the past we have been lucky to review CPU cooling solutions which are unusual, different or more efficient. Unfortunately, for us this is not a daily, weekly or even monthly occurrence. Being different is risky and in this economy not everyone is willing to try something different since companies tend to only make money off winners. Producing and marketing a product which is just a tweak on an already proven design is a better bet than blazing a new trail. Luckily for us, there are still some manufacturers out there who are willing to bet on innovation.

One such company which is not afraid to try something different is Cooler Master. Its funny, but if you asked 100 hardcore DIY’ers what CM means to them we are sure 95 would answer "cases" and to a lesser extent, their expanding lineup of power supplies. As with any smart, hungry company trying to expand their name brand recognition into CPU cooling solutions, CM is willing to take a risk…or three.

In the past we have had the privilege to work, use and really, really torture some interesting hybrid coolers. These products from CoolIT combined the best of air, water and TEC cooling to provide an experience which was as unique as it was eye-opening. In the case of Cooler Master, they have taken another track all together. To be more specific, they are looking to innovate the air cooling field by adding TECs to a uniquely designed heatsink.

This new cooler which is called the V10 is part of Cooler Master’s V-line of CPU cooling solutions and in positioned right between the V8 and V12 in their model nomenclature. The V10 is a multi fan, multi heat pipe, multi cooling fin array heatsink which not only is a tower AND a downdraft cooler but is also a TEC cooling solution. As you can imagine this is a beast of a cooler and as such is priced like one at about $140CAD.

This cooling solution is slowly becoming available from e-tailers and retailers throughout the country and we expect this trend to continue as it is a specialty item and one which not every mom and pop store will want to carry. As this is a expensive item we feel it is our goal to help you become intimately aware of all the ins and outs, ups and downs, and any (other) double entendre you can think of, of this cunning cooler! We really do hope that after reading this review you know more about the V10 than you do about your girlfriend; and more importantly, give you enough information to know whether or not this is THE cooler you will want/need/desire for your next upgrade.


 
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AkG

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Specifications

SPECIFICATIONS




 
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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories



For a something as relatively “simple” as a CPU air cooler the box this beast comes in is simply massive and easily dwarfs literally any other CPU cooler box we have ever seen. Heck, it makes the Scythe Copper Ninja box or out TRUE Black look like match boxes in comparison.


The box itself is done in a beautifully glossy red and black design which is sure to attract attention and help it stand out from the rest of the competition when placed on store shelves. As befitting a Cooler Master product, the box is not only a pretty face but has all the information you will need to make an informed decision.


When you are finished oohing and ahhing over the slick advertising scheme printed on the outside of the box and open it up, you will be greeted to a welcome sight. For anyone who has purchased a TRUE, or even higher end CoolIT product you will instantly recognise this kick ass packaging scheme. In a nut shell the V10 is cocooned in a deep, form fitting, styrofoam box. This box in a box method of protection is about as good as it gets and seeing CM go with this tells us they really consider this as one of their flagship lines.

The only minor downside to this scheme is getting the sucker to release its precious cargo! As long as you are patient and slowly work the V10 free you should have no trouble; however if you rush it you will break the Styrofoam. This may not be a big deal for you, but for us it would have made getting pristine pictures….challenging to say the least.


The accessories which accompany this unit are not only plentiful and of good quality but they are also down right heavy! In a nut shell you get three thick backplates any of which could easily be used to bludgeon someone with let alone support the "mere" 1.2Kg weight of the V10. Besides the necessary backplates for i7, 775 and AMD systems you also get all the needed screws and assorted items for attaching said backplates to your motherboard and V10. As with all Cooler Master products; a very easy to understand, multi-language instruction pamphlet is also included. Unfortunately, they also cheaped out and only included a ketchup style packet of TIM. Are we really asking too much for a 4g, or heck 2g, multi-application TIM syringe on a $100+ CPU cooling solution?!

All in all we walked away from the V10 with a great first impression. Everything is top notch with no glaring flaws, blunders or corner cutting to be seen. While we are not going to test this bad boy out on i7, we are going to test it on both out normal q6600 and our fire breathing, heatsink melting Phenom which we have used in the past as the final word in cooling potential. It certainly will be interesting to see how the V10 handles those kind of heat loads. In the mean time lets first go over the design of this wee beastie and see what tricks Cooler Master has up their sleeves!
 
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AkG

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Heatsink Construction & Design

Heatsink Construction & Design



If there is one thing that will first strike you about the V10 it is how awe-inspiringly huge it is. As you will see in the Installation section, it is made in such a way that its back "arm" stretches over your memory modules while the overall height is close to that of a TRUE. It is all topped off by a beautiful black shroud which serves to direct the airflow from the two fans.

Overall, the V10 is a massive 236mm (9.32 inches) long by 129.6 (5.11 inches) wide by 161.3mm (6.36 iches) tall. To put it bluntly this bad boy is frickin’ huge! Pictures barely do it justice and you really need to hold this beast in your two hands to get a feel for it.


When you do remove the plastic cover and take a close look at the insides, one thing becomes abundantly clear: this cooler unlike darn near any other air based CPU cooling solution we have looked at is actually three coolers in one.


As you can now easily see the area where the vertically mounted fan resides, for all intents and purposes, delineates two separate cooling towers from one another. The third, is more obvious as it hangs off to the side and acts like an overly large downdraft cooler.

Unlike other large heatsinks which were monolithic in their approach to cooling, this segmented approach does have its own unique set of pros and cons. The down side is the overall surface area available to all the heatpipes is a lot less than it would be if the cooling fins were all “attached” ( a good example of the monolithic approach is the Scythe Copper Ninja which we reviewed earlier). This could result in excess heat which cannot be dissipated and will in turn mean an overall increase in CPU temperatures. However, where this is a hybrid cooler the biggest benefit to segmentation is each sections heatpipes are cooled by their “own” heatsink so any heat which has to be dumped from the built-in TEC (which is located off to the side of the base) will not effect the performance of the other heatpipes. Keep this in mind as we go through the rest of the design as it may be the secret to the V10's success.


If you take a close look you will see this unit is in fact a 6 heatpipe cooling unit of which four are used the cool said TEC unit. Of these six heatpipes the outer two do not have an end which terminates under the Peltier unit. This is most likely done so as to allow this unit to be as compatible with as wide range (and size) of CPUs as possible. To be more precise the four center pipes will be covered regardless of what CPU you intend to cool with the V10. This in turn will help keep any possible dangers of sweating / condensation from occurring due to the fact you would have two heatpipes which would be ultra cold with no BTUs available to keep them above ambient temperatures.


To further help balance temperature loads the four which do “start” under the TEC are split across both of the non TEC cooling towers. This ensures that all six heatpipes (not just those special 4) are properly load balanced as neither tower should in theory be cooler or hotter than the other. Both use fresh air to cool themselves with and both have a similar amount of surface area per heatpipe.


The extra four heatpipes which help give this cooler its name are in reality only two heatpipes. We are not sure why Cooler Master counts these two long heatpipes as four pipes but only counts the other 6 long pipes as six heatpipes. We assume this is to help distinguish it from the V8 and V12. After all, this V10 may “only” have 8 heatpipes but it is in a class all to itself when compared to the more mundane non TEC based V8. Confusing nomenclature or no, this bad boy really only has 8 long heatpipes and a bad ass TEC.
 
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AkG

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Heatsink Construction & Design pg.2

Heatsink Construction & Design Con't.



All in all the V10 consists of a very good design but we are sure your asking yourself one very obvious question by now: if the V10 has a TEC why did the Cooler Master engineers not stick it directly on the heatsink? The answer to this question is relatively simple. If they had just stuck a TEC on the base and had all “ten” heatpipes cool the TEC this cooler would be no where near as good nor efficient as it is. As its stands the TEC used is “only” a 70 watt Peltier unit. This may sound like a lot but TECs are not 100% efficient and a 70W TDP CPU is on the cool end of the spectrum, so imagine how much juice this bad boy would need to cool an overclocked i7? The other main reason for having it off to the side is this reduces the risk of sweating (or at least condensation which can result in CPU shorts). These two problems are the main down sides to just using TEC cooling which is why this is a Hybrid cooling solution.

The easiest way to understand what Cooler Master has done with the V10 is to imagine a high performance gas engine. During normal operations it’s fairly efficient but to really make the car fly a NOS injection system is needed. The addition of Nitrous Oxide super cools the gasoline and allows it to be even more effective in converting its potential energy into useable energy . In the case of the V10, the 70watt TEC is the NOS and the liquid in the heatpipes (the real cooler in this and most good Air based coolers) is what makes the engine work. However, just like nitrous the TEC only kicks in when it is really needed.


As we are sure you know, a heatpipe is nothing more than a thin walled copper tube filled with a liquid (for our purposes lets ignore wicks inside the tube). This liquid has a very low boiling point, as heat from the CPU is absorbed by the thin copper tubes, these tubes then superheat the liquid. The liquid turns into a gas and flows away from the heat source, the rest of the copper tube not directly under the CPU has cooling fins attached which (relatively speaking) slowly absorb the heat from the gas allowing it to phase change once again back to a liquid. At this point the liquid flows back down to the hot part of the tube where it picks up more energy and starts the cycle all over again.

The problem with this is the longer the tube, the more efficient it gets at converting gas to liquid BUT the longer it takes for the liquid to flow back to the heat source. It really is a double edge sword in that if the tube is too short it can only absorb so much heat (thus relegating the cooler to the lower TDP only CPUs) but the shorter the tube the faster the turn around time is on the cycle. Complicating things further is the fact air is a inefficient medium at best and you can only make the cooling fins so large thus limiting the amount of heat the heatpipes can dissipate. Of course if they make the pipes too long the unit becomes inefficient. All in all a nasty Catch-22.


Cooler Master has taken this problem and for all intents and purposes made four of the heatpipes extremely short on one end and placed a TEC over these heatpipes. On top of the contact base is a sensor and controller for the TEC. When temperatures are low this unit will act like any large heatpipe-only cooler and will not have the TEC active.

Thus, we expect it to still act like a very GOOD air based cooling solution but the real magic only happens when the heat is turned up! When the sensor tells the controller there is a high demand for cooling, that controller opens up the metaphorical valve and unleashes the NOS! The TEC gets fed electricity and it goes to work cooling the ends of the attached heatpipes, and their short travel distance no longer becomes a detriment. This allows them to suck up massive amounts of heat in a phase change cycle so short it is simply amazing. The other heatpipes are still going to work about as well as they did before but now you have for all intents and purposes a second cooler working to keep the CPU happy.

Unfortunately, this setup looks and feels like a kludge, which is more than likely going to be a very imprecise way of controlling the TEC. We may be wrong -and we hope we are- but unless Cooler Master has really tweaked this design we have a bad feeling this unit’s TEC will not even be involved for anything but insane heat levels. Only time and testing will tell, so for now we are going to give the V10 a pass and move on.


The only disappointing aspect of this unit was the base. The polish of the base is certainly first rate, but there is a slight peak in the center which is easily seen with our razor blade test or even by the way it bends light in the above photo. This really was a little disappointing to say the least. However, the peak is miniscule and while it may negatively impact performance of this unit, we have a hunch there is plenty of performance to spare. If you need to drain every last drop of efficiency from this unit you can easily do what CM should have done and properly lap the base until it is both ultra smooth and perfectly flat.
 
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Fan design

FAN DESIGN



The two 120mm fans which the V10 use to keep itself properly cooled off are none other than a clear, RED LED version of the same fan used in the SilverStone Raven case we reviewed just a while ago. For those who did not read our review of the Raven, they are a 9 bladed, 120mm fans made by Xinchangfeng Electronics Co., Ltd. who are better known as Martech. In this instance it is the DF1202512RFUN model fan. In a very nice move, Cooler Master has released some much need specifications for this fan. These are Rifle Bearing fans capable of 800- 2400RPMs and at its max speed of 2400rpms it moves 90CFM at an impressive 2.94mmH20.


As with the Raven variations, these fan display very little shaft or off axis blade slop consistent with rifle bearing fans. When running at full speed, we did notice a pronounced tick-like whirring noise (which we have come to associate with rifle bearing fans) but any fan running at 2400rpms is going to make noise and in this instance the noise was fairly mild mannered and did not have any “screaming” noise.


For convenience, Cooler Master has daisy chained the two 120 mm fans together so you only have to plug in one 4 pin connector. These fans are not only PWM capable but the cable they use is a flat ribbon style cable which is a lot like the connectors used in a Corsair HX520/620 power supply. For all intents and purposes this thin yet wide cable should not impede air flow. All in all this style is perfect for this cooler as it allows it to snake in and up underneath the plastic shroud and all in all go places a regular fat circular cable probably could not go. Of course, the TEC power comes from a standard Molex due to its 70W+ of power consumption.

Rather that rely on MTBF numbers, an easier and better way to get a “feel” for what the manufacturer thinks is the real length of time a product should last is to simply look at the length of warranty provided. The length of warranty has been calculated to be long enough so that customers feel secure in purchasing it BUT still short enough that it will be “out of warranty” when most fail. Taken for what it's worth, the V10 comes with a 2 year warranty.

Overall, these fan idle at an ultra low, ultra quiet 800rpm yet when needed then can drop the hammer down and move a heck of a lot of air. More importantly is the fact that they have very good static pressure numbers to help power through all of the fins this cooler has. If you are so inclined you could yank these fans out as they are standard width fans which use regular mounting screws. However, you will need to do a bit of modding to keep both fans running at the same speed (i.e. attach both to one cable). This is doable but not really needed as the standard fans are more than good enough for all but the most exacting silent PC enthusiast.
 
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AkG

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Installation

Installation



For the first time ever, we here at HWC are going to strongly recommend you remove your motherboard from your case before installing this beast...regardless of what case it is. Yes, even if you have a case with an aftermarket backplate cut-out in the motherboard area (e.g. HAF 932, ATCS 840) you will still have to yank it and do this installation the old fashioned way. The reasons for this will become clear as you read this section but it all comes down to size, and the cumbersomeness of this monster cooler. On their website, Cooler Master have a very informative video showing the installation procedure and they too do it the way we are going to tell you to.

Before you do remove your motherboard there are a few things you should do first to prep the V10 for installation. Where this bad boy can accommodate such a wide range of systems (everything from AM2 to i7) it does not come set up from any one of these. To us this is a good thing as it saves time uninstalling parts which we do not need.



The very first thing you have to do is dig out the top brackets (or bracket in the case of AM2) and thread the four double threaded screws onto them. This is a lot easier said than done as the top threaded part (the part which screws unto the brackets) is a reverse direction Bastard Thread. On other words you tighten it down just like you would to removed a normal thread.



When that simple, yet odd, task is completed you then mount the brackets to the base of the V10. Each bracket uses two small screws to hold it in place and it should only take a second or two per screw to tighten the lil’ fellers into place. When this is accomplished and all four screws are in place and the mounting brackets are secure, you then peel the paper off four of the rubber bumper pads included and stick one per screw unto the V10. These bumpers slip over the shaft of each screw and stick to the bracket itself. It may take a little coaxing to get them properly positioned as the ends of the bracket are properly sized to help keep the pads in place via friction as well as the glue. When all this done you are now ready to remove your motherboard.

What we recommend (and the pamphlet vaguely describes) is to lay the V10 on its back and for all intents and purposes mount the motherboard to it. In other words, right before you remove the motherboard from the loving embrace of the case you will need to clean prep the CPU area and then apply a small amount of TIM to it. This certainly is a funky way of doing things but we found if you place a screwdriver underneath the downdraft end of the V10, it becomes a very stable platform to lay the motherboard on. When it is in place and all four screws are sticking up through their proper holes, you quickly place the appropriate bracket over them and spin the four little nuts into place. When they are all hand tightened you then dig out the small socket which Cooler Master includes and crank all the nuts down.


All you have to do now is plug in the V10 4 pin fan header along with the Molex for the TEC and reinstall the motherboard. Depending on how large a case you own, you may run into problems here as this sucker overhangs the edge of the motherboard by a good couple inches (there is a very good reason Cooler Master uses a ATCS 840 in their video). If you do have enough room you may also have trouble (depending on your motherboard layout and design) plugging in your 20/24 pin cable as in our case it is directly under the downdraft portion of the V10. It was not an issue of clearance but more one of blinding grouping it into position. In the end we had to swing our test bed around so we could get a good view of it.


All in all this is a quirky installation, one which really cries out for a case with a removable motherboard tray. A removable motherboard tray may not help you too much with plugging in your power cables (unless you have long cables and a bit of imagination) but it certainly will make reinstalling the motherboard easier. Overall, it will take you longer than normal to install the V10, but we think the effort may just be worth it as any worries we have about the V10 breaking motherboards were alleviated by simply working with it to install it! The backplate will certainly spread out the weight enough to keep the PCB from snapping and honestly, if you are careful when moving your case 1.2Kg is not that big a load for modern motherboards to handle. With that being said we probably would not use this to cool a LAN party going system!
 
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Testing Methodology

Testing Methodology


To ensure that the results from one review to another are not only reproducible but actually pertinent to this review, the Testing Methodology will be the same throughout all reviews used. If something does change we will be sure to make a special note of it and explain why this change was done and more importantly why it had to be changed or altered.

Any all CPU Cooling Solutions which do not come with their own fan, a Noctua NF-P12-1300 will be used if it accepts 120mm fans, if it only accepts 92mm a Noctua NF-B9-1600 will be used.

Except where noted all comparison testing was done on an open bench with an ambient temperature of 20c. Recorded temps were as reported via CoreTemp's "Temp Log". Average load temps were taken after 15 minutes of running Prime95 v25.4 “small fft” and are taken directly from CoreTemp’s temperature text file. Excel was used to average the results of all cores. Idle temps were taken 15 minutes after Load testing ceased. Motherboard temperatures were recorded using SpeedFan. All CPU throttling technology was disabled in the BIOS; as was all CPU fan speed control. More importantly, the Everflow fan’s built in fan speed control was set to full speed.

Arctic Cooling MX-2 thermal paste was used for all coolers during these tests unless otherwise noted. Application of thermal paste was in accordance with TIM manufacturer’s instructions; and while not necessary, the TIM was allowed to cure for 48 hours under moderate to high loads (with periods of low loads) prior to testing.

All tests were run a minimum of 4 times and only best results are represented.

Please Note: When viewing the results of the Q6600 and the e4600 please understand that in this instance the quad @ 1.45 volts actually is a cooler running chip than the relatively bad overclocker chip e4600 used. This is usually not the way it works but due to the variable nature of overclocking we happened to get a "good" quad and a bad "dual"; in that the quad is a good cool running chip when extra voltage is applied where as the dual heats up very quickly as extra voltage is applied. It would not surprise us if 1.4 volts is significantly shortening the life of the dual e4600 and that it will die a lot earlier than the quad q6600.

Please Note: To keep the motherboard chipsets from overheating a single 40mm Scythe Ultra Kaze was used, but was orientated in such a way as to not interfere with nor help the CPU cooler (i.e. it was basically on top of the South Bridge and pointed down). The 120mm Scythe E on the side of the open test bench was unplugged during temperature testing.

Notes about Overclocking:

For Q6600’s I consider 1.45 volts to be the most that I would seriously consider for a moderate-to-long term overclock.

For E4600’s I consider 1.4 volts to be the most that I would seriously consider for a moderate-to-long term overclock.

Yes you can go much higher but the longevity of the CPU is then called into question. Just as importantly the CPU should average out at LESS than 65c as this is also what I consider the safest, maximum long term overclocking temp. For the purposes of these tests I was willing to overlook temperatures as long as they averaged below 70c and did not peak over 75c. If 75c was displayed for more than 10seconds in CoreTemp all testing was stopped and that test run was considered a fail.

With these two general guidelines I overclocked both systems until either one (or both) of these "rules" was needed to be broken to continue.

Overclocking was accomplished by increasing FSB speed and then Vcore (only if necessary).

Before testing for idle and max temperatures Orthos was run for 1 hour to make sure that it was stable at a given overclock and voltage. If both finished with no errors SuperPi set to 32m was run twice. After the stability testing was accomplished the given system was allowed to sit idle for 30minutes before starting the official tests. IF both of the above stated guidelines were not broken then testing continued with an increased overclock. These steps were then repeated until 1 or both of the general guidelines were broken.

As they have no bearing on these tests the RAM’s voltage and timings are not recorded, the RAM was set to run at or as close to as possible PC-6400 speeds by running various CPU : memory dividers. Please do not consider this a full “how to” review on overclocking or “safe guidelines” for overclocking nor even an indicator on how well a given CPU will overclock. IF you are interested in OC’ing your system, and use these guidelines we at HWC take no responsibility for the results. Bad Things can happen if you are not careful.


Complete Test System:

Processor:
Intel: Q6600
AMD: Phenom 9750

Motherboard:
Intel: Gigabyte p35 DS4 &
AMD: DFI LANPARTY UT 790FX-M2R

Memory:
Intel: 4GB G.Skill PC6400
AMD: 4GB Mushkin PC6400

Graphics card: Asus 8800GT TOP
Hard Drive: 1x Western Digital Se16 320GB (single platter)
Power Supply: Seasonic S12 600W
 
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Q6600 Performance Results

Q6600 Performance Results








Well those numbers certainly LOOK disappointing but let's look into that a little more. At stock and low overclocking we were not expecting much, as we knew the TEC was not going to kick in….but we expected it to when the juice was turned up. As it stands, the TEC barely kicked in and as such the max overclock temperatures suffer. The only positive to these numbers was the V10 was only sipping extra juice and it was one of the easiest temperature results to average. It literally hit a temperature which it “liked” and stayed there…and didn’t move at all. Obviously, this beast has bested our testbed and needs an even bigger "Crucible of Fire and Pain".
 
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Phenom Performance Results

Phenom Performance Results


While the Q6600 numbers are not what you call bad, they really only hinted at what this beast is capable of. Our gut instinct was further reinforced when we took a look at how much extra power the V10 was using and it was no where near 70 watts. To help further test this behemoth and see what it truly is made of we dusted off the DFI 790FX motherboard and popped in the fireball 9750. Here is what we found.

Please note: As the CPU sensor in our 9750 is less than accurate we are foregoing the overclocking of this chip as the results seem to get worse the higher the OC.



When all was said and done, the V10 was still not registering 70 watts of extra power usage, but the results do speak for themselves none the less. After all, this is the famous quad core which nearly killed our Vendetta 2 HDT cooler and was only able to handle the thermal load by sticking a 38mm 103CFM fan on to keep it from melting into a puddle of aluminum and copper! Heck, the V10 was barely bothered by the heat and really seemed to thrive under the loads placed on it! It may still not be in the same league as a Boreas….but then again it’s not in the same price range either.

Just remember, as heat load increases this cooler will get better and better by leaps and bounds as the TEC module increases output. This is why the results are not that good with a stock-clocked, lower TDB quad core chip such as a Q6600.
 
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