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Coolink ChipChilla Chipset Cooler Review

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AkG

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Coolink ChipChilla Chipset Cooler Review




Manufacturer Product Page: Coolink - the cooler manufacturer
Availability: Soon
Price: $22.95 (Projected Canadian MSRP)
Warranty Length: 3 years



When it comes to cooling computers most people understand the need for CPU and graphics coolers but overlook the lowly motherboard chipset. The importance of the Northbridge and Southbridge chipsets is seemingly underestimated by most consumers and this carries over onto how most manufacturers cool them (i.e. as cheaply as possible). On most entry, mid and even some high-end boards, people think that it is more than acceptable to have a small chunk of aluminum as a Northbridge cooling solution. Heck, most don’t even have fans as the old style fans that used to adorn them were too loud and while people will happily put up with e-z bake oven temperatures from their chipsets they will not permit NOISE.

For the majority of people who hardly ever max out their shiny new computers, passive cooling is usually good enough; and when coupled with very good air flow it can be tolerable. However, for those one percent’ers who DO max out their system and even {gasp} overclock their system, they quickly realize that the "FSB wall" has a lot to do with how hot their chipsets get. Some of the very high end boards use huge hunks of copper and heatpipes to capture the air from the CPU cooler, thus helping to alleviate this problem. While this is all well and good, not everyone has $200-$300 to splurge on a motherboard with tons of copper. For everyone else there are mods we can do to reduce these hot running chipset temperatures. These mods run the gamut from zip tying a small fan to the aluminum heatsink, replacing the factory TIM with good TIM, to even using huge spot fans to help cool them down. These tricks do work to a certain extent but it does leave a lot to be desired in the aesthetics department.

This is where aftermarket manufacturers come to the rescue with improved chipset cooling solutions. Today we will be looking at one such solution from the relatively unknown manufacturer named Coolink (for anyone who doesn't know who they are I recommend you check out my review on their very good Silentator found here: http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/foru...629-coolink-silentator-cpu-cooler-review.html). Their ChipChilla is a northbridge active cooling solution that is available at many online e-tailers at a very reasonable price. So what does $23 get you theses days? Let’s find out!


 
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AkG

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Specifications

Specifications


 
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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories




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The ChipChilla’s packaging scheme left us with mixed feelings. Even with just a quick glance one can tell that this unit has been designed for retail store shelf sales and this shows in the compromises that had to be made to make it competitive in that marketplace. On the positive side, the back of the package has lots of information that would certainly help a first time buyer in making a purchasing decision; especially if that first time buyer was expected to see this box on display at his local computer store. More importantly than the provided information, they would not only be able to read about its specifications but actually see three sides and the top and bottom of the ChipChilla through the plastic packaging. This here is actually the sticking point for me; the ChipChilla’s cardboard and plastic package offers very little protection from knocks, bangs and assorted other minor catastrophes. Yes, a picture is never as good as actually seeing a product, but when there is only a thin plastic covering between the cooler and the hard floor, it just doesn’t instill one with confidence; especially if you were planning on ordering this from across the country.

When you do remove the cardboard back from the unit (which is very easy as it just slides out and is not even secured with a staple) you get an inkling that Coolink understood that they were making a lot of compromises and tried their best to improve upon its damage reducing ability. In practical terms what this amounts to is a secondary plastic container which protects the top, bottom, left and right sides and even the back of the ChipChilla. If Coolink had designed it so that it protected the front as well then it would have been a very good (and ingenious) protection scheme. As it stands it’s more than what a lot of other companies do and any extra protection is always a good thing!


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The list of accessories that comes with this unit is more than adequate, though we would have liked to see something besides the ketchup packet style TIM dispenser that was included (or at the very least include a couple of them since these really are one-use dispensers). The full list of accessories is: one small dispenser of “Stars soft pak” white thermal grease, one foam spacer (aka square foam gasket), mounting equipment for both pushpin and wire retention mounting systems and the cardboard back of the container also doubles as a folded installation pamphlet (so no ripping it up getting the ChipChilla out of its packaging!). As we said the list is more than adequate and given the price range of this unit we were not exactly expecting a big bag of goodies to be included.

All in all the ChipChilla packaging is one of the better examples of this style of retail packages that we have seen. Just as importantly, the accessories are few but they are more than complete enough to get the job done and in the end that’s what is really important.
 
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AkG

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First Impressions

First Impressions




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When you first look at the ChipChilla you get the distinct impression that you are holding a mini tower-style CPU cooler meant for a model computer or some other children’s toy. This is an understandable reaction and is to be expected as in a lot of ways that is exactly what the ChipChilla is. It is a mini cooler that is based heavily off Coolink’s (and Noctua's) CPU coolers. This is certainly not a bad thing as we have shown in the past the Silentator is a very efficient cooler and if this one cools chipsets as well as the Silentator cools CPUs, it will be a true sight to behold!

In many ways the ChipChilla reminds me of the Noctua NC-U6 chipset cooler and this is also understandable as Coolink does make them for Noctua; just as the Silentator looks a lot like a scaled down version of the Noctua’s NH-U12F so is the ChipChilla a scaled down version of the Noctua NC-U6. Of course, there are some differences and the main one being this is "only" a single heatpipe cooling solution. Instead of having two large U shaped heatpipes that start at the top right of the heatsink and go down through the base and then exit at the top left side (as it does in the Noctua) Coolink obviously felt that one would be enough.


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This does unfortunately give the cooler a rather lopsided look to it when viewed from both the top and the side. The downside to this single off center heatpipe is that the fan either has to blow over it first and then the majority of the aluminum fins or alternatively over the majority of the fins first and then the heatpipe. Either way this may cause some inefficiency in its design and lead to reheating where heat taken from the fins are deposited onto the heatpipe (or vice versa) instead of being blown away in the air stream. We will see later in the testing phase if this decision turns outs to be smart or very, very rash.

The other difference between the aptly named ChipChilla and the Noctua NC-U6 is that this chipset cooling solution comes with a fan. In fact Coolink has gone with a rather striking looking blue 60mm fan for active cooling instead of making it a passive cooler like the NC-U6. It may not have any LEDs but its deep blue coloration stands out in striking contrast against all the metallic silver of the heatsink which does give it a high “bling” factor that would make any motherboard more attractive (especially if the motherboard scheme includes this colour blue).


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While at first glance the ChipChilla may look like a tiny version of a CPU cooler there are some differences which stand out once you start to look for them. When you flip the unit upside down you are greeted to a sight that you would never see on any self respecting CPU cooler. Unlike the Silentator that has a seamless base the ChipChilla is a two part affair. The center of the base is where the cooling takes place; however, since a NB or SB chipset is so small and this unit is relatively high, Coolink widened this base by running a strip of aluminum up the left and right side of it. This gives the illusion of a copper coloured racing strip one the bottom but the aluminum strips are not just there for filler. These two strips contain the pin mounting bracket arms that allow you to mount this cooler off center. The copper base itself is fairly well polished and given the price point of this unit is certainly above average.

Overall this little cooler gives a very good first impression and there is nothing that really stands out at being bad or out of place with it. In fact when the very first thing you think of is a high end cooler that costs a heck of a lot more than this one does, you can't help but think good things. Hopefully, upon closer inspection of its design and construction this first impression will be carried over.
 
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AkG

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Heatsink Construction & Design

Heatsink Construction & Design



As mentioned before, this cooler is for all intents and purposes a tower cooler which has just been scaled down to chipset size. Yes, this lil’ guy is only 94mm high, but other than its smaller size, is really is a small tower cooler. To me this is a good thing since it means Coolink isn't trying to be fancy or a trail blazer, rather they have gone for the boring yet dependable route. When you need to cool an overheating chipset (say from trying to push the FSB to 500+) you don't want fancy, you don't want interesting, you simply something that just works. The tower design has been proven time and time again to be one of the most efficient thermal designs we have. Maybe in the future some trail blazer company will come up with something better, until then the time to be a guinea pig is not when your chipset is reaching 90 degrees Celsius. Bad things can happen when you try to get fancy.

Please don't get us wrong, boring and dependable doesn't mean it has to be ugly. Rather, form simply has to follow function. In the case of the ChipChilla its plain looks are actually a good thing as they contrast nicely with the fan and that gives it a unique look (one can could even say that it has a style all its own). When you take a good look at the design of the ChipChilla you realize that it is not just a pretty face, but is rather solidly constructed. The heatpipe itself is copper that has been plated to give a shiny bright metallic silver color which blends well with the 36 aluminum heat fins. Even better still is the fact that both ends of the heatsink have been capped, giving it a nice clean look when viewed from above; and lets face it, for the majority of its life this is the face that people will see when they look in you case window at LAN party.


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As mentioned, there are 36 of the small aluminum fins that when added up give the ChipChilla a surprisingly large surface area. One interesting thing about these fins is that ChipChilla did not take a page from the Silentator and instead of giving the fins a slightly concave appearance they are completely flat. This is too bad as this flat style fin arrangement does have a tendency to increase static pressure as the air coming from the fan suddenly hits a wall of pressure that it has to overcome. Whereas if they are curved slightly different parts of the fin assembly is cooled at slightly different increments thus reducing the overall static pressure. The easy way to think about this is to imagine a phone book. If you try to just rip that sucker in half you are going to have a tough time of it, but if you bend the pages so that the individual pages can rip separately you can tear it up with very little effort. The other problem with having just a flat side is that some air will escape around the edges of the fin assembly rather than go through, this will reduce the amount of air available to the unit for cooling and does in turn reduce its effectiveness. To compound matters Coolink also went with extremely closely spaced fins which also increase static air pressure. Would it have been more effective to have less surface area (say 30 fins spaced further a part) then have more area both densely packed fins? It is an interesting question and one that only Coolink can answer, however, if the fan is up to the static pressure task all that extra surface area will pay dividends.


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Even though it looks as if the ChipChilla could accept a second fan (after all it does have two wire indents per side), and this would certainly have alleviated any concerns when it comes to static pressure, it can not. We will get into more detail in the fan section with regards to the mounting system but suffice to say that this heatsink has been designed with one fan and only one fan in mind. This certainly is a shame as some of the new chipsets (and some of the older ones for than matter) can easily get to above 90°C and anything which could help reduce these insane temperatures would have been welcome.


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On the positive side, the base of this unit has been designed in such away that it can accommodate both the pin mounting method and the wire tension mounting method. Since the pin mounts are pivotable you can not only ensure a good solid mount but can also skew the unit so that it is not blocking, bending or even touching anything else on the motherboard. This gives the unit a good bit of installation flexibility and does make it suitable for just about any motherboard on the market.


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When one takes a close look at the base of the unit, you quickly realize that the heatpipe has been wedged in between the copper base and the aluminum top. This ensures that there is a good contact between the base and heatpipe which ensures that the heat transfer is maximized. It is the small things like this which help make or break a chipset cooler. After all, you can have half a dozen heatpipes but if they are not in good contact with the copper base then they are wasted and are nothing but glorified visual aids and not thermal transfer pipes (aka heatpipes).

On the positive side, while the individual fins are made from thin aluminum (and thus feel a little fragile) the ChipChilla as a whole is a very sturdy unit. It exhibited very little flex when tapped and in fact feels very durable in one's hand. Overall this unit is a lot like its bigger sibling the Silentator in that Coolink obviously didn't take any shortcuts when it came to it's construction.
 
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AkG

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Fan Design

Fan Design




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The fan that comes with this unit is a bit of an enigma since it has been sanitized so if it did fall into the wrong hands it wouldn't be able to give any clues to where it originated from! This of course is being overly dramatic for the sake of making the point that it is bare of any adornments, stamps or any manufacturing stamps. What is known about the fan is that it is a 11 bladed 60x60x10mm fan which is rated for 2200rpm and is extremely quiet.

The fan exhibited very little shaft “slop” or forwards and backwards motion to the fan blade assembly and felt very tight. However the fan displayed significant amount of angular slop when pushed/tapped on only one side of the fan. This combination leads us to believe that this fan is a sleeved bearing fan. This impression is backed up by how quiet it is when in use. While yes this fan does not move much air, it really doesn't have to, to do its job.


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On the positive side, the fan cable is nice and long and is completely sleeved in nylon like black material. It is always nice when the manufacturers take the time to do this as it does make for a both a cleaner/neater install while also helping to keep air flow restrictions to a minimum.

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 its worth, (and is common Coolink practice) the ChipChilla comes with a 3 year warranty.


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The fan itself mounts to the heatsink in a fairly unique take on the standard wire mounts. Yes the fan is held to the heatsink via two wires that sit into a track along each side of the heatsink, this is normal and nothing out of the ordinary. What is unique is that instead of mounting two rubber strips to the heatsink the anti-vibration material is actually on the fan. Each corner of the fan has the metal screw covered with a rubber bumper. The upside to this arrangement is that if you decide to remount the fan on the opposite side of the heatsink you don't have to worry about peeling over the vibration strips and hoping enough glue comes with them, since the rubber bumpers are stuck to the fan and not the heatsink! The downside to this arrangement is that the fan is not mounted tightly to the heatsink and there is no air seal around the fan. In a nutshell this means swapping the fan orientation is very easy, but does come at a very high price: namely a lot of air will escape before it is pushed through the heatsink. One thing is for sure this does make for an extremely quiet if highly inefficient setup.

Overall the fan is quiet, efficient and more than adequate for the task it has been given. What more could you ask from a unit that comes free with a chipset cooler that costs less than twenty dollars?
 
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AkG

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Installation

Installation



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Without trying to sound like we are waffling on the ease or difficulty of the installation, it really does depend on what your motherboard chipset cooler uses for mounting. If your chipset uses the wire tension system the installation is very straight forward. You simply remove the tension wire, gently remove the heatsink (it may be stuck so a gentle twisting motion usually helps break the old TIMs suction), clean the chip, apply some new TIM, install the rubber gasket (if necessary) and then place the ChipChilla in place and reinstall the tensioning wire. Simple, no fuss, no removal of the motherboard and reading this paragraph probably takes more time than actually doing it does. That is the easy way.

If your chipset uses the pushpin mounting system you will have to remove your motherboard from the case. Once you have removed the case simply turn the motherboard over and using a pair of needle nose pliers gently squeeze the small plastic arms that keep the pushpins in position. If you are not careful the heatsink will pop of, bang off a few parts of the motherboard and go crashing to the floor. Trust us, the chances of this happening is directly proportional to the number of people watching you while you do it. Heck, if you do this yourself even if this does happen....no one has to know. Where as if your best buddy has brought over his overheating 965 for you to install the ChipChilla on it is darn near a certainty that it fly off smack you in the gut and go flying across the room. So please be careful and keep one hand on the old heatsink while removing it.


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Either installation method is not really difficult but it can be complicated by the necessity of installing the rubber gasket. The gasket is only needed if your chipset doesn't include an Integrated Heat Spreader. If you are not sure take a close look at the chip, if it the size of your smallest fingernail and doesn't have that shiny metallic look to it, it probably doesn't have an IHS. When in doubt install the gasket, install the ChipChilla but don't install the mounting hardware. Let gravity have its way with it for a moment and then remove the ChipChilla and see if the TIM was evenly spread. If it is not spread and instead is still just a grain of rice then the gasket definitely does not need to be used.

The only downside to this cooler is if you happen to use AMD systems. With AMD systems there is no northbridge and if you do decide to use this guy for you southbridge cooling you should be aware that it can interfere with graphics cards, it all depends on where you particular south bridge is located in relation to the PCI-e slot. Luckily, this may not be a deal breaker, as the ChipChilla’s pushpin arms do swing so you may be able to mount it on enough of an angle so that it does not interfere in mounting your video card.
 
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Testing Methodology

Testing Methodology:



All comparison testing was done in a closed cased with an ambient temperature of 20c. Average load temps were taken after 60 minutes of running Prime95 v25.4 “Large fft” and are taken directly from the hottest part of the heatsink using a Digital Infrared Thermometer. The infrared thermometer used has a 9 to 1 ratio, meaning that at 9cm it takes it reading from a 1 square cm. To obtain the numbers used in this review the thermometer was held approximately 3cm away from the heatsink and only the hottest number obtained was used. Idle temps were taken 30 minutes after Load testing ceased. NB voltage was left at stock.

Arctic Cooling MX-2 thermal paste was used for all NB coolers during these tests unless otherwise noted. Application of all thermal paste was according to the manufacturer’s instructions. All tests were run 4 times and only best results are represented.

Complete Test System:
Processor: Q6600 @ 3.0GHZ
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-P965-DS3
Memory: 4GB G.Skill PC2-6400
Graphics card: XFX 7200gt 128mb
Hard Drives: 1x Western Digital Se16 320GB (single platter)
Power Supply: Seasonic S12 600W
Thermometer: Micro Temp Digital Infrared Thermometer MT-Pro model

Notes on the motherboard used:
In the beginning an ASrock p31 motherboard was planned on being used for this review, however it is a very cool running motherboard and would not have done justice to this cooling solution. In an effort to bring you our readers the best review possible a Gigabyte p965 (and a laser infrared thermometer) were obtained for testing. Due to the fact that this motherboard had to A) be returned the next day and more importantly B) had to be in working condition we have left all NB voltage as stock. When this motherboard was originally used in an Antec SLK3000B case with only two 120mm fans for cooling, its average temperature was in the mid 60°C range. Approximately 4 months ago, on my recommendation this motherboard was moved to a CoolerMaster CM690 case with six 120mm Scythe E fans to cool it (sounds familiar? It should as this is the same setup I use for most of my reviews). This markedly increased case airflow in combination with the TIM being replaced with MX-2 lowered average temperature to the mid to high 40s when the system was maxed out. Needless to say this motherboard requires a lot of air flow to stay cool. Due to the time limitations all pictures used in this review will be those of the ASRock p31 motherboard.
 
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Test Results

Test Results




As you can see the ChipChilla is able to a significantly better job at cooling the northbridge than the stock heatsink was able to. When the dust cleared the ChipChilla showed a drop of f 5° Celsius on idle and 4° Celsius while under load. That is a significant decrease and if we had been able to really push this motherboard right to the edge I am sure that the difference would have been even larger.
 
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AkG

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Conclusion

Conclusion

Good price, good performance, easy installation; any of these things are adjectives that you could use when describing the ChipChilla. We also like the fact that this cooler has several easy mounting options. Without a doubt, when you take everything into account the ChipChilla is reasonably priced and performs very well and it is extremely easy to install yet this still somehow fails to convey how good a unit this little thing really is. The funny thing is if forced to just pick two words to describe it they wouldn’t be any of the above, they would be: Good Investment. In the end all the other pros about this unit are nice little perks that make the ChipChilla a great unit to own. However when it all boils down to it, I would trust this chipset cooler to keep anyone's hot running board from frying itself and that is the highest acclaim that I can bestow on any piece of kit.

With a price that is less than its passive competition, and its great performance the ChipChilla easily qualifies as a Damn Good Value. With all that being said there is always room for improvement and I would really have liked to have seen the ChipChilla have dual heatpipes instead of the single one it has, that and would it have been so hard to allow it to accept two fans? If you expect this unit to perform miracles or want even better performance than maybe it is time to strongly consider water cooling as that is really the only option left if the ChipChilla isn't good enough for you.


Pros:

- Quiet fan
- Mounting kit includes both tension and pushpin
- Easy Installation
- Price

Cons:

- Only accepts one fan



Special Thanks to Coolink for providing this unit for review.​
 
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