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EVGA Superclock CPU Cooler Review

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AkG

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Not that long ago many in this industry sat up and took notice of an announcement that seemingly came out of left field: EVGA, that perennial bastion of NVIDIA graphics cards would be releasing a CPU cooler. This shouldn’t have come as a shock considering many AMD and NVIDIA board partners have been looking to expand their portfolios so they aren’t tied at the hip to the success or failure of a single graphics architecture. EVGA’s approach in this regard has worked well since they have had a long line of successful motherboards and peripherals but CPU cooling is a new realm altogether. But in order to quickly familiarize their potential customers with this new heatsink, it was decided to use the well known and oft used Superclock moniker.

So here we have what looks like a brand new cooler but believe it or not, their design has been used before with some success. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel EVGA made the decision to use a modified version of the Swiftech Polaris 120 which features a typical Heatpipe Direct Touch (HDT) layout and a high performance 120mm fan.

We have seen the collaborative approach work quite well for some like Corsair and CoolIT (their H60 is impressive to say the least) but others have become victims of their own success. Buying an existing design can be a risky proposition simply because consumers will wonder why they should buy a rebadged product rather than the original. Luckily, EVGA has foreseen this issue and has somewhat negated it by giving the Superclock a lower price than the Polaris 120. With an average price of about $53, this heatsink costs about 12% less than its Swiftech clone and retains EVGA’s well known customer service. It also comes in a black finish as opposed to Swiftech’s somewhat boring nickel plating.

One of the main benefits of rebranding is the possibility of improving upon an existing design in order to offer something new to the market. So we’re hoping EVGA has seen fit to rectify some of the Polaris 120’s faults. But make no mistake about it; $50 is a good chunk of change to spend on any air-based heatsink so our expectations for this one are running quite high.


 
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AkG

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Specifications

Specifications










 
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A Closer Look at the EVGA Superclock CPU Cooler

A Closer Look at the EVGA SuperClock CPU Cooler



EVGA did a good job with their packaging as the information placed upon it is clear and concise while the design does stand out quite well. Meanwhile, the internal protection scheme consists of thick foam which warps around the SuperClock and should protect it from most of life’s bumps and bruises.


The list of accessories which accompanies EVGA’s Superclock is certainly well fleshed out, even when compared against similarly priced products. The instructions are clear and concise and written in a bevy of languages while the mounting equipment covers every AMD or Intel system from the last few years (AM2/3, 775, 1155, 1156, 1366). Also included is a small multi-use tube of TIM, a clear (with red LEDs) 120mm fan and a pair of fan mounting brackets.

The lack of additional fan brackets is a bit disappointing since it points to one of the limitations of this cooler: it can only mount a single 120mm fan. Considering many other heatsink in this price range can easily augment their performance with a second fan, EVGA’s seems to be clearly lacking in this regard.


Philosophizers like to say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we subscribe to a much simpler philosophy: beauty is skin deep, but ugly goes to the bone. Regardless of its inability to mount two fans, this is one gorgeous product which displays a high quality of fit and finish. Its black anodized fin array looks positively striking when viewed alone and once installed into a case, it mostly disappears from view which helps play up9 the red LEDs mounted onto the clear fan.


One of the most interesting aspects of the Superclock is how squat it is compared to some other tower-style heatsinks. Instead of extending the tower upwards to gain cooling mass, the designers have packed as many fins as possible into a condensed area. The result is a performance oriented heatsink with svelte dimensions of 152mm x 135mm x 91mm but a weight that comes in at 740 grams without the fan installed.


While it certainly has the look of a supermodel made inanimate, don’t the Superclock's killer lines fool you since there is a heavy helping of solid engineering poured into this design. Take for example the fin array itself. The cooling fins’ tips have been bent down which certainly helps in the aesthetics department while also promoting air flow through the fin array. Once air is pushed into the array it has no choice but pick up as much heat as possible and then exit from the rear rather than out the sides. The back corners have also been rounded to further improve airflow performance.
 
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AkG

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A Closer Look at the EVGA Superclock pg.2

A Closer Look at the EVGA SuperClock pg.2



While the Superclock appears to be a single tower design from the outside, within the tower itself there are some interesting design tweaks. The area between both sets of heatpipes has actually been removed to form a large air dam which directs the airflow through the fin array. This makes the Superclock more akin to a dual tower design rather than a single continuous fin array.

By combining this air dam, with a seemingly random backwards V pattern layout to the heatpipes, two (what EVGA calls) “wind tunnels” are created. These wind tunnels force the air along longer paths as it winds its way through the fin array which should further increase the amount heat it can disperse. These paths also help promote even cooling of all the heatpipes as the air passes by each and every one of them on its travels through the fin array.


In all, there are five large 8mm U shaped heatpipes in this design. We have a strong fondness for 8mm as the amount of heat they can absorb is much higher than the more typical 6mm.


Helping to reduce noise and the static pressure needed to overcome the most likely high resistance of this fin array is a dual concave pattern on the Superclock’s fin face. While you cannot see this wave pattern when the fan is attached, it still does its job. This pressure reducing face coupled with the saw tooth pattern of the fins themselves makes for a design which should be able to properly offset the additional static pressure requirements of forcing the air all the way through the array.

Unlike most large coolers, this design should actually provide very favorable results at stock heat loads. We say this as the EVGA Superclock uses a Heatpipe Direct Touch design rather than a solid base. The only issue we have with HDT’s is the application of TIM is radically different than that of your standard CPU cooling solution. We recommend at least 3 to 4 ultra thin lines in between these heatpipes. Apply the same amount of TIM as you would in the “pea method”, but do so over a greater area.


Unfortunately, the Superclock’s base also suffers from the same flaw as almost every other HDT cooler we’ve looked at: a subpar finish. Honestly though, by now this should be expected since a mirror finish is extremely hard to achieve and unfortunately expensive to reproduce on exposed heatpipes. So we didn’t really expect a perfect base and for what it’s worth, the Superclock’s is far better than some of the competition.


The fan which comes standard with the EVGA Superclock uses a clear design with red LEDS, is rated for 750 to 2500 RPM and can produce between 26 and 84 CFM. While these are far from the most impressive specs we have seen, they are certainly is more than adequate on a sub-$60 heatsink. To cap things off it uses a well braided wire which is attached to 4 pin connector and is PWM capable.

For such a fast-running fan, its noise signature is not all that bad until it really ramps up past the (approximate) 1700 RPM point.
 
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AkG

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Installation

Installation


The installation process is something which can make or break a heatsink. We seen heatsinks which feature and overly simple process but fail to apply enough pressure once mounted while others are so complicated, they make you want to walk away in disgust. EVGA’s on the other hand strikes a delicate balance between somewhat easy and utterly frustrating due to its Byzantine design. There is maddening number of components, many of which tend to roll away and get lost under your desk and they all need to be present and accounted throughout installation. Just imagine a giant Lego set made out of metal components (or should we call it Meccano?) and you’ll have a vague idea what this installation will entail. Thankfully, EVGA’s instructions are very well done.


The first thing that needs to be done is a quick configuration of the backplate for your motherboard’s socket type. Both AMD and Intel systems use the same backplate; you simply chose which of the numerous mounting holes to use. Since ours is a 1366 system we ran each of the bolts through the corner holes and pushed them all the way outwards as the 1366 socket’s mounting slots are the widest of the various (supported) Intel socket types.

With this done, a small flat retaining nut needs to be threaded onto each of the main bolts. However, be sure the nuts used are the small flat style and not the thicker ones as choosing incorrectly will create major problems later on. Confused yet?

Believe it or not this is just the tip of the iceberg since small self adhesive rubber washers have to then be placed over each nut and the installation marches on…


The backplate can then be easily installed since the self adhesive washers firmly hold it in place. With this done, yet another nut needs to be threaded onto the bolts along with more rubberized washers. This is tedious to say the least, but by having these washers on the top and bottom of your motherboard there is much less likelihood that a short can occur.


Other than applying the thermal compound and mounting the heatsink’s retention plate, one of the final steps is to attach and tighten another four nuts which will firmly secure the Superclock into place. Think you’re done? Not so fast!


With everything tightened down, another retaining bracket (a small rectangular looking bracket) needs to be installed by carefully slipping it between the heatpipes and over the two small bolts attached to the top retaining bracket. Then using the last of FOURTEEN nuts, this bracket gets secure to the top plate.


With the mounting complete, all that’s left fan installation via the tried, tested and true dual wire friction clips. Installing these two custom formed wires into their mounting holes was downright easy in comparison to rest of the instillation.


As we said at the beginning, this is not the most straightforward of installations but the end result may just be worth the extra time and frustration. To be perfectly candid, this is easily the most over-engineered mounting setup we have ever seen but in the end, it works very, very well.


When it comes to installation conflicts, we are happy to report that we didn’t run into any on our board since this heatsink has a relatively small footprint for such a heavy design. With that being said, if you do install the EVGA Superclock on a motherboard which has higher than usual heatsinks, you may run into issues with the typical East / West orientation. This is because a bit of the fin array does overhang the northbridge heatsink on our Gigabyte motherboard but we doubt anyone will come across a motherboard where you cannot install it in any orientation.
 
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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 things had to be changed or altered.


Thermal Paste and Application Methods:

Arctic Cooling MX-2 thermal paste was used for all coolers during these tests unless otherwise noted.

For all non HDT coolers, application of thermal paste was in accordance with the TIM manufacturer’s instructions; and while not necessary, the TIM was allowed to cure for 24 hours under moderate to high loads (with periods of low loads) prior to testing.

For all 3 pipe HDT coolers two lines of TIM is applied to the two centre metal posts and for all 4 pipe HDTS three (smaller) lines of TIM are applied to the metal posts. This method has been found to provide significantly better coverage than the more typical methods.


Fans Used

120mm:
For all CPU Cooling Solutions which do not come with their own fan, a Noctua NF-P12-1300 and a Scythe S-Flex “G” 1900RPM fan will be used if it accepts 120mm fans. With these two fans we are able to simulate different fan speed conditions as indicated below.


Low Speed:

900RPM with a Noctua NF-P12-1300 with ULNA adapter. To be more precise our specific fan runs at 930RPMs. Any stock fan which comes with the ability of being controlled by means other than the motherboard (e.g. remote fan speed controller, potentiometer, rheostat, etc) will be set to this speed during the low speed test and BOTH sets of performance results will be included.


Moderate Speed:

1300RPM Noctua NF-P12-1300 with NO adapters used. To be more precise our specific fan runs at 1326RPMs. Any stock fan which comes with the ability of being controlled by means other than the motherboard (e.g. remote fan speed controller, potentiometer, rheostat, etc) will be set to this speed during the moderate speed test and BOTH sets of performance results will be included.


High Speed:

1900RPM Scythe S-Flex “G”. To be more precise our specific fan runs at 1860RPMs. Any stock fan which comes with the ability of being controlled by means other than the motherboard (e.g. remote fan speed controller, potentiometer, rheostat, etc) will be set to this speed during the High speed test and BOTH sets of performance results will be included.


Dual Fans*:

Dual NF-P12-1300s

*Dual fans only used if the cooler comes with the necessary mounting hardware.


92mm Fan:

If the cooler being tested only accepts 92mm fans, a Noctua NF-B9-1600 will be used.

If the given CPU cooling solution comes with a stock fan we will also include its numbers in the closest of the main tests BUT we will also include our standard fan results in that particular tests.


Fan Notes:

- If a heatsink cannot mount an aftermarket fan, we will be only including the stock fan results. However, if the stock fan speed can be precisely controlled by means other than the motherboard BIOS (an included remote fan speed controller, potentiometer, rheostat, etc), the cooler will be tested at different fan speeds.

- For dual fan results ALL coolers capable of mounting two fans (and come with the necessary hardware) will be tested with two NF-P12s and the Dual Fan graph will contain data for other such dual capable fan coolers.


We feel that the combination of multiple speeds and multiple fans will allow us to give you our readers clear and precise idea of the capabilities of a given unit, in an accurate comparison. It will also help eliminate the occasional “zinger” such as when a manufacturer includes an extremely high-speed fan in order to possibly offset poor heat sink thermal performance.


Environment:

All comparison testing was done on an open bench with a constant ambient temperature of 24°C. If at any time the room temperature increased or decreased by more than 1°C, testing was halted until the temperature constant was re-established.


Testbed:



Unlike our previous methodology which used an open bench setup with a horizontally orientated motherboard, our new open bench is a modified Tech Station with a twist.

It has been modified so that the motherboard is in a more typical vertical orientation as it would be when installed in a case.

This has been done by the simple expedient of drilling out the bumper pads and threading long bolts (typically used for mounting fans to water cooling radiators) up through the top base of the tech station. Then by simply threading the bolts up through the motherboard we can then secure said motherboard to the tech station. Rubber mounts followed by a nut ensures that nothing moves. When the motherboard has been secured we simply tip the tech station on its side and using weights on the lower “legs” to keep it from tipping over we end up with a vertical orientated motherboard which is safe and secure yet still an open, controlled benching environment.


Mounting Orientation:

Only the typical East / West (aka forward / back) orientation will be used.


Temperature Recording:

Recorded temps were as reported via the Real Temp plug-in for the RivaTuner monitor program.

Max and Average load temps are based on 15 minutes of running Prime95 “small fft” and are taken directly from RivaTuner’s built in capabilities.

The maximum temperatures will be the highest recorded temp displayed for any of the cores during the 15 minute test. While RivaTuner will display each core's average temperature it does not easily show the average of ALL the cores. To this end we will be simply taking the average of all the cores adding them together and then dividing by the number of cores.

If during any test temperatures of 90°C or more are displayed in RivaTuner (for any core) for more than 10 consecutive seconds the testing will be halted and that test run will be considered a "fail".

Idle temperatures are the lowest recorded temperature during idle period as recorded by the RealTemp Rivatuner monitoring program.

All CPU throttling technology was disabled in the BIOS; as was all CPU fan speed control. In addition, Turbo Mode was disabled and Hyperthreading was enabled.

All tests are run a minimum of three times and only the best results are represented.

Maximum voltage used is 1.35 volts.


Charts & Graphs:

Due to clutter and confusion we now will only be including the best of the best. We understand that “best” does mean different things to different people, to this end we will only be including what we feel are the best representatives of the main price ranges. These main prices ranges approximately are Intel OEM (free), $30, $40, $50, $60, and unlimited. Please keep in mind that prices are variable and while we have done our best to pick what we feel best represents a given price range there can and will be some overlap as these price ranges are not set in stone (with the exception being the Intel OEM cooler). To further help clarify a given cooler’s performance we will also be including a seventh CPU cooling solution, a cooling solution which irregardless of price best exemplifies what a good “all round” dual fan capable cooler should be. For the time being this last will be the TRUE Black. After each published cooler review we will re-evaluate the coolers being included in the charts and based on the value or performance may swap out a cooler for a cooler that was just reviewed.

This way you will not only know how it compares to the Intel stock unit and the best Damn Good Value coolers but also the best of the best Damn Good coolers out there. In grand total there will only be 8 coolers represented in a graph. However, if the review is a “round up” review this limitation will be extended to include all coolers in that review plus the above 7 cooling solutions. We will endeavour to keep the number as low as possible while still giving an accurate picture of the performance of all coolers being reviewed.

Each chart will include the Maximum or “peak” temperature we recorded, the average temperature and the idle temperature.

No passive results will be shown UNLESS manufacturer claims the ability to passively cool a processor. If a manufacturer claims passive capabilities we will include the performance numbers in the charts. The only exception to this is if the review is a “review roundup” and to keep the charts from becoming confusing we may not do so.


Sound Pressure Testing:

To give a more accurate and less of a personal opinion on the noise level of the stock fan which accompanies the heatsink, we have included a new section for sound pressure testing. These tests are done in our open case setup outlined above with the meter positioned 30 inches away from the cooler and mounted on a tripod. To ensure the background noise does not skew the results all tests will start by recording the ambient noise of the room. Only when it meets our standards will the testing commence.

To ensure that no external noise unduly skews the results, the GPU used will be a passively cooled unit and the only active fan will be the one on the cooler while the PSU and HDD are isolated away from the immediate area.

These tests are run late at night when no other people or animals are awake and thus unable to influence the results.

All fans are run at their maximum speed with no voltage or PWM control being used during the sound pressure tests.

The sound pressure meter used is a DT-805 which has been professionally calibrated and NIST certified. We will record the highest levels obtained with said meter and record it as our result. The test will be 15 minutes long and will be run while the fan is running full speed via a Molex connector and the CPU cores are under a full load via Prime 95 Small FFT.

Please note: The Scythe S-Flex G and Noctua NF-P12-1300 (at 1300 and 900rpms) numbers are taken when mounted to a Cooler Master Hyper 212+. We feel that it would be extremely unfair and unrealistic to include noise rating for these after market fans if they were NOT mounted onto a cooler. They are included to help give some sense of proportion to the charts and allow you to more easily compare a stock fan against a known quantity.


Complete Test System:


Processor: Intel i7 920

Motherboard: Gigabyte X58-UD3R

Memory: 6GB Aneon Xtune DDR3-1600

Graphics card: EVGA 7300GT passive

Hard Drive: 1x WD 320GB single platter

Power Supply: Topower Powerbird 900W


Special thanks to Direct Canada for their support and supplying the i7 920 CPU.

Special thanks to Gigabyte for their support and supplying the i7 motherboard.
 
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AkG

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Stock Fan Performance Results

Stock Fan Performance Results










When the processor is running at stock speeds this single fan heatsink is actually able to compete dual fan designs. A lot of this has to do with the ultra fast fan that EVGA has opted for, but a lot also has to do with the fact that HDT CPU cooling solutions are just more efficient on the lower end of the heat spectrum. While it does start to fall from grace at higher clock speeds, even at maximum overclocks the Superclock does an honorably decent job with its stock fan.
 
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High Speed Fan Performance Results

High Speed Fan Performance Results









You know you have a high speed, high performance (and high noise) stock fan on your hands when the results for a 1900RPM Scythe G are worse than the stock solution. Once again, the Superclock does a decent to excellent job of keeping our CPU cool, but it is not able to keep up with more robust designs at higher heatloads when paired with a slightly lower RPM fan.
 
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Mid Speed Fan Performance Results

Mid Speed Fan Performance Results








While these numbers are still very decent, it seems like the Superclock's fin array and HDT design certainly needs high speed, high performance fans to truly shine. As we saw in other tests, it does very well at lower heat loads but then starts falling by the wayside when overclocks are pushed.
 
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Low Speed Fan Performance Results

Low Speed Fan Performance Results








As you can see the EVGA Superclock, was able to finish all of our low speed tests successfully which definitely speaks volumes of its design. On the other hand it seems like neither the fin array nor the single fan can disperse the heat as fast as the heatpipes can whisk it away from the CPU.
 
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