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Gelid Silent Spirit CPU Cooler Review

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AkG

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Gelid Solutions Silent Spirit CPU Cooler Review




Manufacturer Product Page: GELID Solutions > Products
TechWiki Info: Gelid Silent Spirit
Availability:
soon
Price: $35.99
Warranty: 5yr



Just recently we were looking at our Air based CPU charts and noticed a marked lack of smaller CPU cooling solutions. At the time we were not overly worried as we knew a certain new kid on the block was sending their first ever cooler our way and would fix this perceived limitation quiet nicely. As it so happens we didn’t have long to wait as two days later a rather small cardboard box was delivered to us and inside lay the brand new Gelid Silent Spirit.

The name Gelid is not what you would call a house hold name when it comes to CPU cooling solutions and that is to be expected as this is their first attempt in this highly competitive industry niche. Gelid is probably best known for the silent running “Wing” and “Silent” series of case fans; however, even here you could be forgiven for not knowing who we are talking about as Gelid only opened for business this year. With that being said, the name Gebhard Scherrer -one of the dynamic duo who started Arctic Cooling back in 2001- should ring a few bells as he and his business associate VC Tran are for all intents and purposes the driving force behind this new Hong Kong based company. With talent like that on board this company is certainly going to be one to keep an eye on in the future. As for how they came up with the name Gelid, it comes from the Latin word “gelidus”, which means Icy or cold, which we think is a fitting name for a cooling solution company.

As for the Silent Spirit cooler itself, this is an ultra quiet, hybrid downdraft cooler which is designed as a low noise solution. It is slowly becoming available at retailer and e-tailers throughout the country and should go for about $35. The Silent Spirit is not designed nor intended for monster overclocking, nor is it designed for passive cooling. What this cooler has been designed to do is provide adequate cooling and do it with as little noise as possible. This is certainly a lofty goal, and we are interested to see if they are able to pull it off as this reviewer is a silent PC enthusiast at heart who loves to root for the underdog. Only time and testing will tell whether or not it lives up to it expectations, and I for one am itching to see what it can do.

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Specifications

Specifications



 
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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories




The very first thing which springs to mind when looking at this box is not its bland exterior but the fact it is so gosh darn TINY! The lack of size does take some getting used to but when we did get over the hobbit-like dimensions our next thought was “Ick…. It looks like the poster child for some late Soviet Era Institutional packaging... ” Needless to say we are not what you would call fond lovers of white and light gray colour schemes.


We are inclined to cut them a lot of slack on the box as they did get the more important things right with the packaging scheme; and when its all said and done its getting the product from point A to B intact and unharmed that matters most. In point of fact, not only is the box a fairly secure and stable protective device it does get a few things right in the advertising department; namely it does have a lot of good information about the product on its sides and its shear diminutive size may overcome its bland appearance enough to entice even the most jaded of consumer to pick it up and investigate it further. We are doubtful on the latter but you never can tell!


As we mentioned earlier this box is down right SMALL, and it is amazing that a cooler can actually fit inside it, let alone have decent protective scheme. However, first impressions can be deceiving and just like the Tardis police box is bigger on the inside than the outside so too is this box! Lurking inside, the bland exterior lies two molded plastic cups which secure the Silent Spirit in place in transit. It is unusual to see this route taken as we are accustomed to the more tried and true methods of foam and cardboard.


The list of accessories which accompany the Silent Spirit are in keeping with the budget price range of this cooler. In a nut shell you get a pre-applied layer of TIM on the Silent Spirit itself, a folded manual, pre-installed pushpin style Intel 775 mounting brackets, AMD 939/AM2 brackets and that’s about it. This may seem a little on the anemic side, but it everything you really need and given the price point any additional “swag” would have simply increased the price. To us we rather have a bare bones accessory list and a few extra bucks in our pockets to buy our own darn goodies than have a long list of (mostly) frivolous goo-gaws jacking up the price.
 
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Heatsink Construction & Design

Heatsink Construction & Design




If upon first seeing the Silent Spirit your first thought is “someone took a hammer too a AC Freezer 7 Pro and bent the fin and heatpipe assembly over by about 75° " you would have had the exact same thought we did! In point of fact, the similarities are a lot more than skin deep as this cooler does have four short heatpipes, a relatively small fin assembly and a “cases-less” / skeletonized fan on top of it...just like the AC CPU cooling solution.

Is this cooler a clone of the AC Freezer 7 Pro or is it a refinement of that design? Where both coolers were designed by the same man and this cooler is a more recent cooler, we are inclined to think of it as a refinement upon that design as it does have some differences from the AC cooler. We will go over those differences in a moment but for now lets start at the base of this unit and work our way up.


As previously mentioned this cooler is a heatpipe based unit; however it does not take advantage of the Heatpipe Direct Touch technology but rather it uses the more old fashioned way of heating up a solid chunk of metal which is in turn cooled by its four heatpipes.

While this is a dated design, Gelid has given it an interesting tweak: before HDTs came on the scene it was widely known that a thinner base would be more efficient at cooling the CPU than a thicker base. This is because it would transfer its heat to the heatpipes a lot quicker and easier and this is exactly what Gelid has done. The base of this unit is not only made of extremely thin material but is also solid copper (with metal stiffeners on each side for the mounting hardware). This combination should make for optimal heat transfer, which probably can’t be as efficient as a HDT solution but should still be fairly decent all the same.


The four heatpipes themselves are of the shorter, smaller variety typically found on more compact coolers. Unlike most tower designs which use large dual direction “U” shape heatpipes, these heatpipes are the shorter single direction “L” heatpipes. This style has been shown to be less effective and efficient than their larger brethren, but as this unit's number one priority is noise reduction and not heat reduction they should be more than adequate for the job.


As mentioned before, the base of this unit is solid copper with two wings of aluminum, which are not meant to transfer heat from a CPU; rather their job is to provide extra strength for the mounting brackets and the necessary width as well.

The polish of the base is certain first rate, but there are still some minor tool markings which you can feel with your fingernail. Of course, as this base is solid copper it will probably loose that pretty mirror like shine fairly fast as it tarnishes. We really must say that this base is easily above average if this was a $50 unit but the fact that this good a finish is found on a $35 CPU cooling solution is down right amazing.


Moving on to the top of the base you can see Gelid has taken the time and resources to turn it into a secondary heatsink with five rows of fins cut out of the aluminum top. This top may be aluminum and thus rust resistant but Gelid has taken the extra step and had it nickel plated. With the recycled air blowing down and over these fins this should have a positive effect on the Silent Spirit's performance. This is because those fins may be small but there is a whole bunch of them, and surface area is the name of the game when it comes to passive heatsink blocks.


In the introduction, we called this cooler a hybrid downdraft because this is probably the most apt description we can give it. Unlike a tower cooler which stands up straight (90°) or your typical downdraft cooler which lies on it side, this cooler is bent up too about a 15° angle from horizontal. This does give it most of the advantages of a tower cooler, namely increased efficiency in the heatpipes (the heat can rise up and away from the heat source and cool and condense back down) yet also has the biggest advantage afforded to your typical downdraft cooler: increase motherboard cooling. This is certainly a very elegant solution as you really are getting (on paper at least) the best of both worlds with none of the major downsides. The only real disadvantage this design has is the heatpipes themselves are supporting all the weight and taking all the stress and strain created from the vibrations of the fan.


We have left the fin and fin assembly for last since in this one area you have the best and the worst that this cooler has to offer all wrapped up nice and tidy like. The biggest issue we have with these fins is how thin and cheap their construction is. In many ways they feel more like pieces of (rather thick) aluminum foil rather than aluminum fins. This does help keep weight the a minimum but the amount of thermal energy they can absorb and pass on is rather limited. On the positive side there is approximately 44 of these fins so what they lack individually, they almost make up for in quantity.


Also on the positive side this cooler has one of the best faces we have seen in a long, long while. Heck, in many ways it is even better than the Noctua NH-U and NH-C series faces, and that is some high praise indeed!

What Gelid has done is to break the front of this face down into small groups of fins with every two out of five fins taller than the others. This taken as a whole cuts the front face up into smaller chunks and makes the most efficient use of what air movement the Silent Spirit's smallish fan affords it. To further increase the efficiency of its face, Gelid has taken a page from the water cooling section and places a fan shroud between the fan and the heatsink. It may not be a very big shroud but it certainly helps reduce dead zones and reduces static pressure. This one – two combination is certainly effective and should significantly increase the heatsinks’ efficiency. We just wish those flimsy fins were worth such an elegant and refined design.

As we said earlier, the fins and fin assembly best sum up this cooler’s design and construction. On the one hand you have some really good engineering going into the Silent Spirit's design but its actual construction leaves a lot to be desired. With most new companies we would attribute this duality to nothing more than first time “rookie mistakes” and leave it at that; however in the case of Gelid, they might be a new company but the founders of it are certainly not rookies. As the old saying goes "you only get one chance to make a good first impression" and while the impression we are forming is better than it was in the first section, it still has a lot of catching up to do if it wants to impress us.
 
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AkG

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Fan Design

FAN DESIGN



The fan which accompanies the Silent Spirit is listed in the specification as being a 100.5mm x 100.5mm x 45mm fan. In reality this Chinese made, 7 bladed fan (model number G12922524(M)-P) is a PWM capable 92mm unit which is about 35mm high and is rated for a maximum 45.8 CFM at a top speed of 2400rpm. The reason the specification listed on the fan (via its model number) differs from those listed in the Silent Spirit’s specifications page is very simple; in the Silent Spirit configuration Gelid is including the 10mm high fan shroud. This may be bit disingenuous but neither set of numbers are factually incorrect. It really all depends on how you look at it.


The most important feature of this fan is not the fact that it is case-less which will decrease static pressure and noise; nor is it the fact the 4 pin fan cable is totally sheathed in a braided material. No, the biggest feature of this fan is the fact that it is a Fluid Dynamic Bearing fan. Gelid may call it a “HydroDynamic Bearing” but a rose by any other name is still a rose (….or something like that, you get the idea).

The reason we put this feature above all the others is for the simple fact that FDBs are usually low noise, low vibration fans. Even though this fan does spin at a staggering 2400rpm it is actually very, very quiet, and at its top speed most of the noise created is air movement and not bearing noise. To put just how quiet this fan is in perspective, we would estimate it to be about as quiet as a Scythe D model or even a Noctua NF-P1200-1300 with the ULTRA low noise adapter. Considering both of those fans are 120mm FDBs, that really is quite the accomplishment for a 92mm fan.

This fan is not only a quiet but it is also a very well designed fan exhibiting very little shaft or blade slop. It really is only at its top speed does this fan become noticeable and the built in anti-vibration rubber mounts really does a great job of eliminating the small amount of vibrations it creates.


As mentioned earlier this fan comes with a 4 pin PWM capable cable which is not only fairly long at 250mm (aprx 10 inches) but is also fully sheathed in a braided black material. This is certainly a potent combination and is definitely a huge enticement to purchasing this unit.

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 Silent Spirit comes with a 5 year warranty.

Overall, this is very, very good fan which will make all but the most exacting silentPC enthusiast happy. The best thing about it is the fact that it is a standard size 92mm fan (albeit an oddball height one) so if you don’t like it, you can swap out it for a bigger, higher performance fan, via a 92mm to 120mm fan adapter, and still get all the benefits from the included 10mm fan shroud. To us this a win – win situation. The fact, that this cooler is priced the way it is, just adds icing to the cake as far as we are concerned.
 
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Installation

Installation



Our past experience with pushpin coolers has been a mixed bag to say the least; heck some would go as far to say its been a real dogs breakfast with everything from the Good (Asus TRITON), the BAD (Xigmatek HDT S1283) and the UGLY (OCZ Gladiator MAX). If there is one thing that we have learned it is the most benign and innocuous looking cooler can end up being the biggest pain in the butt to install, and by the looks of this cooler this is going to be either a really easy or really curse worthy situation.


Since we are planning on using the Silent Spirit on Intel 775 based CPUs the first major hurdle (attaching the necessary brackets to the cooler) is already taken care for you, as they come pre-installed! This is always a nice bonus and certainly does shave a good minute or so off the time required for installation.

So far things seemed like they were looking up and we were in for a real easy ride! We will not debate the many merits and negatives of the pushpin setup, but we will say that this is a very light cooler (weighing in at only 370 grams) so we are not worried about the plastic plungers bending under its weight. After all, the Intel maximum weight for the 775 pushpin mounting setup is 550 grams. To put it another way this feather light cooler is certainly not going to overly stress the plastic pins so don’t worry about it.


The next thing we like to do after the cooler is ready for installation is prep the CPU, apply the TIM and then prep the bottom of the base of the cooler itself. In this instance this meant wiping away the very nicely and professionally applied GC1 TIM. As for the TIM installation itself we reached for out handy 1cc syringe which we have preloaded with MX-2 and used that for all testing phases.


With the cooler fully prepped and ready for installation the only thing left to do was make sure the four plungers were in their correct installation configuration and then gently place the Silent Spirit into position and press gently down on the four plungers. We pressed firmly yet gently on two of them at a time (diagonally opposed) to reduce pressure on the CPU.

In many instances a downdraft cooler can cause a lot of hassle getting all four plungers properly engaged but as this is a hybrid setup it was as easy as any tower style cooler; and in fact, was easier than even most of those. Needless to say we were pretty impressed with how easy the cooler was to install. We may still not be fond lovers of the pushpin installation but this certainly has shown that its not only Intel who knows how to get it right. Bravo Gelid for getting it right in an area in which many a veteran companies seem unable to excel.
 
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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; however all CPU fan speed control was not disabled. Since the Gelid fan is PWM capable, fan speed control was set to Auto.

Arctic Cooling MX-2 thermal paste was used for all coolers during these tests unless otherwise noted. Application of thermal paste for the U9B was in accordance with 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: Q6600 & E4600
Motherboard: Gigabyte p35 DS4
Memory: 4GB Mushkin HP2 PC6400
Graphics card: Asus 8800GT
Hard Drives: 1x Western Digital Se16 320GB (single platter)
Power Supply: Seasonic S12 600W
 
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E4600 Performance Results

E4600 Performance Results









While these numbers are in the bottom third of our charts they are still fairly decent given the low price point of this unit. More importantly they are a heck of lot better than stock numbers, and the Silent Spirit does it within a very small noise envelope. Even better is the fact that when you weed out the 120mm based CPU cooling solutions and take a close look at the numbers left a very interesting trend emerges; namely, this $35 cooler is darn near close to being as good as the Noctua NH-U9! That is quiet the accomplishment as that cooler is not what you call inexpensive.
 
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Q6600 Performance Results

Q6600 Performance Results








When we placed the Silent Spirit on our quad CPU it did struggle to cool it properly; however, the numbers are still better than stock and are even better than some of our other quiet-running coolers (namely the ASUS Triton). Is this cooler a good choice for a Q6600? The answer is yes and no; it is capable of properly cooling processors within this TDP level but others do it a lot better, and for about the same amount of money. The one thing that this cooler has in its favor is the ability to properly cool a hot running CPU while staying darn near inaudible while doing so.
 
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Passive Cooling

Passive Cooling


In certain extreme cases you may have to deal with a dead fan; or alternatively you are interested in using a certain cooler as a passive cooler. While we are hesitant to recommend any Air cooler for passive cooling, unless the manufacturer has designed it to be one, we all know things break and there is a possibility of ending up with a passively cooled device even if you neither meant nor wanted it to be so! To this end we have devised the following torture test to see how a given cooler will perform in a worst case scenario.

The following test will be PASS/FAIL unless a manufacture specifically states a CPU cooling solution is designed for passive cooling as we feel that do to otherwise would be very disingenuous and down right unfair. If it is designed for passive use we will of course provide hard data on its performance. We believe this is a fair and reasonable compromise between providing you our reader the most information possible, while still being fair and unbiased to the manufacturers.

Any one can create a test which has no possibility of success but that would be a waste of any ones time; this test on the other hand is as tough as we can make it and still have to possibility of success. What makes this test so difficult, is the simple reason that we will be testing in an open bench which has absolutely no external air flow. Even in the most under-cooled cases there is always some air movement, even if the air movement is only coming from the PSU it is still a heck of a lot more than will be afforded a cooler on our open bench. As we stated earlier this is a worst case, scenario where the cooler will have to shed all the heat it can by simple passive radiation!

The first and main part of the test is 15 minutes of prime95 small fft being run at stock speed (2.4GHz) on our Quad Core Intel 775 Q6600. If at anytime the temperature of any of the four cores reaches and stays at 70° C for greater than 10 seconds we will consider this test a FAIL. If a given cooler fails this test a second set of tests will be run using out E4600 at stock speed (also 2.4GHz).

Please note: Any Air based CPU cooler which passes the Q6600 test will automatically be given a PASS grade on the cooler running secondary test. To keep things easier to understand the only time we will publish the update E4600 sub-test is when a given cooler has failed the main test.





There really is no surprises here, as lets face it this is a small cooler with tightly spaced fins. The only thing that was surprising was the fact that the dual core E4600 was more a race against time than a true instant failure like the quad core. With the Q6600 the temperatures temporarily stabilized as the all copper base was able to absorb a good chunk of heat but it quickly was overloaded and the same goes for the heatpipes.

With the E4600 the number stabilized longer and then slowly started to climb, but in the end the thermometer beat the clock and this test had to be aborted. All in all it comes down the small, cheap, flimsy and densely packed fins of this unit. These fins just can not do a good job of passively radiating heat away from the heatpipes. Of course this unit is not designed for passive setups so you really can’t hold this failure against it.
 
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