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Intel Core i7 / LGA1366 CPU Cooler Roundup

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Spire TherMax 2 Installation

Spire TherMax 2 Installation



For all intents and purposes, the TherMax 2 is an AMD cooler and Spire goes out of their way to make sure you know this. They have obviously spent time and money investing in this philosophy as they include an Intel backplate….and AMD style top mounts for both i7 and 775. Unfortunately, this means you are relying on plastic (albeit a lot more plastic than the standard 775/i7 clips) to not flex or fatigue in any way to ensure an even mounting pressure which is so crucial to good CPU temperatures.

On the positive side, this does make for a fairly easy installation procedure….not as easy as a pushpin cooler, as you do have to remove the motherboard from the case as install a backplate. Honestly, the only issue we have with this installation is the inclusion of far too many plastic bits.

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Intel i7 Installation​

As the AMD style plastic ring doesn’t bump or touch any motherboard components (it was tight…but it didn’t actually touch anything on our board) it is unlikely that this moderately- sided cooler will interfere with anything on your board. Helping things is the fact you can only mount a single fan and the TherMax 2’s fin array starts high enough to not touch most motherboard heatsinks or memory heatspreaders. Of course, this assumes that your motherboards heatsinks within the norms as there are always some products out there which buck the trend by installing massive cooling solutions.

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AMD Installation​

As this is first and foremost an AMD cooler, installation on AMD rigs could not be easier. Simply prep your CPU, apply TIM and mount the thing like you would any cooler not requiring a non standard AMD backplate. This really is the pleasure and the pain of this unit. It is easy to install but imposes its will way….far too much on Intel side of things. We cannot imagine a cooler company trying to cobble together an Intel pushpin setup for AMD systems so why should anyone want an AMD setup on Intel systems?

As with the Intel installation, Spire’s heatsink should not pose any challenges on AMD rigs. As long as the height of the cooler is compatible with your case you should experience smooth sailing installing it on most AMD motherboards.
 
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AkG

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Tuniq Tower 120 Extreme

Tuniq Tower 120 Extreme


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If the box of the Tower 120 Extreme is anything to go by this cooler is going to be downright massive. Honestly, the only thing we can compare it to (size wise) is the Cooler Master V10 shipping box. Yes, it really is that big. The box itself is not only large in physical size but is also large on details and has everything you could ever want to know about the contents it protect….heck they even include detailed specifications of the thermal compound that comes with the 120 Extreme.

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When we took this cooler out of the double box it was housed in, we were ready for a cooler of epic proportions and we were NOT disappointed. This thing is huge and with the fan, we estimate it to weight about 895 - 900 grams. Needless to say, Tuniq’s flagship NEEDS the backplate mounting assembly that it comes with since it’s not a lightweight by any stretch of the imagination.

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As mentioned earlier in this roundup, this cooler is only capable of mounting one fan and that fan sits sandwiched in between the two cooling towers. As such this design does give the Extreme a very boxy yet unique appearance.

The fins of the cooling array are done in a interesting wave-like pattern but the inner face (the sides nearest the centrally located fan) are flat and slab sided; this leads us to the opinion that the wave appearance is for ascetics purposes only and will have very little impact on the overall performance. Indeed, we have a sneaking suspicion the reason Tuniq stuck such a powerful / high speed fan in the Tower 120 Extreme is because it actually needs such a fan to overcome the inherent limitations of this less than optimal design. We really wish they had gone with either a 38mm thick fan or had included removable shrouds on a 25mm thick fan so that the customer could yank the fan and stick a really powerful 38mm thick one in there. As we said, we have a fairly low opinion of this design based on past experiences but we do love to root for the underdog.

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Hopefully, the fact that this is an HDT cooler increases overall efficiency makes make up for the perceived limitations we suspect it is going to have. That is a LOT of fin depth to suck air in and over but if anything can hide a less than optimal performance design it has to be 8mm heatpipes in direct contact with the CPU. As you can see, Tuniq’s heatsink does sport a very interesting HDT design. It has three 8mm heatpipes with two 6mm heatpipes inter-spaced. This in theory is a heck of a lot of cooling potential. Also on the positive side is the fact that the polish and finish of the base is above average for a cooler such as this.

The only concern we have is the fact the base seems to have been designed for a CPU with an IHS even bigger than the one found on Nehalem CPUs and we wonder if the outer two 8mm heat pipes are going to be in full contact with the CPU. If they are not, all you are left with cooling is one 8mm heatpipe and two 6mm heatpipes transferring heat away from the one area it shouldn’t build up in.

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The fan which is the heart of this Tuniq cooler is a Magnetic Fluid Dynamic Bearing unit; model AGA12025F121 which is most likely made by the SunbeamTech. This 120x25mm fan is rated for speeds varying from a moderately low 1000RPMs to a maximum of 2000RPMs. At its max speed it is rated to move a little over 90 CFM. However, since this fan has to fight to suck in air through fins and then push it out through even more densely packed fins, the most important numbers about its static pressure are absent. Magnetically enhanced FDB or not, we wish this was a 38mm thick fan with some serious static pressure numbers.

For those who do not know what FDBs are, they are basically a modified sleeve bearing where the fluid is sealed between the shaft of the motor and the sides. This allows for very little friction with very little noise, as such FDB fans are the preferred choice of many enthusiasts. A good FDB based fan will last longer than nearly any other technology out there and it will stay quiet for the life of the fan. The magnetic enhancement is a further tweak which helps keep the fan shaft from tilting or banging off the side walls of the bearing housing.

In true FDB tradition, this fan shows no shaft or off axis slop but we will see how it performs in our acoustical tests especially considering the fact that it does not include a PWM function.
 
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SKYMTL

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Tuniq Tower 120 Extreme Installation

Tuniq Tower 120 Extreme Installation


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When it comes to installing the 120 Extreme, the first thing you have to do is set up the backplate and screws. This is a very simply procedure as you simply thread the screws in through the bottom and then spin the angle shaped nuts tight onto the top of the back plate. Make sure to keep the tapered end up as they go through the holes in your motherboard. You should now have four long screws sticking up through the mounting holes looking like branchless steel trees sprouting up from around the CPU.

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At this point you need to prep the CPU and apply the TIM as you are now ready to install the cooler itself. Unfortunately, this is where the good times come to a halt since you will now need a pair of needle nosed pliers and a load of patience; heck you may want to lay some protective padding around the CPU area so you don’t slam into anything.

What causes all the pain and suffering, and easily doubles the install time is getting those mounting nuts installed onto the screws. The problem is all four are located under the Tower 120 Extreme and while Tuniq helpfully includes a flat headed screw driver indent in the top, it is next to impossible to get a screwdriver under the fin array. As you can imagine, we were ready to throw this cooler out the window by the time all four corners were complete.

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Intel i7 Installation​

The one saving grace of this heatsink is the fact that the fin array’s height means that you shouldn’t have to worry about it being compatible with your motherboard.

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AMD Installation​

On the AMD side of things the first thing you will have to do is add on the two AMD adapters. After this you basically go through the same issues as the Intel installation. However, all of you AMD fans also shouldn’t have any compatibility problems with your motherboard’s heatsinks.

So, what started as a perfectly good backplate installation turned out to be the hassle of a lifetime due to poor placement of the mounting screws in relation to the fins. What a shame.
 
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AkG

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Zalman CNPS10X Extreme cooler

Zalman CNPS10X Extreme


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The first thing we noticed was that the box of this Zalman cooler is massive and it easily dwarfs any other heatsink package we have seen to date. Not only does this box have an imposing size and feel to it, it is also a very sexy one as well! On both the sides and the back are a ton of pictures and detailed information which will allow you to make an informed decision on exactly what the CNPS10X has to offer. The reason the fan is so prominently displayed via a window is because Zalman is proud (and rightly so) of its capabilities. This fan is not only PWM capable but also comes with a remote control to allow you to manually adjust the speed.

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Even by just looking at it, and without needing to pick it up you KNOW this Zalman cooler is a beast. The official specifications state it weighs in at a heavy weight worthy 920grams (for all us old timers that is a little over two pounds). However, if the fan and all the plastic additions are removed, you are basically left with a cooler which weighs about as much as the original ProlimaTech Megahalems. This is certainly not a bad thing per say as most of that weight is made up of cooling fins but size wise, this Zalman heatsink is actually larger than ProlimaTech’s flagship.

While it may be huge, in our opinion the CNPS10X looks like a million bucks. Unlike most coolers on the market which come in a boring nude or “metal” color this heatsink is black and it in fact reminds us a lot of both the TRUE Black. Zalman calls this color “Black Pearl” but most likely this cooler has gone through a black nickel plating process similar to that of the TRUE black. Coupled with this finish, Zalman’s new cooler will look down right amazing with its LED fan in any windowed case.

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Even though CNPS10X only comes with a single fan, unlike other heatsinks in this price range it is nearly impossible to “ghetto mod” a second fan onto its fins via zip ties, crazy glue or even the handyman’s helper: duct tape. The reason it is impossible is that about half way down the fin array is an area of slightly extended fins. These longer fins are directly opposite where the fan’s hub resides on the other side. It appears at some point this design tweak was added to help overcome a fan’s dead zone and as such makes for the installation of a second fan a needlessly long chore.

Unfortunately, (or fortunately depending on your point of view) this cooler does not have a dead zone directly in front of the fan hub, nor does the fan sit directly on top of the fin array. To us this means these extended fins are for aesthetic purposes only.

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Moving unto the heatpipes themselves, we can see how Zalman came up with the name 10X as this cooler has 5 larger U shaped coolers which when counted in that fuzzy math sort of way which many companies do, (Cooler Master’s V line being one of the worst offenders) you can come up with a count of 10 half length heatpipes. Five heatpipes can handle one heck of a thermal load and we have no concerns about this cooler being able to handle insane overclocks as those 5 heatpipes have been mated to one massive fin array.

When it comes to the base of the 10X Extreme one thing is certain: it is polished and finished to darn near perfection. However, the wonderful finishing job is not the most interesting thing about this base. Unlike many non HDT coolers out there which have thick metal bases, this cooler has a very thin base which means that there is less thermal resistance between the heatpipes and the CPU’s heat. All in all it is an elegantly simple, yet simply elegant solution.

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The fan which graces this unit is none other than the 120mm ZF1125BTH that is found in Zalman’s CNPS 9700 LED line but ditches the caseless design of its predecessor for a more traditional look. Much like its older iterations, this is a 2 ball bearing PWM capable fan which is rated for 1000 – 2150RPMs but in earlier versions it was specified to run all the way up to 2800RPMs. This relatively high speed means this its 39DBA noise rating is not exactly something to write home about. Interestingly enough, even though it runs at a more leisurely pace than the case-less version, its official noise level is 4DBA higher.

Just like we would expect from the best Zalman fans, this one displays almost no shaft slop and no off axis slop what so ever. Basically, it is exactly what a 2-ball bearing fan should feel like.


All things considered, the CNPS 10X Extreme does have an ace up its sleeve: a wired remote that controls the speed of the fan. It relies on an included 4 pin extension cable and not only do you have 3 auto speeds to choose from but there is also a good old fashioned rheostat based dial for nearly infinite adjustments. The three auto settings are High, Medium and low and roughly translate to 2150, 1950 and 1500RPMs. When you click into a mode the indicator led nearest the button glows red for high speed, purple for medium, blue for low. When clicking over to manual mode, this LED goes dark and the LED nearest the dial glows green to indicate you are in manual mode.

On the positive side, these speeds only limit the top end and do not eliminate the PWM features of the fan. For example, in medium mode the speed can still fluctuate as low as 1000rpm but it can only ramp up to a maximum of 1950rpms. This allows you to manage the top end of its speed and noise envelope and let your motherboard manage the low end. We love it.
 
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AkG

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ZeroTherm Nirvana 120

ZeroTherm Nirvana 120


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We don’t usually gush on and on about boxes, but if there was one out there that we respected for its design and protection, it is that of the ZeroTherm Nirvana 120. It has all the necessary information you could ask for on it and it’s made from impressively thick cardboard for some serious protection. Did we mention that it also looks pretty damn good?

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While the Nirvana 120 may not look exactly akin to the butterfly-like BF90, you can see the same underlying principles at work here. Actually, if you cut out the center of the cooling fin array and stuck a cheesy looking butterfly face on the top of this cooler you would certainly see the resemblance to that classic cooler.

Even though the pictures above don’t do the finish any justice, it is done in an all black affair which we just love. The cooling assembly is also a sight to behold as the fins are densely packed while the single caseless fan is perfectly placed to provide optimal cooling across all the surfaces. All of this technology is wrapped into a svelte package that weighs in at a mere 638 grams (sans fan) which is far from heavy by today’s standards. Indeed, the only real down side of the Nirvana is that is only accepts one fan…and a proprietary one at that. This of course is the nature of the Butterfly beast, so hopefully this single fan will really impress us.

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Now that’s a perfect base there folks! This thing is so beautifully polished it looks like the surface of a calm lake reflecting the sky. When you add this base to the obvious effort that was put into the rest of the design, it is hard to see anywhere that ZeroTherm went wrong. Count us impressed with this one so far.

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In classic ZeroTherm styling, the 120mm fan which accompanies the NV120 is case-less with a proprietary mount built in. The upside to this is that air movement isn’t restricted and can be sucked in from the sides (and over the “wing tips” of the fin array) to help enhance the cooling performance of this CPU cooling solution. The down side is that if it dies, or you just want to change it, you are out of luck. The specifications of this fan are nonetheless impressive; it is rated from 1000 all the way to 2300RPMs and at its maximum speed it is rated to move 84.7CFM.

Even though we can’t tell who makes this fan, it is most likely an APACK unit that has been adapted to fit this cooler. At its heart is a 2 ball “UFO” bearing, which is a fancy way of saying it’s a normal 2 ball bearing which has been enhanced in some proprietary way. When it comes to fan itself, we found it does not have much shaft or off axis slop and we would have no hesitations in using it for the life of the cooler.

While the 4 wires of this PWM fan are not sheathed as we would have preferred them to be, they are fused together to help reduce air restrictions.
 
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SKYMTL

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Zalman CNPS10X Extreme Installation

Zalman CNPS10X Extreme Installation


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Actually installing the 10X is fairly easy and unlike some past reviews, we don’t have a problem with the overall process at all. What we do have an issue with however is the fact that this massive cooler doesn’t make use of a back plate to help distribute its substantial weight. Rather, it uses a somewhat flaccid hybrid mounting setup consisting of four screws with plastic sleeves that mount atop the main retention bracket. The only time a hybrid mount is a good idea is when you’re dealing with low-weight water blocks. But here we have damn near two pounds hanging off your motherboard with only small plastic sleeves to keep those brass screws from stripping out the i7 mounting holes. Yikes.

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The trick is to thread these screws through the four holes and then stick the small plastic washer/ sheaths into the holes. Then, you have to mount a large yet flimsy plastic structure over the screws which seems to be used to avoid damage to or flexing of the motherboard’s PCB. But wait, we’re not done yet!

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Once you have this skeleton bracket in place you then mount a metal bracket right on top of it. The only upside to this is the metal bracket uses captured tension springs on the four corner bolts which means you can’t over tighten the screws. This combination does allow for even mounting pressure as long as that plastic bracket doesn’t warp in any way, shape or form.

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Continuing on this theme of “what were they thinking” mentality, the metal bracket has two small tabs which are all that comes into contact with the cooler’s base. Unfortunately, this means the 10X is allowed to spin around much like the original Thermalright TRUE and can actually slide enough that its base hangs partially off the side of the CPU.

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Intel i7 Installation​

On the positive side this cooler seems to be custom designed for an East / West setup with the fan pushing air towards the rear exhaust fans of your case. This certainly a good thing as this is the typical setup for nearly every user out there.

As you can see, the fin array starts up high and does not block, rub or even come near most of the heatsinks surrounding our motherboard. On the ram side, things are tight but as long as your ram is a typical width the height shouldn’t matter too much.

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AMD Installation​

Well those pictures say it all and this cooler was certainly not designed to be an AMD cooler first and foremost. The biggest and most obvious issue is the ram slots being blocked. This could be just due to our DFI motherboard layout…but we doubt it. The next issue and the one which really seals the deal for us is that this cooler can only be orientated in a North / South orientation on AMD systems. This is due to the simple fact that the heat pipe orientation and the standard AMD retention system orientation are incompatible with a more typical East / West orientation.

Ok, its official: we don’t like the installation of this cooler and it is easily one of the most ill conceived, poorly executed, unintuitive, under-thought, “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory” setups we have ever seen. What makes this really bad is we can see the glimmer of potential and with only a few small tweaks it could have been great. As we said, earlier if this cooler used an honest to goodness back plate, the top sub-frame was not made from plastic and the securing tabs were bigger and thus more secure, this could have really have allowed the X10 Extreme to shine. As it stands we wonder how big a liability this setup is going to be. And don’t get us started with the ass-backwards AMD mounting…
 
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SKYMTL

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ZeroTherm Nirvana 120 Installation

ZeroTherm Nirvana 120 Installation


As with many of the bigger coolers the ZeroTherm Nirvana needs a backplate to be installed. To start this installation we recommend removing your motherboard from your case but if your case has a cut out in the motherboard for backplate installations, you may not need to.

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For all intents and purposes, this is a three stage installation procedure. The first thing you have to do is peel off the adhesive backing on the backplate and stick it in the proper place. When this is accomplished you can lay the motherboard back down and get started on prepping the Nirvana.

This cooler does not ship with any mounting bracket installed so you now have to set it up for the CPU system you have (in our case i7). The four spring loaded screws slide into each of the corners of this “top plate” and into the backplate. In a very nice move the small screws which secure these spring loaded retention screws in place also secure the top plate to the cooler.

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The last stage is to prep your CPU, apply your TIM and mount the Nirvana 120. With the help of a long handled screwdriver you secure the NV120 to the backplate, which in turn secures the whole works to the motherboard. For the two screws located under the fan you can easily remove the fan (pinch the metal tabs near the base and pull up) to get to them and then replace it afterwards. You can now plug in the fan and reinstall the motherboard and you are good to go! All in all, this cooler offers a very easy, trouble free installation.

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Intel i7 Installation​

As with many properly designed heatsinks, the Nirvana reduces the chances of the fin array touching or blocking your motherboard heatsinks by having a high starting point for its fin array. Even though it is a very unusual shape (with most of the fins on one side of the CPU) the other main worry with this cooler is the RAM being blocked. This too is not a worry as the wings may be large…but not that large.

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AMD Installation​

On the AMD side of things you actually have an even easier time as this uses the stock AMD backplate and plastic top retention ring. About the only thing that you have to do is use the AMD bracket, apply your TIM, mount the Nirvana 120 and clip it in place. Voila, you are done! As with the Intel side things you should not have many (if any) issues with motherboard heatsinks or blocking your ram slots.
 
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AkG

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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 center 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 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 heatsink 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:


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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 80°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.


Charts & Graphs:


Due to clutter and confusion we will only be including the SIX nearest performing cooling solutions to the cooler being tested instead of including all previously tested coolers.

We will also include the Intel OEM stock cooler results and the whatever the top cooler is for a given graph. This way you will not only know what a given cooler is comparable to, but also how it compares to the stock unit AND the best of the best out there. In grand total there will only be 9 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 nearest performing cooling solutions. We will endeavor 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


*Please note that the Mega Shadow is not included in these results since it does not include a fan.

2.6 GHz


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At stock speeds with their stock fan(s) running flat out the results are very telling. The first and foremost thing we can take away is that any of these coolers destroys the Intel stock cooler. The Zalman certainly comes out swinging and does a commendable job of cooling the i7 920 and we have a sneaking suspicion that its ultra thin base is the secret to its early success. We were also pleasantly surprised by the budget-friendly coolers from Spire and Kingwin here.

Unfortunately, not all the results are as good the Zalman, Spire, or Kingwin; it appears that just like its big brother the TRUE, the True Spirit may only come alive at higher heat loads. Given the difference in weight, size and CFM ratings, the Nirvana 120’s stock showing is very good compared to the bigger Tower 120 Extreme.


3.42GHz


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Once again the star of the show is the Zalman cooler. We may not like its mounting setup but you have to respect performance numbers like this. It will be interesting to see how well it does when the Mega Shadow (which unfortunately does not ship with a fan) makes its presence known. The TherMax 2 also maintains a strong showing despite our earlier reservations regarding its design. However, it does have one of the highest speed fans of the bunch as well.

As we thought it would, the True Spirit is slowly climbing the ranks as the heat goes up; hopefully it will show its full potential before long. Speaking of showing its real potential the Kingwin XT-1264 is sliding but still stays above the performance of some other HDT coolers probably due to its high RPM fan. The shear size of the Tuniq Tower 120 Extreme seems to coming into play as it is sticking to the top of the ranks impressively well. Meanwhile, the Nirvana 120 is also impressively staying at the top and is actually neck and neck with the bigger, heavier, louder AND harder to install Tower 120 Extreme.


3.8GHz


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When things are at their hottest the Zalman is STILL firmly in first; but the difference between this large and expensive cooler and the smaller, cheaper and slower fan-equipped 212 PLUS is minor at best. Heck, the Spire with its less than optimal setup is right up there giving it a real run for its money. How much better would both the Zalman and Spire be if they had excellent mounts? THAT is a question we unfortunately can not answer, but our guess is the difference would be significant enough to warrant the added expense.

After its mid term rally it seems the True Spirit still beats the OCZ Vendetta 2 by a nice margin (albeit doing it with a much faster stock fan). Also showing poor results when compared to the competition is the Tuniq Tower 120 Extreme which doesn’t come as much of a surprise since its poor overworked fan just couldn’t keep up with the demands of that massive fin array. It will be interesting to see how slower fans handle the harsh demands of this cooler.

The Kingwin also has shown us its true face and while we are not too surprised we were hoping for a bit more from it as it does have a bigger fin array than the 212+ and should (on paper) have performed better than it has.

To be honest, all of these heatsinks performed extremely well considering the circumstances but what we really want to see is how they perform when we use different fans.
 
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AkG

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Messages
5,270
High Speed Fan Performance Results

High Speed Fan Performance Results


In these tests, we use a Scythe S-Flex G-series 1900RPM fan on the coolers that don’t include their own fans. Meanwhile, any unit with a stock fan capable of 1900RPMs, has its speed set to match that of the Scythe.

2.6GHz


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Now that ALL the coolers are evenly matched in the fan department we can get a good idea of what designs work and which ones are less than optimal. As expected, most of the coolers here do quite well at this low heat level.

The Mega Shadow’s numbers are so close to its predecessor that they are well within the margin of error. The only reason they are not neck and neck is that the competition is so close and every 10th of a degree is contested hotly by all comers. Also not surprisingly is the fact that when at the same speed as the Scythe S-Flex G the Zalman stock fan is not all that great of a choice.

Unfortunately, at this speed and voltage settings our processor isn’t pumping out nearly enough heat to give us a clear indication regarding where our coolers really sit in the grand scheme of things.


3.42GHz


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As expected, as the heat was turned up the heavy weights of the air coolers all stepped up and showed what they were made of. This is not as glowing a report as you may think as the Tuniq Tower 120 Extreme is still metaphorically hanging out in Mom’s basement eating Cheetos and playing W.O.W all day long. However, with the exception of that cooler the other big boys dominated this chart with the Mega Shadow, Megahalems and Zalman CNPS10X all leading the charge. Interestingly enough, the Zalman is in third place and its stock fan results push it way back.

It also does not come as too much of a shock that the Spire’s numbers tanked. It still easily beats Intel’s stock cooling…but that is like bragging that you can beat a one legged man in an ass kicking contest. While the Kingwin XT1264 also fell down the ranks, this is not that surprising either as its less than perfect base is starting to hold it back.

The True Spirit is starting to get its second wind and seems to be doing decently well with numbers that are almost as good as the venerable Xigmatek 1283.


3.8GHz


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Fighting it out for title of worst in class cooling we have the Spire with its less than impressive design, the monstrously big Tuniq Tower 120 Extreme and the Kingwin XT 1264 with its poorly finished base. Needless to say all three are better than stock cooling by a HUGE amount, but all three need their high RPM and loud stock fans.

Fighting it out for best in class cooling we have a tie between both ProlimaTech coolers…both of which are obviously the same cooler just with different “dye jobs” and both kicking ass and taking names. The Zalman 10X once again shows how poorly (in comparison to the Scythe S-Flex G) its stock fan is, as the Scythe S-Flex G cooling numbers are much better. Though to be honest you do give up all those fancy remote control abilities by swapping out the stock fan….so maybe that does make up for it to some extent.

We have to say that we are actually impressed with the results we got from the True Spirit and while they may not be anywhere close to being best in class they are within two degrees of the TRUE Black’s numbers.
 
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