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OCZ Gladiator MAX CPU Cooler Review

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AkG

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OCZ Gladiator MAX CPU Cooler Review​




Manufacturer Product Page: OCZ Gladiator Max CPU Cooler
Part Number: OCZTGLADM
Availability: Soon
Price: $63.49
Warranty: 2 year



It seems like eons ago but it hasn't been that long since Xigmatek released their first HeatPipe Direct Touch CPU cooler onto the market which allowed it to briefly win the air cooling performance crown. Market shifts are like that; one day you are making the best and seemingly the next you are playing catch up. In the fast paced world of air based CPU coolers, the market really can change overnight.

Today we will be looking at what is not another massive shift in the market; rather it is the second generation or refinement of this new HDT technology called the Gladiator MAX. Recently, we reviewed the OCZ Vendetta 2 which was for all intents and purposes is a highly refined (and by our assessment better) version of the Xigmatek S1283. Since then, Xigmatek has released the S1284 which as we said is more like a second generation model; in that it now has four heatpipes instead of three to distinguish it from the past iteration. As OCZ does not like to rest on their (well deserved) laurels, they have once again followed suit with a refined version of their Vendetta 2. To keep consumer confusion to a minimum they have not called it the Vendetta 3; rather they have dubbed it the Gladiator MAX, and yes there is a non MAX version simply called the “Gladiator” which uses a 92mm fan instead of the 120mm on this monster.

Just as the S1284 has four 8mm heatpipes for its base, so too does the Gladiator MAX. While it may not have the Vendetta name, it does have an overall similar appearance with what can be considered a refinement on the double V back. As this is a new product, it may be a little hard to find right now; but as it is made by OCZ, this should change very soon (and may have already by the time you read this review) and become widely available from e-tailers and retailers everywhere.

As with any second generation product, one has to wonder how it stacks up against its predecessor or is it different enough that it is designed for peaceful co-existence with the “old” product. By the end of this review we will hopefully be able to give you the tools so you can answer these questions yourself and more importantly help you find the answer to the biggest question of them all: Is four heatpipes better than three?

GladiatorMax_baseb.jpg

 
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Specifications

Specifications



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<o:p></o:p>
 
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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories


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While the box design of the Gladiator MAX is very similar to the Vendetta 2 we reviewed just awhile ago, it does have a very unique color scheme to help distinguish apart from other OCZ coolers. It seems OCZ has listened to the criticism of the thickness of their packaging material used with the Vendetta 2 and has taken steps to correct this on the Gladiator. All in all this box is made out of cardboard which is still not as thick as some other manufacturers specifications, but is thick enough to quell any fears we have about its integrity.

As with the venerable Vendetta 2 model this packaging scheme comes with loads of information and high quality photos.

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When you open the box up and look inside you are once again greeted a sight that is very similar to the Vendetta 2’s. The white medium density foam is form fitted around the heatsink, and as with the previous review noted we like this setup. Hwoever, it does have the exact same weakness as that cooler: the fan is not protected by anything more than a thin plastic film from the great outdoors.

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When it comes to the accessories list, we are pleased to say they are of the exact same standard as the OCZ Vendetta 2. The upside to this is all the accessories included are made of top notch quality, but those damn rubber fan mounting grommets are still being used! We really wish OCZ would take a page from Sunbeam and make the fan mountable in a sane manner (i.e. a tried and true wire tension setup).

The full list of accessories OCZ gives you is: a folded manual, a ketchup style “one shot” applicator of TIM, mounting equipment for both AMD and Intel architecture (though it is a push pin style mounting bracket for Intel 775), and four of the above mentioned anti-vibration fan mounting fasteners.
 
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AkG

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Heatsink Construction & Design

Heatsink Construction & Design



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When you first get glance at the Gladiator MAX, it is easy to draw parallels between it and the aforementioned Vendetta 2. However, there are some very large differences between the two generations of OCZ heatsinks which we will be discussing a bit later in this section.

As for its dimensions, it all is fairly typical for a medium size tower cooler; as the Gladiator MAX weight about 780 grams (with fan) and is 63mm deep by 120mm wide by 165mm tall. To put it another way it is 6mm taller than the reference Xigmatek S1284 and is 3mm deeper.

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For anyone who has never seen the Gladiator MAX CPU cooling solution a little bit of an overview is in order. The Gladiator MAX is a tower style cooler that has four large 8mm heatpipes, two of which start at the top left and go down to the base, are flattened to act as a majority of said base and then zoom back up to terminate at the top right side. The other two are start off at the top right, go down to the base (and acts as the rest of the base) and then head back up to the top left.

Interestingly, if you look at the cooler from the bottom to the top you would also notice these heatpipes are not only staggered in their order they are also physically staggered thus making the base looked “zigzagged”. All in all, it is a fairly atypical setup with it being unique even for a Direct Touch heatsink base.


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While the heatpipes maybe considered a refinement on an already existing technology, OCZ has taken a unique approach when it comes to the cooling fin assembly and design. In total you have 42 of these closely spaced aluminum fins arranged on top of one another. Unfortunately, these fins do not have the Vendetta 2’s unique bumps on the fins which helped channel air towards the heatpipes (and increase the surface area slightly).

OCZ states the design of these fins do still help channel air towards the heatpipes, but we don’t think it can be as efficient a design as the Vendetta 2’s. Only time and testing will tell whether or not those bumps on the fins actually did anything, but for now, lets assume OCZ has taken all this into account and designed the fin assembly to be as efficient as its brethren.

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On the positive side the back of the fins of this heatsink have been tweaked from the boring Xigmatek base design. If you look closely you can see that the fins are in a double M design. This design is very similar to the Vendetta’s in that it is not just for looks, by designing these fins in this way the air moving over them is encourage to flow in certain directions and minimize dead or high static pressure zones. The fact that it does all this and looks very striking is one heck of a bonus and does give it a very unique look; too bad the Gladiator Max is also like the Vendetta 2 and it can only accept one fan.

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As you can see in the above photo the Gladiator Max may share some similarities to its brethren the Vendetta 2 (and thus Xigmatek S1283) but it is very different when you take a closer look. Unlike the Vendetta 2, this unit has four heatpipes (versus three) and while this the technically the largest difference between the two. However, the biggest difference in our opinion is on how OCZ went about designing this 4 “direct touch” heatpipe base. Unlike the Vendetta 2 which had three heatpipes spaced apart with the gaps between them filled with aluminum pillars from the top portion of the base; this unit has huge honkin’ gaps between these heatpipes. I don’t care how much TIM you use on the bottom of your cooler, it sure as heck isn't filling those chasms up! This in turn could mean decreased cooling efficiency.

Large gaps aside, OCZ has done an above average job with finishing the base and it is about as well polished and major tool mark free as the Vendetta 2 model. It is very difficult (and expensive) to polish copper to a mirror-like shine, and it is doubly difficult to do so with thinly-walled heatpipes.
 
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AkG

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Heatsink Construction & Design pg.2

Heatsink Construction & Design Con't


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As mentioned before, the Gladiator Max is in a lot of ways a clone of the Xigmatek S1284 and this idea is reinforced by the mounting “wings” for the 775 pushpins and the double cut in the top of the base for the AM2 mounting bracket. This is not a bad thing per say, as pushpin installations are usually faster and easier than backplate based systems.

That being said, it is too bad that OCZ didn’t take the time and effort to upgrade this design to a baseplate system which Xigmatek sells separately for about $10. For the sake of $10 you get a system which is heck of lot better than the setup included. We say this because while the backplate installation may be more time consuming, it does provide a much more stable mounting platform and one that delivers a more even mounting pressure (as plastic is malleable and may deform at slightly different rates from corner to corner).

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Unlike the Vendetta 2 which has all its fins in one continuous group, the Gladiator has the majority of them together and then has two additional groupings of small fins near the base. Our initial impression was that these were to help cool the motherboard; yet after closer examination we doubt this is the case as these four fins are not angled down and thus would do very little for the motherboard. What these four fins are there for is in fact to act as a mini cooling tower for the six large aluminum pillars which sprout from the top of the base.

In a nut shell these large aluminum pillars should do very little to the thermal cooling capabilities of the cooler but do make up a majority of the extra weight this cooler has over the Vendetta 2.

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As with the Vendetta 2, we were disappointed by the Gladiator Max’s front face. The side of the cooler that the fan is on is of course called the front face and its job is to get as much air through those fines with as little hassle as possible. To do this, companies have taken different approaches to designing the face. Sometimes, they make the side of the heatsink multi-faceted so as to cut the air up making it more likely to flow through the fins at a lower static pressure. Another option is to angle the face so that it is concave and thus the air being pushed by the fan “wants” to flow to the center and thus be pushed into the heatsink (it also as an added benefit removes to a certain extent the dead zone cause by the fan hub). Unfortunately, OCZ went with the reference design as seen with the Vendetta 2 / S1283 and while it is slightly concave it is not exactly an extreme curve, and the face is not multi-faceted in the least.

This design is quite outdated and while it may not be as effective as newer designs it still would be reasonably effective if not for the fact that OCZ also went for that darn fan mounting system that leaves a good gap between the fan and the heatsink! You can have the best designed fins in the world but if the air does not go over them it makes not a darn bit of good. We have to wonder how much more effective this cooler would be if they had went with a more standard friction based fan mounting system.


Overall, the OCZ Gladiator MAX is certainly a good bit of a departure from the Vendetta 2 and OCZ was right in not naming this cooler Vendetta 3. Unfortunately, OCZ has not taken the time to address the issues associated with the reference Xigmatek design and rather has added in additional cooling capabilities via those four aluminum pillars and additional heatpipes. We have our doubts about this design enhancement but one thing is for certain: we are itching to get to the testing stage and see if this design holds up and is an improvement over the Vendetta 2.
 
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Fan Design

FAN DESIGN


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The fan that comes with the Gladiator is not the same as the one which graces the Vendetta 2 and this really is a shame as this fan is not even close to being in the same league as that Adda fan. This 7 bladed 120x120x25mm rifle bearing fan is made by Top Talent and to be more specific this is the DT1212MSHP(L) 120 mm low noise fan. This PWM capable fan is designed to run between 800 and 1500rpm and at its maximum nominal speed of 1500rpms it moves approximately 57 CFM of air. This is only an approximation as OCZ does not list this fan's specifications, and while Top Talent lists three versions of the DT1212 the slowest is 1700rpm with 64CFM. As for the static pressure it produces at its highest rated speed (this is once again only a rough “ball park” figure) it has about 1.5mm H20 of static pressure.

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As mentioned before this fan is not the same one as found on the Vendetta 2 and even though it should be relatively quiet, it does produce a heck of a lot more noise and vibration than its specs would lead you to believe. Even during out simple finger spin test (where we spin the unplug fan with our finger) the amount of clickety-clacking coming from it reminded us of low quality fans produced years ago. This is not a good thing for a fan to do and we were even less impressed when we plugged it in and ran it at full speed.

This fan may use the same hybrid technology as used in the Vendetta 2’s Adda unit but it is not as refined or as well designed. On the positive side this is a tight fan that displayed very little slop so while it may be noisy and produce a very unique sound signature, one thing is for certain: it will keep on working and making all that noise for an awfully long time….or until you get annoyed with it and replace it with a better fan.

One interesting thing about it though is the Rifle Bearing used is a unique hybrid sleeve bearing design in which a normal sleeve bearing has been modified so that there is a continuous groove (that when looked at looks a lot like lands and groves of a “rifled” gun barrel) on the bearing shaft which keeps a constant flow of oil moving between the shaft and the bearing. While they may not be as quiet as normal sleeve bearings they do have a longer life expectancy. In this instance it may not be executed all that well but those rubber anti-vibration mounting plugs should for all intents and purposes stop any damaging vibrations from reaching the CPU and motherboard; thus negating most of the concerns we have with it.

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Another interesting thing about this fan is that fact that it uses the newer 4 pin PWM header. This means that you can control it either by voltage or PWM. This is great if your motherboard supports it and if it doesn’t, and uses the older 3 pin header style you can simply let the extra pin out hang over the edge of the motherboard fan header without worry. Also on the positive side, the fans wires were not only nice and long, they were also fully sheathed. This may not seem like a big deal but this little tweak does make for a both a cleaner install but also helps keep air flow restrictions to a minimum.

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


Even when compared to the doubts we have about the heatsink design this fan truly has to be the lowest, least awe inspiring part of this cooler. This fan is noisy, annoying and is not anywhere near as good as the Vendetta 2’s. It seems that old adage that just because something is newer does not mean its better is once again proven correct. With all this negativity, please do not get us wrong; it is possible we got a bad one. Even the best Quality Assurance group in the world does miss the occasional bad apple, so maybe the fan included with your Gladiator Max will be a good one. When everything is said and done it is only a fan, and is thus easily replaced; and no matter how noisy a fan is, a free fan is still a free fan!
 
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AkG

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Installation

Installation


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For all intents and purposes this cooler has the exact same installation process as that of the Vendetta 2. Even though it is a pushpin installation method, you should really should remove the motherboard as the fan installation does require a bit more “elbow room” than is usually available inside a typical computer case. It is a shame as pushpin coolers biggest advantage is their ease of use, but any speed advantages afforded by those relatively easy plungers is negated by the tedious fan installation. Fast or not, these enthusiast grade, overclocking friendly coolers are crying out for a real backplate system and it is a shame OCZ did not take the time to tweak this area as they did the base of the cooler.

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If you follow the included instructions, what OCZ will have you do is first mount the two 775 mounting brackets to the bottom of the heatsink. This is easy and straight forward and we once again we had no issue with this step. What you do next is place a small amount of TIM on each of the metal posts and then install the heatsink by pushing down on the four pushpins (alternate corners, two at a time).

This however is not what the manual tells you to do; rather OCZ tells you to make a pea size amount of TIM in the center of the base of the heatsink. Some people may skip this crucial step as it is fairly unique to this style of cooler and not everyone knows about it. We are sure OCZ knows about it as many reviewers now do it this way, so we are curious why their manual recommends an inefficient procedure which can not give optimum results. OCZ please, we beg you: update your manual!

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While we do take issue with the lack of proper instructions in the manual, this issue pales in comparison to the main problem we found with this cooler’s installation. For all you who have read the Xigmatek and Vendetta 2 review you already know the next dreaded step we are talking about is the fan installation.

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OCZ fully expects you to first install those four anti-vibration mounts to the fan by threading them through the hole and then pulling tight. They have little pyramid shaped parts that when pulled through keep the rubber mount tight to the fan and then install the whole shebang onto the heatsink. This is when the “fun” begins; as this is one royal pain to do. It may sound easy on paper but in real world application it is a down right painful experience where you may even get cut by the heatsink while following OCZ’s instructions.

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It is for this reason we strongly recommend you either first remove the motherboard from the case and follow these “interesting” instructions or do what we did: install those little pieces of rubber onto the heatsink first, then install the heatsink and then thread the four ends through the fan and using a pair pliers seat the fan on them.

By doing it our way you can easily install the Vendetta 2 without first removing the motherboard and have it all done in under five minutes. Doing it their way, well lets just say it will be a lot longer and leave it at that.

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On the positive side, the Gladiator is designed so that it will not interfere, touch or bang into anything but the tallest of Northbridge heatsinks or RAM modules. In point of fact you have about 39mm from the bottom of the first fin to the bottom of the base, which is 2mm less clearance than you get with the Vendetta 2. With this hard number you can easily measure your NB heatsink and see if the Gladiator will fit before you spend any of your hard earned moeny. As you will see in the installation section we had no problem with our Gigabyte board.

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Before we continue, we would like to take this opportunity to show you the contact patch of an Intel 775 CPU on the Vendetta 2 (left picture) and the Gladiator Max (right picture). We do this by first applying FAR too much thermal compound and then installing the heatsink and letting it sit for awhile.

As you can see in the above picture, having four heatpipes sounds better than three, and usually we agree more is always better. However, in this instance four is down right inefficient when compared to three. You could stick a dozen more heatpipes on each side and you still won’t get any better cooling, and having four spaced apart like this is mostly for marketing PR reasons will not improve thermal efficiency. It seems this cooler really is designed for the larger AMD AM2 CPUs (or the upcoming I7) as with those CPUs all four heatpipes would be more engaged. As it is, the outer two heatpipes barely make contact with an LGA 775 CPU whereas the three heatpipes on the Vendetta 2 make full contact without a problem.

Either way, it will be interesting to see if this perceived inefficiency translates to higher Intel dual and quad results.
 
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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.

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 Vendetta 25.4 “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 but due to the fact that the Top Talent fan is a PWM complaint fan all CPU fan speed control was not disabled, rather it was set to Auto.

Arctic Cooling MX-2 thermal paste was used for all coolers during these tests unless otherwise noted. Application of all thermal paste was NOT in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions as three small lines the length of the processor was spread on each of the inner metal strips. In addition to using this innovative method for all heatpipe direct touch coolers, 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 it 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 G.Skill PC2-6400
Graphics card: XFX 7200gt 128mb
Hard Drives: 1x Western Digital Se16 320GB (single platter)
Power Supply: Seasonic S12 600W
 
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E4600 Performance Results

E4600 Performance Results

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As the old saying goes the “proof is in the pudding”, we are not sure why anyone would call their kid “Proof” but in this case he certainly is in the pudding. When you break it down, the Gladiator Max is certainly a very good cooler and it is right up there in both idle and average load temperatures with the best of them; but it is certainly not an improvement over the Xigmatek S1283 / Vendetta 2 design. To put it another way, this cooler is really, really good but it still is 1.8° C worse than the best and costs more than better-performing variants.
 
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Q6600 Temperature Testing

Q6600 Temperature Testing

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Just as we saw with the dual core results, there is nothing to be ashamed of with the Gladiator's results. Heck, it performs similarly to the T.R.U.E. Black even though it is a bit less expensive. With that being said it still is not able to meet (let alone surpass) the high water mark set by the Vendetta 2. Interestingly enough, this cooler was able to close the gap from 2.0°C at stock speeds to only 1.7°C at max overclock; who knows, maybe at really, really insane levels the extra heatpipe does make a difference and would allow it surpass the Vendetta 2. I for one am not willing to push that much voltage through my chip but it certainly is food for thought.
 
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