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Prolimatech Samuel 17 Small Form Factor CPU Cooler Review

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AkG

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In most enthusiast circles the word “small” makes people roll their eyes heavenward but in certain niches like the HTPC market, being small is a badge of honor. Prolimatech must have been thinking the exact same thing when they designed the new Samuel 17 cooler. Much like the biblical quote Samuel 17 refers to, this pint size David is set to take on the Goliaths of this industry.

Usually known for their massive products with loads of excess cooling potential, the diminutive size of Prolimatech’s Samuel 17 will likely come as a bit of a surprise for many of you. The goal here is also much more down to earth that its larger brethren since the Small Form Factor market it plays in doesn’t demand the potential to cool highly overclocked processors. Compact, quiet performance is the name of the game here but nonetheless we will still be testing the Samuel to the limits of its abilities.

One of the more interesting things we have seen is the fact that the SFF heatsink market is quite barren for the moment. Customer interest is definitely there in spades but other than a few products from the likes of Scythe and Zalman, there really isn’t that much choice. We’re guessing Prolimatech saw the same thing and jumped into the pool face first.

The Samuel 17 has a MSRP of $44 US and can be found in select retailers and e-tailers alike through out North America. This is far from inexpensive for a heatsink that has such modest goals but with the ITX and mATX markets booming, it might be just what the doctor ordered. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see how it does in not only the shear brute force cooling department but also in the value department as well.


 
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AkG

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Specifications

Specifications


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/Sam17/specs1.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/Sam17/specs2.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/Sam17/specs3.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/Sam17/specs4.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/Sam17/specs5.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/Sam17/specs6.jpg" border="0" alt="" />​
 
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AkG

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First Look at the Samuel 17

A Closer Look at the Samuel 17



As you can see the colour combination is classic Prolimatech blue and white but this time the box itself is ultra small as is befitting of this heatsink’s size.


Opening the box up we can see Prolimatech has opted for a two piece, form fitting, high density foam protection scheme. The Samuel 17 is nestled in between these foam protective layers making for one heck a trauma shield.

The list of accessories includes a small syringe of TIM, an installation pamphlet and mounting hardware for Intel 775, 1156, 1366 systems and AMD systems. We really like seeing AMD equipment included and feel it should be standard for all coolers. As you can also see, there is no included fan nor are there any backplates provided due to this heatsink’s paltry weight.


With official dimensions of 121.2mm x 120mm x 45mm we knew the Samuel was going to be tiny but from a visual perspective it is actually smaller than its dimensions lead you to believe. The maximum width is a good 40mm wider than the heatsink itself simply because Prolimatech decided to use two extension arms for 120mm fan compatibility.


Since this is a down draft cooler, the upside to making its footprint actually larger than the fin array is that a certain amount of the fan’s air movement can be used to cool the motherboard’s passive heatsinks. This should prove to be a huge benefit for the integrated graphics chips seen in many HTPCs which need all the cooling help they can get.

While this cooler is small it is not as light as you would think something as small as it “should” weigh. Prolimatech spared no expense here and the Samuel 17 made out of high grade metal without any hints of cheap plastic anywhere.
 
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AkG

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A Closer Look at the Samuel 17 pg.2

A Closer Look at the Samuel 17 cont.



This is a classic C shape downdraft cooler consisting of two separate and distinct parts: the CPU block and the fin array. Helping wick away heat and transfer it the fin array are six large 6mm heatpipes which attach the two parts together into one cohesive whole. The CPU block meanwhile has an aluminum block with large and deep fins machined into it. This added surface area will help dissipate additional heat as it captures and recycles some of the air previously used to cool the additional fin array. Separating the two parts are rubber bumpers to help dampen any vibrations when a fan is attached.


The fin array while thin is not quite what we are used to when it comes to lower profile heatsinks since it is similar to the one found on the Thermalright Venomous X. Basically, two deep angled grooves run from in between the first and second heatpipes and the fifth and sixth. Their main goal is to help “cut” the air and reduce static pressure while slightly increasing surface area. It is because of this design that Prolimatech says fans running from as low as 1000 RPMs can be effectively used on the Samuel 17.


The base of the Samuel 17 is a solid surface design which has been polished fairly well. While there are some minor tool marks still visible, this polishing and workmanship is above average. However, we do wish Prolimatech had opted for an HDT base as it would likely have been more effective at loads this CPU cooling solution is likely to encounter.
 
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AkG

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Installation (AMD & Intel)

Installation (AMD & Intel)



Unlike most coolers we have looked at in the past the Samuel 17 does not come with any mounting brackets pre-applied so you’ll have to rummage around for the ones which fit your setup. This is made easy by the fact they are all stamped with the associated compatible socket type. All you have to do then is to lay each mounting bracket on one side of the base so that the small divots and the screw holes line up and tighten them into place with the included screws.


To actually install the Samuel 17, the easiest way is to lift the motherboard up on one side so that you can easily have access to both sides at the same time. With the cooler in place you then thread the four long mounting bolts up through the motherboard and into the threaded holes in the arms of the mounting brackets on the heatsink. . With this done you then simply need tighten them all and lay the motherboard back down.

Unfortunately, if you think that is as easy as it sounds you are in for a rude surprise This setup is slow, tedious and an all round general nuisance since it is not user friendly at all due to the delicate balancing act you need to do with the Samuel and your motherboard.


Installing a fan on the other hand is blissfully easy. Simply lay your fan of choice over the Samuel 17 so the four fan mounting holes line up with the four holes in the Samuel 17’s fan mounting arms. Then screw it in place and plug it in.

For such a small cooler the Samuel 17 has a surprisingly large footprint simply due to its girth. We didn’t run into RAM nor heatsink mounting issues, but then again we are using a full blow ATX motherboard. Many HTPC’s use the smaller M-ATX or even ITX standards which have the ram slots crammed in a lot closer to the CPU. If that is the case you may just run into issues depending upon the heatsinks used on the memory.

In addition, if your motherboard’s main heatsink is taller than 43-44mm you will not be able to really take advantage of the added down draft abilities of this cooler, as the fin array will block the heatsink. Once again this was not an issue for our motherboard, but IF your HTPC motherboard has a built in GPU and has a slightly taller than average heatsink to cool it down (as many HTPC motherboards do) you are once again going to loose a lot of this cooler’s benefits. In a nut shell, it may be short and thus be compatible with any case out there, but motherboard selection is going to be vital to your HTPC success.


The AMD installation is for all intents the exact same process as the Intel installation with the exception being you first have to remove the older stock AMD backplate and plastic retention ring. As with the Intel side of things the Samuel 7 is not the easiest cooler we have ever installed as there is a lot of balancing that needs to be done.


When it comes to AMD systems you can take all the caveats and concerns we had with the Intel side of things and add in some additional RAM concerns. The best result we were able to get with regards to the memory on our AMD motherboard was the heatpipes touching the ram. Darn near any other orientation was just a recipe for failure. The Samuel 7 may look small and thus easy to install but let me tell you: issues abound.
 
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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 centre metal posts and for all 4 pipe HDTS three (smaller) lines of TIM are applied to the metal posts. This method has been found to provide significantly better coverage than the more typical methods.


Fans Used

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


Low Speed:

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


Moderate Speed:

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


High Speed:

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


Dual Fans*:

Dual NF-P12-1300s

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


92mm Fan:

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

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


Fan Notes:

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

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


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


Environment:

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


Testbed:



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

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

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


Mounting Orientation:

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


Temperature Recording:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Charts & Graphs:

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

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

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

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


Sound Pressure Testing:

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

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

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

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

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

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


Complete Test System:


Processor: Intel i7 920

Motherboard: Gigabyte X58-UD3R

Memory: 6GB Aneon Xtune DDR3-1600

Graphics card: EVGA 7300GT passive

Hard Drive: 1x WD 320GB single platter

Power Supply: Topower Powerbird 900W


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

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

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High Speed Fan Performance Results

High Speed Fan Performance Results


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/Sam17/266_scythe.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/Sam17/342_scythe.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/Sam17/38_scythe.jpg" border="0" alt="" />​

For its size and intended market this cooler does a reasonably well job at keeping even an i7 CPU cool. It certainly does a better job then the buzz-saw Intel OEM cooler. Basically, as long as you keep the over-clocking to moderate levels and can live with a Scythe S-Flex G's level of noise, the Samuel 17 is a good option.
 
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AkG

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Mid-Speed Fan Performance Results

Mid-Speed Fan Performance Results


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/Sam17/266_p12_1300.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/Sam17/342_p12_1300.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/Sam17/38_p12_1300.jpg" border="0" alt="" />​

Once again you cant really compare the results of this down right micro cooler with those of the big boys. Even more sensibly sized coolers costing less then the Samuel 17 hand this cooler a good old fashioned beat down but. However, with that being said for small cases, this cooler with a moderate low noise fan such as the Noctua NF-P12-1300 is going to be an awfully tempting option as it DOES give you more overclocking room then the stock Intel OEM cooler does…and offers a noise profile a heck of a lot more pleasing to boot.
 
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AkG

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Low Speed Fan Performance Results

Low Speed Fan Performance Results


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/Sam17/266_p12_900.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/Sam17/342_p12_900.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/Sam17/38_p12_900.jpg" border="0" alt="" />​

Yeah, lets face it this small cooler needs a fan with more CFM then what the Noctua at 900rpm can offer or at least when cooling an i7. Of course, Prolimatech states you have to use 1000rpm or better fan for optimal cooling so we can not in good conscience hold these results against the Samuel 17.
 
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AkG

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Value

Value


The term “Value” is such an amorphous term that it truly has different meanings for different people. For some a CPU cooler is only as good as it over-clocking potential, for others it is how quiet it does its job; for others still it’s how effective it is for its cost. We here at HWC try to provide as many answers as possible for the term “Value”. Hopefully by this point in the review people looking at OC potential or loudness levels will have a fairly good idea of what its Value is. For the “best bang for the buck” crowd we have included a chart below showing how much each 1°C less costs when compared to Intel’s FREE stock cooler. No consideration has been made for noise levels, “looks” or any other extraneous factors; this is just raw performance vs. monetary cost. For any cooler which performs worse than the Intel stock cooler a rating of “FAIL” will be given. For any cooler which has a “Value” of more than $10 per 1°C a rating of “FAIL” will be used in the graph but the chart will list its actual “Value”.

All prices are based on either their MSRP (if no e-tailer prices were available at review time) or the lowest price found in our Price Comparison engine at the time of the review. If a CPU cooler does not include a fan the price of a Scythe S-Flex 1200RPM has been included ($12).

To make it as easy as possible for you to modify this ratio we have also included the various coolers temperature difference so if you do come across one of them on sale you can easily modify its “Value” rating. We here at HWC are in no way saying this is the definitive answer to “Value”, rather it should be considered another tool to help you make your final decision. After all something is only as “valuable” as what you consider it to be.


Please Note: This chart has be calculated based upon the differences between Intel stock cooler’s average load at its highest OC on a 920 @ 3.42GHz versus various after market coolers average load temperatures (in their stock configuration with MX-2 TIM) also on a 920 @ 3.42GHz.


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/Sam17/value.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/Sam17/value_chart.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

The Samuel 17 is certainly not a good value if all you are looking for is the best CPU cooling bang for your buck when cooling an i7. It is actually damn expensive when you tack on the cost of a decent fan!

However, IF you are looking for a good cooler which has to fit in a down right small case, and you are sure there is going to be no motherboard mounting issues….then maybe the Samuel 17 is the cooler for you. Much like beauty, value is in the eye of the beholder so maybe.
 
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