Testbed and Methods
We are going to test the cooling efficiency of our today’s testing participants in the following closed testbed:
- Mainboard: ASUS P6T Deluxe (Intel X58 Express, LGA 1366, BIOS 2101);
- Processor: Intel Core i7-980X Extreme Edition, 3.33 GHz, 1.225 V, 6 x 256 KB L2, 12 MB L3 (Gulftown, B1);
- Thermal interface: Arctic Cooling MX-2;
- Graphics card: ATI Radeon HD 5830 1 GB GDDR5 256 bit, 920/5200 MHz;
- Memory: DDR3 3 x 2 GB OCZ Platinum Low-Voltage Triple Channel (Spec: 1600MHz / 7-7-7-24 / 1.65 V);
- Sound card: Auzen X-Fi HomeTheater HD;
- System drive: OCZ Agility EX SSD (SATA-II, 60 GB, SLC, Indillinx, firmware v1.31);
- HDD for games and programs: Western Digital VelociRaptor (SATA-II, 300 GB storage capacity, 10,000 RPM, 16 MB cache, NCQ) inside Scythe Quiet Drive 3.5” silencer and cooler chassis;
- Backup HDD: Western Digital Caviar Green WD10EADS (SATA-II, 1000 GB, 5400 RPM, 32 MB, NCQ);
- System case: Antec Twelve Hundred (front panel: three Noiseblocker NB-Multiframe S-Series MF12-S1 fans at 900 RPM; back panel: two Scythe SlipStream 120 fans at 900 RPM; top panel: standard 200 mm fan at 400 RPM);
- Control and monitoring panel: Zalman ZM-MFC2;
- Power supply: Enhance ENP-6685G 850 W (with a default 140 mm fan).
Processor overclocking was limited by the least efficient cooler of our today’s testing participants in its quiet mode. As a result, we managed to overclock our six-core processor (with protuberant heat-spreader) with the multiplier set at 23x and “Load-Line Calibration” enabled to 4.3 GHz. The nominal processor Vcore was increased to 1.3975 V in the mainboard BIOS:
Besides, we manually set the following voltages in the mainboard BIOS:
- CPU PLL Voltage – 1.8 V;
- QPI/DRAM Core Voltage – 1.3625 V;
- IOH Voltage – 1.1 V;
- IOH PCIE Voltage – 1.5 V;
- ICH Voltage – 1.1 V;
- ICH PCIE Voltage – 1.5 V.
Turbo Boost and Hyper-Threading technologies were disabled during our test session. The memory voltage was at 1.64 V and its frequency was around 1.53 GHz (7-7-7-14_1T timings). All other parameters available in the mainboard BIOS and connected with CPU or memory overclocking remained unchanged.
All tests were performed under Windows 7 Ultimate x64 operating system. We used the following software during our test session:
- Linpack 64-bit with LinX shell version 0.6.4 – to create maximum CPU load (5 Linpack runs in each cycle with 4096 MB RAM capacity involved);
- CPU-Z 1.54 – to monitor processor core voltage and frequency;
- Real Temp GT 3.59 beta – to monitor the processor core temperature;
- CPU-Tweaker 1.5 – to visually monitor temperatures and frequencies using graphics.
So, the complete screenshot during the test session looks as follows:
The CPU was loaded with two consecutive Linpack test runs with the settings as indicated above. The stabilization period for the CPU temperature between the two test cycles was about 8-10 minutes. We took the maximum temperature of the hottest CPU core for the results charts. Moreover, we will also provide a table with the temperature readings for all cores including their average values. The ambient temperature was checked next to the system case with an electronic thermometer with 0.1 °C precision that allows monitoring the temperature changes over the past 6 hours. The room temperature during our test session varied between 22.9-23.2 °C.
The noise level of each cooler was measured between 1:00 and 3:00 AM in a closed room about 20 m2 big using CENTER-321 electronic noise meter. The noise level for each cooler was tested outside the system case when the only noise sources in the lab were the cooler and its fan. The noise meter was installed on a tripod and was always at a 150 mm distance from the cooler fan rotor. The tested cooling systems were placed at the edge of the desk on a sheet of polyurethane foam. The lowest noise reading our noise meter device can register is 29.8 dBA and the subjectively comfortable noise level in these testing conditions was around 34 dBA (do not mix it up with low noise level). The fan(s) rotation speed was adjusted in the entire supported range using the new controller revision by changing the voltage with 0.5 V increment.
We are going to compare our newcomer against the performance reference – Noctua NH-D14 air-cooler equipped with two 140 mm Noctua NF-P14 fans:
We tested the super-cooler in two different fan modes: at maximum fan speed of 1230 RPM and in quiet mode at 800 RPM.
We have also included a very efficient tower cooler called Zalman CNPS10X Performa. Unlike Noctua NH-D14, it falls within the same price range as our today's newcomers.
Zalman CNPS10X Performa was tested with its default fan at 1100 RPM and at maximum speed of 2060 RPM. Besides that, all coolers except the boxed one from Intel were tested with two Thermalright TR-FDB fans at 1100 RPM and 2040 RPM.