Articles: Cooling

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Testbed and Methods

The tests were performed inside a system case with the removed side panel. Our testbed was configured as follows:

  • Mainboard: Intel Siler DX79SI (Intel X79 Express, LGA 2011, BIOS 0537 from 07/23/2012);
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition, 3.3 GHz, 1.2 V, 6 x 256 KB L2, 15 MB L3 (Sandy Bridge-E, C1, 1.2 V, 6x256 KB L2, 15 MB L3);
  • CPU cooler: Phanteks PH-TC14PE (2x140 mm Corsair AF140 fans, 900 RPM);
  • Thermal interface: ARCTIC MX-4 (for all coolers);
  • System memory: DDR3 4 x 4GB Mushkin Redline (Spec: 2133 MHz / 9-11-10-28 / 1.65 V);
  • Graphics card: Asus GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II TOP 2 GB/256 bit GDDR5, 1212/1277/7008 MHz;
  • System drive: Crucial m4 256 GB SSD (SATA-III,CT256M4SSD2, BIOS v0009);
  • Drive for programs and games: Western Digital VelociRaptor (300GB, SATA-II, 10000 RPM, 16MB cache, NCQ) inside Scythe Quiet Drive 3.5” HDD silencer and cooler;
  • Backup drive: Samsung Ecogreen F4 HD204UI (SATA-II, 2 TB, 5400 RPM, 32 MB, NCQ);
  • System case: Antec Twelve Hundred (front panel: three Noiseblocker NB-Multiframe S-Series MF12-S2 fans at 1020 RPM; back panel: two Noiseblocker NB-BlackSilent PRO PL-1 fans at 1020 RPM; top panel: standard 200 mm fan at 400 RPM);
  • Control and monitoring panel: Zalman ZM-MFC3;
  • Power supply: Seasonic SS-1000XP Active PFC F3 1000 W (with a default 120 mm fan);
  • Monitor: Samsung S27A850D, 27”.

Asus graphics card was overclocked to 1212/1277/7008 MHz frequencies without increasing the graphics processor voltage:

Its resulting settings look as follows:

The testing programs were installed under Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1. We used DirectX End-User Runtimes libraries (from November 2010), as well as Nvidia GeForce GTX graphics card drivers version 310.33. We warmed up the card with five runs of Aliens vs. Predator game in 2560x1440 resolution and with maximum image quality settings, 16x anisotropic filtering and 4x antialiasing:

With the settings we used this test loads even a powerful graphics accelerator very heavily, but can’t damage it, which could be the case with FurMark (that is why we decided not to use this benchmark fully in our test session).

We used MSI Afterburner utility version 2.2.5 Beta 1 to monitor graphics card temperatures and frequencies and GPU-Z version 0.6.6 utility:

The tests were run at least twice for each fan speed mode. The temperature stabilization period between the two test cycles was about 10-12 minutes. 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. During our test session room temperature stayed around 24.5°C. The rotation speed of all fans of the tested cooling systems was adjusted using our special controller by changing the voltage settings.

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 36 dBA (do not mistake it for the low noise level). The fan(s) rotation speed was adjusted in the entire supported range using our in-house controller by changing the voltage with 0.5 V increment.

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