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Testbed and Methods

We tested new coolers and their competitor in two modes: in an open testbed when the mainboard sits horizontally on the desk and the coolers are installed vertically, and in a closed testbed with the mainboard in vertical position. Since today we are only testing tower-type coolers, they were installed the same way inside a system case: with the airflow directed towards the back of the case with a 120-mm case fan for air exhaust mounted on the panel.

Our testbed was identical for all coolers and featured the following configuration:

  • Mainboard: DFI LANPARTY DK X48-T2RS (Intel X48), LGA 775, BIOS 08/29/2008
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 (3.0GHz, 1.25V, 2x6MB L2 cache, 4x333MHz FSB, Yorkfield, C0)
  • Thermal interface: Arctic Silver 5
  • Graphics card: HIS Radeon HD 4850 GDDR3 512MB / 256bit, @725/2275 MHz
  • Graphics card cooler: Arctic Cooling Accelero S1 + Turbo Module
  •  Memory:
    • 2 x 1024MB DDR2 Corsair Dominator TWIN2X2048-9136C5D (1142MHz / 5-5-5-18 / 2.1V);
    • 2 x 1024MB DDR2 CSXO-XAC-1200-2GB-KIT DIABLO (1200MHz / 5-5-5-16 / 2.4V).
  • Disk subsystem: Western Digital VelociRaptor (SATA-II, 300GB storage capacity, 10,000RPM, 16MB cache, NCQ)
  • HDD silencer and cooler: Scythe Quiet Drive 3.5”
  • Optical drive: Samsung SH-S183L SATA-II DVD RAM & DVD±R/RW & CD±RW
  • System case: ASUS ASCOT 6AR2-B Black&Silver (ATX) with 120mm ~960RPM Scythe Slip Stream 120 fans for air intake and exhaust (the fans are installed on silicon spindles), and the same 120mm ~960RPM fan on the side panel
  • Control and monitoring panel: Zalman ZM-MFC2
  • Power supply: Enermax Galaxy EGA1000EWL 1000W (a default 135mm fan for intake; and 80mm fan for air exhaust)

All tests were performed under Windows Vista Ultimate Edition SP3. SpeedFan 4.34 was used to monitor the temperature of the CPU and mainboard chipset, reading it directly from the CPU core sensor and to monitor the rotation speed of the cooler fans:

The mainboard’s automatic fan speed management feature as well as CPU power-saving technologies were disabled for the time of the tests in the mainboard BIOS. The CPU thermal throttling was controlled with the RightMark CPU Clock Utility version 2.35.0:

The CPU was heated up in two modes. First we used OCCT (OverClock Checking Tool) version 2.0.0a in a 20-minute test with maximum CPU utilization, during which the system remained idle in the first 1 and last 4 minutes of the test:

We have also created additional load with 15 runs of IntelBurnTest v1.6 (by AgentGOD) that uses Linpack 32-bit stress-test algorithm:

I performed at least two cycles of tests in both test modes and waited for approximately 20 minutes for the temperature inside the system case to stabilize during each test cycle. The stabilization period in an open testbed took about half the time. Despite the stabilization period, the result of the second test cycle was usually 0.5-1°C higher. We took the maximum temperature of the hottest processor core after two test cycles for the results charts (if the difference was no bigger than 1°C – otherwise the test was performed at least once again).

The ambient temperature was checked next to the system case with an electronic thermometer that allows monitoring the temperature changes over the past 6 hours. During our test session room temperatures were pretty low and varied between 19.0~19.5°C. It is used as a starting point on the temperature diagrams. Note that the fan rotation speeds as shown in the diagrams are the average readings reported by SpeedFan, and not the official claimed fan specifications.

We chose the cooler of the same type to compete against ASUS Lion Square and Arctic Cooling Freezer Xtreme in our today’s test session. It will be Thermalright IFX-14 (without the additional HR-10 heatsink) with one Scythe Slip Stream 120 fan installed between the heatsink arrays and working at ~910 RPM and 2040 RPM. Of course, the cooler we chose is more expensive than both today’s main characters (Freezer Xtreme sells at half the price of the Thermalright solution). However, it is especially interesting to compare our today’s testing participants against Thermalright IFX-14, not only because it is the best air cooler out there, but also because they all have very similar design. Therefore, I believe it makes more sense to perform this particular comparison rather than look for a similarly priced competitor. However, we have already tested IFX-14 quite a few times at Xbit Labs, so you will be able to easily draw parallels between the today’s and previous results.

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