Articles: Cooling

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Cooling Efficiency Tests

For a starter, here is the Swiftech Polaris 120 working at 800 RPM on a non-overclocked six-core CPU:

As you can see, it is very easy for the Swiftech Polaris 120 (and the EVGA Superclock, too) to cool a six-core CPU at the latter’s default clock rate and voltage even when the cooler's fan speed is set at the minimum. The temperature of the hottest CPU core is no higher than 60°C under load. It is clear that the new coolers are meant for more serious tasks, so let’s check out how they cope with an overclocked CPU. You can see the results in this table as well as in the diagram below.

The results are grouped according to the noise level: low (800-1000 RPM), medium (1200-1400 RPM) and high (from 1400 RPM up). Let’s see what we have in each group.

Unfortunately, in the low-noise group the Swiftech Polaris 120 is not very effective and is inferior to the direct-touch Alpenföhn Nordwand by more than 5°C at 800 RPM and by 7°C at 1000 RPM under peak CPU load. The Zalman CNPS10X Performa easily beats every other cooler in this test whereas the EVGA Superclock didn't even make it into this group due to the peculiar behavior of its fan I described above.

The two new coolers aren’t impressive in the medium-noise group, either. They are inferior to the Alpenföhn Nordwand. At a speed of 1200 RPM the Polaris 120 is 7°C and the Superclock is 6°C worse than the Nordwand. The gap is 6°C at 1400 RPM. You can also note that the new direct-touch coolers depend heavily on the speed of the fan. Within a range of 800 to 1800 RPM each subsequent 200RPM increase in speed lowers the peak temperature of the hottest CPU core by 4, 5, 4, 3 and 3°C for a total of 18°C! Considering that the fins in the new coolers’ heatsinks are placed at a distance of 2 millimeters from each other, I suppose that the heatsinks are just too small.

As for the high-noise results, the new coolers are both better than the Alpenföhn Nordwand with its low-speed default fan and also close to the leader Zalman CNPS10X Performa. The extra 500RPM of speed increase their noise substantially, though, as I will show you shortly. Take note that the EVGA Superclock is somewhat more efficient than the Swiftech Polaris 120 in the high-speed group, even though this can hardly make any practical difference.

Winding up the performance tests, I will show you the results of my overclocking the six-core CPU with each cooler.

Swiftech Polaris 120 (EVGA Superclock),
2440 RPM

Alpenfoehn Nordwand,
1550 RPM

Zalman CNPS10X Performa,
2060 RPM

Working at the maximum fan speed, the Swiftech Polaris 120 and the EVGA Superclock made the CPU stable at 4450 MHz and 1.45 volts. The CPU temperature was as high as 85°. The Alpenföhn Nordwand is somewhat worse, stopping at 4425 MHz, 1.44375 volts and 88°C. The Zalman CNPS10X Performa has the same result as the Polaris 120 and Superclock. That’s good, yet not as good as I had expected from the new coolers.

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