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: AMD Radeon HD 7770 1 GB GDDR5 128 bit, 1000/4500 MHz with Deep Cool V4000 passive copper heatsink;
- 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).
For the primary tests and summary diagrams we overclocked our six-core processor with the clock generator frequency set at 125 MHz, the multiplier at 35x and “Load-Line Calibration” enabled to 4.375 GHz. The nominal processor Vcore was increased to 1.385 V in the mainboard BIOS. After that we tested the new cooling systems at even higher frequency and voltage settings. Turbo Boost was disabled during this test session, and Hyper-Threading technology was enabled to increase the heat dissipation. The memory voltage was at 1.65 V and its frequency was 2000 MHz with 9-11-10-28 timings. All other parameters available in the mainboard BIOS and related to CPU or memory overclocking remained unchanged.
All tests were performed under Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1 operating system. We used the following software during our test session:
- LinX AVX Edition version 0.6.4 – to load the processor (memory - 4500 MB, Problem Size – 24234, two 11-minute cycles);
- Real Temp GT version 3.70 – to monitor the processor core temperatures;
- Intel Extreme Tuning Utility version 126.96.36.199 – for monitoring and visual control of all system parameters during overclocking.
So, the complete screenshot during the test session looks as follows:
The CPU was loaded with two consecutive LinX AVX 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 hourly monitoring of the temperature changes over the past 6 hours. The room temperature during our test session varied between 23.6-24.0°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 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.
We are going to compare the cooling efficiency and noise levels of the participating systems against those of Phanteks PH-TC14PE with two default fans:
The rotation speed of all fans was controlled using our special controller with ±10 RPM precision.
Besides default fans that come with the cooling systems, we also tested them with two alternative 120 mm Corsair AF120 Performance Edition fans installed on the radiators for air intake/exhaust:
Unlike the photo above, during our cooling efficiency tests we installed all the fans in such a way that they could take the air from the outside of the system case and push it inside. According to our preliminary results, this airflow organization provided 2-3°C lower CPU temperatures than when the air was pushed out of the system case through the radiator. Moreover, this also provided better cooling to the heatsinks on the around-the-socket components. Nevertheless, I have to add that this isn’t a universal fan positioning for liquid-cooling systems and requires additional case fans exhausting the air out of the case (we used 120 mm and 200 mm fans).