Testbed and Methods
All tests were performed inside a closed system case. Our testbed was identical for all coolers throughout the test session and featured the following configuration:
- Mainboard: ASUS P6T Deluxe (Intel X58 Express), LGA 1366, BIOS 1303;
- Processor: Intel Core i7-920, 2.67GHz, 1.25V, 4 x 256KB L2, 8MB L3 (Bloomfield, C0);
- Thermal interface: Arctic Silver 5;
- Graphics card: ZOTAC GeForce GTX 260 AMP2! Edition 896MB, 648/1404/2108MHz (1030RPM);
- Memory: DDR3 3 x 1GB Corsair DOMINATOR TWIN3X2048-1800C7DFIN (Spec: 1800MHz / 7-7-7-20 / 2.0V);
- 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;
- System case: Antec Twelve Hundred (default 120mm fans replaced with Scythe Slip Stream 120 fans at 800RPM; 120-mm Scythe Gentle Typhoon at 800RPM installed on the lower front of the case; standard 200-mm fan at 400RPM at the top of the case);
- Control and monitoring panel: Zalman ZM-MFC2;
- Power supply: Zalman ZM1000-HP 1000W (with a default 140 mm fan).
All tests were performed under Windows Vista Ultimate Edition x86 SP1. We used the following software during our test session:
- Real Temp 3.19b – to monitor the processor core temperature;
- Linpack 32-bit with LinX shell version 0.5.8.2 – to create maximum CPU load (two test cycles, 15 Linpack runs in each cycle with 1624 MB RAM capacity involved);
- RivaTuner 2.24 – to visually control temperature changes (with RTCore plugin).
So, the complete screenshot during the test session looks as follows:
The stabilization period for the CPU temperature between the two test cycles was about 10 minutes. We took the maximum temperature of the hottest processor core of the four for the results charts. The ambient temperature was checked next to the system case or open testbed 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 at 23.5-24°C.
The noise level of each cooler was measured after 1:00AM in a closed room about 20sq.m big using CENTER-321 electronic noise meter. The measurements were taken at 1m and 3m distance from the closed system case. During the acoustics tests all five 120-mm case fans were slowed down to ~520 RPM. In this mode the background noise from the system case measured at 1m distance didn’t exceed ~33.3 dBA. When the system was completely powered off, our noise meter detected 30.8 dBA (the lowest on the charts is 30 dBA). The subjectively comfortable noise level is around 34.5~35 dBA.
Now a few words about the competitors. First, as we have already promised you before, we are going to check how these new mainstream cooling solutions compare against our reference super-cooler - Thermalright IFX-14, which is the most efficient CPU air cooler today. I am sure you understand that we can’t compare any of our today’s testing participants with the super-cooler from Thermalright in price, weight or size; however, we are not going to perform any direct comparison today. During our test session we used a seven-blade 120-mm fan from XIGMATEK Dark Knight cooler installed between the heatsink arrays of IFX-14.
Second, we decided to include XIGMATEK Nepartak cooler into our today’s test session, as it also belongs to the mainstream price range ($25). Although it is equipped with a PWM controlled fan, its rotation speed was locked at two values: 1740RPM for the quiet mode and 2810RPM for the maximum performance mode. The same is true for all other testing participants. The only difference is that their fan rotation speeds were in fact different for these modes.