Testbed and Methods
The coolers were tested on an open testbed as well as in a system case with the following configuration:
- Mainboard: ASUS P5B Deluxe/WiFi-AP (Intel P965 chipset, LGA775, BIOS 1101)
- Chipset cooler: Thermaltake Extreme Spirit II (~2500rpm)
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 (2400MHz, 1.2875V, 266x4MHz FSB, 2x4096KB L2 cache, Kentsfield B3)
- Thermal interface: Arctic Silver 5
- Graphics card: Sysconn GeForce 8600 GTS (256MB, 128-bit, 675/2016MHz)
- Graphics card cooler: Arctic Cooling Accelero S2 in passive mode
- Memory: 2 x 1024MB Corsair Dominator TWIN2X2048-9136C5D DDR2 SDRAM (SPD: 1142MHz, 5-5-5-18, 2.1V)
- Disk subsystem: Hitachi HDT725032VLA360 (SATA-II, 320GB storage capacity, 7200rpm, 16MB cache, NCQ)
- Optical drive: NEC ND-4571A DVD-burner
- System case: ASUS ASCOT 6AR2-B Black&Silver with two system fans from Cooler Master (120mm, 1180rpm, 21dBA) and a 120mm Sharkoon Luminous Blue LED (1000rpm) on a side panel
- Power supply: MGE Magnum 500 (500W) with a 80mm GlacialTech SilentBlade fan (~1700rpm, 19dBA)
All tests are performed in Windows XP Professional Edition Service Pack 2. SpeedFan 4.32 is used to monitor the temperature of the CPU, reading it from the CPU sensor. The CPU is heated up by means of OverClock Checking Tool version 1.1.0 in a 60-minute test during which the system remains idle in the first and last 4 minutes.
The mainboard’s automatic fan speed management is disabled for the time of the tests. The thermal throttling of the Intel Core 2 Duo processor is controlled with RightMark CPU Clock Utility version 2.25. Our CPU begins to skip clock cycles on reaching a temperature of 82°C and higher.
I perform at least two cycles of tests and wait for 25-30 minutes for the temperature to stabilize during each test cycle. The maximum temperature of the hottest CPU core in the two test cycles is considered as the final result (if the difference is not bigger than 1°C – otherwise the test is performed once again). Despite the stabilization period, the result of the second cycle is usually 0.5-1°C higher.
The ambient temperature was monitored by means of an electric thermometer and remained at 22-22.5°C during the tests. The fan rotation speed is shown in the diagram as reported by monitoring tools.
Now, about the opponents. Most super-coolers hadn’t been tested on the quad-core CPU before. Moreover, I got a noise-level meter the super-cooler hadn’t been tested with, either. So, the review of the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme was the occasion to perform an extensive comparative test of high-performance coolers. In order to qualify for participation in this review each cooler had to pass twice an hour-long test with the OCCT program on an overclocked processor. I’m aware that this test doesn’t promise a 100% guarantee of stability, but I just had neither time nor opportunity to test the coolers for days.
After the quad-core processor was overclocked to 3304MHz (+37.7%) with a voltage increase to 1.5V, I had to leave out the OCZ Vindicator (an analogue of the Scythe Ninja) and, oddly enough, the Cooler Master GeminII. The latter had behaved very well on a dual-core CPU, being only 2°C worse than the best air coolers, but would let the overclocked Intel Core 2 Quad begin to skip clock cycles. I made sure there was proper contact between the cooler and the CPU heat-spreader, but the results didn’t change: over 82°C under peak load and frequency throttling as the consequence.
So, there are only the strongest contenders left. I am going to compare their performance and noise level with those of the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme. Here’s the full list of the super-coolers:
The tower-like coolers were tested with a stock intake 120mm fan as well as with two fans for intake and exhaust (I used the fans from the Scythe coolers set at 1200rpm). The Scythe Andy Samurai Master and the Thermaltake Big Typhoon were tested with their stock fans as well as with a fan from the Enzotech Ultra-X at the maximum speed of 2530rpm. The Zalman CNPS9700 LED and the Enzotech Ultra-X were tested without any fan modifications.
You won’t see the highly efficient Tuniq Tower 120 in this review because I didn’t had it in the lab at the time of the tests. The ASUS Silent Knight and Titan Amanda TEC are missing, too, unfortunately. Feel free to check out the corresponding reviews of these coolers for their complete performance report.
And now we can go right to the test results.