Articles: Cooling
 

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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 1606;
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-920, 2.67 GHz, 1.25V, 4 x 256 KB L2, 8MB L3 (Bloomfield, C0);
  • Thermal interface: Arctic Silver 5;
  • Graphics card: ZOTAC GeForce GTX 260 AMP2! Edition 896 MB, 648/1404/2108 MHz (1030 RPM);
  • Memory: DDR3 PC3-12800 3 x 2 GB OCZ Platinum Low-Voltage Triple Channel (Spec: 1600MHz / 7-7-7-24 / 1.65 V);
  • System HDD: Western Digital VelociRaptor (SATA-II, 300 GB storage capacity, 10,000 RPM, 16 MB cache, NCQ);
  • Scythe Quiet Drive 3.5” HDD silencer and cooler chassis;
  • Optical drive: Samsung SH-S183L;
  • System case: Antec Twelve Hundred (front panel: two Noiseblocker NB-Multiframe S-Series MF12-S1 fans at 820 RPM and Scythe Gentle Typhoon fan at 840 RPM; back panel: one Scythe Slip Stream 120 fan at 840 RPM; top panel: standard 200 mm fan at 400 RPM);
  • Control and monitoring panel: Zalman ZM-MFC2;
  • Power supply: Zalman ZM1000-HP 1000 W (with a default 140 mm fan and a power consumption monitoring panel).

During this test session we managed to overclock our 45nm quad-core processor with the multiplier set at 21x and “Load-Line Calibration” enabled to 3.97 GHz (+48.8%) using the weakest cooling system of the today’s testing participants. The nominal processor Vcore was increased to 1.3625 V in the mainboard BIOS.

The memory voltage was at 1.62 V and its frequency was around 1520 MHz (7-7-7-14_1T timings). All other parameters available in the mainboard BIOS and connected with CPU or memory overclocking remained unchanged (set to Auto).

All tests were performed under Windows Vista Ultimate Edition x86 SP1. We used the following software during our test session:

  • Real Temp 3.20 RC8 – to monitor the processor core temperature;
  • Linpack 32-bit with LinX shell version 0.6.0.2 – 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 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 was unusually high and stayed at 25.5-26 °C.

The noise level of each cooler was measured after 1:00 AM in a closed room about 20 m2 big using CENTER-321 electronic noise meter. The measurements were taken at 1m distance from the closed system case. During the acoustics tests all four 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 29.8 dBA (the lowest on the charts is 30 dBA). The subjectively comfortable noise level is around 34.5~35 dBA, and the subjectively comfortable noise level is at 34.5-35 dBA.

We are going to compare the cooling efficiency of Thermaltake PW880i against that of Thermalright IFX-14 ($79.90), as it is the today’s most efficient air cooling solution. This comparison seems to be the most logical, because it will determine the justification for preferring this liquid-cooling solution to an air-cooler. The latter was installed onto the CPU using its default retention with a few additional metal washers and was equipped with two Noiseblocker NB-Multiframe MF12-S3HS fans ($23x2) working in quiet mode at 1170 RPM and at maximum rotation speed of 1830 RPM.

 

Now let’s proceed to the test results and their analysis.

 
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