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) inside Scythe Quiet Drive 3.5” silencer and cooler chassis;
  • Backup HDD: Western Digital Caviar Green WD10EADS (SATA-II, 1000 GB, 5400 RPM, 32 MB, NCQ);
  • 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: two Scythe SlipStream 120 fans at 840 RPM; top panel: standard 200 mm fan at 400 RPM at the top of the case);
  • Control and monitoring panel: Zalman ZM-MFC2;
  • Power supply: Zalman ZM1000-HP 1000 W (with a default 140 mm fan).

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 3.9 GHz (+46.3%) using the weakest cooling system of the today’s testing participants. The nominal processor Vcore was increased to 1.3125 V (+9.4%) in the mainboard BIOS.

The memory voltage was at 1.62 V and its frequency was 1487 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 3.30 RC10 – 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)
  • CPU-Z 1.51 – to monitor processor core voltage and frequency.

So, the complete screenshot during the test session looks as follows:

The CPU was loaded with two consecutive Linpack test runs with the settings as indicated above. 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 26.5-27 °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 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(s). I continued to master the noise measuring methodology and decided to install the noise meter on a tripod in order to eliminate possible sound reflection off the desk surface that could affect the readings:

 

To measure the noise we set the cooler onto a 45 mm stand made of polyurethane foam material on top of a desk and the noise meter was always at a 25 cm distance from the cooler. 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 at 33.5 dBA. The fan(s) rotation speed was measured in the entire supported range using the new controller revision by changing the voltage in the interval from 3.0 to 12.0 V with 1.0 V increment.

We are going to compare our today’s testing participants against one of the best cooling solutions using heatpipe direct-touch technology – XIGMATEK Thor’s Hammer, and our reference point solution – Thermalright IFX-14. Both these coolers were equipped with two Noiseblocker NB-Multiframe MF12-S3HS fans working in moderate acoustic mode at 1120 RPM and at maximum rotation speed of 1760 RPM. The fans were installed for air intake and exhaust:

 

We tested the today’s newcomers with the default fans as well as with the same Noiseblocker fans as mentioned above:

 

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

 
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