by Sergey Lepilov
03/12/2010 | 10:10 AM
Born from the famous ASUS, AMA Precision INC. is a young and not yet easily recognizable company. However, it already has a wide range of products including a few air coolers for CPUs, one liquid cooling system, and some power supplies.
In this review I will take a look at four new CPU coolers from AMA that go under the fantasy-inspired names of Phantom, Elf, Orc and Stormblazer. They all feature such a highly original exterior design that I doubt you can easily find their match in this respect. On the other hand, the main thing required from a cooling system is that it cools effectively and quietly, the exterior design being but a secondary factor. Let’s see if AMA specialists have succeeded in combining nice looks with high performance in their products.
All coolers from AMA come in rather large boxes designed in a unified style but in different colors:
The front of each cardboard box can be opened up. I will tell you in the model-specific sections what you will see there. Inside the cardboard there is a transparent plastic wrap shaped to fit the cooler and a small flat box with accessories. Each of the four models comes with the same set of accessories including:
There are three back-plates for LGA775, 1156 and 1366 mainboards, one clip for mainboards for modern AMD processors, steel fastening plates and screws for them, an installation manual, and AMA’s thermal grease. The difference is that the Orc and Phantom kits I received for testing did not have a fastening plate for LGA1156 and the included fasteners only had holes for LGA775 and LGA1366. However, the manufacturer’s website is explicit that these models are compatible with LGA1156, so I suspect that an appropriate fastener will be included with the off-the-shelf kits. LGA1156 fasteners were included into my Elf and Stormblazer packages.
The coolers are all manufactured in China and have a 3-year warranty. I will now describe each of them to you in more detail.
The Phantom is the very first cooler produced by AMA. Its background story goes like this: “The secret weapon of the alliance of galaxy, Phantom is a highly invisible fleet…”
The spread of the box shows a photo of the cooler as well as its elements and specs. You can also see the top of the Phantom itself with an AMA logo.
The cooler is a typical tower measuring 129x102x143 millimeters at 689 grams of mass. It has six nickel-plated copper pipes, 6 millimeters in diameter, which go through a nickel-plated copper base.
There are 45 aluminum plates (0.45 millimeters thick and 1.7 millimeters apart from each other) on the heat pipes. Soldering can be seen in the points of contact, which is good news for overclockers.
The heatsink is cooled by a single 92x25mm fan.
A decorative plastic cap is attached to the top of the heatsink with two self-tipping screws.
When you take it off, you can easily see that the heatsink is symmetrical and calls for a second fan to be installed on its other side to exhaust the air.
The heat pipes go in two neat rows in the heatsink body, each row consisting of six pipes.
Take note that the pipes are grouped by three in each row and diverge a little from the heatsink’s center. The cooler’s sole is polished to a mirror shine:
It is also perfectly flat.
The heat pipes are soldered up neatly in the grooves of the base. The minimum thickness of the metal under the pipes is 2 millimeters.
The AMA Phantom is equipped with a 7-blade 92x92x25mm fan manufactured by Everflow.
According to the specs, the T129025SМ fan is PWM-controlled in the range of 1200 to 2500 (±10 %) RPM. The specified noise level is 20 dBA (this must be the bottom level of noise). The airflow and the static pressure of the fan are not declared.
Unlike many other air coolers, the AMA Phantom looks quite interesting inside a system case.
The fan’s blue LEDs will make this cooler even more beautiful in the evening.
The AMA Phantom is one of the cheapest products in this review, its recommended price being $49.
AMA’s next cooler is called Elf.
The cooler’s specs and the list of processors the Elf can cope with are printed on the spread of the box.
The transparent window allows you a glimpse of the cooler’s casing and part of the heatsink but you should take it out and into your hands to have a better view.
The new cooler looks highly unusual thanks to the aluminum casing that partially covers the heatsink. The acid-blue inserts in this casing are made from a material that resembles pile cloth. It makes the cooler very attractive.
The Elf consists of six nickel-plated copper heat pipes, 6 millimeters in diameter. They go through a nickel-plated copper base.
Two blocks of aluminum plates (45 millimeters thick and 1 to 3 millimeters apart) hang on the pipes.
There is a total of 144 plates (72 in each block). The Elf measures 129x120x143 millimeters and weighs 679 grams. A 92mm impeller is installed between the heatsink blocks. It is the same as the impeller of the AMA Phantom.
The pipes pierce the heatsinks in two groups, three pipes in each group.
The ends of the heat pipes nearly touch at the top of the heatsinks. The contact between the plates and pipes and between the pipes and base is ensured through soldering.
The Elf’s sole is perfectly flat and finished just as well as the Phantom’s.
This cooler looks amazing inside a system case.
Thanks to the blue LED lighting of the fan, AMA’s Elf is probably the most beautiful cooler of our time when it’s dark.
The recommended price of this new cooler is $47.
Next goes the Orc.
The box is designed in AMA’s unified style. You can read the background of this Orc on the spread of the box.
Like the rest of AMA’s coolers, the Orc looks very pretty and original.
This is the only model in this test to drive the air towards the surface of the mainboard. It measures 155x135x120 millimeters at 660 grams of weight. The cooler consists of six copper heat pipes, 6 millimeters in diameter, that go out of a copper base. Copper plates (0.25 millimeters thick and 1.5 to 2 millimeters apart) are press-fitted to the pipes.
A 120mm fan impeller is installed on top of the heatsink.
The sides are partially covered by two plastic pieces stylized to look like spiked shields.
You can unfasten a couple of screws to take off those pieces of plastic.
Then you can examine the cooler’s heatsink closely.
The first notable thing is that the heatsink sections are slightly bent down, and one section more so than the other. It’s hard to tell if this is a defect of the specific sample of the cooler or the feature of the entire series. Another special trait of the Orc is that it has six individual heatsinks (one for each pipe). The smallest heatsinks consisting of 39 copper fins are located on the interior semicircle. The medium heatsinks have 54 fins and the exterior ones, 76 fins each. Take note that the smallest heatsinks reside on the two central heat pipes that carry the biggest share of the thermal flow. I guess these heatsinks are also cooled poorly by the fan because they are located right beneath the fan’s motor. Therefore, I think that the Orc might be more efficient if its pipes were placed in such a way that the two pipes going out of the center of the base pierced the exterior heatsink which is the biggest and best cooled by the fan. Alas, the developer didn’t think about that.
The cooler’s sole is flat and finished perfectly.
Here is the trace of the polished-off heat-spreader of an LGA1366 processor on the sole of the Orc cooler:
As I said above, the Orc is equipped with a green 9-blade 120mm fan impeller manufactured by Everflow.
The T121225SH model runs on a sliding bearing with an increased service life (but the exact length of that life is not specified for some reason). The fan speed is PWM-controlled in the range of 1100 to 2000 RPM (±10%). The fan’s airflow and static pressure are not specified but the bottom noise level is declared to be 17 dBA.
The AMA Orc looks beautiful in a system case both in the daytime…
…and at night:
This beauty comes at a recommended price of $59.
AMA’s flagship cooler is called Stormblazer.
The front spread of the box shows you a photo of the cooler and its specifications. The transparent window gives you a glimpse of its heatsink.
The AMA Stormblazer is a very beautiful cooler and even good photos fail to convey its exterior appeal.
This all-copper thing measures 124x106x144 millimeters at 850 grams of weight. It consists of six copper heat pipes, each 6 millimeters in diameter. The pipes go out of a copper base. There are also two blocks of radial heatsinks and a fan in between them. The fan is covered from the sides with a plastic piece with a picture of a crown and sword.
Each block of the Stormblazer’s heatsink consists of 93 copper fins. Thus, the total number of fins is 186. Each fin is a mere 0.25 millimeters thick. They are soft and bend easily when you touch them with your finger. The fins are placed 1 to 3 millimeters apart depending on how far they are from the heat pipes.
The fins seem to be press-fitted to the pipes. There is no trace of soldering or thermal glue in the points of contact.
There are drops of solder in the grooves of the cooler’s base where the heat pipes lie. Everything is very neat and tidy, though.
The Stormblazer’s sole is as flat and well-finished as the Orc’s. It also has the same 120mm impeller installed between the two sections of its heatsink.
The LEDs here are white and it looks even nicer than the Orc’s green.
The AMA Stormblazer is the most expensive product among the four: its recommended price is $66.
It is easy to install AMA coolers, compatible as they are with all modern platforms. You secure them on AMD processors with the clip that is inserted between the cooler’s pipes into the slits above its base. The clip is attached to the prongs of the standard plastic frame and fixed with a lever. You don’t have to take the mainboard out of the system case and the cooler can be oriented on the CPU in two possible ways.
Two fastening plates with screw holes are attached to the cooler’s base in order to install it on LGA 775/1156/1366 mainboards.
The back-plate is glued to the reverse side of the mainboard.
And then the cooler is secured on the CPU with spring-loaded screws.
The screws can be fastened with the key included into the kit. It is bent in such a way as to bypass the tall heatsinks on the power components around the CPU socket. The fastening is secure, making the cooler absolutely immobile on the CPU.
The user manuals say the following about the best way to position the Phantom, Elf and Stormblazer.
If turns out that AMA’s recommendations boil down to one and the same thing: the air flow should be directed to the back of the system case. AMA does not try to optimize the position of the heat pipes on the CPU’s heat-spreader as is indicated by the fact that the top model Orc comes without any advice regarding the best orientation.
However, all the four coolers from AMA show their highest performance if their heat pipes lie across an LGA1366 CPU which agrees with the Phantom manual but contracts the recommendations to the Elf and Stormblazer. The coolers may perform differently with Intel’s other sockets or with AMD’s processors, but I did not do such tests for this review.
Click to enlarge
We are going to test the cooling efficiency of AMA coolers and their only today’s competitor in the following testbed:
During this test session we managed to overclock our 45 nm quad-core processor (with polished heat-spreader) with the multiplier set at 21x and “Load-Line Calibration” enabled to 3.8 GHz using the weakest cooler in quiet mode. The nominal processor Vcore was increased to 1.2875 V in the mainboard BIOS.
The memory voltage was at 1.6 V and its frequency was around 1.43 GHz (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 7 RTM x64 operating system. We used the following software during our test session:
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 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 monitoring the temperature changes over the past 6 hours. During our test session room temperature was at 24.8-25.2 °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 200 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 34.5 dBA (do not mix it up with low noise level). The fan(s) rotation speed was adjusted in the entire supported range using the new controller revision by changing the voltage with 0.5 V increment.
We are going to the results of the most efficient tower-cooler out there – Noctua NH-D14, for comparison purposes. It was equipped with two 140 mm fans:
We tested the super-cooler in two modes: in quiet mode at 860 RPM and in moderate acoustic mode at 1200 RPM. AMA coolers were tested in three modes: at minimal, average and maximum fan rotation speed.
The next diagram and table show the results of the four new coolers from AMA and their opponent.
Click to enlarge
So, we’ve got very interesting results here! There are two losers and two leaders among the four coolers from AMA. The AMA Elf proves to be the worst one, barely copying with the slightly overclocked quad-core processor in quiet mode. After all, the intricately intertwined heat pipes, even six in number, are not as effective as we might expect. When the fan speed is increased from the minimum 1480 RPM to 2000 RPM, the Elf becomes more productive and the peak CPU temperature goes down by 5°C, yet this cooler is still the worst among the four. At the maximum speed of 2660 RPM it improves by 4°C more and still cannot match the other coolers from AMA.
Oddly enough, it is the AMA Orc that proves to be second worst in this test. Alas, the design of its heatsink prevents this all-copper cooler with a 120mm impeller compete with the two leaders. Anyway, the Orc is third, outperforming the Elf by an average 4°C and cooling the overclocked CPU well enough for a top-cooler.
Second place goes to the cheapest product in this review. It is the modest Phantom. This small tower with a single 92mm fan copes splendidly with the task, outperforming the previous two models by 9 to 11°C. Moreover, the Phantom is a mere 1-2°C behind the copper Stormblazer which is 35% more expensive! As the CPU frequency at overclocking was limited by the efficiency of the AMA Elf, the two best coolers could not show their best. Therefore I tested them again at the maximum speed of their fans.
As you can see, the coolers stop only 80-90 MHz short of the highest CPU frequency I had reached with a Noctua NH-D14. This is not much considering that the resulting frequency is as high as 4000 MHz. Although AMA’s best coolers are inferior to the Noctua NH-D14 (over 10°C at comparable noise), the Phantom and Stormblazer are very effective as today’s coolers go. The noise factor will be discussed in the next section.
The next graph shows how much noise AMA’s coolers produce in the entire speed range of their default fans.
AMA’s coolers are not quiet overall. Although the Elf and Phantom have the same fans, they differ greatly in terms of noise. The same goes for the Orc and Stormblazer. The AMA Phantom is the quietest of the four, its noise being comfortable up to 1500 RPM. The fan does not rattle and the heatsink fins do not clank at any speed. The Elf is louder than the Phantom but does not produce parasitic sounds, either. This cooler is acoustically comfortable up to 1350 RPM.
The coolers with 120mm fans are louder than the Elf and Phantom. The Orc and Stormblazer are only comfortable up to 1100-1150 RPM. After that speed, they differ from each other. The Stormblazer’s heatsink fins begin to rattle and clank because they are not soldered up. That’s why its noise graph is not linear.
The bottom speed of each cooler could be achieved at 6 V. When the voltage was reduced by 0.5 V more, each fan would slow down twofold (to 450-500 RPM) and produce a distinct hiss.
AMA coolers I have tested today demonstrated pretty predictable performance. They are not super-brilliant when it comes to cooling overclocked processors and are not extremely quiet, but I bet you won’t walk by without noticing them in a computer shop. It is with their original exterior designs, shapes, names and LED lighting that AMA coolers are going to win the hearts of computer enthusiasts and modding fans. Who will ever look again at a big and uncouth Noctua NH-D14 with two brown fans and no LEDs? As opposed to it, the Orc or the Elf will undoubtedly provoke a sensation among your friends!
One cooler from AMA is going to be interesting for overclockers, too. I am talking about the Phantom. Although inferior to the Stormblazer in pure performance, it is the best product from AMA in terms of price/performance ratio. Compact and beautiful with blue LED lighting, this cooler is the quietest of the four models and comes at only $49 a piece. Besides, this cooler supports all platforms and is easy to install. I recommend it in the first place for cooling overclocked CPUs, but I have no doubt that the other three models from AMA will find their user, too.
In conclusion e would like to award AMATech Phantom with our Recommended Buy title as the best cooler of the four in terms of price/performance: