by Sergey Lepilov
05/20/2008 | 08:27 PM
We have recently told you how four well-known companies modified their existing CPU cooling solutions and what came out of it (see our article called Old New Coolers from Zalman, Tuniq, Noctua and Thermaltake for the Overclocked Yorkfield Processor). Our today’s article has a lot to do with the previous one, as it discusses how well ASUSTeK Computer Inc. managed to cope with the same task: modification of their Silent Knight and
So, let’s start with this particular cooler model.
It is pretty hard to tell where this original name comes from, because there is no info on that on the official company web-site. So, we can’t rally answer this question. Therefore, let’s proceed to the cooler itself.
ASUS Triton 77 ships in a not very big cardboard box with black color dominating the design:
There is a small cooler photo on the front of the box, while the back side carries the cooler’s technical specifications and lists the compatible platforms. There is a smaller box at the top of the package. There are the following accessories inside:
Among them are: two retention brackets for LGA 775 mainboards, a swing-clip for AMD K8 mainboards, ASUS thermal compound, four retention screws and an installation guide in 14 (!) languages.
Let’s take a closer look at the newcomer:
ASUS Triton 77 is based on five copper heatpipes 6 mm in diameter that originate from the copper nickel-plated base. The heatpipes go straight up from the base and hold an array of 37 thin aluminum plates. There is a 92-mm fan attached right beneath the heatsink:
The manufacturer claims that the location of this fan is extremely efficient for better cooling f the electronic components around the processor socket, as the created airflow moves up and away from the mainboard.
The fan is attached to the heatsink sides with four screws. If you remove them, you can cast a glance at the heatsink:
Although there is not much to look at, actually. Slightly bent aluminum plates are attached to the heatpipes with thermal glue. The gap between them is 2.5mm.
The bottom nickel-plated part of the cooler base is made of solid copper with an aluminum pad on top of it. This pad has special slits in it for Socket 754/939/940/AM2 retention:
The heatpipes lie in the grooves of the base, however, they must be attached with the same thermal glue, as we didn’t notice any evidence of soldering technique being used.
The base surface is extremely even, although it is not polished to mirror-shine:
ASUS Triton 77 uses a 92 x 92 x 25mm fan from Sunon:
If the original fan breaks and you happen to have no extra 92mm fan available, you can also fit an 80mm fan into the same retention frame. The maximum rotation speed on the default fan is ~2,300RPM. It supports PWM control, so your mainboard should have a 4-pin fan connector for it.
You won’t have to remove the mainboard from your system case in order to install the cooler on any of the supported platforms. In case of AMD K8 processors the cooler is fastened with a swing-slip that catches to the standard plastic socket frame. For LGA 775 CPUs you will use retention with standard locks that should be screwed on to the cooler base. The distance from the cooler base to the fan is over 40mm so you will be able to install and remove the cooler easily and quickly.
ASUS Triton 77 seems very compact inside a system case and doesn’t block any of the components in the area around the processor socket. The manual doesn’t suggest any specific cooler positioning for maximum efficiency. Nevertheless, we had it installed with the heatpipes ends facing upwards during the entire test session:
The recommended retail price of this cooling solution is $35, which is actually pretty inexpensive for an ASUS branded solution.
The second cooler from ASUS we are going to talk about today is hardly a new one, even though the cooler we already tested about a year ago, ASUS Silent Knight, got a II in its name. As you remember if you read our review, we were very pleased with that cooling solution, which demonstrated remarkable efficiency. Our today’s test session will show how things changed with the launch of the new cooler modification. But before we move on to the tests, let’s take a closer look at the product.
Radical black color of the box changes to dark gray at the bottom, which then gradually transforms into bright orange:
There is a round window cut out in the center of the package front, which reveals part of the cooler. The back of the box lists all technical specifications and accessories bundled with the cooler. The latter include the following items:
Here everything is exactly the same as by the first cooler modification, so let’s move on to the cooler itself.
Please meet ASUS Silent Knight II:
You can easily notice that it looks exactly like the first ASUS Silent Knight without any constructive differences. The cooler is based on six copper heatpipes originating from a copper base plate. The heatpipes are split in two groups, three in each. Each group holds its parts of the heatsink made of thin copper plates:
The heatsink array consists of 128 plates total. ASUS Silent Knight II measures 115 x 140 x 110 mm and weighs 610g. So, what has become different compared with the previous cooler revision? I believe you will be disappointed with the answer: the changes touched only upon the fan installed between the two parts of the heatsink. Now instead of a fan with constant rotation speed of ~2,200RPM, Silent Knight II feature a 92mm fan with maximum ~2,300RPM rotation speed and PWM control support. So, the old-new cooler has become much quieter when the CPU utilization is low, although under maximum workload it turned a little noisier.
Unfortunately, the quality of the base finish got a little worse. Now there is no mirror shining polish:
Although the surface remained as impeccably even as it used to be: the thermal compound imprint on the glass surface was ideal.
The cooler retention and installation procedure remained the same, so I will not dwell on the details this time. However, I have to point out that ASUS Silent Knight II is not pressed against the processor heat-spreader as firmly as it should be. Being a pretty heavy cooler, it simply slides down over a thin layer of thermal compound on top of the heat-spreader. Therefore, I inserted a rubber pad about 4mm thick between the cooler base and the retention clip, to secure the cooler. It certainly helped: the cooler sat dead.
The heatsink is pretty high above the mainboard PCB, so there will hardly be any “components conflict” here. The bottom of the fan featuring blue highlighting is not covered with the heatsink plates, so the manufacturer can claim that the cooler reduces the temperature of mainboard power components by 10-15ºC compared with the regular coolers.
In conclusion, we can add that the cooler recommended retail price dropped from $65 to $55.
The next and the last cooler we are going to talk about today is a modification of a well-known
The new cardboard box has a convenient plastic handle and a small X-shaped window in the front panel:
The reverse as usual is given to the cooler specifications and a list of compatible processors – the same as by the two other coolers we have just discussed.
The accessories bundle, differs from that of ASUS Silent Knight II by the retention clip and user’s manual:
The cooler looks very interesting:
It measures 120 x 105 x 146 mm and weighs 745g. Like ASUS Triton 77, it uses two parts of the heatsink with a 92-mm fan inserted between them. The heatsinks top and sides are covered with an aluminum casing decorated with an ASUS logo at the top:
Five copper heatpipes covered with a thin layer of nickel alloy pierce copper base and hold the entire structure together. You can easily remove the top casing with a fan and reveal the entire heatsink:
Inside the casing there is a 92 x 92 x 25mm fan that can rotate at ~2,300RPM maximum (just like the other two ASUS coolers we have just discussed):
The fan rotation speed is PWM controlled. Four blue LEDs cast very weak highlighting as they are hidden deep inside the cooler.
The cooler base is very even and its finish quality is comparable with that of the other two solutions: it is not polished, too.
ASUS Silent Square EVO installs the same way as ASUS Silent Knight, however, it uses a slightly different retention bracket that holds the cooler better and presses its base firmer to the processor heat-spreader. So, no additional padding will be necessary:
Silent Square EVO is priced around $55, which is the same as the price of Silent Knight II.
The technical specifications and recommended retail pricing of the ASUSTeK coolers we have just discussed are summed up in the table below:
All today’s testing participants and their only competitor in this test session were tested in two modes: in an open testbed when the mainboard sits horizontally on the desk and the coolers are installed vertically, and in a closed testbed with the mainboard in vertical position.
Our testbed was identical for all coolers and featured the following configuration:
Using the weakest cooling system of our today’s testing participants we managed to overclock our quad-core processor to 3.85GHz with the Vcore increased to 1.525V in the mainboard BIOS. The monitoring utilities reported the core voltage setting a little bit lower than what was set in the mainboard BIOS: around 1.5V. When we tested our CPU for maximum overclocking with each cooler, we increased the CPU clock frequency and voltage accordingly.
All tests were performed under Windows XP Professional Edition SP2. SpeedFan 4.34 Beta 44 was used to monitor the temperature of the CPU, reading it directly from the CPU core sensor:
The mainboard’s automatic fan speed management feature was disabled for the time of the tests in the mainboard BIOS (except for coolers with PWM support). The CPU thermal throttling was controlled with the new RightMark CPU Clock Utility version 2.35.0:
The CPU was heated up with OCCT (OverClock Checking Tool) version 2.0.0 in a 23-minute test with maximum CPU utilization, during which the system remained idle in the first and last 4 minutes of the test:
I performed at least two cycles of tests and waited for approximately 20 minutes for the temperature inside the system case to stabilize during each test cycle. The stabilization period in an open testbed took about half the time. The maximum temperature of the hottest CPU core of the four in the two test cycles was considered the final result (if the difference was no bigger than 1°C – otherwise the test was performed at least once again). Despite the stabilization period, the result of the second test cycle was usually 0.5-1°C higher.
The ambient temperature was checked next to the system case with an electronic thermometer that allows monitoring the temperature changes over the past 6 hours. During our test session room temperatures varied between 24.5 ~ 25°C. It is used as a staring point on the diagrams. Note that the fan rotation speeds as shown in the diagrams are the average readings reported by SpeedFan, and not the official claimed fan specifications.
The noise level of each cooler was measured according to our traditional method described in the previous articles with the help of an electronic noise meter – CENTER-321. The subjectively comfortable noise level was considered 34.5dBA and is marked with a dotted line in the diagram. The ambient noise from the system case without the CPU cooler didn’t exceed 32.5dBA when measured at 1m distance.
We decided to compare the performance of our today’s testing participants against that of ZEROtherm NV120 Premium cooler, which is priced similar to ASUS solutions. We tested this cooler only in one operational ode: at ~1,490RPM fan rotation speed and moderate noise level.
Let’s see how these coolers coped with an overclocked quad-core CPU:
I can’t say that the first cooler we talked about today – ASUS Triton 77 – is a very efficient solution compared with the other two and especially with a ZEROtherm cooler. You may already know about coolers like that (with the airflow directed up and away from the mainboard PCB) – we tested solutions from Spire using the same airflow principle. And again we have to admit that this cooling principle is not justified against the classical approach, when the airflow is directed towards the mainboard PCB or along it. Here I would like to add that after we turned the fan upside down, so that the airflow was now coming towards the mainboard, ASUS Triton 77 improved its cooling efficiency by 2ºC. However, it was most likely a 120mm fan on the case side panel that blew cool air to the top of ASUS Triton 77 and then this airflow was taken over by the ASUS fan at the bottom of the heatsink. The same test performed in an open testbed with the fan turned upside down didn’t result in any changes of the CPU temperature.
Two other ASUS solution, Silent Knight II and Silent Square EVO, proved more efficient on an overclocked processor than Triton 77. We were a little bit surprised by Silent Square EVO, which suddenly turned out more efficient than Silent Knight II, while the results of the previous tests with first cooler revisions proved otherwise. We believe it is larger heat dissipating surface of the Silent Square EVO cooler as well as better fan positioning inside the heatsink that minimizes the airflow loss. Silent Knight II, however, could have been designed better in this aspect. Even the copper heatsink plates of the Silent Knight II and 220RPM faster rotating fan, according to the monitoring data, didn’t help it catch up with Silent Square EVO in cooling efficiency. The latter actually performed very well against the ZEROtherm NV120 Premium and yielded only 3ºC to the leader.
We measured the level of noise generated by our today’s testing participants from a 3cm, 1m and 3m distance. The results are given on the diagram below:
Unfortunately, the tested ASUS coolers did not that well in terms of acoustic characteristics. As the CPU temperature increases, the cooler fans start rotating faster very quickly, which lowers acoustic comfort dramatically. None of the three ASUS coolers we tested today could boast comfortable or at least acceptable level of noise under maximum CPU workload. In idle mode, all of them are very quiet and not even noticeable against he background noise from a very quiet system case. If we compare the acoustic data of all three coolers with one another, then ASUS Silent Square EVO will be a little quieter than ASUS Triton 77 or Silent Knight II. Could be the fan between two heatsinks that tells on the results here.
Three ASUSTeK CPU coolers we tested today proved to be very stable mainstream solutions. If you ask me, I wouldn’t recommend Triton 77 for overclockers, because it will not do well on top of a seriously overclocked processor. At the same time, keep in mind that this cooler is cheaper than Silent Knight II or Silent Square EVO. These two coolers are enhanced modifications of the previous models. They will provide comfortable thermal mode in majority of applications and will add a nice touch to your system case with their original design and modding highlighting effects. However, it is only possible if you agree to put up with pretty loud noise they generate at work. Anyway, the choice is yours, as always.