Batman Forever: AVC Extra-Sensory Perception (ESP) Integrating Super-Cooler Review

Today we are going to talk about a CPU cooler that boasts a pretty rare combination of stylish looks and superb cooling efficiency. Read our review for details!

by Sergey Lepilov
05/07/2009 | 05:21 PM

Although some you may not be familiar with the Chinese Asia Vital Components Co., Ltd. (AVC), it is one of the leaders in the world market. Founded back in 1991 with 65 million dollars authorized capital stock, AVC has now grown to 2.1 billion dollars worth with over 8700 employees. The company specializes on computer components cooling and some other products that is why they work closely with such “monsters” as IBM, Toshiba, Siemens, LG, Intel and AMD. Over the entire lifetime, the company has registered over 200 patents for inventions and innovations in this field.

 

After taking a quick look at the AVC cooling solutions we decided to dwell on one of them that turned out a brand new product. I am talking about a cooler with a very long hard-to-pronounce name: AVC Extra-Sensory Perception (ESP) Integrating. I have to admit that it sounds too sophisticated and not typical for a CPU air-cooler at all. Besides the unique name, the cooler also seemed very interesting due to 8 heatpipes used in its heatsink design and its claimed ability to cool 200W CPUs. Well, let’s find out how true these claims are.

Package and Accessories

The box that this cooler ships in is pretty large, with a shaped cut our window on the front panel. The shape of this window looks very much like a bat – the symbol of a popular superhero from the Hollywood sequel:

The sides of the box contain detailed information about the cooling solution inside. It is hard to tell what could be missing over there:

  

There is a molded plastic casing inside the cardboard box that protects the cooler against transportation damages. Our AVC Extra-Sensory Perception (ESP) Integrating sample arrived with one cardboard corner smashed in and the plastic casing cracked in that particular spot, but the cooler remained safe and sound.

There is a small box with the bundled accessories on top. It contains the following items:

The LGA775/1366 retention plates are already preinstalled onto the cooler, so don’t be surprised that they are not listed among the bundled accessories. However, there was no user manual among them either. In fact, this is not a big omission, because the installation is pretty simple and intuitive, but we will talk more about it later in this review. At this point we only have to add that the cooler is made in China. And now let’s check out the newcomer in person.

Design and Functionality

AVC Extra-sensory perception Integrating is a very large cooler and I personally liked very much the looks of it. It is available in three color schemes: black, silver and blue.

We got a sample with a black heatsink.

The cooler measures 166 x 124 x 166 mm and weighs 836g. The heatsink is built of sophisticatedly shaped aluminum plates sitting on copper nickel-plated heatpipes:

 

First time you see this AVC cooler, you can’t understand right away where the fan is, but on closer examination you can see it inside the heatsink between the array sections:

 

Each heatsink array consists of 50 aluminum plates, each 0.4mm thick and spaced out at a 2mm distance from one another:

 

The calculated heatsink surface area makes 8,753cm2, which is one of the best among contemporary super-coolers (let me remind you that the calculated effective heatsink surface of the Thermalright IFX-14 is 10,323cm2).

The cooler height and width are the same and equal 166mm. Its width is luckily smaller and equals 124mm:

Nevertheless, I have to repeat once again that the cooler is very big.

There is a glossy plastic shield attached to the top of the heatsink with two self-tapping screws. The fan hides beneath it:

 

The fan is fastened with two aluminum plates pushing against the bottom heatsink plates.

Once you remove these fan retention plates, you will see that the heatsink arrays are of completely different size:

The fan is installed in such a way that the airflow from it is aimed at the larger heatsink array, which is, in fact, quite logical.

Now I have to say a few words about the heatpipes. Of course, you remember, that the cooler description mentions eight heatpipes. However, it turned out to be not quite the case. There are four 6-mm heatpipes that go through the copper nickel-plated cooler base:

 

It looks like AVC guys count the number of heatpipes piercing the heatsink and not the number of heatpipes uses in the cooler. The heatpipes lie in special grooves and all contact surfaces are soldered together. The base plate beneath the heatpipes is 2.3mm.

The base surface finish leaves much to be desired: the machine marks are not only visible but also can be felt to the touch:

The surface, however, is mostly even. The thermal compound imprint from the CPU heat-spreader was almost ideal:

Well, we have finally come to the fan. It has seven transparent blue blades that look very pretty, but too simple, in my opinion, without any distinguishing features:

 

The fan rotation speed is adjusted automatically in the interval from 550 to 2000RPM using pulse-width modulation method (PWM). The specifications mention maximum airflow of 81.3CFM and 27.5-36dBA noise level. The last spec seems to be pretty far from reality in my opinion, because the only way a 120-mm fan can generate 27.5dBA of noise is if its bearings are clanking or if the fan blades are scratching the frame around them.

By the way, the bearing may in fact clank, because this fan uses a ball bearing.

In addition I have to say that the fan is equipped with four blue LEDs:

Unfortunately, they cast pretty weak light. They are barely noticeable against a black heatsink in the dark.

Compatibility and Installation

AVC Extra-sensory perception Integrating is compatible with all contemporary platforms. It is always installed with screws inserted through the PCB and a backplate that is stuck to the bottom of the board:

When you install this cooler onto AMD platforms, you must use the reference backplate of the particular boards.

Once the backplate is attached and the thermal interface is applied to the CPU heat-spreader, we install the cooler and tighten the spring-screws evenly using an L-shaped hexagonal wrench:

This is a not very convenient process, because tall heatsinks over mainboard voltage regulator components or tall memory module heat-spreaders may be in the way of the wrench. However, in the end you will be rewarded with a very secure hold and reliable contact between the cooler base and the processor heat-spreader.

Despite the size of this cooler the only component that may interfere with it when installed onto the board is the tall memory module heat-spreaders, because the distance between the PCB and the lower heatsink plate is about 40mm:

 

As for the dependence of cooling efficiency on the way the cooler is installed onto the CPU, we can say that AVC Extra-sensory perception Integrating is hardly sensitive to this factor (-1..1.5°C when the cooler is installed so that the airflow is directed towards the top of the system case):

 

Well, it is certainly a matter of personal perception, but for me the shape of the new AVC cooler looks more like a Batman logo than some extra-sensory perception.

Technical Specifications and Recommended Price

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:

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

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 or open testbed 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 stayed at 23.5-24°C.

The noise level of each cooler was measured after 1:00AM in a closed room about 20sq.m big using CENTER-321 electronic noise meter. The measurements were taken at 1m and 3m distance from the closed system case. During the acoustics tests all five 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 30.8 dBA (the lowest on the charts is 30 dBA). The subjectively comfortable noise level is around 34.5~35 dBA.

Considering the design of the AVC cooler we picked a similar looking and priced solution - Thermalright IFX-14, which is the most efficient CPU air cooler today. This super-cooler was tested with the same fan as AVC Extra-sensory perception Integrating. Besides the tests with a default AVC fan, both coolers were also tested with an alternative fan – Noiseblocker NB-BlackSilentFan XLP Rev. 3.00 at 1060RPM, 1560RPM and 1980RPM rotation speeds.

Cooling Efficiency and Acoustic Performance

During this test session we managed to overclock our 45nm quad-core processor quite well even at the lower fans rotation speeds. We reached 3.95 GHz (+48.1%). The nominal processor Vcore was increased to 1.34375V in the mainboard BIOS (+12%):

During CPU overclocking we activated in the mainboard BIOS the “Load-Line Calibration” function that lowers the voltage drop on the part of the voltage regulator circuitry before the CPU. The system memory voltage was locked at 1.64V and its frequency was at 1528MHz (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).

Before we get to discussing the obtained results, we have to say a few words about the default AVC cooler fan. When we connected it to the mainboard, its rotation speed changed automatically in the interval from 1390RPM to 1960RPM. In other words, the rotation speed never lowered down to 550RPM claimed by the spec (even in Silent mode set through the mainboard BIOS). Of course, no silent mode was possible at 1360RPM. We tried adjusting the rotation speed of this fan with Zalman ZM-MFC2 panel, but with no luck, because the strange AVC fan was still rotating with variable speed, no matter what we set. When we compared the cooler efficiency with the default fan settings, fan rotating at 1390-2000RPM and an alternative Noisevlocker fan at 1980RPM, we obtained identical results under peak load. Therefore, we decided to perform the main test session only with the Noiseblocker fan.

Here are the obtained results:

Frankly speaking, I didn’t expect AVC Extra-sensory perception Integrating to do so well. Although its ability to cool a well-overclocked quad-core processor even at minimal fan rotation speed gave us good reasons to expect more. And when we completed the tests of the Thermalright IFX-14 competitor, AVC once again proved how extremely efficient it was. If you remember our latest massive super-cooler shootout, you can easily conclude that if AVC had participated in that test session, it would undoubtedly have taken the silver in cooling efficiency, because all the testing participants in that session fell 5°C+ behind IFX-14, while AVC only lost 3°C to the leader.

Don’t think that I am trying to mislead you, because if I had installed a second or even third fan onto Thermalright IFX-14, then the efficiency difference would have increased to 5°C or even 7°C. But, it is not what I am talking about here. It is important, that we compared two coolers in identical testing conditions and equipped with the same fan. In other words, it means that the heatsink of AVC Extra-sensory perception Integrating cooler is just a little bit less efficient than the competitor’s one. And this is all despite the fact that the AVC cooler uses four 6-mm heatpipes, while IFX-14 – six 8-mm heatpipes, and the heatsink effective surface is 18% by Thermalright solution. Taking all these facts into account we have every reason to state that AVC Extra-sensory perception Integrating demonstrated truly remarkable cooling efficiency.

When we measured the noise from the AVC cooler fan at its minimal rotation speed (during the tests) of 1360RPM at 1m distance we got 35.7dBA and at 3m – 32.3dBA. At the Maximum fan rotation speed of 1960RPM the fan generated 42.2 and 36.7dBA respectively.  In other words, it is far not the quietest fan, although its PWM module may work differently on your specific mainboard. I also have to add that at 1360RPM we could clearly hear some crackling inside the fan bearing. Together with its indistinct rotation adjustment mechanism, this could be considered one and only drawback of our today’s hero.

Conclusion

Well, looks like we now have one more CPU super-cooler, and not just a super-cooler but one of the most efficient air-coolers out there. AVC Extra-sensory perception Integrating is the second best after the current performance leader – Thermalright IFX-14. Besides, the new AVC cooler looks impressively stylish, it is universal, offers simple and reliable installation, and has no issues with the base surface evenness. However, we really wish they replaced the current fan with something else – hopefully a fan using a high-quality non-crackling bearing, with manual rotation speed adjustment option, shock-absorbing fastening and more distinctive LED lighting. Besides, we would love to see AVC solutions available through a broader distribution network, so that anyone in the world could have a chance to get a great product like that.