by Sergey Lepilov
12/17/2007 | 04:10 PM
Try to answer a question to yourself: what criteria you take into account when choosing an air-cooler for your system CPU? Trust me, there will be a lot of different answer variations including efficiency, noise level, price, universality of the design, compatibility with mainboards, weight, convenience of installation, availability in the market. Even exterior looks of the solutions may be among those criteria, some people do care about the way the cooler looks. Even assuming that I missed something out, all those factors listed above may be more than enough to understand that there is simply no cooler out there that could please the user in all those aspects.
Subjectively, the well-known Thermaltake Big Typhoon may be the closest to ideal here, namely its recent modification with the VX index. But again, only close to ideal, but not ideal just yet. And the most interesting thing is that none of the cooler manufacturers are really trying to build a solution like that. It may seem a pretty evident and easy task to combine all the advantages of the existing cooling solutions and put together an impeccable product. However, there are such obstacles as patents, marketing, distribution market sharing and other things that have nothing to do with overclocking at all. Even the Chinese market where you can see numerous clones of European cars cannot yet boast anything like that either. All in all, I have every reason to say that we may never see a cooler like that.
Well, let’s not veer away from this slightly out-of-topic introduction and get to the actual hero of our today’s test session. The well-known Cooler Master Company seems to have had enough of fun with image solutions like Sphere already (see our article called Originality or Efficiency 2: Cooler Master Sphere CPU Cooler Review), so now they started to finally move into the right direction by enhancing their remarkable Hyper TX 2 cooler and launching a new Hyper 212 cooler afterwards. This will be the main character of our today’s discussion – Cooler Master Hyper 212.
The new cooling system comes in a large box with a window in the front that shows some of the cooler inside. It is marked with the cooler model name and a few icons standing for supported processor types:
The back of the package is much more informative. Cooler pictures, the list of its key features, brief description of its technical specifications – all this you can get from the Cooler Master Hyper 212 box.
Inside the carton box there is a transparent plastic casing shaped precisely around the cooler for more secure hold:
This packaging allows to minimize the risk of damaging the cooler during transportation or shipping. I would like to specifically draw your attention to this fact, because we all know that delivery people may sometimes be brutal to packages. That is why I will continue stressing secure transportation packaging as a definite advantage.
The cooler sits on a smaller box with the bundled accessories that include the following:
Now let’s take a closer look at the cooler itself.
Hyper 212 is a tower cooler and uses four copper heatpipes 6mm in diameter:
The cooler dimensions are 122 x 92 x 160mm and it weight 710g. The heatsink array is cooled with a120-mm fan fastened on one side of it:
The heatsink itself consists of two sections, each including 55 aluminum plates 0.4mm thick. The gap between the plates is 2mm:
Frankly speaking, I couldn’t figure out why they made this heatsink of two separate parts. Was it done to lower the weight and optimize the airflow in a certain way? Yes, there is the so-called “dead zone” right beneath the fan motor, but in this case they could have designed a solid heatsink array with a round hole in the center, for instance, instead of two halves, which results in smaller overall cooling surface than in case of a solid heatsink. Although it is pretty hard to build a heatsink with a hole in the center.
The heatsink sides are not covered like those of Cooler Master Hyper TX 2, for example, therefore, some of the airflow generated by the fan will be lost on the sides of the heatsink array inevitably.
The two-part heatsink design is not the only peculiarity of the Cooler Master Hyper 212 cooler. I think you may have already noticed that the heatpipes in the heatsink array are not liner to one another but are shifted a little bit. You can see it very well on the top or bottom photo of the cooler:
This simple implementation allows to distribute the heat more evenly over the heatsink plates thus increasing the overall cooler efficiency. Here I have to stress that the shifted heatpipes create more resistance to the airflow than in case of linear placement. The two holes in the top and bottom plates of the heatsink serve to fasten the second fan. The special retentions for the optional second fan are bundled with the cooler.
Protective plastic film covers the cooler base. It should be removed before installation:
There must have been pretty well-polished surface beneath this film, but since this cooler has been tested before it got to us, you can see a few scratches and tracks from the processor heat-spreader:
Though we can certainly explain the absence of the mirror-finish on the cooler base, we can’t say the same about uneven surface of it. By checking out the footprint thermal compound would leave on the glass surface and then the CPU heat-spreader, we can state that the copper base is slightly bent inwards on both sides, almost symmetrically:
We have checked out the cooler efficiency before we leveled out and polished off the base and after and we discovered that with a little extra effort on our part the cooler efficiency improved by 5-6ºC. Moreover, now that we leveled out the cooler base, we managed to increase the processor frequency by another 110MHz, which is a significant improvement even for our test CPU. Therefore, when you are buying a new cooler, take the time to check out how even its base surface is. Even in a computer store you can do it in just a few seconds with a credit card or any other plastic card.
The heatpipes are soldered to the cooler base in a very neat manner:
There is an aluminum plate above the heatpipes that serves as a foothold for cooler retention brackets.
Cooler Master Hyper 212 is equipped with a 120 x 120 x 25mm fan with nine falcated blades:
It is a Cooler Master A12025-20RB-3BN-F1 fan that is built using a slide bearing with 50,000h mean time before failure specification (over 5.5 years). The fan rotation speed is constant and equals 2,000rpm with almost 70CFM airflow and claimed 19dBA noise level. The latter value is hardly real, because Cooler Master have their own noise measuring methodology. We are going to discuss it in the appropriate section of our today’s article. But at this time I would like to say that the fan is really not noisy at all for its 2,000rpm. It doesn’t support PWM (fan rotation speed adjustment with pulse-width modulation).
The detailed installation procedure is described in several languages in the provided user’s guide. However, I would still like to say a few words about it. Cooler Master Hyper 212 can be installed on LGA 775 and Socket 754/939/940/AM2 mainboards. The cooler retention goes through the mainboard PCB that is why you will have to remove it from the system case before cooler mounting. It is not a big problem at all. Besides, this is a really small price you will have to pay for secure retention, especially since almost all cooling solutions of the same size as Hyper 212 will require the mainboard to be removed from the system case as well.
First of all you fasten the appropriate for your processor retention brackets to the cooler base:
Before that you need to put in the screws (rotating counterclockwise) into the bracket retention holes. The rubber ring-pads will then need to be placed on top of them, sticky side down:
In fact, you can even stick these ring pads to the mainboard instead, it doesn’t really matter. The important thing is not to forget it has to be done. Otherwise, you may damage the mainboard PCB when tightening the metal retention screws.
Now you just set the cooler on the processor heat-spreader covered with preliminarily applied thermal compound. And then tighten the screws from the reverse side of the PCB with special nuts and plastic washers:
The kit includes a special spanner with a cross button. When the cooler is installed onto LGA 775, the PCB may bend. In case of AMD K8 processors you should use a backplate, so PCB will not bend at all.
The bottom part of the cooler is very compact. The lowest heatsink plate is above 30mm above the cooler base, so the heatsink will not hit against any electronic components in the area around the processor socket:
This is what Cooler Master Hyper 212 looks like when installed and set into a system case:
If you wish to install a second fan when the cooler already sits in the system, you can only fasten it to the top retention hopes. To use the bottom retention holes as well, you will have to remove the cooler from the mainboard first.
In conclusion to our installation discussion I would like to add that the cooler fan features blue highlighting that will please modding fans and those of you who have a transparent window in their system case:
The table below provides a complete list of cooler technical specs and recommended pricing:
The cooler is already available in retail.
The Cooler Master Hyper 212 and it only today’s competitor were tested on an open testbed as well as in a closed system case with the following configuration:
The quad-core processor with polished-off heat-spreader was overclocked to its maximum frequency on the weakest of the tested coolers (inside a system case). The resulting frequency was 3312MHz at a core voltage increased to 1.45V.
According to monitoring data, CPU-Z, SpeedFan and Everest processor Vcore equaled 1.42V. Vdimm was increased to 2.25V, and other mainboard voltages remained default. CPU Voltage Reference parameter was set at 0.63x in the mainboard BIOS, and CPU Voltage Damper – enabled.
All tests are performed in Windows XP Professional Edition Service Pack 2. SpeedFan 4.34 Beta 34 was used to monitor the temperature of the CPU, reading it from the CPU core sensor. I would like to point out specifically that the new version of this utility has significantly corrected processor temperature readings towards higher values. So, compared with the previous SpeedFan versiob 4.33 the processor temperature readings rose by 18-19ºC.
The data from SpeedFan matched the readings from Core Tempt v0.95 utility:
At the same time, brand name Asus Probe and Intel TAT reported different temperatures. I believe it is secondary in this case, what utility to believe. It is much more important to find out when the CPU remains stable and enables throttling. The latter threshold was determined empirically and increased from the traditional 82ºC to 100ºC.
The CPU was heated up with OverClock Checking Tool version 1.1.1b in a 24-minute test with maximum CPU utilization, during which the system remains idle in the first and last 4 minutes:
The mainboard’s automatic fan speed management (Q-Fan technology) was disabled for the time of the tests in the mainboard BIOS. The thermal throttling of the Intel Core 2 Quad processor was controlled with RightMark CPU Clock Utility version 2.30.
I performed at least two cycles of tests and waited for 20 minutes for the temperature inside the system case to stabilize during each test cycle. The stabilization period in an open testbed took half the time. The maximum temperature of the hottest CPU core in the two test cycles was considered as the final result (if the difference was not bigger than 1°C – otherwise the test was performed at least once again). Despite the stabilization period, the result of the second cycle was usually 0.5-1°C higher.
The noise level of each cooler was measured according to our traditional method described in the previous articles. The subjectively comfortable level of 36dBA is marked with a dotted line in the diagram; the ambient noise from the system case, without the CPU cooler, didn’t exceed 34dBA when measured at 1m distance.
The ambient temperature was monitored with an electronic thermometer that allows monitoring the temperature changes over the past 6 hours. During our test session room temperatures stabilized at around 24.5~25°C. It is used as a staring point on the diagrams. Note that the fan rotation speeds are shown in the diagrams as the average readings reported by SpeedFan, and not as the claimed fan specifications.
We are going to compare the performance of the new Cooler Master Hyper 212 against that of the efficiency reference among contemporary air-coolers – Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme with a single 120 x 120 x 25mm fan from Scythe (Minebea 4710KL-04W-B29 running at ~1140RPM). Cooler Master Hyper 212 was tested with one and two fans like that. Moreover, the newcomer was also tested with one and two Scythe Minebea fans running at ~1990RPM for air intake/exhaust. Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme did well even with a single quiet fan that is why we ran no tests with additional or other fans for it.
Let’s take a look at the obtained results now.
First let’s check out the processor thermal diagram:
It is evident that the new solution from Cooler Master doesn’t demonstrate any impressive results, losing to Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme supercooler about 7-8ºC in CPU peak temperature with the identical Scythe fan used (~1140RPM). Note that Nyper 212 falls not that greatly behind with the original fan. Inside a system case, Hyper 212 with two high-speed fans installed managed to even outperform the known air-cooling leader. However, the latter has never been tested with powerful fans like that. Moreover, it regains its leading position in an open testbed. I would also like to say that Cooler Master Hyper 212 with two quiet fans appears as efficient as with a single high-speed fan.
Now let’s take a look at the maximum CPU overclocking results with each cooling solution. The tests were performed in an open testbed. Here are the obtained results:
CPU Vcore was different during these tests for each of the coolers:
Here Cooler Master Hyper 212 yields more significantly to the competitor from Thermalright. Look, if we compare the coolers performance with a single fan in quiet mode, the super-cooler allows pushing the quad-core processor frequency 240MHz higher than the Cooler Master product. Nevertheless, with a pair of high-performance fans helps Hyper 212 reduce the lag to the minimum. Although you should remember that the difference in the level of generated noise becomes pretty significant in this case. So, I guess it is time for us to check out the acoustic parameters now:
The most important thing that we have to stress after looking at the diagram is the low noise generated by the default Cooler Master Hyper 212 fan. My observations pointed out in the Design and Functionality section of this article proved absolutely correct during noise measurements. Check it out: Hyper 212 fan rotating at ~1900RPM generates 36.6dBA of noise, which is very close to subjectively comfortable level of 36dBA. The 9-blade Scythe Minebea fan working at ~1990RPM in the same conditions produces 38.5dBA, which is far from being comfortable.
I believe that even though Cooler Master Hyper 212 may not impress the users spoilt by the remarkable efficiency of the supercoolers, this solution still turned out a success. And it is not only its very decent efficiency, universal design or moderate level of produced noise, but the price-to-efficiency ratio of this cooling solution. We compared the Cooler Master product against pretty much the best air cooler out there, but I didn’t mention the 70% higher price of the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme on purpose. Moreover, the latter is shipped even without the fan. Of course, if you are looking for an unbeatable cooling solution and have unlimited budget, the choice is evident. However, far not everyone and not always need cooling systems like the Thermalright one, which is also pretty hard to find these days. This is when Cooler Master Hyper 212 comes in handy.
In conclusion I also cannot help pointing out a few drawbacks of the new Cooler Master Hyper 212 solution. It is evident that they failed to really utilize the cooler potential to the full extent. Of course, a solid heatsink array instead of the currently used two-halved design will undoubtedly increase the heat dissipating surface and improve the cooler efficiency even more. Since it allows using two fans simultaneously, why not reduce the gap between the heatsink plates and include a second fan in the standard cooler bundle? If they covered the heatsink sides by simply bending the plate edges, they could have used the airflow more efficiently right away. They could also throw in a backplate for LGA774 systems, equip their fans with the rotation speed management option or at least ensure PWM support. However, despite all these suggestions that could add to the cooler efficiency we have to state that there is one good CPU cooling solution more in the market these days thanks to Cooler Master Hyper 212. As for the uneven base of the cooler foot, I tend to believe that it is the defect of our particular sample, so we will check out what other users say to determine is this supposition is correct.