by Sergey Lepilov
12/15/2006 | 10:47 AM
I don’t know about you, but I personally have already got used to see coolers on heat pipes to have a tower-like design. There are usually a few heat pipes passing through a copper base and carrying aluminum plates to dissipate heat. The manufacturers may experiment with the shape of the ribbing and the number of pipes and may install different fans, air-ducts, casings, etc, but the overall concept remains the same. As far as I can recall, there are only Zalman’s CNPS9500 and 9700 and Thermaltake’s Big Typhoon that go off this trend somewhat.
Two more coolers with an original shape of the heatsink and heat pipes, differing from the classic tower design, are going to be described in this review. These are the Mars and Eclipse models released recently by Cooler Master. Besides checking out the pros and cons of these new air coolers, I’ll discuss the midrange Cooler Master Hyper TX model which is not very new but is worthy of your attention.
Let's meet out testing participants.
Cooler Master’s new product features an absolutely new and original design:
It comes in a translucent plastic package which reveals it to the eye almost in full.
This packaging also holds the cooler firmly so that there is a minimum of risk of damage during transportation.
There is a list of specifications on the package. It contains a small flat box at the bottom with the following accessories:
The cooler’s design is indeed original. I haven’t met anything like this before. There are three heat pipes that go out of the copper base and stretch to the cooler’s top:
The pipes are gripped inside aluminum bars at the top and bottom. The bars also hold a number of aluminum plates that form a sphere. Notwithstanding the visual clumsiness, the cooler is not large at only 133x120x105mm. This is a moderate size as today’s air coolers go.
An aluminum piece with a Cooler Master logotype covers the blades at the top. The base is made out of copper:
The base is finished well, although not to the mirror shine characteristic of a majority of today’s super-coolers.
I checked out how flat the base is by looking at its trace on a piece of glass. The trace was perfect.
Inside the aluminum sphere there is a 90x25mm adjustable-speed fan. The fan speed controller, like the cooler at large, is designed in quite an original way:
The fan speed is selected by a jumper connected inline into the fan power circuit. The user can choose from a quiet mode of 1800rpm, a max speed of 3000rpm, and an automatic adjustment mode (by means of PWM) from 900rpm to 2500rpm.
As for the noise factor, the specifications declare a noise level of 17dBA, but this is only at the minimum speed of 900rpm. The specs don’t say how loud the cooler is at its max speed, but I can say that it is audible at 1800rpm and unbearably loud at 3000rpm.
The cooler is fastened through the mainboard, so you have to take the latter out of the system case to install it on any of the supported platforms. But first you should secure an appropriate mounting frame to the cooler’s base with four screws.
After that, you glue rubber spacers to the mainboard or to the feet of the mounting frame. These spacers prevent damage to the mainboard during the installation of the cooler.
Then use the included key, plastic spacers and nuts to fasten the cooler to the mainboard.
Unfortunately, the kit doesn’t include a back-plate and the mainboard bends noticeably as you are tightening the nuts.
This is how the cooler looks when installed on the mainboard:
The Mars seems to be at home inside the system case, too:
It’s even funnier at night when the two blue LEDs are shining…
…and the fan at its max speed doesn’t let you sleep with its noise.
This cooler is no less original than the Mars, but I think it is designed more competently.
The large cardboard package has a plastic handle:
There is a plastic box insider the paper wrapper which holds the cooler firmly in place.
There’s a lot of information here about the key technologies and specifications of the cooler.
The following things are parceled into a separate box at the bottom of the package:
The Eclipse (its dimensions are 147x146x110mm) employs four copper heat pipes, about 6.5mm in diameter, that go out of the copper base and carry a number of aluminum plates.
There are actually two types of plates here. Plates of the first type have contact not only with the heat pipes but also with the copper base. Plates of the second type are shaped like a circle with a hole in the center for the blower.
The curiously shaped plastic casing covers the blades partially from above and can be placed in five different positions using the slits in the heatsink’s side plates to drive the blower’s air stream in the most efficient way.
The 66x68mm blower installed in the cooler runs on slide bearings with a lifetime of 40 thousand hours.
The fan speed is adjusted in the same manner as in the above-described Mars, but the max speed is different at 3300rpm. Curiously enough, the manufacturer specifies the min and average noise level for the Eclipse – 17 and 24dBA, respectively – but doesn’t mention the max noise level. Well, I can say that the cooler is even more intolerable than the Mars at full speed.
The cooler’s base is covered with a piece of film that you have to remove prior to installing it.
The base is flat, but its finish quality is inferior to that of the Mars.
The Eclipse is mounted on LGA775 mainboards in the same way as the Mars does, so I publish photos without explanations:
To mount the cooler on a K8 platform, you don’t need to take the mainboard out of the system case. Instead, you take the included clip with a detachable cap and insert it into the slits at the bottom of the cooler. Then mount the cooler on the CPU and hitch the clip on the prongs of the standard plastic retention frame. And finally fix the cooler in place with the latch.
The pressure force is high enough to ensure proper contact between the CPU heat-spreader and the cooler’s sole whereas the fastening mechanism itself gives no cause for apprehensions about its reliability, notwithstanding the large size of the Eclipse.
The last model to be tested today is Cooler Master Hyper TX. I think it is another step in the evolution of the Hyper 7 (HCA-F61) or Hyper UC model, which we have discussed in the article called New Cooler Master Hyper 7 CPU Cooler Review:
Here is the same plastic box as the Mars is coming in. It holds the cooler fixed firmly.
There is no box with accessories here, though, because there are two versions of the Hyper TX cooler, for AMD’s and Intel’s platforms. The fastening mechanism is already attached to the cooler and thermal grease is applied to its bottom, so there is no need for any accessories, except for the brief instruction enclosed. As concerns the price factor, this cooler doesn’t fit into the category of expensive super-coolers, coming at a recommended price of $20.
So, we’ve got a small tower-like cooler with dimensions of 90x44x136.5mm:
A 92x92x25mm fan with curved blades covers one of the sides of the heatsink and is rotating at a constant speed of 1800rpm (or from 650 to 1800rpm with activated PWM) at a noise level of 22dBA, which is not very loud, although not silent, either. The four rubber poles the fan is fastened upon are meant to reduce its vibration and noise to some extent.
At the opposite side, there is a translucent plastic casing that drives the stream of air towards the CPU power circuit.
As you can see, the cooler makes use of three copper heat pipes. This is an example of the classic tower-like design.
The name of the manufacturer is mentioned on the top of the casing:
The cooler’s sole is not protected with polyethylene because a layer of thick gray thermal grease lies on it. If you remove it, you’ll see the following picture:
The quality of the base can hardly satisfy an overclocker:
But the soldering of the heat pipes was made very conscientiously:
The LGA775 version of the cooler had a flat base, but the other version – intended for Socket 754/939/940/AM2 systems – had a curved-in base and left a trace with a blank spot right in the center.
You can’t have any installation-related troubles with these coolers as this procedure is simple and intuitive. You use an ordinary clip for Socket 754/939/940/AM2 that resembles the clip included with the Eclipse and is to be hitched on the socket’s retention frame. To mount the cooler on an LGA775 processor, you should use fixing nails like with Intel’s boxed CPUs.
Here is how this looks inside a system case:
On the ASUS P5B Deluxe/WiFi-AP mainboard the plastic casing drives the air stream right to the copper heatsink installed on the components of the CPU power circuit. That is, the cooler is a perfect match for this mainboard model.
The mounting holes around Socket LGA775 are placed in the corners of a square, so there are no problems with orienting the Hyper TX on an Intel platform. As for platforms for K8 processors, you can orient the cooler in the best possible position if the holes run in parallel to the rear panel of the case.
The following table lists the specs of the coolers to be tested today:
The tested was assembled out of the following components:
The Chaintech GeForce 7950 GX2 was overclocked from its default frequencies to 570/1580MHz to make the test conditions somewhat harder because the air from the graphics card’s cooler remained in the system case. There was no sense in that on an open testbed and the graphics card was working at its default frequencies then.
The tests were performed in Windows XP Professional Edition Service Pack 2. I installed Nvidia nForce version 6.82 and Intel Chipset Drivers version 220.127.116.111, DirectX 9.0c (released August 2006), and ForceWare 91.47.
S&M version 1.8.1 was used to monitor the temperature of the Intel Core 2 Duo E6300, but the CPU was heated up by running the Intel Thermal Analysis Tool:
This test was frying the CPU for 20 minutes.
I also selected 100% load for both CPU cores.
This utility proved to heat the Core 2 Duo up harder than S&M does as the following diagrams show (the Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 was overclocked to 3430MHz with a voltage increase to 1.4875V):
S&M, FPU Test 100%, 15 min
TAT, Dual Core Load 100%, 20 min
You can note that the Intel Thermal Analysis Tool makes the CPU hotter by 9°C in comparison with S&M 1.8.1.
As for monitoring, S&M would show a 1.5°C lower temperature than the Intel Thermal Analysis Tool did in idle mode, but their readings would become identical when the CPU was under load.
Considering that the Intel Thermal Analysis Tool creates a CPU load quite untypical for ordinary applications, I also simulated a Game test mode by running 3DMark06’s Firefly Forest test with 16x anisotropic filtering and without full-screen antialiasing for 19 times.
The temperature was read from the sensor integrated into the CPU. The mainboards’ automatic fan speed management was disabled for the time of the tests. The thermal throttling of the Intel Core 2 Duo processor was controlled with RightMark CPU Clock Utility version 2.15. My sample of the processor would begin to skip clock cycles (throttling mode) after reaching a temperature of 81.5°C
At least two test cycles were performed for each cooler in each test mode. I waited for 25-30 minutes for the temperature to stabilize during each test cycle. The stabilization period was two times shorter on an open testbed. The maximum temperature in the two test cycles was considered as the final result (if the difference was not bigger than 1°C). Despite the stabilization period, the results of the second test cycle were generally higher by 0.5-1°C
The ambient temperature was monitored by means of an electric thermometer and remained at 22.0-22.5°C.
The highest CPU frequency at overclocking was limited by the weakest cooler. That’s why I only overclocked my Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 (B2 stepping) from its default 1866MHz to 3300MHz (a 76.8% frequency growth) with a voltage increase to 1.4V.
Here are the results:
The Cooler Master Mars is the weakest cooler in this test. In quiet mode and on the open testbed it allows the CPU to begin to skip clock cycles. And if there were no 120mm system fan on the side panel, the same thing would happen in the closed system case, too. When you increase the fan speed to the maximum of 3000rpm, the cooler becomes more efficient by 9-10°C, yet this only yields the same temperature as the other coolers provide in quiet mode. And even this max speed doesn’t lead to acceptable results on the open testbed.
The Cooler Master Eclipse is a more appealing model in terms of efficiency. It is about 6°C better than the Mars in quiet mode and 1°C better at full speed. The difference is somewhat bigger on the open testbed. Anyway, both new models are not good enough in this test and are defeated by a much humbler cooler.
It is the Hyper TX that has become a sensation of this test session because it not only delivers better performance at its not-too-loud 1800rpm than the Mars and Eclipse do at their full speed, but can even match the efficiency of the Thermaltake Big Typhoon, a model from the super-cooler category. Well, it is not exactly as good as the Big Typhoon because this sample of the CPU could be overclocked to 3350MHz at 1.45V voltage on the Hyper TX (setting the core voltage higher didn’t affect my overclocking attempts) whereas the Big Typhoon kept the CPU up and running at 3430MHz with a voltage of 1.485V under the Intel Thermal Analysis Tool.
As I have concluded from my tests, the originality of the new coolers from Cooler Master has had a negative effect on their efficiency because neither the Mars nor the Eclipse can boast cooling performance that would satisfy an overclocker. Yes, they look cool, and the Mars even has blue highlighting, which makes it appealing for modders, but that’s in fact their best advantage so far. They become more efficient at high fan speeds, but they produce too much noise then. You can try to use the PWM feature so that the coolers would adjust their speeds automatically, yet there are a number of more interesting and effective alternatives for that money (the recommended price of the coolers is $50-55).
The Cooler Master Hyper TX is quite a different story. You take and mix a thought-through design, well-soldered pipes in the base, a plastic casing, a soft suspension of the fan on rubber poles, and a simple and reliable fastening mechanism – and get an efficient, quiet and handy cooler as the result. This model is already selling for about $30, which is about 50% higher than its recommended price but considerably lower than the price of Cooler Master’s two new coolers. This model cannot challenge super-coolers, yet can match their efficiency on moderately overclocked processors. If the Hyper TX is going to sell at its recommended price, it may well become the best product in terms of price/efficiency ratio. The only downside is that this cooler is not universal and you have to buy its version suitable for your particular platform.