by Sergey Lepilov
06/15/2012 | 10:57 AM
Back in 2005 there was a CPU cooler called Shogun Heatlane which was the first to use the so-called vapor chamber. Despite a number of advantages over heat pipes, this technology hasn’t become popular in CPU coolers although it is widely used in various industrial applications. 7 years later Cooler Master wants to give it another try by combining a vapor chamber with classic heat pipes in the new cooler TPC 812 which is going to be the subject of our review.
The TPC 812 is shipped in a small cardboard box designed in Cooler Master’s standard colors.
The packaging is extremely informative. There is even a design drawing with the cooler’s dimensions on one of its sides. Of course, product specs and descriptions of the cooler’s key features are also printed on the box.
The Cooler Master TPC 812 is shipped together with a universal back-plate, an X-shaped retention plate, fasteners (bushings, screws and nuts) with a key, two plastic holders for installing a second fan, a user manual, thermal grease and a resistor cable for the fan.
Manufactured in China, the TPC 812 comes at a recommended price of $70. Its warranty period is 2 years.
The Cooler Master TPC 812 looks like a regular tower-design CPU cooler.
The nickel-plated arrangement of aluminum fins, heat pipes, vapor chambers and 120mm fan fits into 138 millimeters of width, 103 millimeters of depth and 163 millimeters of height.
The heatsink consists of 44 aluminum fins, 0.5 millimeters thick, which are press-fitted onto the heat pipes and vapor chambers. The fins are 2 millimeters apart from each other.
Here is a picture of the cooler that shows each of its components.
The key components are of course the vapor chambers whose ends can be seen at the top of the cooler next to the ends of the heat pipes.
Basically, a vapor chamber operates just like a heat pipe: when heated, the liquid inside it evaporates and goes up to cool. It then returns back to the bottom along the sides, being cooled by the heatsink fins and the air flow from the fan.
Compared to heat pipes, a vapor chamber has a larger area of contact and a higher speed of heat transfer, so it is supposed to distribute the heat in the heatsink fins more efficiently. However, in the TPC 812 design, the vapor chamber only serves the top part of the heat pipes, being located right above them.
Thus, the six 6mm heat pipes still have to cope with the bulk of thermal load, the vapor chamber providing just a little help rather than totally offloading the pipes.
The heat pipes pierce the heatsink in a tessellated pattern, reminding us of the famous Thermalright coolers.
The nickel-plated copper base isn’t finished very well:
On the other hand, it is perfectly flat and we’ve got normal thermal grease imprints with our CPU that has a convex heat-spreader.
The Cooler Master TPC 812 is equipped with one 120mm 7-blade fan.
It is the well-known XtraFlo model, which uniquely curved blades are supposed to ensure an extra high air flow, according to Cooler Master. The speed of the fan is PWM-regulated within a range of 600 to 2400 RPM but the included resistor cable can limit the top speed to 1600 RPM.
The fan runs on a sleeve bearing with a service life of 40,000 hours (or 4.6 years) of continuous operation. Its peak power consumption is 4.44 watts at 0.37 amperes.
The fan is secured on the heatsink by means of two plastic holders that are fastened to its frame with self-tipping screws.
They have soft rubber pads that reduce vibrations and noise. Besides, there are two more plastic holders with screws and rubber pads in the box in case you want to attach a second fan to your TPC 812.
The Cooler Master TPC 812 is compatible with all modern platforms. The installation procedure, detailed in the step-by-step guide, is exceedingly simple. For example, with an LGA 2011 platform, you only have to insert the threaded bushings into the mounting holes…
…and then you install the cooler’s heatsink and fasten it with the X-shaped retention plate with spring-loaded screws.
Installing this cooler on other platforms is basically the same but you use different fasteners instead of the bushings and also attach the universal back-plate. That’s all.
Then you only have to fix the fan on the heatsink and connect its cable to a 4-pin mainboard connector – the Cooler Master TPC 812 is ready to go! There is 50 millimeters of space between the bottom heatsink fin and the mainboard. Even though the fan frame hangs lower, the cooler does not conflict with the memory modules or heatsinks on the mainboard’s power components.
The TPC 812 is 163 millimeters tall, so it should fit easily even into not-very-wide ATX system cases.
With two fans attached, the Cooler Master TPC 812 looks like that:
We tested the cooler in two positions but found no difference between them on our testbed and under our test conditions.
We tested all coolers inside a closed system case with the following configuration:
For the primary tests and summary diagrams we overclocked our six-core processor with the clock generator frequency set at 125 MHz, the multiplier set at 35x and “Load-Line Calibration” enabled to 4.375 GHz. The nominal processor Vcore was increased to 1.385 V in the mainboard BIOS. After that we tested the new cooler at even higher frequency and voltage settings. Turbo Boost was disabled during this test session, and Hyper-Threading technology was enabled to increase the heat dissipation. The memory voltage was at 1.65 V and its frequency was 2000 MHz with 9-11-10-28 timings. All other parameters available in the mainboard BIOS and related to CPU or memory overclocking remained unchanged.
All tests were performed under Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1 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 LinX AVX 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 hourly monitoring of the temperature changes over the past 6 hours. The room temperature during our test session varied between 21.5-21.8°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 150 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 36 dBA (do not mix it up with low noise level). The fan(s) rotation speed was adjusted in the entire supported range using our in-house controller by changing the voltage with 0.5 V increment.
We are going to compare our today’s hero, Cooler Master TPC 812, against Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 with one TY-140 fan:
Cooler Master TPC 812 was also tested with one and two alternative fans – Thermalright TR-FDB-2000 in their entire rotation speed range with 200 RPM increments. I would also like to add that the rotation speed of all fans was controlled using the same special controller I mentioned above with ±10 RPM precision.
You can see the results of our tests in the following table and diagram:
Working with its default fan, the Cooler Master TPC 812 cannot compete with the cheaper Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 and lags behind it in all of our test modes. For example, at 800 RPM these coolers differ by 10°C in terms of the peak temperature of the hottest CPU core. The gap grows to 11°C at 1000 RPM, which is a huge advantage in favor of the TRUE Spirit 140 that can affect overclocking results and system stability. The new Cooler Master TPC 812 can only match the TRUE Spirit 140 at twice that speed, i.e. at 1600 RPM. At the maximum speed of 2250 RPM the TPC 812 is 3°C better than its opponent whose fan works at 800 RPM. Of course, the difference in noise is huge in that case. When both coolers run their fans at the maximum speed, the Cooler Master TPC 812 is 4°C worse than the Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140.
Besides that, we can note the linear correlation of the TPC 812’s performance on its fan speed throughout the entire speed range. As the fan accelerates from 800 to 2250 RPM, the CPU temperature drops by 13°C. So, we suppose that the TPC 812 might be more efficient if it worked with two fans, one for intake and another for exhaust. However, it is only at low speeds that we can see substantial benefits: 5°C at 800 and 1000 RPM, 4°C at 1200 RPM, and 3°C at 1400 RPM. There are no benefits at higher speeds. It’s easy to note that even with two fans the Cooler Master TPC 812 is inferior to the Thermalright TRUE Spirit, even though the gap is smaller than with one fan only. Alas, the vapor chamber technology doesn’t save the day for the new cooler.
You can compare it with those we tested previously in the following table and diagram. Each cooler was tested in its default configuration in the quiet mode and at the maximum speed of the fan(s) with the CPU overclocked to 4.375 MHz at a voltage of 1.385 volts.
* - The peak temperature of the hottest CPU core is posted on the diagram taking
into account the difference from the current ambient temperature and is reduced to 25°C.
At a speed of 800 RPM the Cooler Master TPC 812 is at the bottom of the diagram, which might be expected considering its design with a dense heatsink pierced not only with six heat pipes but also with a vapor chamber. When the fan works at its maximum speed, the TPC 812 takes 15th place out of 33, right between the dual-heatsink Deepcool Assassin and Titan Fenrir Siberia, but losing to both in terms of noise level. That's just an average result.
The Cooler Master TPC 812 was unable to cope with our CPU at higher settings than 4.375 GHz and 1.385 volts, so here is our summary table with the best overclocking results:
So, the Cooler Master TPC 812 takes one of the bottom places and produces a lot of noise.
We measured the noise level of our coolers throughout the entire speed range of their fans. Here are the results:
As you can see, the Cooler Master TPC 812 is quite good in terms of noisiness. It performs exactly like the Thermalright TY-140 in the speed range of 950 to 1200 RPM, and the latter is one of the quietest fans available (if it’s not a defective sample). When the speed is higher, the noise level of the Cooler Master TPC 812 increases linearly, without sudden fluctuations, vibrations or something.
So, the TPC 812 is okay in this test. It would be perfect it we didn’t hear barely audible beatings of the impeller at speeds up to 850-880 RPM. That’s not a big problem, though.
Despite the vapor chamber combined with heat pipes, the Cooler Master TPC 812 couldn’t demonstrate any record-breaking results. It even turned out to be inferior to a cheaper cooler in our tests. The TPC 812 is average in performance, but we know that an air cooler priced at $70 must be far more efficient. We guess a version of the TPC 812 with two 120mm fans PWM-regulated from 800 to 2000 RPM and priced at $45 would be competitive, but Cooler Master will hardly release such a product.
Anyway, we want to praise the developer for trying to implement the vapor chamber design in a modern cooler, even though the attempt isn't quite successful. Besides that, the Cooler Master TPC 812 can be commended for its broad compatibility, reliable fastening mechanism, easy installation, and high-quality fan.