by Sergey Lepilov
01/28/2008 | 02:24 PM
The past year 2007 was a very interesting year in terms of new CPU air-cooling solutions. Over the past year we tested over 30 new CPU coolers, and some of them were in our labs more than once. Moreover, we didn’t have enough time to test six new models that we are going to introduce to you in the beginning of this year. However, you may understand that these are far not all the air cooling systems that arrived to the market in the past year.
I am saying all this so that you could understand how tense the competition in this market segment is these days. It is not enough to simply launch an efficient cooling solution. To ensure that it becomes a commercial success, it should not only be competitive, but should also stand out against the background of other alternatives and attracted the potential customer’s attention somehow. It should be not just a nice feature, but something really cool that would leave the competitors no chance.
Well, looks like Gigabyte has no problem with inventing something cool for their coolers. Remember the 3D Cooler Ultra family, the 3D Rocket and 3D Rocket II, the G-Power Pro. All of them stood out a lot against the background of other companies’ solutions thanks to their original designs, neon fans, LED highlighting and other things. However, all of them couldn’t boast one very important feature: high cooling efficiency for overclocked processors. Only the very last one on the list, G-Power Pro, announced almost three years ago already, proved a worthy opponent to the super-cooler of those days - Zalman CNPS7700Cu. However, I am sure you know that Zalman CNPS7700Cu can no longer be compared to contemporary leaders of the cooling solutions market in terms of efficiency (if you still don’t believe it, we are going to prove it to you very soon in one of our upcoming articles devoted to the new and old cooling systems).
So, finally, Gigabyte launched their best fighter: G-Power II Pro (GH-PSU22-LB) cooler. According to the company, this solution represents a great combination of highly efficient performance, low noise and stylish looks and should definitely sin some fans in the market fairly soon.
So, today we are going to talk about this newcomer, how successful the new Gigabyte solution turned out and what is so special about it.
The big mostly black box for the new cooler boasts very unusual design: the top part of its front is sort of pushed inwards and has a big window for the cooler fan and the lower part of the heatsink with heat-pipes:
The box features a very convenient plastic handle for easy carrying. The back side of it contains the detailed description of the cooler peculiarities:
Gigabyte G-Power II Pro cooler sits inside the box in a casing made of polyurethane foam and covered with transparent plastic cover:
Beneath this whole thing there is a small box with accessories featuring the following items:
Gigabyte G-Power II Pro is made in China and is recommended for Gigabyte 3D Aurora, 3D Mars and iSolo cases.
Gigabyte once again focused on the concept of around-the-socket area cooling efficiency when designing their new Gigabyte G-Power II Pro cooling solution. One look at the newcomer is enough to see it:
So, there are five copper heat-pipes coming out of the cooler base. Four of them are 8mm in diameter, while the heat-pipe in the middle features a more widely spread 6mm diameter:
An array of thin aluminum heatsink plates sits on these heat-pipes and is cooled with a 120-mm fan in a shining plastic casing:
The casing does have mirror-shining surface that reflects everything around it. And to ensure that it will stay this way despite dust and time, Gigabyte included a small cloth for casing surface polishing. Although we have to admit that it is purely aesthetic feature that will not affect overclocking results in any way. So, let’s get back to discussing the cooler design.
If we remove the fan and the casing, it will be much easier to figure out the cooler design:
Gigabyte G-Power II Pro measures 121 x x126 x 162mm in size and weighs 642g, however, despite that the heatsink cooling surface is subjectively small. Gigabyte engineers had to bend the heat-pipes a lot trying to achieve the best cooling for around-the-socket area:
As we can see, with a heatsink shaped up like that it is rally hard to increase its cooling surface area a lot. As you can see, the ribs along the incoming airflow side are of varying height, which reduces airflow resistance and allows suing fans with lower rotation speed.
Note how greatly they had to bend the heat-pipes at the cooler base to end up with the shape like that:
And this is what it looks like at the other side of the base:
Why didn’t they make the central heat-pipe 8mm in diameter too? I can’t answer this question. Only the cooler designers can, but it is most likely resulting from their intention to avoid making the cooler base any bigger. Although I believe that additional 2mm will hardly increase the cooler base size that dramatically, while an 8mm central heat-pipe instead of the 6mm one would have had a great positive effect on the efficiency of the new Gigabyte G-Power II Pro cooler. Nevertheless, it is up to the engineers to decide. Here I would only like to add that each heat-pipe sits in the corresponding groove in the cooler base. This way they ensured bigger contact area between the heatpipes and the cooler base. The plate on top of them is made of aluminum and serves as support surface for different cooler retentions.
The cooler base, just like the one of the recently reviewed Gigabyte Volar is covered with protective paper sticker warming you that it needs to be removed before installation:
However, the base finish quality is ideal unlike the just mentioned Volar solution:
Mirror-shine polish of the copper base and its impeccably even surface checked with the thermal grease imprint on the glass surface can be a great example to follow even for such leaders of the cooling solutions market as Thermalright.
The fan sitting in a plastic casing uses a slide bearing (EBR) with 30,000 hours mean time before failure (about 3.5 years). The fan is 120 x 120 x 25mm big:
Nine aggressively bent fan blades rotate at ~700 or ~1,500 RPM. The fan rotation speed adjustment is performed via the corresponding 5V and 12V connectors:
The manufacturer claims that this cooler generates 16 and 23 dBA of noise respectively. Moreover, the fan features three blue LEDs looking very good for modding fans and some mainstream users who are not yet tires of Christmas lights and fireworks :) The faster the fan rotates, the brighter light up the diodes.
Gigabyte G-Power II Pro is designed for LGA 775 and Socket 754/939/940/AM2 mainboards. The installation on K8 platform is extremely simple. You will not even need to take the board out of the system case. You use the special included retention bracket with a locking clip that catches onto the standard plastic socket frame:
When it comes to mainboards for the contemporary Intel processors, the installation procedure may require a little bit more effort on your part, but is still very simple from the technical standpoint. First you have to fasten two plates with four preset screws and rubber washer-pads to the cooler base:
Then, if your mainboard is already installed into the system case, you will need to remove it in order to install the cooler into the retention holes and fasten it to the backplate on the bottom on the PCB:
The latter is pretty compact and is very unlikely to hit against any electronic components on the reverse side of the mainboard PCB, which may often be the case with cooling solutions using backplates.
The cooler is very compact around the base, even where the heat-pipes are coming out, therefore, it will never conflict with any of the mainboard heatsinks:
When we set the system into the case, the angled Gigabyte G-Power II Pro almost hit against the case fan (there was a tiny 2-3mm gap left between them):
Nevertheless, this cooler position is still very efficient for both: driving the warm air outside the system case and cooling the heatsink on top of mainboard’s voltage regulator components.
You can also download a step-by-step installation guide for Gigabyte G-Power II Pro from Gigabyte’s official web-site (.PDF file, ~4MB in size).
Technical specifications of the new cooler and its recommended retail price are summed up in the table below:
The Gigabyte G-Power II Pro cooler and it competitors were tested on an open testbed as well as in a closed system case with the following configuration:
All tests were performed in Windows XP Professional Edition Service Pack 2. SpeedFan 4.34 Beta 37 was used to monitor the temperature of the CPU, reading it from the CPU core sensor. Its readings matched those from the Core Temp 0.94 utility. The mainboard’s automatic fan speed management system was disabled for the time of the tests in the mainboard BIOS. The CPU thermal throttling was controlled with RightMark CPU Clock Utility version 2.30. 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 remained idle in the first and last 4 minutes.
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 with the mainboard in horizontal and coolers in a vertical position took about half the time. The maximum temperature of the hottest CPU core out of the two/four in the two test cycles was taken as 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 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 with the help of an electronic noise meter – CENTER-321. 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 33.4dBA when measured at 1m distance.
The ambient temperature was checked 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 as shown in the diagrams are the average readings reported by SpeedFan, and not the official claimed fan specifications.
We are going to compare the performance of our Gigabyte G-Power II Pro cooler against that of only one but highly efficient cooler Thermalright SI-128 with Scythe Ultra Kaze 120mm fan 120x120x38mm in size (DFS123812L-1000). According to our monitoring software, the fan rotation speed equaled 1080RPM with the airflow of ~45CFM and very low level of generated noise of only 19.8dBA, according to the official specs. The reason we chose Thermalright cooler as Gigabyte’s today’s main competitor is very simple: Thermalright SI-128 together with the above mentioned fan costs just a little less than our today’s main hero - Gigabyte G-Power II Pro. Besides, it also uses 8mm heatpipes.
The new Gigabyte cooler performed very well in a platform with Intel’s dual-core Core 2 Duo CPU. Core 2 Duo E6750 processor with G0 core stepping overclocked to 3.8GHz inside a closed system case with the Vcore increased from the nominal 1.35V to 1.625V in the mainboard BIOS:
According to CPU-Z, Everest and SpeedFan, the voltage varied around 1.6V, and dropped to ~1.58V under high workload. Moreover, two processor tests from the OCCT suite launched one after another were passed successfully both times without any indication of attempted thermal throttling.
Here is the temperature diagram for the dual-core processor:
We know very well already what Thermalright SI-128 is capable of from our previous reviews, but the results of the Gigabyte G-Power II Pro cooler made a rally great impression on us. In quiet fan mode (~1020RPM) it lost only 2ºC to the competitor under peak workload, despite the fact that Thermalright SI-128 was equipped with a 38mm thick 120-mm fan! AT maximum fan rotation speed, Gigabyte G-Power II Pro proved even more efficient than Thermalright super cooler, but the performance difference between them is really small. Moreover, the overall temperatures are not very high. Later I will explain why there are no results for the 700RPM fan rotation speed mode, although I think you may have already guessed.
Now let’s check out the maximum processor frequency during overclocking:
The differences are also minimal.
Quad-core Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 processor (B3 core stepping) with polished off heat-spreader cover overclocked to 3465MHz with Gigabyte G-Power II Pro cooler and its fan rotating at 1020RPM. The test was performed in with the processor core voltage increased to 1.5125V:
CPU-Z as well as other above mentioned utilities reported a slightly lower actual voltage than what was set in the mainboard BIOS, namely 1.49~1.5V. The OCCT test was once again passed successfully without any errors or throttling activation:
The results of our coolers tested with a quad-core processor are given on the diagram below:
Now you know what a hot Kentsfield B3 core stepping can do! This CPU turned super coolers in simply good coolers, and throws good coolers into a garbage can. Nevertheless, I have to point out remarkable results demonstrated by Gigabyte G-Power II Pro with a CPU boasting high heat dissipation like that. Although it lost to Thermalright SI-128, it deserves our utmost respect for such successful quad-core CPU overclocking, which far not all today’s air-cooling solutions can ensure.
As for the maximum processor frequency we managed to hit during our overclocking experiments with the new Gigabyte cooler, the picture looks as follows:
Thermalright SI-128 is evidently ahead, but the difference is not critical, especially, since Gigabyte G-Power II Pro proves a little better from the acoustic standpoint, which we are going to discuss right now.
Before we start talking about the noise levels of our today’s testing participants, I have to say that thanks to Zalman ZM-MFC2 control and monitoring panel (which we will discuss separately in one of our upcoming articles) we managed to reduce the ambient system noise from 34dBA to 33.4dBA. I would also like to add that we have also replaced two case fans with nine-blade Scythe Minebea fans rotating at ~1140RPM. To ensure that they run a little quieter we hung them up using rubber pins from Noctua fans, so that they did not touch on the system case panel. Besides, Zalman ZM-MFC2 allowed us to reduce their rotation speed to ~960RPM.
Here are the results:
Well, this answers the question “why Gigabyte G-Power II Pro wasn’t tested at 700RPM”. The thing is that our equipment hardly detected its noise level at ~1020RPM. So we can say that at 5V and ~700RPM the new cooler is almost noiseless. At maximum fan rotation speed that was ~1680RPM instead of the claimed 1500RPM, this cooling solution stands out noticeably against the noise generated by the rest of the system case, however, I still cannot say it was too noisy. It is quite acceptable from my subjective standpoint.
Well, this time Gigabyte managed to design a really successful cooling solution. Its today’s performance was truly brilliant. Brilliant from all standpoints. Mirror-shine of the fan casing and mirror-shining cooler base together with shining LEDs and, of course, amazing efficiency – what a brilliant combination! The new Gigabyte G-Power II Pro cooler boasts universal design, requires elementary installation procedure, is compact at the base, noiseless at minimum fan rotation speed and very quiet at maximum fan rotation speed. Besides, it doesn’t weight too much and its design is highly efficient for cooling of around-the-socket area. What else can we need here? Of course: availability and affordable price. As for the first one, it is really hard to say anything specific yet, we’ll see how active Gigabyte’s distributors are going to be. And the second criterion – the price- is still questionable. The cooler MSRP is promised to be only $45. If the cooler starts retailing at something like that, then overclockers will undoubtedly get one of the best cooling solutions from the price-to-efficiency standpoint.
P.S.: This month Gigabyte should also start offering Gigabyte G-Power II (GH-PSU22-PC) cooler model – a simpler modification of the Gigabyte G-Power II Pro we have just reviewed. It will be smaller (101.8 x 108.4 x 150.8mm), will feature only three 6mm heatpipes and a 90-mm PWM fan with the 2300RPM rotation speed (25dBA) maximum. Hopefully this solution will cost much less than its elder brother, although this solution will not be available in the US market, as far as we know.