Nexus VCT-9000 or How Not to Make Coolers

This article is devoted to a new Nexus cooler that turned out full of problems, which unfortunately ended up ruining a very interesting design idea. Read more in our review!

by Sergey Lepilov
06/10/2010 | 12:40 PM

In the end of February 2010 the Dutch Nexus Company announced a new processor cooler called Nexus VCT-9000. Keeping in mind that Nexus hasn’t released any CPU coolers for at least a year and a half, the new solution was expected to be at least technologically interesting and most likely pretty efficient. Well, let’s find out how things turned out in reality.

Package and Accessories

 

The new cooling solution ships in a large vertical cardboard box with cut-out windows on both sides:

Looks cute, but not really unique, as we have seen things like that before. You can see part of the cooler heatsink and fan through the clear plastic window. The box has a convenient plastic handle for easy carrying. The description of the new cooler, the images of it and the list of its technical specifications are all given on the sides of the package:

 

The cooler sits inside a polyurethane foam insert. Above the cooler you can find a flat box with the following accessories:

Among them are: a retention kit for LGA775/1156/1366 mainboards, a retention kit for Socket AM2/AM3 mainboards, two special wrenches for these retention kits, Nexus thermal compound and an installation manual.

Nexus VCT-9000 is made in China and is sold at $50 MSRP. It comes with a three-year warranty.

Design and Functionality

The new Nexus cooler boasts pretty unusual looks:

 

 

The primary reason for the unusual looks is an angled fan installed at an almost 25° angle to the vertical axis of the cooler:

You can see the cooler dimensions on the scheme above, and its weight is 635 g.

Nexus VCT-9000 consists of five copper nickel-plated heatpipes, four of which are 6 mm in diameter, and one central heatpipe is 8 mm in diameter. The aluminum heatsink plates are pressed against these heatpipes and covered with a casing with a 120 mm fan at the top:

 

The shape of the casing sides reminds us of flames or wind gusts. All in all, it looks very attractive.

The top of the casing is put over the ends of the heatpipes:

 

When you look at the cooler you notice right away that it is built using today’s popular contact direct touch technology. So, it seems to be a decent cooler that stands out among a lot of others. So, is there a problem? Keep reading and you will understand what we mean.

Take a closer look at the heatsink:

 

It is obviously composed of three heatsink arrays including aluminum plates of different width. The lowest and widest array (77 mm wide) consists of 11 plates and has a wedge-shaped cut in the center. The middle array and the top one - each consists of 21 plates – do not have a V-shaped cut like that and are 57 and 36 mm wide respectively. According to Nexus, this V-shaped profile in the lower part of the heatsink should let the airflow from the cooling fan easily access the area around the CPU socket and cool the components in it more effectively.

Of course, this area needs to be cooled, but in this case much less air will actually get into the heatsink. Moreover, since the fan is installed at an angle to the heatsink plates, there is additional resistance to the airflow, which has to affect the heatsink cooling efficiency. It is remarkable that Nexus repeats the same mistake that Scythe made in their Kama Cross cooler. The only difference is that the Japanese maker has already corrected this mistake by launching their new Grand Kama Cross cooler, which heatsink plates are bent towards the airflow. Nexus , however, hasn’t yet corrected anything and we wonder if it ever will at all. Here I have to add that the heatsink plates are 0.3 mm thick and are placed 1.5 mm apart from one another.

Now let me say a few words about the heatpipes. We can’t figure out what in fact inspired Nexus engineers to direct the central 8 mm heatpipe that bears the highest thermal load into the least cooled part heatsink. We also do not quite understand why they installed a small aluminum heatsink right above the base without applying any thermal interface between them:

 

To make sure that this heatsink does actually do some good during the tests we applied a layer of thermal interface ourselves.

Heatpipe direct-touch technology in Nexus’ interpretation is called “Heat pipe-On-Core”. In VCT-9000 it is implemented in a pretty unique way as well. We have already got used to seeing aluminum or (rarely) copper inserts between the heatpipes in the cooler base, so the fact that there is practically nothing between the heatpipes of VCT-9000 cooler is truly new to us at this point:

 

If some of you believe that it is better to have air between the heatpipes in the cooler base then we will try to convince you of the contrary with the help of the following two photographs:

 

Well, there is nothing else to tell you about the heatsink, so let’s move on to the fan:

 

He fan is firmly attached to the aluminum casing with four plastic mounts. As for the casing, it is screwed on to the top of the heatsink as well as to the cooler base. D12SL-12(B-PWM) fan model uses an enhanced slide bearing with the official MTBF of 50,000 hours. The fan rotation speed is automatically PWM-controlled in the interval between 500 and 1600 RPM. The level of generated noise should lie anywhere between $15 and 22 dBA, and the actual airflow remaines unknown. The fan is 113 mm in diameter, has a 41 mm rotor (diameter) and comes with a 480 mm cable.

There are four blue LEDs in the corners of the fan that create mild glow during cooler operation.

 

Compatibility and Installation Tips

Nexus VCT-9000 is compatible with all contemporary home PC platforms. To install this cooler onto AMD and Intel platforms you should use retention kits of two types attached to the base of the cooler:

The installation procedure is very simple and intuitive and doesn’t require the mainboard to be removed from the system case. However, universality and easy installation are probably the only advantages of the new Nexus cooling system. The thing is that the notorious casing of the cooler kept pushing against the heatsinks over the voltage regulator components on our Asus P6T Deluxe mainboard, no matter which way we turned the cooler:

 

In order to install the cooler so that its airflow would be directed towards the back of the system case we had to bend the fins of one heatsink, and when we rotated the cooler by 90 degrees clockwise, the casing inevitably got pressed against another heatsink. This cooler has very little clearance (only 33 mm), so why would they want to make it even smaller by using these wave-shaped casing sides that have no practical value of any kind? They don’t have any aesthetical value either, because you will only be able to enjoy their fine lines only if you stick your head deep into the system case. And in this position you will look pretty suspicious not only to your loved ones but also to your pets.

Nevertheless, thanks to my creativity, skill and phillips screw-driver I managed to install Nexus VCT-9000 in two different positions:

 

However, there was no difference in cooling efficiency between these two cooler positions.

Technical Specifications and Recommended Pricing

Testbed and Methods

We are going to test the cooling efficiency of the new Nexus VCT-9000 cooler and its today’s competitor in the following testbed:

Processor overclocking was limited by the least efficient cooler of our today’s testing participants in its quiet mode. As a result, we managed to overclock our quad-core processor (with polished heat-spreader) with the multiplier set at 21x and “Load-Line Calibration” enabled to 3.84 GHz. The nominal processor Vcore was increased to 1.3125 V in the mainboard BIOS:

Besides, we manually set the following voltages in the mainboard BIOS:

The memory voltage was at 1.64 V and its frequency was around 1.45 GHz (7-7-7-14_1T timings). All other parameters available in the mainboard BIOS and connected with CPU or memory overclocking remained unchanged.

All tests were performed under Windows 7 Ultimate x64 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 Linpack 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 monitoring the temperature changes over the past 6 hours. The room temperature during our test session varied between 25.9-26.1 °C.

For the sake of comparison we also added the results for Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus with its default Blade Master 120 fan.

The cooler with MSRP of only $29 was tested in two fan modes: in quiet mode at 1050 RPM and in PWM mode with the rotation speed interval of 770-1960 RPM.

Cooling Efficiency Tests

The results of our comparative test session are given on the diagram and in the table below:


Click to enlarge

In fact there is nothing to really analyze here. The new Nexus VCT-9000 loses to the 40% cheaper cooler in both modes: in quiet mode as well as in PWM mode. The latter is 7°C more effective in quiet mode at 1050 RPM and its advantage increases to 11°C at maximum fan speed. Moreover, you can install a second fan for air exhaust onto Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus and this way increase its cooling efficiency a bit more. You won’t be able to do it using any standard methods on Nexus VCT-9000.

In conclusion we would like to offer you a monitoring graph for the processor cooled with Nexus VCT-9000 in the PWM fan mode:

We didn’t measure the noise from the Nexus VCT-9000 fan, but from my subjective observations I have to admit that the new cooler has a very high-quality fan that remains pretty quiet up to 1100 RPM. If you keep it rotating at 800 RPM or less, then you will hardly be able to hear it at all, and at maximum 1600 RPM you hear only the noise from the airflow generated by the fan blades. No parasitic noises of any kind, like crackling, hissing or the like.

Conclusion

We very rarely come across cooling solutions that we would strongly not recommend for purchase. But the new Nexus VCT-9000 cooler is exactly the product you really don’t want to mess with. It certainly has advantages, like universal design, simple installation and high-quality quiet fan with LED lighting. However, everything else is definitely on the lows list. We should definitely mention very raw heatsink design where straight plates are combined with an angled heatsink positioning; faulty heatpipe layout inside the heatsink; dummy heatsink above the base that didn’t get any thermal compound; horribly executed base with heatpipe direct touch technology that has a very small contact area with the processor heat-spreader and large gaps in the middle of it; simple but very unreliable push-pin retention for LGA775/1156/1366 platforms that can’t guarantee high-pressure hold and won’t last long enough; fun shaped casing that limits the cooler’s compatibility with mainboards that have heatsinks over their voltage regulator components around the processor socket - all this results into very poor cooling efficiency of the new Nexus product. At last, I should point out high recommended retail price of $50, which makes Nexus VCT-9000 market success even less feasible.

Summing everything up, we can’t leave the choice to you this time and strongly urge you to check out other cooler models. And as for Nexus VCT-9000, we hope company engineers will fix their baby and launch its new revision free from all these numerous issues in the near future.