Panther Attacks: Prolimatech Panther CPU Cooler Review

Today we are going to talk about another tower cooler with a pretty simple design and a vivid name. Will it be able to surprise us? Let’s find out!

by Sergey Lepilov
01/23/2012 | 07:13 AM

We don’t often test products of the Taiwanese Prolimatech Inc. Last year, for example, we only had one cooler called Prolimatech Genesis, yet we were highly pleased with its performance. The Genesis made it into the ranks of our super-coolers, so it's hard to tell why Prolimatech doesn't develop more products. Perhaps they just think that their model range is already complete and there is no need for improvements or additions.

 

Indeed, Prolimatech’s CPU cooler series looks comprehensive. It includes super-coolers (Super Mega, Megahalems, Genesis and Armageddon), low-end offers (Samuel 17 and Lynx) and a mainstream Panther. It is about the latter model that we're going to talk about in this review. It looks trivial at first sight, yet may be interesting anyway. Let’s have a closer look at it.

Packaging and Accessories

The Panther is shipped in a small cardboard box with a minimum of information on its sides.

You can only find brief technical specs and a small drawing with the heatsink dimensions.

There are two compartments inside the box: for the heatsink and for the fan. A flat box with accessories lies on top of them. The accessories include two mounting plates, two pairs of fastening mechanisms, a user guide, spring-loaded screws, four brackets for fans, highly efficient thermal grease (Prolimatech PK-1) and a sticker with Prolimatech logo.

The Prolimatech Panther is manufactured in Taiwan and costs about $55, so it is not entry-level. On the other hand, it is somewhat cheaper than most super-coolers. The warranty period is 1 year.

Design and Functionality

The Panther’s heatsink looks plain and trivial. It consists of a copper base with four 6mm heat pipes and aluminum fins soldered to those pipes.

 

 

The heatsink measures 161x130x50 millimeters at 570 grams of mass.

There are a total of 47 fins in the heatsink, 0.5 millimeters thick and 1.8 millimeters apart from each other.

  

Each fin is 130x50 millimeters large for a total area of 6100 sq. centimeters. This is not much for a modern tower-design cooler.

Each fin has two halves soldered to the heat pipes as is typical of Prolimatech coolers. Soldering ensures a larger contact area compared to press-fitted fins. The topmost fin sports a company logo.

  

The Panther doesn’t seem to have any air flow optimizations, yet it does have one special feature notwithstanding the otherwise trivial design. The fins are interleaved.

Prolimatech doesn’t explain the purpose of this solution except some general words about increased efficiency. We guess that this helps take heat off the pipes more effectively. On the other hand, the density of fins in the heat pipes area is very high, especially as the pipes are arranged in a straight line.

The heatsink's performance is likely to depend much on the speed of the fan. We'll check this out in our tests shortly.

The heat pipes are fitted into the grooves in the cooler’s nickel-plated copper base and soldered to it.

The finish quality of the cooler’s 40x38mm sole is barely satisfactory. You can easily see and feel traces of the milling machine.

On the other hand, the surface is ideally flat. The thermal grease imprint is almost perfect, even though indicative of a barely conspicuous protrusion in the center.

 

The cooler is equipped with a single Red Vortex 12 LED fan. It is a 120x120x25mm device with nine bright-red blades.

 

The speed of the fan is PWM-regulated within a speed range of 800 to 1600 RPM. The peak air flow and noise level are specified to be 72.7 CFM and 29.1 dBA, respectively. The static pressure and service life of the sleeve bearing are not declared.

The bearing type and other specs are indicated on the fan's sticker.

According to the specs, the fan needs about 3.6 watts at maximum speed. In our tests it had a peak power draw of 2.6 watts and a startup voltage of 6.6 volts. The fan’s impeller and motor are 112 and 45 millimeters in diameter. The 4-wire sleeved cable is 250 millimeters long.

The fan can be easily attached to the heatsink with two wire brackets.

The Panther comes with a pair of additional brackets for installing a second fan for exhaust. It looks much better with the Red Vortex 12 LED, we must admit.

The bright red highlighting makes the fan and cooler even more attractive.

Compatibility and Installation

To our surprise, the Prolimatech Panther does not support LGA775, LGA1366 and LGA2011 platforms and is only limited to Intel’s LGA1155/1156 as well as all modern AMD processors. Despite the growing popularity of LGA1155/1156 systems, we guess that LGA775 and LGA1366 are not outdated yet. It’s sad the Panther is not compatible with them.

The installation procedure is very simple and boils down to three steps. First, you equip the cooler with appropriate fasteners:

Second, you apply a thin layer of thermal grease on the CPU’s heat-spreader. And third, you mount the cooler on your CPU and fasten it with spring-loaded screws.

You can't use AMD's default back-plate because it has different threading compared to the Panther's own back-plate. You should be aware about that if you're going to install the cooler on an AMD platform.

 There is a generous 53 millimeters from the cooler’s bottom fin to the mainboard. There should be no conflicts with mainboard’s components and memory slots.

 

The Panther is rather narrow and will not block the mainboard's memory slots.

 

That’s all about installation. We can move on to practical tests now.

Technical Specifications and Recommended Pricing

Testbed and Testing Methodology

We performed all cooler tests inside a closed system case. Here is our testbed configuration:

We overclocked our eight-core processor (with its default non-lapped heat-spreader) with the multiplier set at 21.5x to 4.3 GHz. The nominal processor Vcore was increased to 1.28125 V in the mainboard BIOS. The memory voltage was at 1.65 V and its frequency was 1.6 GHz with 8-8-8-16_1T timings. Voltage stabilization during overclocking was set at High and 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 OCCT Perestroika 4.1.0 beta 1 to create heavy load and monitor processor temperatures. We used “Linpack” loading mode for 19 minutes (including 1 minute for temperature stabilization in the beginning and 3 minutes in the end of the test. The total allocated memory capacity was 2600 MB:

The CPU was loaded with two consecutive OCCT 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 25.0-25.2°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 had really hard time finding competitors for Prolimatech panther cooler. The thing is that Thermalright True Spirit ($29.95) and HR-02 Macho ($39.95) turned out incompatible with Asus Crosshair V Formula, because during their installation their retention brackets conflicted with one of the heatsinks on the voltage regulator components and prevented us from installing the cooler. At the time of tests we also had Zalman CNPS12X ($99), Phanteks PH-TC14PE ($89) and Thermalright Archon ($74.95) in the lab. The latter appeared to be the closest to Prolimatech Panther in design and price, so it will be the primary competitor in our today’s test session:

 

Thermalright Archon was tested only with one default Thermalright TY-140 fan. Prolimatech Panther was tested not only with one default fan, but also with another Red Vortex 12 LED fan attached to its heatsink in the entire rotation speed range.

Now let’s check out the obtained results.

Cooling Efficiency Tests

The test results of the two coolers are shown in the next diagram:

The Thermalright Archon is expectedly ahead, but it comes from a difference price category. On the other hand, when equipped with two fans at 1810 RPM, the Prolimatech Panther is as efficient as the Archon with its single TY-140 fan working at 800 RPM. In fact, the second fan helps improve the Panther's performance much at 800 RPM only. When the speed is 1000 RPM, the second fan only lowers the CPU temperature by 3°C. Its benefits are even smaller at higher speeds. Thus, adding a second fan only makes sense if the cooler is going to be used at a low speed of its fan. One fan should be quite enough for the default PWM mode.

Contrary to our expectations, the Panther's efficiency doesn’t depend much on the speed of its fan. We only get a hefty 5°C reduction in CPU temperature by increasing the fan speed from 800 to 1000 RPM. Switching from 1000 to 1200 RPM lowers the temperature by 3°C only. After that, each 200 RPM increase in speed drops the temperature by 2°C only. On the other hand, the total temperature reduction is 12°C in the default PWM mode (800 to 1600 RPM), so the Prolimatech Panther is quite an efficient cooler, even though sets no records.

At the maximum speed of the default fan the Prolimatech Panther could keep our eight-core AMD processor stable at 4.5 GHz with a voltage of 1.3625 volts. The peak CPU temperature was 76°C according to the socket sensor (64°C for the core).

This is a very good result even though the Thermalright Archon (with one TY-140 fan at 1290 RPM) keeps the CPU colder by 6-7°C under the same conditions:

Acoustic Performance

We measured the amount of noise produced by the coolers throughout the speed range of their fans. You can view the results in the following diagram:

The Prolimatech Red Vortex 12 LED remains comfortable until a speed of 1050 RPM and quiet up to 920 RPM, but its heatsink fins start to clank when the fan rotates at 800 to 1200 RPM. This clanking is quite loud, making the otherwise well-made cooler somewhat uncomfortable. We guess it's because of the special interleaved design: the fins start to resonate in the stream of air. It is especially sad because increasing the fan speed in that range has the highest effect on the cooler's performance.

Conclusion

Panther’s attack didn’t really succeed and the cooler left more of an ambiguous impression. Prolimatech Panther seems to have quite a few drawbacks. First of all, it doesn't support old LGA775 and LGA1366 as well as the new LGA2011 platform. The second problem is that its heatsink fins begin to clank in the most useful fan speed range. The high recommended price of $54.99 can also be named among the downsides.

The good news is that the cooler is compact, allows installing a second fan, offers good performance, supports the rest of modern platforms and has a simple and reliable fastening mechanism. It also features attractive red highlighting of the fan.

Still, considering the tough competition in this price category, we guess the mentioned highs cannot outweigh its lows. It's up to you to choose, though.