Sunbeamtech Core-Contact Freezer Cooler Review

Today we are going to check out a relatively inexpensive cooling solution that is a great candidate for leadership in its class. Read our article for more details.

by Sergey Lepilov
02/11/2009 | 07:29 PM

Sunbeam Company was established in the far away (for Hi-Tech industry) year 2000. However, it is only last year 2008 that they actually decided to join the market of air-cooling solutions. Until then the company focused mostly on fluorescent modding lamps, accessories and simple system cases. Today we are going to check out the efficiency and other features of their flagship cooler – Core-Contact Freezer with heat-pipe direct touch technology.

Package and Accessories

 

The cooler ships in a not very big cardboard box with a plastic carry handle. Its design features primarily black and blue colors:

 

There is a large photo of the cooler heatsink, cooler base and thermal paste on the front of the box. There is also a scheme of the fan rotor design. The back of the box lists the cooler key features and offers a small comparative cooling efficiency diagram.

There is a clear plastic casing inside the cardboard box that holds the cooler heatsink with a fan. The smaller box with accessories is at the top of the plastic casing. It contains the following accessories:

Don’t be surprised that there is no retention kit for the Socket 939/AM2(+) mainboards bundled with this cooler: it is already attached to the cooler base. I would also like to draw your attention to the fact that the cooler is bundled with very efficient Tuniq TX-2 thermal paste, which we have already tested before.  The cooler is made in China and is priced at very modest $36.

Design and Functionality

Since the heatsink and the fan of the Sunbeamtech Core-Contact Freezer cooler are not connected, we are going to talk about them separately. The cooler heatsink sits on four copper heatpipes, each 8mm in diameter. These heatpipes are part of the cooler base:

You should already be familiar with heatpipe direct touch technology from our Xigmatek reviews. In Sunbeamtech’s implementation it is called Core-Contact. The heatpipes hold an array of 52 aluminum plates, each 0.4 mm thin. The plates are spaced out at 2.0 mm:

The plates are glued to the heatpipes with thermal glue that is why some of them do not hold as tightly as they could if they were soldered. The heatsink sides aren’t covered with anything that is why some airflow will most likely be lost off the sides of the heatsink:

The ends of the heatpipes do not have any decorative caps on them, like the ones we could see on Scythe solutions:

I doubt that this is an issue for a cooling solution, so let’s not stop here and continue with our discussion of the Sunbeamtech Core-Contact Freezer heatsink design.

The heatpipes are slightly spread out on leaving the base, which ensures more even distribution of the heat flow over the heatsink array:

The base of the cooler is covered with protective plastic film warning you that it needs to be removed before installation:

This film most likely serves to prevent copper heatpipes surface from oxidation, because there is nothing that could require anti-scratch protection here.

The base surface is very even as we can tell from the thermal compound imprints on the glass surface and on the processor heat-spreader. They were very even over the entire contact surface area. The gaps between the heatpipes are 1.5mm wide and have aluminum inserts.

The heatsink is cooled with a 120 x 120 x 25mm fan:

 

The fan is based on a hydraumatic bearing that is claimed to guarantee 50,000 hours or over 5.5 years MTBF. The fan rotation speed is controlled with an included controller that should be installed into the case rear panel instead one of the brackets. The claimed rotation speed interval is 1000-2000 RPM (±10%) with the noise level between 16 and 20 dBA (±10%). The fan creates maximum 90.65 CFM airflow. I didn’t detect any crackling of the fan motor throughout the entire test session.

To lower the vibrations and shift the acoustics to a more comfortable zone for a human ear, there are 4 small rubber pads on the fan corners:

The fan itself is attached to the heatsink with two wire clips that catch on to the mounting holes in the fan and a special groove on the heatsink:

Sunbeamtech Core-Contact Freezer cooler with an installed fan looks as follows:

 

Here I would like to add that the cooler measures 125 x 104 x 155mm and weighs 590g (the heatsink alone).

Installation Tips

The cooler installs really simple on both supported platforms (Socket 939/AM2(+) and LGA775). You won’t need to remove the mainboard from the system case. The cooler is pressed against the CPU with a metal clip screwed on to the base:

 

On Socket 939/AM2(+) this clip hold on to the hooks on the standard plastic frame, and on LGA775 platform you use the enclosed plastic frame with the locking plastic “spindles”. The cooler clip will be catching on the hooks on this frame. Everything seems to be plain and simple; however, I did have some problems with my DFI LANPARTY DK X48-T2RS mainboard. To be more exact, these were insurmountable obstacles. The thing is that the area around the processor socket on this mainboard is surrounded with heatsinks on the power components and chipset bridges connected with heatpipes to one another. That is why no matter how I turned the cooler, its retention loops would hit against one or even two heatsinks at a time, so they couldn’t really hook to the frame. Since I couldn’t really replace the mainboard, I installed Sunbeamtech Core-Contact Freezer using the retention from Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme cooler with a piece of dense rubber pad 40 x 40mm and 5mm thick. It turned out a pretty reliable retention. I even threw in a backplate for even greater hold, though it is originally not included with the cooler.

This is what it looks like inside the system case:

 

I would like to add that the distance from the cooler base to the lower heatsink plate is 37mm. I would also like to draw your attention to the unusual cooler positioning for the system case. In fact, our regular readers should know very well that coolers with heatpipe direct touch technology work better on quad-core 45nm processors is their heatpipes are turned along the socket lock (like shown on the photo above). If you turn the cooler by 90 degrees so that the airflow it creates goes towards the back of the system case, the CPU temperature will increase by 2~3°C. This, however, is not the case for dual-core and 65nm processors.

Technical Specifications and Pricing

The technical specifications and MSRP of the Sunbeamtech Core-Contact Freezer cooler are summed up in the table below:

Testbed and Methods

We tested Sunbeamtech Core-Contact Freezer  and its competitor in two modes: in an open testbed when the mainboard sits horizontally on the desk and the coolers are installed vertically, and in a closed system case with the mainboard in vertical position.

Our testbed was identical for all coolers and featured the following configuration:

All tests were performed under Windows Vista Ultimate Edition x86 SP1. SpeedFan 4.37 was used to monitor the temperature of the CPU and mainboard chipset, reading it directly from the CPU core sensor and to monitor the rotation speed of the cooler fans:

The mainboard’s automatic fan speed management feature as well as CPU power-saving technologies were disabled for the time of the tests in the mainboard BIOS. The CPU thermal throttling was controlled with the RightMark CPU Clock Utility version 2.35.0:

The CPU was heated up using Linpack 32-bit with LinX shell version 0.5.3. The RAM capacity was set at 1536MB and the test cycle included 15 runs:

Since we ran the test twice with 20/10-minute idle period between the runs for the system to cool down and temperatures to set in, the relatively short actual testing period was quite enough for the maximum processor temperature to become stable.

This is the complete screenshot for your reference:

I performed at least two cycles of tests for each cooling system. I took the maximum temperature of the hottest processor core for the results charts.

The ambient temperature was checked next to the system case with an electronic thermometer that allows monitoring the temperature changes over the past 6 hours. During our test session room temperature stayed at 24°C. It is used as a starting point on the temperature 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 uses several criteria to find a rival for Sunbeamtech Core-Contact Freezer cooler. First, it had to be a cooler of comparable price (as you know Sunbeamtech Core-Contact Freezer is priced at $36 retail). Second, it had to be a tower-cooler of similar design. Third, it had to be a solution that our regular readers were well familiar with. The Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme tower cooler was a great choice except the price point. Unfortunately, the prices of Thermalright solutions are pretty high. In particular, the cooler that I have just mentioned, costs about $60, which is 50% more expensive than the price of Sunbeamtech Core-Contact Freezer. So, I decided to go with another familiar cooler – ZEROtherm ZEN FZ120 with the MSRP of $40:

Quite a rival, isn’t it? I would like to remind you that last summer this solution proved to be a highly efficient and easy to use air-cooling system for CPUs. Moreover, we replaced its default fan with a 9-blade Scythe Slip Stream 120 in two operational modes: in quiet mode at 850 RPM and maximum 2060 RPM.

Cooling Efficiency

During Linpack tests inside a closed system case using the “weakest” cooling system of the today’s testing participants  we managed to overclock our 45 nm quad-core processor to 3.65 GHz (+21.7%). The nominal processor Vcore was increased to 1.475 V in the mainboard BIOS (+28.3%):

Let’s check out the results:

As you can see, Sunbeamtech Core-Contact Freezer yielded to its today’s competitor (enhanced with a custom fan) at minimal fan rotation speed and caught up with it and even outperformed it a little at maximum fan speed. The cooler is evidently sensitive to the fan performance, because at the maximum rotation speed the CPU temperature drops down significantly. Too bad it is pretty noisy, so it may not be too comfortable to be close to the system case in this mode.

Conclusion

I have to say that our today’s hero, Sunbeamtech Core-Contact Freezer, is no conjurer and doesn’t belong to the super-cooler team with the highest cooling efficiency. Nevertheless, Sunbeamtech Core-Contact Freezer will undoubtedly find its customers being priced at only $36 and offering very good cooling performance for the buck. The inconvenient retention with limited compatibility is a little upsetting, but we hope the manufacturer will take note of it and fix it in the next cooler modifications. As for the ways of improving the cooling efficiency, we would suggest that the manufacturer tries to allow two fans to be installed onto this cooler heatsink (one for air intake and one for exhaust) , because the cooler efficiency depends significantly on the airflow going through the heatsink array. It would also be nice to have a backplate included with the cooler retention kit, just like by other makers, and replace the thermal glue with soldering technique for the contact between the heatpipes and the heatsink plates. Overall, we would like to wish Sunbeamtech not to stop at this point and continue doing a great job on the cooling front. Hopefully our suggestions will come in handy.