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Testbed Configuration

We carried out our tests on a testbed that included the following components:

  • Asus P9X79 Deluxe rev.1.03 mainboard (BIOS version 0802);
  • Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition CPU (3.3-3.9 GHz, Sandy Bridge-E rev.C0, 32nm, 130 W, LGA 2011);
  • 4 x 4 GB DDR3 SDRAM Corsair Vengeance CMZ16GX3M4X1866C9R (16 GB, 1866 MHz, 9-10-9-27 timings, 1.5 V voltage);
  • MSI N570GTX-M2D12D5/OC graphics card (Nvidia GeForce GTX 570, GF110, 40 nm, 786/4200 MHz, 320-bit GDDR5 1280 MB);
  • Crucial m4 SSD (CT256M4SSD2, 256 GB, SATA 6 Gbps);
  • Thermalright Archon Rev.A CPU cooler and an additional 80x80 mm fan for cooling of the area around the CPU socket during overclocking experiments;
  • ARCTIC MX-2 thermal interface;
  • CoolerMaster RealPower M850 PSU (RS-850-ESBA);
  • Open testbed built using Antec Skeleton system case.

We used Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64 bit (Microsoft Windows, Version 6.1, Build 7601: Service Pack 1) operating system, Intel Chipset Software Installation Utility version, Nvidia GeForce Driver 285.62 graphics card driver.

I should say a few words about the changes in our testbed configuration. The new Crucial m4 SSD (model CT256M4SSD2) has 256 GB storage capacity. Due to 6 Gbps interface support its read speed is almost twice as high as that of the previous model we used in our testbeds. The write speed has also increased substantially, though not that dramatically.

Four Corsair Vengeance CMZ16GX3M4X1866C9R DDR3 SDRAM modules with 4 GB storage capacity each make a total of 16 GB. The heat-spreaders made of thin aluminum are pretty tall and are available in four different colors. For compatibility reasons the memory is by default clocked at 1333 MHz with 9-9-9-24 timings, but the XMP 1.3 profile contains its actual capabilities: 1866 MHz frequency and 9-10-9-27 timings. It is interesting that in this case you don’t need to increase its voltage above the nominal 1.5 V for DDR3 SDRAM.

The most arguable and problematic upgrade is the Thermalright Archon Rev. A processor cooler. The new cooler revision doesn’t really differ from the first revision, but now it is bundled with a larger TY-150 fan (170x150x26.5 mm).

There were several reasons why we chose this particular model. First of all, LGA 2011 processors require a highly efficient cooler and all numerous online reviews were praising this particular cooler model. Secondly, we were looking for the narrowest possible cooler out there. Many Intel X79 Express based mainboards have only four memory DIMM slots that are located very closely to the processor socket. As a result, most flagship coolers available today will not be compatible with the memory modules featuring tall heat-spreaders. Moreover, the additional retention kits for LGA 2011 are already available in retail. So, we ended up purchasing the new Thermalright Archon Rev.A and in the end were extremely disappointed with it. Just like many other coolers from this manufacturer, this one had a defective very uneven and severely protuberant base, which hinders proper cooling of your processor.

This is the thermal compound imprint on the LGA 2011 processor. If we take AMD processors with even heat-spreaders, the contact spot will be even smaller – only a thin stripe in the very center of the CPU, despite the fact that we intentionally applied an excessive amount of thermal paste. Moreover, this photo shows the third cooler installation attempt when we were trying to find the most optional positioning for it. In this case the narrow but long cooler heatsink will be hanging over the memory DIMMs and it will be impossible to install the memory modules into them. And if we install the cooler in a standard manner, the imprint will be going across the CPU and not along it, which means that the actual contact spot will be even smaller.

Despite our frustration, we decided to pull ourselves together on this one. We will replace Thermalright Archon Rev.A with a different cooler as soon as possible. It is really sad that a good manufacturer like Thermalright doesn’t mind selling defective products to the users for several years now.

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