Asus Axe Square AMAzing and Asus Triton 88 Coolers Review
As you know, beauty and cooling efficiency are not always the combination that all solutions have. To illustrate this statement we are going to talk about two cooling solutions from Asus: a very beautiful one and a very efficient one.
If we try to describe a contemporary CPU air cooling solution in simplest terms, we can say that it consists of a heatsink built on 3-6 copper heatpipes with an array of copper or aluminum plates and one or two fans cooling this whole thing. In reality, it is nearly exactly like that, although there is the whole bunch of heatsinks of different shapes and fans of different types, as well as numerous combinations of both. Of course, there is a logical question: how can the manufacturer fight this cut-throat competition and make their products more appealing for potential customers? I believe there are three possible solutions to this problem.
First, they have to design if not the most efficient then at least an extremely efficient cooler that will sell at an affordable price. This is pretty difficult to accomplish taking into account the already existing super-coolers. Second, they can design an attractive-looking with appealing shape and additional features such as fan LEDs, decorative elements, etc. This is a much easier task, because the potential buyers of solutions like that care not too much about the efficiency as well as price. And third option is to design and manufacture a cooling solution with the most attractive price-to-efficiency ratio, which should logically help the maker win the largest maker take over a more mainstream market segment than in the first two cases (and at a lower investment cost).
Asus Company decided to take advantage of the first two options and introduced two cooling solutions about a year ago: Axe Square AMAzing and Triton 88. We have been trying to get these samples for review for a while and finally our efforts and persistence were rewarded. Today we are proud to offer you a detailed review and testing of these two very interesting cooling solutions. Although each of them is interesting for its own target group and in its own way. But let’s start from the very beginning.
Asus Axe Square AMAzing
Package and Accessories
This cooling solution ships in a large black box with the cooler image on the front side and technical specifications on the back.
Wonderful things start happening right as soon as we open the box. Inside there is a cooler sitting in soft polyurethane foam and covered with some velour-like material and a smaller box with accessories.
I have to say that it is very impressive. Packaging like that is more typical of some jewelry rather than PC components. If it goes one like that, then in a few years from now CPUs will be shipping inside Faberge eggs and cooler installation instructions will be written in poetic form with oil paints on real canvases.
But it turned out to be just the beginning of all the dainty bits, because when we opened the smaller box with a magnetic lock we saw this.
Each component was carefully inserted inside a foam slit and there was an Asus club membership card with an individual ID and a manual inside the box lid. When you remove all the accessories from the box here is what you get.
Even the metal retention brackets and screws are covered with a layer of gold-colored paint that is why I can’t dare to assume what they used to make the Asus thermal paste (must be diamonds and moon dust, nothing less). However, Asus Axe Square AMAzing is made on the planet Earth – in China.
Design and Functionality
The cooler also looks very unusual. First, it is the plastic casing painted golden metal color that almost completely covers all sides of the heatsink.
Axe Square AMAzing is a top-cooler, which means that the airflow it creates is directed towards the mainboard PCB.
The cooler consists of five copper nickel-plated heatpipes, each 6 mm in diameter that come out of the base plate in both directions. They hold an array of 60 copper nickel-plated plates. Each plate is around 0.45 mm thick and they are spaced out at 2.0 mm distance from one another. The cooler measures 139x133x130 mm and weighs 680 g.
There is a 120x120x25 mm fan above the heatsink. It is fastened in a plastic casing with four plastic clips.Two halves of the casing are closed together using four self-tapping screws. Even if we unscrew the latter, you still can’t remove the casing and the fan, because you must somehow remove the clips first. And the clips cannot be removed without harming the cooler beautiful looks, therefore we can’t say a lot about the fan and its original manufacturer (it is most likely one of Everflow solutions). According to the official specifications, the fan rotation speed is PWM controlled and can reach 1400 RPM maximum at 16 dBA noise level. The fan uses a slide bearing, but its MTBF is not specified.
Heatpipes lie inside precut grooves and are soldered to them. The thinnest part of the copper base plate beneath the heatpipes is 4 mm.
The cooler base must have been made by a surfer, who had to be thinking about the waves rather than even surface of the nickel-plated copper base of the cooler. As a result, we can detect at least two “waves” on the surface of Asus Axe Square AMAzing base.
I was pretty surprised to see that despite the curves the first thermal compound imprint of the processor heat-spreader didn’t turn out too bad. And when we turned the cooler by 90° without removing the thermal compound it was almost completely normal (even though it is a deceiving impression as some of the thermal paste remained from the first imprint attempt).
We didn’t level out the base during our test session, because the cooler needed to be returned in original condition after the review.
Asus Axe Square AMAzing is compatible with LGA775 platform and all contemporary AMD platforms. You should use a golden swing-clip with a locking tab to install the cooler onto an AMD platform.
LGA775 retention is also just as simple and consists of two steel plates that need to be attached to the base with four standard plastic push-pins on the ends.
So, you don’t need to remove the mainboard from the case during cooler installation.The cooler is very compact at the base and could be installed without any problems in any of the four possible ways even on DFI mainboard loaded with all sorts of heatsinks.
The proper positioning of the cooler on the mainboard is specifically mentioned in the installation manual, which is something not all manufacturers do. It turns out that Asus Axe Square AMAzing should be installed in such a way that its heatpipes were running perpendicular to the memory DIMM slots.
According to Asus, the installation position as shown on the right should ensure the highest CPU cooling efficiency. This is what Asus Axe Square AMAzing looks like inside the system case.
The installation instructions can also be downloaded from the official Asus web-site (PDF file, 1.12 MB) together with the list of mainboards that are officially compatible with it. All this should definitely make the installation of this beautiful solution quick and easy. I also have to add that the absence of LGA1366 compatibility is a serious drawback for Asus Axe Square AMAzing. Oh, by the way, I almost forgot to mention that the cooler fan features very pretty orange LED lighting.
Asus Triton 88
Package and Accessories
I don’t know what is implied in the “Triton 88” name and what the connection between this name and the cooling systems is, so let’s just move on to the cooler packaging.
The box is designed in the same way as that of the above described Axe Square AMAzing. However, there is a “Triple fan flow” sticker on the front of the box that immediately catches your eye, which indicates that you can install up to three fans onto this heatsink. There is also an LGA1366 support logo.
The cooler is sealed in a clear plastic blister shaped exactly as the cooler. There is a small box with accessories at the top of it:
As you see, there is everything necessary to successfully install the system onto CPUs. Although the retention is not gilded and there is no Asus club card inside. Well, this is a “mainstream” solution and not an elite one.
Design and Functionality
Triton 88 is built according to the same principle as the well-known Thermalright IFX-14. Its heatsink consists of two arrays with a fan between them.
Each heatsink array is built of 45 aluminum plates with 0.5 mm thickness. The gaps between the plates are at 2 mm. The plates sit on six copper nickel-plated heatpipes 6 mm in diameter.
The cooler measures 112x125x153 mm total, which means that it is more compact than Thermalright IFX-14 (146.2x124x161 mm). It weighs 876 g compared with 790 g by IFX-14, though the latter comes without a fan.
Heatpipes are combined in two groups, three in each, and are slightly curved towards the outside away from the cooler central axis.
The aluminum top cover with Asus logo and the fan can be easily removed. This allowed us to learn that the heatsink arrays are symmetrical that is why the fan may be installed onto any of them.
The distance between the heatsink arrays is 31 mm.The heatsink plates are pressed against the heatpipes, you can clearly see the traces of lock gaps on the photo below.
Just like Axe Square AMAzing, Triton 88 has special grooves in the base plate where the heatpipes are soldered. The thinnest part of the nickel-plated base measures 3.5 mm.
The base of the Triton 88 cooler we received for our tests turned out with a little bump in the center.As a result, the thermal paste imprint from the processor heat-spreader was far from ideal.
There is a 120 mm nine-blade fan installed between the two heatsink arrays. It is made by Everflow (model TB12025SU).
The fan rotation speed is controlled using pulse-width modulation method (PWM) in the interval from 800 to 2100 RPM. The claimed level of noise is at 20 dBA, but no one knows at what speed this noise was measured. We also do not know the MTBF of the fluid dynamic fan bearing, although it is not really that important as you can easily replace the default Triton 88 fan with something different. Moreover, there are four wire clips for additional fans among cooler accessories, which can be used to attach the fans to the outside of the heatsink arrays.
Triton 88 can be installed onto an AMD platform exactly the same way as Axe Square AMAzing.
Note that the retention clip can be inserted not only the way we show on the photo above, but also between the heatpipes and there is a special groove in the base for that. In other words, there are more than two ways to install Asus Triton 88 onto AMD platform.
The cooler retention for LGA1366 and LGA775 platforms is built according to the same principle as that of Axe Square AMAzing. There is only one difference: it uses screws that go through the PCB to the backplate instead of plastic push-pins.
This provides much more secure contact between the cooler and the CPU than in case of Axe Square AMAzing and as a result, the heat transfer is way more efficient.
As for the recommendations regarding the preferable cooler installation, everything here is exactly the same as with the previous cooling solutions we have just discussed. I mean, the cooler should be turned in such a way that the air flow is directed towards the back of the system case. All other cooler positions are not recommended.
This is exactly the way we installed Asus triton 88 during our test session.Of course, I trusted Asus engineers, but I also checked out the cooler efficiency when it was turned 90° clockwise from what was shown on the photo. In fact, I didn’t detect any difference in CPU peak temperature between these two cases. I have to add that the distance from the base surface to the lowest heatsink plate is 53 mm that is why triton 88 won’t interfere even with tall memory DIMM heat-spreaders, not to mention the heatsinks on the voltage regulator components. You can download the cooler installation instructions from the official Asus web-site (PDF file, 1.92 MB) together with the list of compatible mainboards.
In conclusion I have to add that the fan of Asus triton 88 is equipped with blue LED lighting.
Testbed and Methods
All tests were performed inside a closed system case. Our testbed was identical for all coolers throughout the test session and featured the following configuration:
- Mainboard: ASUS P6T Deluxe (Intel X58 Express), LGA 1366, BIOS 1606;
- Processor: Intel Core i7-920, 2.67 GHz, 1.25V, 4 x 256 KB L2, 8MB L3 (Bloomfield, C0);
- Thermal interface: Arctic Silver 5;
- Graphics card: ZOTAC GeForce GTX 260 AMP2! Edition 896 MB, 648/1404/2108 MHz (1030 RPM);
- Memory: DDR3 PC3-12800 3 x 2 GB OCZ Platinum Low-Voltage Triple Channel (Spec: 1600MHz / 7-7-7-24 / 1.65 V);
- System HDD: Western Digital VelociRaptor (SATA-II, 300 GB storage capacity, 10,000 RPM, 16 MB cache, NCQ) inside Scythe Quiet Drive 3.5” silencer and cooler chassis;
- Backup HDD: Western Digital Caviar Green WD10EADS (SATA-II, 1000 GB, 5400 RPM, 32 MB, NCQ);
- Optical drive: Samsung SH-S183L;
- System case: Antec Twelve Hundred (front panel: two Noiseblocker NB-Multiframe S-Series MF12-S1 fans at 820 RPM and Scythe Gentle Typhoon fan at 840 RPM; back panel: two Scythe SlipStream 120 fans at 840 RPM; top panel: standard 200 mm fan at 400 RPM at the top of the case);
- Control and monitoring panel: Zalman ZM-MFC2;
- Power supply: Zalman ZM1000-HP 1000 W (with a default 140 mm fan).
During this test session we managed to overclock our 45nm quad-core processor with the multiplier set at 21x and “Load-Line Calibration” enabled to 3.9 GHz (+46.1%) using the weakest cooling system of the today’s testing participants in quiet fan mode. The nominal processor Vcore was increased to 1.325 V (+10.4%) in the mainboard BIOS.
The memory voltage was at 1.62 V and its frequency was 1500 MHz (7-7-7-14_1T timings). All other parameters available in the mainboard BIOS and connected with CPU or memory overclocking remained unchanged (set to Auto).
All tests were performed under Windows Vista Ultimate Edition x86 SP1. We used the following software during our test session:
- Real Temp 3.30 RC10 – to monitor the processor core temperature;
- Linpack 32-bit with LinX shell version 0.6.1 – to create maximum CPU load (two test cycles, 15 Linpack runs in each cycle with 1624 MB RAM capacity involved);
- RivaTuner 2.24 – to visually control temperature changes (with RTCore plugin)
- CPU-Z 1.52 – to monitor processor core voltage and frequency.
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 10 minutes. We took the maximum temperature of the hottest processor core of the four for the results charts. 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. During our test session room temperature was at 22.1-22.4 °C.
The noise level of each cooler was measured after 1:00 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(s). The noise meter was installed on a tripod and was always at a 25 cm distance from the cooler. To measure the noise we set the cooler onto a 45 mm stand made of polyurethane foam material on top of a desk. 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 33 dBA. The fan(s) rotation speed was measured in the entire supported range using the new controller revision by changing the voltage.
During this test session Asus Axe Square AMAzing didn’t need a competitor with similar top-design concept, and very soon you are going to find out why. Asus triton 88 will be competing against the reference Thermalright IFX-14. We didn’t level out its base, but to ensure more secure contact we used two additional metal washers about 1.2 mm thick for each of its retention screws. Thermalright IFX-14 was tested with one, two and three Noiseblocker NB-Multiframe MF12-S3HS fans working in two rotation speed modes: very quiet 940 RPM and at maximum rotation speed of 1880 RPM. The fans were installed for air intake and exhaust.
We tested Asus Triton 88 with one and two same additional fans (besides the default one).Now let’s proceed to the test results and their analysis.
First of all we would like to answer the question about why there is no competitor for Asus Axe Square AMAzing cooler in our today’s test session. Well, this cooling solution failed to cope even with the modestly overclocked Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 (LG775) CPU. After five minutes in Linpack at 3.6 GHz frequency and 1.4375 V Vcore the CPU temperature reached 92 °C and we had to terminate the test. Unfortunately, the same thing repeated in all cooler installation positions.
Even when we put the system case sideways, the result didn’t get any better. The heatpipes warmed up just fine and the heatsink plates felt warm to the touch, but Axe Square AMAzing didn’t work efficiently. Was it a defective sample? Was the contact between the CPU and the cooler base not tight enough because of the push-pin retention? Or was it the wavy base surface? Either way, after half a day of vain efforts I moved on to Asus Triton 88 and my disappointment gave way to admiration. I am sure that you will also be positively surprised with the obtained results.
It is the first time in our experience that Thermalright IFX-14 didn’t outperform another cooling solution and this solution is Asus Triton 88. While both cooler shave the same design and equally uneven base surfaces, six 6 mm heatpipes proved just as good as four 8 mm heatpipes. However, this is just a general summary of all the test results combined. Let’s take a closer look at each test individually.
Firstly, Asus Triton 88 is seriously behind Thermalright IFX-14 in quiet operational mode of its default fan at 940 RPM. The frameless fan obviously can’t pump enough air through two heatsink arrays at this rotation speed. The indirect proof of this conclusion is that its efficiency increased substantially as soon as we added an additional Noiseblocker fan to the outside of the first Asus Triton 88 heatsink array. As a result, Triton 88 with two fans at 940 RPM turns out as efficient as IFX-14 with one fan at the same speed. When we switch to two and three fans in quiet mode, Thermalright cooler becomes a little more efficient than Asus.
Secondly, you can clearly see that the situation changes at maximum fan rotation speed. Thermalright IFX-14 is no longer an undefeated leader among air coolers as it loses a little to Asus triton 88 when tested with one and three fans. With two identical fans, the coolers run equally efficient. Note that the use of the third fan with Thermalright IFX-14 reduces the peak CPU temperature by only 1 °C, while the third fan on Asus Triton 88 delivers 2 °C improvement. This is pretty strange, because IFX-14 has denser heatsink array (only 1.5 mm gaps) than Triton 88 with 2.0 mm between the plates. Although Thermalright’s plates themselves are almost half the size of those by Asus: 0.25-0.3 mm vs 0.5 mm respectively.
Thirdly, I suggest that you take a look at the efficiency of these coolers with three fans at 1880 RPM (Asus was tested with two Noiseblocker fans besides the default one) during maximum overclocking of our quad-core processor (4.01 GHz at 1.36875 V). Here I have to point out that during the tests of Thermalright IFX-14 the room temperature was 1.5 °C higher than during Asus Triton 88 tests. Here are the results.
Even taking into account the room temperature difference, Asus triton 88 cools the CPU better than Thermalright IFX-14. However, these operational modes are only interesting for short-term benchmarking purposes, because the noise generated by the fans in this case is way too high even for high-quality fans. The next part of our review will focus particularly on the noise aspects.
We measured the acoustic readings off Asus coolers in their default configuration and Thermalright IFX-14 with one Noiseblocker fans in the entire supported rotation speed range. Here are the results.
Unfortunately, the fans on both Asus coolers turned out pretty noisy even at their low rotation speeds. Besides, the fan of Axe Square AMAzing crackled and the fan of Triton 88 buzzed in the rotation speed interval between 950 and 1400 RPM and rustled at the speeds below 950 RPM. Overall, we have to admit that these are not the best fans. I have to also mention that the startup fan voltage by Axe Square AMAzing is 4.0 V and by Triton 88 – 6.8 V.
Although Asus Axe Square AMAzing tried real hard, it couldn’t really participate in our today’s test session. It is hard to say what exactly caused it to perform so inefficiently. I dare suppose that judging by the heatsink design this cooler can hardly be considered a high-efficiency air cooling system even if there were no defects. However, I have every right to claim that this cooler is one of the most beautiful solutions that I have ever seen. And Asus certainly exploited this feature to its utmost by assigning this model to the AMAzing series and providing it with a membership card and unique ID number. Therefore, I am pretty sure that Axe Square AMAzing will find its customers.
The second Asus cooler tested today could also be called amazing, but this time in reference to its cooling efficiency rather than eye-catching exterior. Well, Triton 88 AMAzing sounds way more interesting than just Triton 88. Especially since this cooler deserves every single bit of this title, because its efficiency is just as good as that of Thermalright IFX-14. To be fair I have to say that in quiet mode Thermalright cooler is still more attractive. However, triton 88 in its default configuration comes with a fan 9though not a silent one at minimal speed) and costs less than IFX-14. As we managed to find out from a few Asus Triton 88 owners, their cooling solutions also can’t boast ideally even base surfaces that is why we won’t consider the bumpy base of our particular sample a specific defect of just this one unit.
Well, we have every right to say that there is yet one more leader among contemporary air coolers that is why I believe that we are in for a new development twist in this market. To prove my point let me list the solutions that are coming out shortly from the well-known brands: Noctua NH-D14; Tuniq Tower 120 Extreme and Propeller; Prolimatech Genesis, Jericho and The Mammoth; Alpenföhn Nordwand; Thermalright Cyclone, Venomous X, MUX-120, Arrow-14 and even the new revision of Thermalright IFX-14! Well, we are going to have some fun times 🙂
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