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Reviews - Featured Reviews: Cooling
Written by Olin Coles   
Wednesday, 08 October 2008
Table of Contents: Page Index
Best CPU Cooler Performance - Q3 2008
Thermally Conductive Element Reference
Cooler Master Geminii S
Cooler Master V8
Coolink Silentator
Evercool Transformer 6
OCZ Gladiator Max
Thermaltake V14 Pro
Vantec AeroFlow FX 120
Xigmatek Apache EP-CD901
Xigmatek HDT-S1284
Zalman CNPS9300 AT
Zaward Gyre ZCJ010
TIM Application and Surface
Testing Methodology
Test Results: Stock Cooling Fan
Test Results: High-Output Fan
CPU Cooler Final Thoughts
Best of Q3 2008 Conclusion

CPU Cooler Final Thoughts

These could be the last and final days for Intel's "socket T" CPU interface. The popular LGA775 CPU interface has served well since June of 2004 and will likely survive until at least 2010, but will be replaced shortly after this article is published. Intel plans to launch the "socket 1366" Core i7 sometime in Q4 2008, which will mark the beginning of the end for the existing line of Core 2 Duo/Quad/Extreme 65/45nm processors. Core i7 will soon be all the rage for enthusiasts and overclockers, primarily since this processor cannot function on 2P motherboards found in many servers. Overclocking will rely less on the Front Side Bus, and more on the processor itself, since the new Nehalem architecture places the memory controller onto the CPU. For this reason alone, I fear that overclocking may not be possible to the extremes we've enjoyed over the past decade. Benchmark Reviews will soon know the answer to this lingering question, as we'll soon offer a full perspective with our Intel socket 1366 Core i7 launch.

On the other hand, there's always AMD processors to keep the house warm through the cold winter months. Benchmark Reviews hasn't adopted a popular Phenom test platform, primarily because so many overclockers and enthusiasts are enjoying their Core 2 performance. However, with a recession is full swing (just I have predicted for months now) and an economic climate in critical condition, we might soon see the inexpensive AMD platform be popular once again. Until then, there's only one purpose for the entire Benchmark Reviews CPU cooler series: discover the very best product for each time period.

There are a lot of different products out there, and believe it or not we exclude a few from each article because they don't stack up well at all. So this is why you may not see some of the coolers other sites have tested in our results. Because of space and time limitations it's just simply not feasible to review them all, but it's certainly worth mentioning which products should be avoided. So I began to carefully think about it and nearly constructed a real-time chart which places products into different levels of performance. That's when I realized that performance is relative, too, and what performs well today might be considered low-end only a year from now. As it turns out, the best way I can think of is already being done by our affiliate FrostyTech: use a synthetic system to generate the same exact load for each and every test conducted. This would stand the test of time much better than any computer system or processor platform would, because temperature is a static measurement. Unfortunately, the sythetic test system was quoted to me for $35,000 by the manufacturer, and times are way too tight for that kind of expense.

Xigmatek_Crossbow_775.jpg

No doubt there will be a few readers who will scoff at my results (because I read their pity parlay after each time my affiliates publish their own cooler reviews), so I'm certain the fanboys will claim that anyone with ten minutes of experience should "lap" the processor's integrated heat spreader smooth as well as polish the CPU coolers mating surface. Sure, I concede, you're correct. Any bonafide overclocker with more time on his/her hands than the average hardware enthusiast will spend a few hours wet-sanding their equipment so that they can get an extra degree of cooling performance. But for the other 99% of the consumer population, this is what you can expect from these products if you want the CPU cooler to perform right out of the box or with a simple add-on fan upgrade.

I can't please everyone, and my biggest critics have taught me that there's a small portion of enthusiasts that would happily spend ten days turning a decent cooler (the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme is usually the subject of said improvements) into an excellent cooler. But I'm not that guy. I'll spend ten minutes removing the old stock fan and replace it with something of higher output along with a very thin application of thermal paste and call it done. So to you hardcore overclockers, feel free to see my results as flawed, because nobody I personally know is willing to spend that much time on a large collection of review samples. I had to draw the line somewhere, and this is it.

There are numerous ways to improve upon the performance that any one of these products has offered. Take for example the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme: most enthusiast like to modify this product by lapping the surface and adding additional mounting pressure by using a washer. I for one believe this to be more of a necessity than anything else, since Thermalright designed the surface with an intentionally uneven convex finish. To a lesser extent, you could also wet sand and polish the mating surface of any Heat-pipe Direct Touch cooler and then use a bolt-through backplate mounting kit (such as the Xigmatek Crossbow system). Nevertheless, most of this point was made in our Vendetta 2 vs TRUE vs HDT-S1283 article which compared the top three coolers to-date.



 

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