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Reviews - Featured Reviews: Cooling
Written by Olin Coles   
Friday, 12 March 2010
Table of Contents: Page Index
Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010
Thermally Conductive Element Reference
3R-System IceAge Prima Boss-II
Cogage Arrow CPU Cooler
Coolink Corator-DS Heatsink
CyberPowerPC XtremeGear HP-1216B
Dynatron Genius-G950 Heatsink
Intel DBX-B Advanced Thermal Solution
Noctua NH-D14 140mm Cooler
ProlimaTech Armageddon Heatsink
Thermalright Venomous-X Heatsink
Thermaltake Contac-29 CLP0568
Xigmatek Balder SD1283 Cooler
Zalman CNPS10X-Performa Cooler
Zalman CNPS10X-Quiet Cooler
CPU-Cooler Preparations
Heatsink Test Methodology
AMD X4-965: Stock Cooling Fan
AMD X4-965: High-Output Fan
Intel 980X: Stock Cooling Fan
Intel 980X: High-Output Fan
Enthusiast Fan Comparison
CPU Cooler Final Thoughts
Best CPU Cooler Conclusion

Heatsink Test Methodology

Benchmark Reviews is obsessed with testing CPU coolers, as our Cooling Section has demonstrated over the past few years. We've solicited suggestions from the enthusiast community, and received guidance from some of the most technical overclockers on the planet. As a result, our testing methodology has changed with every new edition of our Best CPU Cooler Performance series. Because of this, each article is really its own stand-alone product, and cannot be fairly compared to the others. This particular article is a perfect example of that principle, since we're using a fresh methodology. Benchmark Reviews continues to test CPU coolers using the stock included fan (whenever applicable), and then replace it with a high-output fan for re-testing.

Manufacturers are not expected to enjoy this sort of comparison, since we level the playing field for all heatsinks by replacing their included fan with a common unit which is then used for every CPU cooler tested. Many manufacturers include fans with their heatsink products, but most 'stock' fans are high-RPM units that offer great airflow at the expense of obnoxiously loud noise levels. By using the same model of cooling fan throughout our heatsink tests, we can assure our results are comparable across the board. This is one of the more significant changes we have made to our test methodology, since many of the benchmark tests we have conducted in the past have compared the total package. Ultimately we're more interested in the discovering the best possible heatsink, and we believe that you'll feel the same way.

Prolimatech_Megalems_CPU_Cooler_Splash.jpg

Testing was conducted in a loosely scientific manner. Ambient room temperature levels were maintained within one degree of fluctuation, and measured at static points beside the test equipment with a calibrated digital thermometer. Manufacturer-supplied thermal paste was not used in these tests, and a common Thermal Interface Material of our choosing (listed in the support equipment section below) was utilized instead. The processor received the same amount of thermal paste in every test, which covered the ICH with a thin nearly-transparent layer. The heatsink being tested was then laid down flat onto the CPU, and compressed to the motherboard using the supplied retaining mechanism. If the mounting mechanism used only two point of force, they were tightened in alternation; standard clip-style mounting with four securing points were compressed using the cross-over method. Once installed, the system was tested for a baseline reading prior to testing.

At the start of each test, the ambient room temperature was measured to track any fluctuation throughout the testing period. Lavalys EVEREST Ultimate Edition was utilized to create 100% CPU-core loads and measure each individual processor core temperatures. It's important to note that software-based temperature reading reflects the thermal output as reported from the CPU to the BIOS. For this reason, it is critically important (for us) to use the exact same software and BIOS versions throughout the entire test cycle, or the results will be incomparable. All of the units compared in our results were tested on the same motherboard using the same BIOS and software, with only the CPU-cooler product changing in each test. These readings are neither absolute nor calibrated, since every BIOS is programmed differently. Nevertheless, all results are still comparable and relative to each products in our test bed (see The Accuracy Myth section below).

Since our test processor report core temperatures as a whole number and not in fractions, all test results utilize EVEREST to report averages (within the statistics panel), which gives us more precise readings. To further compensate for this, our tests were conducted several times after complete power down thermal cycles. Conversely, the ambient room temperature levels were all recorded and accurate to one-tenth of a degree Celsius at the time of data collection.

When each cooler is tested, Benchmark Reviews makes certain to keep the hardware settings identical across the test platform. This enables us to clearly compare the performance of each product under identical conditions. While the ambient room temperature did fluctuate between 20.0~21.0°C during testing, the thermal delta would not change enough to impact our test results. Benchmark Reviews reports the thermal difference in test result charts. For the purpose of this article, thermal difference (not the same as thermal delta) is calculated by subtracting the ambient room temperature from the recorded CPU temperature.

Intel Test System

AMD Test System

Support Equipment

  • Lavalys EVEREST Ultimate Edition v5.30
  • Tuniq TX-3 (No curing time necessary or given)
  • Yate Loon 120x120x25mm fan, model D12SH-12 (88 CFM Advertised @ 40 dBA) 12V/0.30A
  • Xigmatek 140x140x25mm XLF-F1453 fans, model CFS-SYGJS-LU1 (65.5 CFM Advertised @ <16 dBA) 12V/0.30A
  • Xigmatek CrossBow ACK-I7361 (supports xxxx1 / xxxx2 / xxxx3 cooler models)
  • Xigmatek CrossBow ACK-I7363 (supports xxxx4 / xxxx5 / xxxx6 cooler models)
  • Thermalright LGA1366 Bolt-Thru-Kit UPC 814256-00079 (supports all TRUE and TRUE Spirit models)

All of the tests in this article have been conducted using vertical motherboard orientation, positioned upright in a traditional tower computer case. Heatsinks are positioned so that heatpipe rods span horizonally, and described in our Heatpipe Directional Orientation from the previous section.

At the start of our test period, the test system is powered on and EVEREST system stability tests are started with Stress CPU and Stress FPU options selected. For a minimum of sixty minutes (one hour) EVEREST loads each CPU core to 100% usage, which drives the temperature to its highest point. Finally, once temperatures have sustained a plateau, the ending ambient room temperature and individual CPU core levels are recorded thus completing the first benchmark segment.

The second test segment involves removing the stock cooling fan (while the system is still under load) and replacing it with a high-output 120 mm Yate Loon D12SH-12 cooling fan. The system is given thirty additional minutes with EVEREST loading the CPU cores before final temperature readings are taken and recorded.

The Accuracy Myth

All modern processors incorporate an internal thermal diode that can be read by the motherboards' BIOS. While this diode and the motherboard are not calibrated and therefore may not display the actual true temperature, the degree of accuracy is constant. This means that if the diode reports 40°C when it's actually 43°C, then it will also report 60°C when it's truly 63°C. Since the design goal of any thermal solution is to keep the CPU core within allowable temperatures, a processor's internal diode is the most valid means of comparison between different heatsinks, or thermal compounds. The diode and motherboard may be incorrect by a small margin in relation to an actual calibrated temperature sensor, but they will be consistent in their margin of error every time.



 

Comments 

 
# Is your final "Best" suitable?Rod 2010-03-14 03:52
The best cooler you have chosen, is that the best for a Desktop case or tower case or is there no difference in mobo orientation (Horiz/Vert) ??
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# RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010Olin Coles 2010-03-14 08:07
All of these coolers were tested in the tower case, with the heatpipes spanning vertically from front to back and exhaust blowing towards the top of the case.

HTPC/Desktop cases which rest horizontally and position the heatsink upright will have slightly better results.
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# RE: RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010Dr_b_ 2010-04-01 14:09
I Was wondering if you had any pictures showing the orientation. For example, you had a push fan on the lower side of the heatsink, pushing air up through the heatsink towards the top of the case ( i guess because heat rises and why fight that) but don't you lose any direct air flow blowing down on the cards/nb?
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# Fan orientationOlin Coles 2010-04-01 14:26
In our tests the fan was attached to the bottom of the heatsink, and pushes air from the bottom of the cast to the top. If two fans were ever used, it simply adds a second fan for a push and pull effect.
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# RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010Stuart 2010-03-20 04:29
Delta T - Degrees C/W ?
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# Is that a question?Olin Coles 2010-03-20 10:23
I see the question mark, but what exactly are you asking?
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# too heavyBrody k 2010-03-20 15:57
I've heard reports of people claiming that these larger heatsink wil. l eventually bend your mobo resulting in your 1st dimm to lose contact. you can reseat the ram and support the cooler im sure. any comment?
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# Cogage Arrow heatsinkChris H. 2010-03-23 15:17
I looks like that the Cogage Arrow heatsink has spots for 3 fans. Is this true and do you think that 3 low noise fans will make a big impact in performance?
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# RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010Steven 2010-03-23 18:15
I can't find a difference between the Zalman Flex and Performa, aside from looks and the Performa comes with a fan, which doesn't make sense considering the Flex costs more. Can you tell me what the differences are and why the Flex is more expensive, and if you would expect them to perform equally or not?

I'm trying to decide between the Prolimatech, Scythe, and Zalmans. I like the Prolimatech for the best performance and the Scythe for almost equal performance but much cheaper. The Zalman's are nice because they're in the middle for cost, although they perform worse yet cost more than the Scythe (unless the Flex performs better than the Performa). My main concern with the Scythe is you mentioned a "giant hassle for installation." Can you elaborate on that or point me to a link where it's discussed?

For an i7-920/930 build with intent to OC to the 3.8-4.0 range, which of these four would you suggest, or do you think they would all be up to the task?
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# RE: RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010Olin Coles 2010-03-23 20:44
The details on the Mugen installation are in the article, along with my suggestions for the best cooler between those choices. I haven't received or tested the Zalman CNSP10X-Flex, so I can't properly comment.
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# mrBrody K 2010-03-23 18:44
the Cogage Arrow heatsink will support 3x120mm fans. it will likely drop them temp a degree or two.

I would order and i did, should be here tomorrow, Prolimatech megahelms. I am waiting to see what they give me for a fan (it comes with one now) before i order Noctua NF-P12-1300 120MM fans. From what i can tell they have the best static pressure available, exactly what you need to blow through that rad.

promlimatech / noctua fans. my 2 cents
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# RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010Steven 2010-03-24 08:07
I know which one you said is the best cooler (the Prolimatech), and I'm fully aware that it's the best choice if nothing but temps matter. But then, if that were the case, I could just as well set up a water cooling system. What I'm trying to decide is if it's worth spending twice as much for a difference of a few degrees. If I were trying to push my OC to the limit and go with an extreme speed of 4.2GHz+, then I'm sure it would come down to those few degrees making a difference. However, for "only" shooting for ~3.8-4.0, it seems the Scythe would be enough, and I was just looking for your opinion on it, seeing as you have much more experience than I do in the topic.

As for the Mugen install, I've looked through the article over and over and I can't find what you're referencing. There's not even an entry in the article index for the Scythe. I guess I'll just have to check out other reviews on it elsewhere to see if anyone else mentions anything.
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# Mugen-2Olin Coles 2010-03-24 08:40
It sounds like the Scythe Mugen-2 would be your best choice; and installation means removing the socket hardware and using theirs.
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# Scythe Mugen-2 Revision B SCMG-2100Olin Coles 2010-03-24 15:17
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Scythe Mugen-2 Revision B model SCMG-2100 heatsink is identical to the first version, model SCMG-2000. The only difference is that Mugen-2 Rev. B uses a newly developed F.M.S.B. (Flip Mount Super Back-Plate) for more convenient mounting onto the motherboard. There should not be any cooling performance between these two models, despite marketing hype.
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# RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010Brad 2010-03-27 14:23
How can you hook up 2 CPU fans if the motherboard only has 1 CPU fan connector. Should I use a case fan slot for the second one? The case fans in my Cooler Master 932 HAF all can connect to the PSU cables, so that would be possible.
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# Read the articleOlin Coles 2010-03-27 14:28
You're asking a question that's already answered in the article. All of the fans are connected directly to the PSU, not the motherboard.
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# RE: RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010Steven 2010-03-27 14:53
I would suggest using a splitter/y-cable, such as the one at ##directron.com/y3pin.html. This way you can let the fans be controlled by the motherboard, slowing down when maximum cooling isn't required.
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# RE: RE: RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010Brad 2010-03-27 15:31
I didn't see this covered in the article, though I must have missed it. The article led me to buy the Megahalems. Is it safe to connect 2 fans to the same motherboard connector?

I have a P658D Premium motherboard. Could/should I just connect the second fan to one of the extra case fan connectors? As I noted, the case fans could possibly all connect to the PSU directly since they have adapters for that.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010Olin Coles 2010-03-27 19:58
You can connect the fans to any power header that's on the motherboard; even if it doesn't say CPU. You can also use an adapter to connect via molex PSU plugs.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010Brad 2010-03-27 20:31
Any suggestions on where to find more information about molex plugs? What do they add to a setup, why shouldn't I use them? I notice the connect to the MB and the PSU directly. Though I guess using a splitter with those might allow the MB to control them, but keep from pulling too much power from the MB.
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# RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010Steven 2010-03-27 16:34
I would suggest you read the thread at ##silentpcreview.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=55996 as well as maybe doing some more searching on your own. Based on what is said there, and the fact the splitters exist in the first place, I would suggest it's more than likely perfectly fine to do it. If you have doubt and really want to set it up that way, or you are just curious, I recommend you figure out the current draw of whatever fans you plan to use and either do some searching to see if you can find out what success others have had with fans with similar draw running in parallel off a single header or contact ASUS and ask them what the CPU_Fan header is rated at. If you do find out, or if you try it and it works, try to follow up and report your findings, as while I'm fairly certain it will work, I'd like to know for sure.
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# RE: RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010Brad 2010-03-27 20:33
I have learned that something may not be good, even if it exists. I am concerned with trying to pull too much power from the MB. I have come across a few things (though I have a hard time making a good Google search for the topic) about the possibility of damage.

I will check out the site. Contacting ASUS is in my list, but I want to build the box this weekend, not wait until Monday. :)

One of the fans makes a horrid noise, so I am only running with the push now, so the problem is gone for a while.
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# OK?Zack 2010-04-02 09:32
My previous comments were deleted, so I'll try one more time.

On the AMD X4-965 Stock Cooling Fan page the writer listed the NH-D14 with two 140mm fans. The NH-D14 comes with a 120mm and 140mm fan (NF-P12 and NF-P14), not two 140mm fans.

On the Intel 980x Stock Cooling Fan page it's also listed with "2x 140".

On the AMD X4-965 High-Output Fan page the NH-D14 is again for some strange reason listed with "stock 140mm fans" as opposed to having the Yate Loon 88 CFM fans mounted on it like every other cooler on the page.

On the Intel 980x High-Output Fan page the writer mentioned that the NH-D14 had two Xigmatek 140x140x25mm XLF-F1453 fans (63.5 CFM) mounted instead of the Yate Loon (88 CFM) fans mounted on every other cooler except the Prolimatech Armageddon, which also had the Xigmatek fans mounted.

I thought it was supposed to have the Yate Loon fans installed as per the test methodology?
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# By the wayZack 2010-04-02 14:34
You have my sincere thanks for going through the trouble of reviewing all these coolers. I should have posted my thanks first :)
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# Thuban Surface AreaKGA 2010-04-02 18:42
Excellent review, and much still for me to reflect on but have you any details on the size of the Thubans? I'm curious if the Scythe Mugen-2 would have great surface to surface contact on these upcoming processors. Also I couldn't help but notice that you are not a fan of certain high CFM fan's on the market. How about this Delta with PWM? It's 35 bucks and may cool enough for great OC'n for a Thuban/Scythe Mugen-2 combo. #search.digikey.com/scripts/DkSearch/dksus.dll?Detail?name=603-1164-ND

I only ask because in the Q1 review you did not test the AMD Phenom-II X4-965 BE or Intel Core i7-980X Extreme Edition with the 'showdown' between the Yate Loon fan on these CPU's vs... another fan.
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# link Correction!KGA 2010-04-02 18:45
Let me try that link again:

#search.digikey.com/scripts/DkSearch/dksus.dll?Detail?name=603-1164-ND

that's better.
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# RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010Robert Lazarus 2010-04-07 18:46
There is a lot of info and obviously one size does not fit all. I am still trying to figure out which cooler for the heat signature of the gulftown chip on an asus P6x58D board so I can still use all of the memory and pci slots. Does not have to be the absolute coolest, but decent and easy to install.

RL
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# ProlimaTech MegahalemsOlin Coles 2010-04-07 19:13
Robert: You'll want the ProlimaTech Megahalems. It cools best, but also allows full access to all DIMM slots and is nowhere near the PCI slots.
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# Finally found the Thuban die size..KGA 2010-04-17 02:34
And it's very large. It's 346mm². I am unaware of any Air Cooler that has a contact base even close to that size -that's also AMD compatible.

##hardware-specs.net/index.php?option=com_fabrik&view=details&tableid=2&fabrik=2&rowid=2203

I'll have to use the stock cooler until I find another option.
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# RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010Cougar75 2010-04-17 06:52
On page 10 you show the "width" of the Armageddon as 60mm (not 50mm). Is this correct?
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# Q1 roundup best coolers.horsey 2010-05-04 18:38
I read through pages and pages and pages, at the end, no charts :(
where are the #ing charts?
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# Look harder... lolOlin Coles 2010-05-04 20:53
The charts are there. I'm not even sure how you missed them.
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# artist in residenceBarry Prager 2010-05-08 10:24
Excellent. Well executed and written article on the top preforming coolers. One tip I'll take advantage of is reorienting my Noctual NH-D14 so the exhaust blows up and not toward the back. You explanation makes sense and I've got a larger fan pointing out on the top of my Coolmaster HAF 932.
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# ThanksOhSoCheesy 2010-06-06 10:46
Thanks! Great article. I'm glad you "made" me read the whole thing. I did learn a lot that wouldn't be in the conclusion.
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# what happend to noise lvl ?FInn 2010-06-14 04:12
here i thought i could find out, what my next heatcooler would look like!!!

but, but.. it seems like this test purpurce it overclockers, because, nothing about noise lvl. at least i could not find it!!!

when i am looking for coolers, i always look for, what temperature, can it hold the cpu, at lowest rpm, and the cpu working. ( with supported fan )

a lot of ppl hates noice more than been able to overclock. there for the lowest rpm combined with the cpu working, is a good indication, on what coolers can do the work and wich one, only are for high rpm cooling.

so the noice lvl, is at least as important as temperature. and it should be about 50celcius or lower, by normal use.
( still at lowest rpm. )
my zalmon copper cooler, can still do the job, at lowest rpm with my old cpu ( i almost cant hear it )

so remember: measure noice lvl every time, so we dont have to guess !!! ( with stock cooler )
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# Scythe Mugen for LGA775 core2 quadOmar 2010-12-13 19:32
Sorry if this is a silly question but you said three 8mm heatpipe rods in the base, or four 6mm rods are best for lga775, Mugen has 5 pipes, so does that mean it is even better for my processor? or does it need to be specifically either 3 or 4, again apologies if this is a silly question.
Thanks in advance.
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# RE: Scythe Mugen for LGA775 core2 quadOlin Coles 2010-12-13 19:40
That's actually a very difficult question to answer, and depends on the heat output of the processor. If the processor receives extreme amounts of heat because of overclocking or increased voltage, it's better to have larger heat pipe rods. If the temperature envelope is moderate to low, the smaller rods are better.
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# core 2 quad 2.4GhzOmar 2010-12-18 15:35
so bigger than mugen's? which are 6mm rods. I have not overclocked it yet, but that specific computer is for gaming, so i might later on overclock it. I cannot spend much, but i wouldn't buy crap either. Do you think mugen is a good choice?
Thank you very much for your reply and help. I REALLY appreciate it.
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# Coolermaster hyper n620Pallab das 2011-03-16 04:15
Helo every one .I have AMD Phenom X4 965BE processor along with Coolermaster Hyper n620 & I get CPU temp : 34 to 45 Degree Celcius.
is it normal without overclocking.
My CPU fan in rpm is 1510rpm chasis 1 :700rpm,chasis 2 is : 637rpm.

please please please please advice me my e-mail id is : pallab_deadboy@yahoo .co.in.
thanks 4 reading it
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# RE: Coolermaster hyper n620David Ramsey 2011-03-16 07:22
Your CPU temperatures are fine.
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# Coolermaster hyper n620KGA 2011-03-16 14:02
Your CPU temps are fine only in the sense that AMD Phenom CPU's are spec'd at 60.degrees or so for the 'high' limit.

However, I think your cooler should be getting lower temps. Your chassis fans look as to be set for 'quiet' performance but your CPU fan is 'cranking' on the fast side. I would think you would be getting below 30.degrees easily without any OC'n as you mentioned.

I'd try a new TIM, or completely clean and re-apply your Thermal(TIM) paste. I use Artic Silver or Tuniq. My Spire Thermax Eclipse II keeps my Thuban at 21.degrees when I had it at stock config.
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