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Cooler Master GeminII S524 CPU Heatsink E-mail
Reviews - Featured Reviews: Cooling
Written by David Ramsey   
Monday, 22 August 2011
Table of Contents: Page Index
Cooler Master GeminII S524 CPU Heatsink
Closer Look: Cooler Master GeminII
GeminII S524 Detailed Features
Heat Sink Test Methodology
Testing and Results
Final Thoughts and Conclusion

Heat Sink 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. 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 heat sinks by replacing their included fan (if possible) with a common unit which is then used for every CPU cooler tested. Many manufacturers include fans with their heat sink products, but many 'stock' fans are high-RPM units that offer great airflow at the expense of obnoxiously loud noise levels, or, conversely, quiet fans that sacrifice performance for low noise. By using the same model of cooling fan throughout our heat sink 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 heat sink, and we believe that you'll feel the same way.

For each test, ambient room temperature levels were maintained within one degree of fluctuation, and measured at static points beside the test equipment with a digital thermometer. The Cooler Master GeminII S524 and the comparison coolers used a common Thermal Interface Material of our choosing (listed in the support equipment section below) for consistency. The processor received the same amount of thermal paste in every test, which covered the heat spreader with a thin nearly-transparent layer. The heat sink 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 points 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. AIDA64 Extreme Edition is utilized to create 100% CPU-core loads and measure each individual processor core temperature. 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 product in our test bed (see The Accuracy Myth section below).

Since our test processor reports core temperatures as a whole number and not in fractions, all test results utilize ADIA64 to report averages (within the statistics panel), which gives us more precise readings. 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. Benchmark Reviews reports the thermal difference; for the purposes of this article, thermal difference (not the same as thermal delta) is calculated by subtracting the ambient room temperature from the recorded CPU temperature.

Please keep in mind that that these test results are only valid within the context of this particular test: and, as the saying goes, your mileage may vary.

Intel Test System

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-950 Bloomfield 3.06GHz LGA1366 130W Quad-Core Processor Model BX80601950
  • Motherboard: ASUS Sabertooth X58 Intel X58-Express chipset) with BIOS 0603, mildly overclocked with BCLK set to 153MHz for a processor speed of 3519MHz

Support Equipment

  • AIDA64 Extreme Edition version 1.50.1200
  • MG Chemicals Heat Transfer Compound 8610-60G
  • High-speed fan: Delta AFC1212D (113CFM advertised)

All of the tests in this article have been conducted using vertical motherboard orientation, positioned upright in a traditional tower computer case. Air-cooled heat sinks are positioned so that heat pipe rods span horizontally, which in most cases means the fan is blowing air out the top of the chassis. The radiators of water coolers are mounted as per manufacturer instructions. In both cases, fans are connected directly to the power supply (rather than motherboard headers) and run at full speed during the test. At the start of our test period, the test system is powered on and AIDA64 system stability tests are started with Stress CPU and Stress FPU options selected. AIDA64 loads each CPU core to 100% usage, which drives the temperature to its highest point. Finally, once temperatures have sustained a plateau (no observed change in average temperatures for 5 minutes), the ending ambient room temperature and individual CPU core levels are recorded thus completing the first benchmark segment. The time to reach stable temperatures varied between 10 and 20 minutes for the heat sinks in this test; larger heat sinks typically take longer to stabilize.

The second test segment involves removing the stock cooling fan and replacing it with a high-output 120 mm Delta AFC1212D cooling fan, then running the same tests again.

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 heat sinks, 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.



# uATX PCIE overlap?Considering purchase 2012-05-26 08:35
I've seen a report of this cooler overlapping the first PCIE slot on uATX mobos... Anyone able to confirm?
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# RE: uATX PCIE overlap?David Ramsey 2012-05-26 08:53
I don't think this would be a problem. The spacing between the CPU socket and the first slot is pretty much the same on an mATX mono as on a standard mono.
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# RE: RE: uATX PCIE overlap?David Ramsey 2012-05-26 09:10
That should be "mobo" above. Sorry. Typing with one hand here...
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# RE: uATX PCIE overlap?Considering purchase 2012-05-26 09:52
If it were an issue do you think the bottom edge that allows for the 140mm fan could be ground off with a dremel or something?

I guess the key question is whether the extended fan mount bezel is flush with the RAM mounting tabs, as on every Z77 uATX board I've seen the RAM tabs' bottom is the exact point where the first PCIE slot starts. Since RAM slot + tabs is probably ~exactly 140MM (RAM I think is about 132MM, but not 100% sure), it seems like a perfectly center-mounted 140MM wide sink (which the GeminII looks like it is because of the extended lip for a 140MM fan) would be exactly flush with the top of PCIE slot 1, and since PCIE graphics cards usually have width to both sides, I'm kind of inclined to think the report I saw was accurate, but I'm also kind of inclined to think that removing the 140MM fan mount bezel/lip would fix it without altering thermals much.

Anyway, if you have any other recs for CPU sinks that would work well uATX and are under 130MM height and closer to 120MM in the top-to-bottom direction, I'm all ears.

I guess there's the Noctua NH-L12 (128MM, rather than 144), but I haven't been thrilled about it. Maybe I should reconsider.

Ironically enough my initial concern was sinks bumping interfering with the first RAM slot.
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# RE: RE: uATX PCIE overlap?David Ramsey 2012-05-26 10:02
I'm not sure why you think that "PCIE graphics cards usually have width to both sides". Aside from the perhaps 1mm-2mm height of components or cooler mounting brackets on the back side of the board, the only PCIE cards I've ever seen with width on the back are passively cooled cards with fins that wrap around the card.

Still, I concede the possibility of interference. You probably could Dremel away some of the unused 140mm fan flange, but I think a simpler solution would be one of the single-120mm radiator water cooling setups like the Corsair H80. That should remove all your fitment concerns and provide better cooling to boot.
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# RE: RE: RE: uATX PCIE overlap?Considering purchase 2012-05-26 10:25
My current GPU has an x-shaped heatsink mounting bracket on the backside about 5 - 10 MM deep and the frontside heatsink extends beyond the bcb and wraps about 3mm to the backside on the the top edge.

Anyway, thanks for replying, it's probably kind of onerous for you to have an extended comment discussion like this.

I've been looking at the H60 very seriously, actually. My major concern is that I feel that despite the 5 year warranty, the longevity and performance degradation over time aren't clear.

I know that every sink/fan based cooler I've used is still working and could probably keep on going for far longer than the useful life of my PCs and worse case probably need a fan replaced or reapplication of thermal grease, but with water cooling there are horror stories of pump seizures and coolant leaks that make me a little a ambivalent. Likewise, I've heard there's a constant, but minuscule, rate of coolant evaporation -- not sure how much it matters. Maybe I should just take the plunge. I've heard Corsair will replace your whole PC if things really go south, but it'd still be a hassle.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: uATX PCIE overlap?Considering purchase 2012-05-26 10:33
*meant pcb, not bcb.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: uATX PCIE overlap?David Ramsey 2012-05-26 10:43
It's true: a good air cooler will last forever (with possible fan replacement), while a water cooler will not. That said, I have not even heard of an all-in-one water cooler failure yet. The Asetek OEM cooler in my HP Blackbird case is going on 5 years old and is running fine. Originally designed for a Socket 775 system, it's been through a succession of LGA 1366/1155 motherboards with no problems so far.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: uATX PCIE overlap?Considering purchase 2012-05-26 12:18
Thanks for all the replies. It's been helpful.

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# RE: RE: uATX PCIE overlap?Considering purchase 2012-05-26 10:04
Actually, I think I've got 150 MM height available, not 130MM. Just double checked.
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