Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

Q310 CPU Heat Sink / Air Cooler Roundup

Thinking of upgrading your CPU air cooler since things are getting a little hotter under the colar? We cover some newer solutions from big names in air cooling and compare those to the tried and true solutions that we have come to know and love.

Introduction

Ahh Summer time. The flowers are blooming, the birds are chirping and the temperature is rising. At least two out of three don’t affect us. With temperatures rising now might be a good time to check that cooler you have slapped atop your expensive CPU. As the ambient temperature starts to rise you might start to see erratic behavior from your PC if you are close to the edge as it is. Upgrading your heat sink may be just the thing to keep your CPU nice and happy. Today we have five contenders of all shapes and sizes vying to be your next choice of cooler.

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System Setup

All testing of the coolers will occur on our Intel Core i7 test bed. Consisting of the GIGABYTE X58-Extreme motherboard, six gigabytes of Corsair DDR3 RAM and paired with the Intel Core i7 920. With four cores and triple channel memory populated expect to see lots of heat. The video card of choice is the NVIDIA 9500 GT thanks to its low heat output and silent fan.

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Test Methods

CPU

In keeping with the spirit of the [H] we are once again doing hardware testing of all heat sinks. This means milling a very small path into an expensive CPU to place our thermocouple into. This is by far the best way to test coolers and the only way here at the HardOCP.

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Temperatures for the CPU will continue to be measured using our Sperry Digital 4 Point thermometer.

GPU

For this article the GPU will be kept at stock speed to keep any excess heat away from the CPU that could impact the results. In 2D mode the 9500 GT generates very little heat and to further isolate it from the rest of the system we will install it in the secondary PCIE slot.

Thermal Paste

Noctua's NT-H1 thermal paste was selected as the paste of choice for a few key reasons. The thermal paste has been shown to provide excellent thermal conductivity allowing the heat sinks to better do their job. There is no observed curing time. That is, performance does not get any better over time. Any curing time could have introduced variables into the equation causing at best dubious results and at worst unreliable ones. Our channel milled CPU also requires a compound that is more viscous so the mating compound will not seep into the channel and run off.

Temperatures

Ambient temperature will be kept at 25C for the duration of the tests and measured with a MicroTemp EXP non-contact infrared thermometer and cross referenced with the Sperry Digital 4 Point thermometer. Any variance greater then 0.2C will halt the testing until temperatures return within spec for fifteen minutes.

Idle

Idle temperatures will be recorded after a fifteen minute period of inactivity. Any fluctuation during the last sixty seconds will reset the timer for an additional five minutes.

Load

Load temperatures will be recorded after a fifteen minute period of 100% load. To obtain this load we will be using Prime95 v25.3 set to blend mode. In this way we can heat up the CPU as well as the memory controller which is now integrated into the die. Any fluctuation during the last sixty seconds will reset the timer for an additional five minutes.

Sound

Sound levels will be measured with a Reliability Direct AR824 sound meter from a distance of four feet away. With everything turned off and the room completely silent the meter registered a sound level of 38dB(A). This is a very quiet room where a simple pin drop could be heard. All sound measurements are recorded in the very late evening to further reduce any ambient noise.