The HardOCP CPU HSF/AIO Cooler Review Platform

We are once again updating our CPU Heatsink and All-in-One CPU cooler (HSF/AIO) testing platform. We are also changing up some of the review procedures in order to give our readers a better real-world review of how these coolers compare in real-world environments. How coolers act on an open test bench and in your case can be very different.

Testing Goals

HardOCP's goals when choosing the components for our new HSF/AIO processor cooler review system were threefold. First, we wanted to more accurately represent what many of our readers are using. Second, we wanted it to be simple to work on and use while testing. Third, we wanted it to last while providing consistent results across many different coolers.

We like sticking with the "real world results" mentality when it comes to CPU coolers. Most importantly, open bench testing of coolers simply does not represent a real-world usage scenario for most of us. We are generally going to see temperatures inside our computer cases that are above our ambient surroundings and we want to give you an idea of how the product actually works when being used. However to test like this you have to still pay close attention to a lot of variables and that is exactly what we will be doing.

The System

Without further ado, here is a rundown of the new system, as well as some of the new testing methodology you can expect going forward.

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The CPU chosen for the task is the Ryzen 7 1700, which we have tested extensively, and found to be a very solid performer taking home our Gold Award. Overclocked to 3.9GHz, this CPU should provide a solid heat load to any cooler that faces it, and the soldered IHS will make sure the coolers are given the best chance of removing the heat. The other reason we chose a Ryzen system, is if history tells us anything, the AM4 socket should be around quite a long time. Our package wattage on this CPU hovers around ~160 watts under 100% CPU load.


Linking everything together is the GIGABYTE Aorus AX370-Gaming 5 motherboard. When we reviewed this motherboard it won our Silver Award for it's solid stability during testing and overclocking, which is something that this build is highly focused on.

Memory and Storage:

For memory, we have two flavors. For coolers that may intrude on the memory slots on our motherboard, we have 16gb (2x8gb) of Corsair LPX DDR4 at 3000Mhz. For full height memory we have 16gb of Corsair Dominator Platinum DDR4 also at 3000Mhz. On a personal note, pictures do not do the Dominator Platinum justice, it is incredible to see and hold.

Storage is being provided by an OCZ Vertex 450, 256gb SSD. This is an old workhorse of a drive we reviewed back in June 2013. While it may not be the fastest thing out there, certainly that does not matter for our testing. As well using an SSD will not introduce any noise into the testing.

Power Supply:

Power is being provided by the Corsair HX-1000i. Our very own Paul Johnson pushed this power supply to its limits in our 2014 review. While it was not one of the best, it passed Paul's extremely stringent testing, and should have no problem feeding everything in this system.

Video Card:

Aha! The first twist from the old testing! Our previous system for testing coolers relied on the iGPU of our i7-4770k, this will no longer be the case. Not just because of the fact that Ryzen does not have an iGPU, but because as we said before, we wanted this system to more accurately represent what most of our readers are using, and you're using discrete GPUs. The powerhouse that will be pushing the pixels is the ASUS GeForce GTX 670 DirectCU II TOP. I can hear you now, "Wait, what?!" This is not be a gaming machine, but a test rig, and what we wanted was a system heater when we wanted it to be a system heater. A video card with high power draw, but was still able to maintain cool temperatures, meaning all that heat will get put into the system. In our 2012 review, this card was pulling 280w and running at only 68c with 50% fan winning itself a Gold Award, so when the GPU load is ramped up, this card will put some heat into our case.


The decision to put this system in a case versus on a test bench has proven a bit controversial. As is the theme, we want to try and represent what our readers are using, and most of you probably have your PC in a case. We needed the flexibility to mount various air coolers as well as all-in-one liquid coolers, and wanted something easy to work on, but we also wanted to work inside of a case to give us a "real-world" installation experience like many of you will have with your own system coolers. After some deliberation we decided that the Corsair 750D Airflow Edition fit the bill perfectly. It won itself a Silver Award in our review, provides all the flexibility we need, and the Corsair build quality should keep us from bleeding on the products being tested.

Thermal Interface Material (TIM):

Making sure the heat goes where it's supposed to, is Prolimatech PK-3 Nano Aluminum thermal compound. This is a thicker compound, but is rated at 11.2 W/m and does not require any "burn-in" time. It is always highly regarded, and comes in big-ass (yes that's a scientific term) 30g syringes. We have found that placing the syringe in a glass of very hot water prior to application makes it much easier to spread. Yes, we are careful to not introduce any moisture into the TIM.