Testing Methodology

If you've been keeping up with our case reviews, our testing methodology for the fans here is going to seem relatively similar in some ways. Our test system may seem a bit unusual in more than a few ways, but stick with me and I'll explain why I put it together and tested it the way I did.

Fan and Radiator Testing Configuration
CPU Intel Core i7-2700K overclocked to 4.4GHz @ 1.4V
Motherboard Zotac Z77-ITX WiFi
Graphics Intel HD 3000 IGP
Memory 2x4GB Corsair Value Select DDR3-1333
Drives Kingston SSDNow V+ 100 64GB SSD
Power Supply Corsair CX430
Enclosure BitFenix Shinobi XL Window

The processor, with its healthy voltage boost and overclock, throws a pretty substantial amount of heat at our cooling system. Testing with an i7-2700K at stock speeds would defeat the purpose; Intel's own stock cooler can handle that, we want to "separate the men from the boys" so to speak.

I needed a case that could produce adequate airflow, handle all of the different cooling systems without much trouble, and did not include any sound dampening features. You might be surprised at just how difficult that was to find, but BitFenix came to the rescue and sent over a Shinobi XL. BitFenix's enclosure didn't get the best review when I tested it, but it's actually ideal for this testbed. I removed every case fan but the front intake, which I ran at 5V to prevent it from affecting acoustics while still providing adequate airflow.

Since a dedicated GPU wasn't needed, one wasn't used. This prevents a graphics card from generating additional heat or noise or deflecting airflow.

Thermal and acoustic test cycles were done the same way as our case reviews. First, the system is left powered and idle for fifteen minutes. At this point the sound level is tested, room ambient temperature is recorded, and idle temperatures are recorded. Then eight threads of small FFTs in Prime95 are run for fifteen minutes, and load temperatures are recorded.

Each cooler was tested using its available presets; the PWM-controlled Corsair H60 had its fan speed metered by the motherboard.

Thank You!

Before moving on, we'd like to thank the following vendors for providing us with the hardware used in our roundup.

  • Thank you to iBuyPower for providing us with the Intel Core i7-2700K.
  • Thank you to Zotac for providing us with the Z77-ITX WiFi motherboard.
  • Thank you to Kingston for providing us with the SSDNow V+ 100 SSD.
  • Thank you to Corsair for providing us with the CX430 power supply.
  • Thank you to BitFenix for providing us with the Shinobi XL Window enclosure.
Software: Corsair Link and NZXT Kraken Control Performance Results
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  • Death666Angel - Friday, December 28, 2012 - link

    Maybe different people need different things? The big heatsinks that can compete with these watercoolers usually weigh a lot, restrict access to other components and stress the mounting system. Some also don't fit in all cases because of the width of the case being too shallow (my Scythe Mugen 2 did not fit without the sides of the case bulging out) or they don't fit with certain RAM modules or motherboard coolers.
    Also, is your heatsink/fan really silent or just silent enough for you? How are the temperatures? Some people like having their CPU under 50°C, others are fine with 90°C. With a better heatsink, could you get higher clocks our of it? I know I could go from 3.3GHz (i7 860) to 3.8GHz stable with my watercooling setup (non-AIO).
    Also, no one if forcing you to buy these coolers to replace yours....
    And lastly, do you _know_ that these radiators are more surface than a high end aircooler? Because current day tower coolers that may use 2 140mm fans have a lot of surface and my guess is they are at least equal to these higher end watercoolers.
    Reply
  • HutchinsonJC - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    Where is the original h100 on the graphs?

    Why are there so many colors on the graphs? The legend shows a dark blue and a light blue, yet there is red, orange, and green in the charts with no seeming rhyme or reason.
    Reply
  • ypsylon - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    It is the problem of all these AIO kits. Mixing aluminum radiator with copper block = degraded performance over time (it is just chemistry cold and unsympathetic). And it is impossible to replace radiator without voiding warranty. Also performance for the price is not exactly top notch. One of the reasons why custom (well big word as you can buy pre-prepared kits and mount everything in the box without any customization actually ;) ) loops more expensive. Copper is expensive and performance always cost. Of course there is 100% difference between H100i and cheapest 240 pre-prepared kit from example EK or XSPC. But over time performance and fully modular setup is well worth extra $$$. Simple as that.

    As I see it, AIO have only one advantage over air cooling, and that is you don't need behemoths like Phantex/Noctua/Thermalright dual-tower coolers. All of them are extremely heavy, able to deform the board/cpu socket/ memory banks circuitry (like on s1366 which was fairly common) or break it completely. One of the areas where big is not exactly best.
    Reply
  • rrohbeck - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    I'd like to see some of the better air coolers on the chart. In the few tests that had both, the top end air coolers generally were in the vicinity of the H100. Reply
  • Hood6558 - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    Very good article, and highly relevant to those of us awaiting availability of the Krakens. Nice to see that they're apparently worth upgrading to, if only for 3 or 4 degrees at load, every little bit helps. Disappointed in the H100i numbers (I'm currently running an H100), how did they lose performance by going with bigger hoses, improved waterblock & pump, and supposedly better fans? Because in all previous reviews, the H100 was champ or at least in top 3. One Point to Corsair for more mature software. Now the big question is, do the NZXT offerings have more clearance issues due to their wider rads - the answer being "of course they do". My H100 in my Carbide 400R just barely clears the VRM heatsink with just 2 fans (I mounted the "pull" fans outside the case) and you have to remove fans to access the CPU fan headers. Of course, that's using the stock centered mounting holes - it's possible to mount the rad offset by lining up some of the holes in the honeycomb with mounting holes - not possible with 140mm rads. I'm pretty sure that in my case, it will hit the heatsinks unless I drill holes and mount as far to the left of center as possible. Reply
  • mayankleoboy1 - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    Why not use a Ivy bridge CPU ? At 4.5 GHZ, and 1.3V, they get very hot very quickly. Reply
  • vanwazltoff - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    i would really like to see how these closed loops compare to the incoming cooler master eisberg Reply
  • jonyah - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    I think money is well spent on a closed loop water cooler. The less stress on the MB, great cooling performance (on par with equally priced heatsink/fans) and low noise level is definitely worth it. If you're putting in a $300+ cpu, it makes sense to take care of it. I've had the H60 for 12 months now and it has performed flawlessly. If you compare it's cooling to the stock cooler it came with (complete crap), it's incredible.

    I think the article would be better served to include benchmarks of non-water coolers to show how great these really are. I was running in the 70+C range with the stock cooler while pushing it, and now can't push my chip above mid 40's. That alone will keep my chip lasting a lot longer (though I'm probably going to be upgrading it soon).
    Reply
  • A5 - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    Stock coolers are garbage, everyone knows that. But a $70 air cooler would outperform the H60. Reply
  • vectorm12 - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    Thanks for all your hard work Dustin.

    As some have already pointed out there's little difference in performance of these coolers and the traditional Aircoolers. However what I&ve been dying to find out all this time is how much internal temps is reduced by the direct exhaust of these kits?

    If they are efficient enough it should allow a case to support more TDP in the form of GPUs, Raid-controllers and HDDs. I've also always wondered what happens to the airflow around VRMs and DIMMs when the fan at the socket is transplated. Of course different cases will result in different results but it's still something I'd consider worth looking into.

    In a future review I'd very much like to see some values relating to the temps of motherboard,DIMMs, VRMs and so on as well as the effects of transplanting the CPU-fan
    Reply

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