CPU Cooling Test Configuration

The standard test bed for cooling tests is the EVGA NVIDIA 680i SLI motherboard. This is primarily based on the consistent test results on this board and the NVIDIA Monitor temperature measurement utility, which is part of the nTune program.


NVIDIA Monitor has a drop-down pane for temperature measurement which reports CPU, System, and GPU measurement. At this point reviews will concentrate on CPU temperature. In addition to the real-time temperature measurement, NVIDIA Monitor also has a logging feature which can record temperature in a file in standard increments (we selected every 4 seconds). This allows recording of temperatures during testing, which can then be reviewed when the stress tests are completed. There is also the handy reference of speeds and voltages in the top pane to confirm setup.

NVIDIA Monitor was compared to test results from the Intel TAT (Thermal Analysis Tool). Intel TAT CPU portions do function properly on the EVGA 680i motherboard, but the chipset-specific features do not operate as they should. Idle temperatures in TAT were in line with measured idle temps with NVIDIA Monitor. The CPU stress testing with TAT pushing both cores showed TAT stress temps at 80% CPU usage roughly corresponded to temps reported in our real-world gaming benchmark.

Other components in the cooling test bed are generally the same as those used in our motherboard and memory test bed:

Cooling Performance Test Configuration
Processor Intel Core 2 Duo X6800
(x2, 2.93GHz, 4MB Unified Cache)
RAM 2x1GB Corsair Dominator PC2-8888 (DDR2-1111)
Hard Drive Hitachi 250GB SATA2 enabled (16MB Buffer)
Video Card 1 x EVGA 7900GTX - All Standard Tests
Platform Drivers NVIDIA 9.53
NVIDIA nTune 5.05.22.00 (1/16/2007)
Video Drivers NVIDIA 93.71
CPU Cooling Thermalright Ultima-90
ZEROtherm BTF90
Xigmatek AIO (AIO-S800P)
Evercool Silver Knight
Enzotech Ultra-X
3RSystem iCEAGE
Thermaltake Big Typhoon VX
Thermaltake MaxOrb
Scythe Andy Samurai Master
Cooler Master Gemini II
Noctua NH-U12F
Asus Silent Square Pro
Scythe Ninja Plus Rev. B
OCZ Vindicator
Thermalright Ultra 120 Extreme
Thermalright Ultra 120
Scythe Infinity
Zalman CNS9700
Zalman CNS9500
Cooler Master Hyper 6+
Vigor Monsoon II Lite
Thermalright MST-9775
Scythe Katana
Tuniq Tower 120
Intel Stock HSF for X6800
Power Supply OCZ PowerStream 520W
Motherboards EVGA nForce 680i SLI (NVIDIA 680i)
Operating System Windows XP Professional SP2
BIOS Award P26 (1/12/2007)

All cooling tests are run with the components mounted in a standard mid-tower case. The idle and stress temperature tests are run with the case closed and standing as it would in most home setups. We do not use auxiliary fans in the test cooling case, except for the Northbridge fan attached to the 680i for overclocking. Room temperature is measured before beginning the cooler tests and is maintained in the 20 to 22C (68 to 72F) range for all testing.

Thermalright provides a small tube of premium thermal grease with the Ultima-90. However, for consistency of test results we used our standard premium silver-colored thermal compound. In our experience the thermal compound used makes little to no difference in cooling test results. This is particularly true now that processors ship with a large manufacturer-installed heatspreader. Our current test procedure uses this standard high-quality silver-colored thermal paste for all cooler reviews.

We test the stock Intel cooler at standard X6800 speed, measuring the CPU temperature at idle and while the CPU is being stressed. The CPU is stressed by running continuous loops of the Far Cry River demo. The same tests are repeated at the highest stable overclock we can achieve with the stock cooler. Stable in this case means the ability to handle our Far Cry looping for at least 30 minutes. The same benchmarks are then run on the cooler under test at stock, highest stock cooler OC speed (3.73GHz), and the highest OC that can be achieved in the same setup with the cooler being tested. This allows measurement of the cooling efficiency of the test unit compared to stock and the improvement in overclocking capabilities, if any, from using the test cooler.

Noise Levels

In addition to cooling efficiency and overclocking abilities, users shopping for CPU cooling solutions may also be interested in the noise levels of the cooling devices they are considering. Noise levels are measured with the case on its side using a C.E.M. DT-8850 Sound Level meter. This meter allows accurate sound level measurements from 35bdB to 130dB with a resolution of 0.1dB and an accuracy of 1.5dB. This is sufficient for our needs in these tests, as measurement starts at the level of a relatively quiet room. Our own test room, with all computers and fans turned off, has a room noise level of 36.4dB. Procedures for measuring cooling system noise are described on page five, which reports measured noise results comparing the stock Intel cooler and recently tested CPU coolers to the Thermalright Ultima-90.

Thermalright Ultima-90 Cooling at Stock Speed
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  • andereandre - Tuesday, August 21, 2007 - link


    In these articles the Intel HSF is always classified as having the same noise level as the best coolers (and system-ps & no fans).
    I have a X2 4600 however, and I hear the AM2 stock cooler at idle.
    Does this mean that de Intel stock cooler is that much better than the AMD one, or is it just the measurement?
    That is of real interest to me as I am looking to replace my cooler to make my pc more silent, not to oc it.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, August 21, 2007 - link

    Early Intel 775 stock coolers were very noisy, but for the last year or so the Intel stock cooler is very quiet. That is further enhanced by the 4-pin fan connection that varies fan speed based on CPU temp and BIOS settings. Intel also uses a fan that is a standard 25mm thick.

    While I don't have measurements for you, the AMD fan is noisier to my ears. AMD does use heatpipes, but they also use a very thin fan that has to run higher rpm to move enough air for cooling.
    Reply
  • Beenthere - Monday, August 20, 2007 - link

    For years Thermalright has delivered best in class performance with all of the products. No reason to expect any difference with the Small Wonder. Thermalright does good engineering and proves out their product instead of rushing some POS out the door as the trick-of-the week product. And with Thermalright you don't get some stupid shitze whisles and bells to sucker the clueless sheep into buying their products. Reply
  • Axbattler - Monday, August 20, 2007 - link

    @ Wesley Fink: Can you please confirm that the height of the cooler with a 120mm fan attached is indeed shorter than the Ninja with a 120mm fan attached? I know that the Ninja is 150mm high, whereas the Ultima is 139mm, so I would expect, all things being equal that the Ultima requires less space than the Ninja. But a confirmation would be helpful as I've been looking for a cooler with comparable performance with the Ninja but a few (5-10mm) shorter. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, August 20, 2007 - link

    1600 RPM is correct, and the chart is corrected.

    As for the Scythe Infinity, we can only report what we find, and others report what they find. You might compare test beds and methods for an explanation. The Infinity is deservedly loved by those whose primary goal is silence. That means the fan is relatively low output compared to coolers designed for overclocking as the primary goal.

    We did find the Infinity reached 3.90 GHz at the top tier of our performance results when two fans were used in a push-pull arrangement. That is also included in our Scaling charts. As reported in our Infinity review the cooler can mount up to four fans.
    Reply
  • jackylman - Monday, August 20, 2007 - link

    In the first sentence of the last paragraph on the last page.

    "We asked in the beginning of this review if the smaller and lighter Thermalright Ultima-120 might be too compromised...
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, August 20, 2007 - link

    We saved the most obvious for last :) Now corrected. Reply
  • xxxCHAOSxxx - Monday, August 20, 2007 - link

    Gents,

    I have been looking at the cooler market for about 2 or 3 months.. I was torn between the Tuniq 120, thermalright Ultra 120 and the Vigor Monsoon.. however each had a few things that i am a bit leary of. Mainly the weight and size issue. Currently I am running a thermaltake typhoon but am not happy with it. I have to go in every so often and adjust the screws holding it down as they appear to lossen over a short period of time. Based on your review of the thermals, i have just ordered the Ultima 90 and will drop you a line based on my results.

    thanks!!

    E6600
    EVGA 680i
    2Gig Memory
    EVGA 8800GTX KO w/ ACS3
    Thermaltake Armor
    Thermaltake Toughpower 800
    Reply
  • yacoub - Monday, August 20, 2007 - link

    Been looking forward to an Anandtech review of this cooler for about three months now (since the first sneak peak review was seen on another forum). Glad to see this is indeed a pretty badass cooler! =) Reply
  • MercenaryForHire - Monday, August 20, 2007 - link

    quote:

    Model Panaflo H1A 92mm (BX) with RPM Sensor
    Fan Size 120mm x 120mm x 25mm


    Something's not quite adding up there ...
    Reply

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