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.

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.

Fan and Radiator Testing Configuration
CPU Intel Core i7-2700K overclocked to 4.4GHz @ 1.45V
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-Z68MX-UD2H-B3
Graphics Intel HD 3000 IGP
Memory 2x4GB Crucial Ballistix Sport Low Profile DDR3-1600
Drives Kingston SSDNow V+ 100 64GB SSD
Power Supply Rosewill Hive 650W 80 Plus Bronze Modular
Enclosure BitFenix Shinobi XL Window

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. For air coolers, I added a Noctua 140mm rear exhaust fan and used the ultra low noise adaptor to ensure it didn't affect acoustics in any meaningful way. This is in line with the usage cases air coolers are designed for, and should be representative of the kind of airflow most users will have from their exhaust fan.

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; where presets weren't available, I tested using Gigabyte's standard motherboard PWM control as well as at 100%.

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 Gigabyte for providing us with the GA-Z68MX-UD2H-B3 motherboard.
  • Thank you to Kingston for providing us with the SSDNow V+ 100 SSD.
  • Thank you to Crucial for providing us with the Ballistix Sport Low Profile DDR3.
  • Thank you to Rosewill for providing us with the Hive 650W 80 Plus Bronze PSU.
  • Thank you to BitFenix for providing us with the Shinobi XL Window enclosure.
Spec Tables Primary Test Results
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  • epoon2 - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    wow that was fast, maker updated with editor's choice logo already btw Reply
  • tsponholz - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    I don't understand why the Thermaltake WATER2.0 Series doesn't seem to make it to these lists. I have the Performer and love the performance and noise. The review I have seen (never in a round up) put it on top of the Antec and Corsair offerings. Reply
  • karasaj - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    Any good places to get the NH-U12S in the US for that 65$? Reply
  • Hrel - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    Man, that 30db noise floor is REALLY becoming a problem. You guys would CLEARLY get value/use out of better equipment. I would REALLY REALLY REALLY like to see that happen. Reply
  • Razorbak86 - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    Feel free to make a contribution of said equipment to the site's standard test setup. Reply
  • DanNeely - Saturday, April 27, 2013 - link

    When you're buying something to donate; keep in mind getting ambient noise levels much below 30db is easier said than done and an anechoic chamber large enough not to turn into a hotbox during testing isn't going to be cheap. Reply
  • TrackSmart - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    Great review. Kudos to Cooler Master for giving us cheapskates something to play with at $33 that will handle some significant overclocking, while also staying quiet. I've usually dismissed aftermarket coolers as being a poor return on investment for mid-range builds (i.e. it is more cost effective to spend the money on a beefer CPU than a bigger cooler). But $33 is a price point where it might make sense to invest in better cooling over a modestly higher-end CPU. Reply
  • crimson117 - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    Not sure how you can give a bronze award to such an expensive item - price/performance value simply isn't there. It's 3-4 times more expensive than the Kraken X60 or Noctua but doesn't offer nearly that much improvement. Reply
  • Razorbak86 - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    Huh? Where are you getting your pricing? o.O

    In the US, the Swiftech H220 is $139.99, and the Kraken X60 is $109.99. Maybe my math is a little rusty, but I calculate the price premium to be 27% higher (i.e., [$139.99-$109.99]/$109.99 = 27%). If it was 3-4x higher, it would be priced at $329.97-$439.96.
    Reply
  • Treckin - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    Dustin! you promised to include the Antec Kuhler pieces in your closed loop reviews!

    Hope thats still planned!
    Reply

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