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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  • disappointed1 - Sunday, April 28, 2013 - link

    With all due respect, this testing methodology is now completely flawed:

    "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."

    You FUNDAMENTALLY can't compare coolers on the same charts with different testing conditions. The closed-loop coolers are just as much designed, and will be operated, with proper/equivalent case ventilation. Just test them under identical conditions and let the liquid coolers pay any penalty with higher idle noise readings.
    Reply
  • epoon2 - Monday, April 29, 2013 - link

    I tried the article again, couldn't find where Dustin mentioned his testing method for Water. On the page where he shows the Seidon, it's clearly installed inside the case. I do not believe there is a strong bias towards either air or water coolers in this test. Reply
  • disappointed1 - Tuesday, April 30, 2013 - link

    "...I'm now using that exhaust fan for testing air coolers. Closed loop coolers continue to do without."

    He added an extra case fan for the air coolers, which was not present for the liquid coolers. This will have the effect of biasing the results and renders them void. This is readily apparent by the author's own admission that "the differences in performance were pronounced" and "now liquid coolers aren't the juggernauts they used to be" and cannot be compared with previous results.
    Reply
  • Alvar - Monday, April 29, 2013 - link

    Today we have something a little special on the table. If you have previously been reading our CPU Cooler reviews you probably saw our recent review for Silverstone. We reviewed the Silverstone Heligon Series – HEO1 CPU Cooler....
    more details:- http://tinyurl.com/c5czh4b
    Reply
  • bobbozzo - Tuesday, April 30, 2013 - link

    Spam link above goes to a site for a women's magazine, nothing about coolers. Reply
  • TheStranger81 - Tuesday, April 30, 2013 - link

    It would be a review if it actually had any charts....WTF is going on ? Where are the charts ? Reply
  • Wwhat - Saturday, May 04, 2013 - link

    Look at how this site does such things:
    http://www.computerbase.de/artikel/gehaeuse-und-ku...

    (language is irrelevant for the subject of graphs)

    You can deselect items in the list and when you select a line you can see the position and details as you move the mousepointer over it.
    And in their bargraphs it uses mouseover to show the percentage and relative percentage.
    Like shown here: http://www.computerbase.de/artikel/gehaeuse-und-ku...

    PNG's for data are a bit.. outdated really aren't they? (But perhaps you need to dumb down again for tablets and phones these days?)
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Saturday, May 11, 2013 - link

    Can you adjust the air and clc results so that the x-axis is the same unit length? That way it is easier to compare between the two cooler types. :) Reply
  • hooner - Tuesday, July 02, 2013 - link

    Great review...thanks!

    I have a quick question...I am thinking of buying a cooler master N200 and is front or rear radiator cooling best? I am presuming the front fans are intakes, rear and top are out.

    My thinking is rear takes heat straight out the back from CPU, where as front means air is drawn in, cooled and then blow back through case. Surely venting the heat straight away is better?

    Cheers
    Reply
  • SloppyFloppy - Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - link

    You keep recommending the really well performing Swiftech H220, but after some research they appear to have server quality control issues with their pumps failing and/or making lots of noise as well as some of their fans being noisy.

    Now I don't know what cooler to buy that performs well without sounding like a lawn blower.
    Reply

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