Cooling Results

Both the Thermalright MST-9775 and the Scythe Katana outperform the retail Intel X6800 HSF at idle. Their performance is very similar, but not up to the cooling performance of the Tuniq Tower 120.


Where the very good Intel stock cooler keeps the X6800 at 41C at idle, the Thermalright MST-9775 manages 39C, which is a slight improvement. The Scythe Katana does even better in reducing idle processor temperature to 32C. However, neither of these $25 coolers can match the 27C we measured with the more expensive Tuniq Tower 120.

As the processor is pushed to its highest stable overclock using the retail HSF, the delta increases. At 3.73GHz the retail HSF is running at 56C, compared to 48C with the Thermalright and 45C with the Katana. The Katana and Thermalright perform similarly, which should not be too surprising considering both use a 92mm fan and both use a similar heatpipe/fin assembly - even though they really do look very different. The difference in performance between the Katana and MST-9775 is most likely due to the auto speed reduction of the MST-9775 as a result of the 4-pin fan connector. We performed several measurements of the two coolers at similar fan speeds and found results were very close, with a slight edge to the Scythe Katana.

The Scythe Katana reaches a slightly higher overclock of 3.81GHz compared to the highest 3.78GHz with the MST-9775. At the highest overclock each cooler reached the Katana was about 3C cooler at idle.

It is easy to measure the effectiveness of a cooling solution at idle - when the computer is doing nothing except running the temperature measurement program. It is more difficult, however, to effectively simulate a computer being stressed by all of the conditions it might be exposed to in different operating environments. For most home users CPU power is most taxed with contemporary gaming. Therefore our stress test simulates running a demanding contemporary game.

The Far Cry River demo is looped for 30 minutes and the CPU temperature is captured at 4 second intervals with the NVIDIA monitor "logging" option. The highest temperature during the stress test is then reported. We did try other variations in "stressing" the CPU, but multitasking variations did not produce higher temperatures than looping the Far Cry River demo. For that reason, we settled on the simple stress test of looping a demanding Far Cry demo for 30 minutes.

Cooling efficiency of the MST-9775 and Katana were compared to the retail HSF and the Tuniq Tower 120 measured under these stress conditions. It is very interesting that under stress conditions the performance curves of the MST-9775 and Katana get closer as speed increases. This confirms our suspicion that the biggest performance differences between these two coolers are likely the results of the Thermalright's variable fan speed.


Both the MST-9775 and the Katana perform solidly between the retail Intel cooler and the Tuniq Tower when stressed and temperatures are measured at increasing overclocks. This is another way of saying the Thermalright MST-9775 and Scythe Katana both outperform the stock Intel HSF, but they are not the equal of the more expensive Tuniq. You can see that as processor speed increases the delta between these coolers and the Intel gets smaller - indicating they are not nearly as robust a cooling solution as the Tuniq. This should not be a surprise to anyone, since the Tuniq Tower 120 costs twice as much as the MST-9775 or Katana.

The performance of both of these under $30 coolers is very good. Either outperforms the Intel retail cooler, and both provide good value. They do not match the best cooling performance we have tested, but they do well considering what they cost.

As for the overclocking abilities of the CPU, they will vary at the top. This particular CPU does higher FSB speeds than any X6800 we have tested, but the 3.9GHz top speed with the Tuniq is pretty average among the X6800 processors we have tested. A few of the other processors tested with the best air coolers reach just over 4 GHz, but the range has been 3.8 to 4.0GHz. Stock cooling generally tops out 200 to 400Mhz lower, depending on the CPU, on the processors tested in our lab.

CPU Cooling Test Configuration Overclocking
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  • takumsawsherman - Wednesday, January 24, 2007 - link

    Why is the Tuniq tower 120 being compared against much cheaper coolers with smaller fans? Why not pit it against the Thermalright HR-01, which would be more of an apples to apples comparison?

    I am sure that Scythe must have a more worthy competitor as well, though I am not familiar with their line.
    Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Thursday, January 25, 2007 - link

    quote:

    I am sure that Scythe must have a more worthy competitor as well, though I am not familiar with their line.


    Scythe's Infinity is probably the closest competitor. I believe there may be a few other sites that have reviewed it.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, January 24, 2007 - link

    You neglected to mention that we also compared the performance of the Scythe Katana and Thermalright MST-9775 to the Intel Retail HSF that comes with the Core 2 Duo processor. Until we test a cooler that might perform better than the Tuniq the range of performance is "real-world" between the Intel Retail HSF and the Tuniq. We believe most readers want to know how a tested cooler compares in this rnage - so they can decide if the features or cost are worth the performance drop from the best we have tested.

    In the future we will be testing some new tower coolers that should challenge the Tuniq. We also plan a value cooler roundup of coolers under $30.

    Reply
  • Zoomer - Wednesday, January 24, 2007 - link

    Seconded!

    I'm looking forward to seeing the Arctic Cooler 7 Pro review. In cooler climates with a core2 duo, there is really no need to spend the extra $30 for a huge tower heatsink.
    Reply
  • Calin - Wednesday, January 24, 2007 - link

    The comparison was between the baseline (the included cooler) and the best air cooler there is (at least known/proven until now).
    Should the Tuniq Tower be compared to the best air cooled equipments out there? Yes, and it would be nice to compare it to a not very expensive water cooled system too.
    Reply
  • Jodiuh - Wednesday, January 24, 2007 - link

    Well if that's not reason enough to get a Tuniq. Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Wednesday, January 24, 2007 - link

    Getting one dropped my temps from my old Swiftech by 5-8C when idle and 8-15C under load.
    It sure was a good enough reason for me. And that's with the fan at a quiet 1400rpm.

    And I agree (with what I think you're saying) that, if you're going to spend $30 for an aftermarket cooler, and the Tuniq will fit, why not spend an extra 20-25 for best aftermarket cooler you can get?
    Reply
  • Avalon - Tuesday, January 23, 2007 - link

    I think it's a good addition to AT to include cooling reviews. However, you guys should see if you can expand temperature gauging a little more to also include PWM temps and other important temperatures, as some HSF solutions have a large affect on these, while others don't.

    Also, really want to see the Coolermaster Hyper TX in the next roundup!
    Reply
  • Vidmar - Tuesday, January 23, 2007 - link

    What was the orientation of the CPU/heatsink during the tests? Was the case (and MB) in a horizontal or vertical orientation? Since these new coolers use heatpipes and since the heatpipe technology relies on a liquid that turns to gas when heated then back to liquid when cool, the orientation of the heatsink/heatpipe plays a huge role in how the well it will perform.

    I would like to think that you are running these tests with the case in a vertical orientation like what a large portion of your readers would be using. But since you never say we don’t know. If these tests are being conducted with the case in a horizontal orientation (laying flat on a table), I would expect that the results would be different than what people would get at home (mostly vertical).

    Thanks!
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, January 23, 2007 - link

    Noise measurements were run with the case horizontal and an open side. Cooling tests were run with the case in the standard upright position, as our readers will most likely use them at home. Reply

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