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 excellent 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 results. Reviews at this point will concentrate primarily on CPU temperature. In addition to the real-time temperature measurement, NVIDIA Monitor also has a logging feature which can record temperature to a file in standard increments (we selected every 4 seconds). This allows recording of temperatures during testing and play back, for example, of stress test results that can then be examined when the stress tests are completed. There is also the handy reference of speeds and voltages in the top pane to confirm the test setup.

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(s) Hitachi 250GB SATA2 enabled (16MB Buffer)
Video Card: 1 x EVGA 7900GTX - All Standard Tests
Platform Drivers: NVIDIA 9.53
NVIDIA nTune: (1/16/2007)
Video Drivers: NVIDIA 93.71
CPU Cooling: Scythe Infinity
Zalman CNS9700
Zalman CNS9500
CoolerMaster 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(s): Windows XP Professional SP2
BIOS Award P24 (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 north bridge fan attached to the 680i for overclocking.

We first tested the stock Intel cooler at standard X6800 speed, measuring the CPU temperature at idle and while the CPU was being stressed. We stressed the CPU by running continuous loops of the Far Cry River demo. The same tests were repeated at the highest stable overclock we could achieve with the stock cooler. Stable in this case meant the ability to handle our Far Cry looping for at least 30 minutes.

The same tests were then run on the cooler under test at stock, highest stock cooler OC speed (3.73GHz), and the highest OC that could 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.

The Infinity comes standard with one 120mm fan, but it can mount additional fans. We therefore ran all tests at both stock conditions (one fan) and with two fans in a push-pull configuration.

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 open on its side and are measured 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.

Our procedures for measuring cooling system noise are described on page seven along with noise results comparing the stock Intel cooler and recently tested CPU coolers to the Scythe Infinity coolers.

Scythe Infinity Cooling at Stock Speed


View All Comments

  • Zoomer - Thursday, March 1, 2007 - link

    Could you try adding more than two fans, or perhaps blocking the sides of the heatsink so that air can't escape and see if it helps?

    I'm very interested. It appears that this unit requires a high(er) static pressure to work well.
  • yyrkoon - Monday, February 26, 2007 - link

    These coolers, are all fine and dandy, but what about low profile coolers, that dont weight as much as the Golden Gate bridge ?

    Me, my personal case, is an Lian Li PC-G50 (silver, if you must know . . .), and the PSU sits right_above about half of the CPU. Silent is great, higher overclocking potential, is better still, but the bigger question is, why arent these companies working on anything that doesnt require special cases, or at the very least, cases that are so huge, you can not put them any place without having large amounts of room.

    My case: 15" tall, looks great, is very functional, its just a terrible shame, that no one seems to be making low profile coolers, that would help me eek out a 310mhz + CPU on my ABIT NF-M2 nView + AM2 Opteron 1210 (which I have actually achieved, just wouldnt do much other than BSoD within windows).
  • Lem - Wednesday, February 28, 2007 - link

    Have you checked the Thermalright "SI-type" coolers? I have been happy with a Thermalright SI-120 + 120mm 1200rpm fan (PAPST 4412F/2GLL). I am not much into overclocking though. I only raised the frequency of my X2 3800+ to 2.4GHz because it was a nice round number that my RAM could handle.

    The newer SI-128 seems to support AM2-socket as well. I prefer that design over these for obvious reasons.

    My Lian Li PC-61 is somewhat bigger than your case but I do not think that there would be any problems with PC-G50 either.
  • BigLan - Tuesday, February 27, 2007 - link

    "why arent these companies working on anything that doesnt require special cases"

    Erm, your case is the special one. These coolers generally fit in standard atx cases, with the regular atx-approved layout (height might be an issue in mid-atx cases.) I think that having the psu above the cpu is ok for micro-atx, but that is still pretty specialized - you might want to look into server coolers (specifically 1-u coolers.) m-atx-style normally requires smaller fans, which have to spin much faster to move the same amount of air, and are very, very noisy (does anyone remember the old 60mm delta screamers?) You're also limited to fin area, which also hurts performance. There are some reasonably good btx coolers which overcome these problems though, but they're often proprietary (built into dell cases etc.)
  • cujo - Tuesday, February 27, 2007 - link

    i love big cases. lots more room to work inside and lots more room for quiet 120mm fans. Reply
  • yyrkoon - Tuesday, February 27, 2007 - link

    Good for you. My case also has silent 120mm fans, the system is so quiet in fact, I have to turn something else on, so I can sleep ( I require white noise to sleep ). Reply
  • arswihart - Monday, February 26, 2007 - link

    I disagree with using overclocking as a measure of a heatsink's performance. You should focus on noise and temps, it's that simple. I don't know why anyone would even pay attention to that data you are presenting. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, February 26, 2007 - link

    Temperatures at stock speeds are reported on p. 4. However, contrary to your assumption, coolers that perform best at cooling at a stock 2.93GHz are not always the same coolers that enable the highest overclock. Temperature rises as a CPU is overclocked, and coolers that perform well at stock speeds do not always remove heat as well at higher temperatures.

    Since the OC that can be achieved does not matter to you, the data on p.4 - temperature at stock speed - should give you what you are looking for.

  • arswihart - Monday, February 26, 2007 - link

    Idle and Load temps for stock / OC. No need to look at 50Mhz differences to rank the heatsinks is my point. Reply
  • arswihart - Tuesday, February 27, 2007 - link

    To further make my point, you see a 7 C difference between the single and dual fan configs on the Infinity, and only a 70Mhz difference in OC. To me, the 70Mhz difference is negligible, while the 7 C difference is quite striking.

    Relatively speaking, the difference in temps is much more drastic (12%), and much mnore relevant, than the difference you are seeing in OC (2%).

    Do you still want to argue about it?

    Sure it makes for interesting reading, so I guess I can't blame you too much, and the audience at Anandtech surely eats it up. I would just tell you I'd rather not have reviews cluttered up with this rather petty data.

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