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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  • Edkiefer - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    really nice review with air cooler verse the water coolers . One comment though, looking at the air temps of PWM and 100% . They seem so close I would think you should get better results on 100% fan . Maybe the case still doesn't have good airflow for air coolers ?

    Just saying, I have the hyper evo and with stock MB fan profile verse modified (maxes to about 80% ) I say a least few c with app like prime95 .
    Reply
  • biostud - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    You could do a nice xy diagram with noise and delta temp on the axes. Reply
  • truprecht - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    "You could do a nice xy diagram with noise and delta temp on the axes."

    Yes this 100x. It's so obvious - why is it not SOP for cooler comparisons?
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    I put one together for a prior cooler review; it wasn't nearly as useful as a I hoped. With very few exceptions everything bunched up in a fairly narrow diagonal line.

    Noise is vertical; temp horizontal: http://orthogonaltonormal.com/midden/fans.png
    Reply
  • JCheng - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    DanNeely: On the contrary, I find that extremely helpful! Having to jump back and forth between the data points and the legend is kind of a drag, but to see the two dimensions really helps! Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, April 29, 2013 - link

    The reason I felt it was of limited value was that excepting some really bad performers on the quiet end of the range (designed for low power CPUs in SFF systems?) almost all the coolers fell along a relatively narrow horizontal line; meaning the best to worst ordering in the temp and noise tables was mostly equal with no major outliers. Reply
  • nail076 - Monday, April 29, 2013 - link

    I agree, an X-Y chart of these values would better show the best performers in a sea of coolers. Reply
  • buhusky - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    Why do fan & cooler reviews NEVER put the OEM fan/cooler numbers in there as a baseline? Never! It would be much better for me to compare to see how different of an upgrade the item(s) would be compared to what came with my stuff, not just as compared to each other.... Reply
  • A5 - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    The OEM coolers are terrible. They would make the graphs unreadable because all the aftermarket stuff would hardly look any different compared to the OEM cooler. Reply
  • matagyula - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    In this case I don't think the OEM solution would keep the CPU cool enough -> i7 @4,4GHz, as written on the "Testing methodology" page. Reply

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