Socket-A Cooler Roundup 8th December 2002
It's about time we examined the field of CPU cooling (we'll be taking a comprehensive look at fans of all sizes and types as part of the second article in our series on quiet PCs) and how well various contemporary coolers fare against those of a year or so ago. We will be examining six in total - two from early last year, and four of the latest - one from AKASA and three from Global Win. Let's take a look at the contenders:
From left to right we have (all Global Win) the CBK-II58, FSP82 and the CAK4-88T. The two 80mm fans sport colored lights and the one on the FSP82 has a temperature sensor attached to the heat-sink to vary the speed of the fan. All the fans are attached with standard screws to enable the use of any desired fan of the correct size.
This is AKASA's latest offering with a copper plate. There seems to be a trend now to use copper plates with aluminum heat-sinks instead of all copper designs. We think there should be all copper designs as well and fans should be optional (to enable appropriate selection depending on requirement) for greater consumer choice.
Here's a top view and shows the insides of the transparent fan which may of interest to those curious as to how fans work.
In addition to these fans we used our existing Global Win CAK-II38 and our Cooler Master Copper Heat pipe HC-001. The same thermal compound was used for all the coolers.
Installation posed the usual problems for Socket-A coolers and we found the retention mechanisms which cover all 3 lugs to be particularly difficult to get off - albeit much safer for the CPU/motherboard. Perhaps it's time to standardize these retainers and ship them with a universal tool to aid in installation (in the same way Allen keys are standard now for certain types of DIY furniture etc).
Test methodology was to run the test machine at full CPU load for one hour and then to take the temperature. Room temperature was constant throughout at 28 degree Celsius (central heating cannot be turned down) which is a little high and accuracy is to approximately +/- 1 degree. Here are the results
We can see that as a general rule the newer bigger heat-sinks perform very well. The small CAK range with their 60mm fans do not perform as well although they may still be a consideration where space is tight. The Cooler Master with its heat pipe technology keeps up with the big boys despite its small size. The real winners are the big heat-sinks with the 80mm fans and the Global Win FSP-82 in particular with its all copper design despite having a relatively weak (but very quiet) fan. We were unable to change the fan on the FSP-82 because the temperature sensor was securely attached to the heat sink and we didn't want to risk damaging it. There is little doubt that we would have attained even higher thermal performance with a more powerful fan. This is true of all the heat-sinks up to a point of diminishing returns where you need a better heat-sink to achieve better results and not even the most powerful Delta fan will help.
With today's CPUs dissipating more and more heat we are seeing bigger heat-sinks. The alternative would be to have more powerful fans but public opinion has voted with their hearing and the trend these days is to have quieter PCs. There is no doubt that the all copper design heat-sinks are more efficient (if a little pricier) than their aluminum counterparts and our winner is the Global Win FSP-82 with the AKASA ak824u coming in second. If cost is a limiting factor the CAK-II58 is ideal for a PC that doesn't have the latest CPU or is over-clocked much.
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