SPCR's 2010 CPU Heatsink Test Platform [Updates: 10 April & 31 May]

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TEST RESULTS

To inaugurate our new heatsink platform and to establish a baseline of new data, we put eight of the top coolers tested previously through the paces once again. The eight coolers in question are, in alphabetical order, the Noctua NH-C12P and NH-U12P, the Prolimatech Megahalems, the Scythe Kabuto and Mugen-2, the Thermalright Ultra-120 and Ultra-120 eXtreme, and the Zalman CNPS10X Extreme.


Top contenders.

Old Results

First let's take a look at the results from our previous test platform.

°C rise Comparison: Pentium D 950 (Asus P5Q-EM)
Heatsink
Nexus 120mm fan voltage / SPL @1m
12V
9V
7V
16 dBA
13 dBA
12 dBA
Prolimatech Megahalems
10
14
17
Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme
12
14
17
Scythe Kabuto
13
15
19
Noctua NH-U12P
14
16
17
Zalman CNPS10X Extreme
14
17
21
Scythe Mugen-2
15
17
19
Thermalright Ultra-120
15
17
21
Noctua NH-C12P
16
18
21

As you can see, the Pentium D 950 gave us a rather narrow range of performance differences among the eight heatsinks. Many of the heatsinks on the chart are only 1~2°C warmer or cooler than its closest rival, especially at the fan voltages of 12V and 9V. Only 4~6°C separates the 1st and 8th place at each fan setting. A hotter CPU would definitely help differentiate this huddled mass.

Updated Results: Stock Speed

°C rise Comparison: i7-965 @ Stock (Asus P6T SE)
Heatsink
Nexus 120mm fan voltage /
SPL @1m
i7-965 Rank
Pentium D 950 Rank
12V
9V
7V
16 dBA
13 dBA
12 dBA
Prolimatech Megahalems
35
39
42
#1
#1
Scythe Mugen-2
37
40
43
#2
#5
Noctua NH-U12P
38
40
41
#2
#3
Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme
38
41
45
#4
#2
Zalman CNPS10X
Extreme
39
43
48
#5
#5
Thermalright Ultra-120
42
44
49
#6
#7
Scythe Kabuto
43
48
54
#7
#3
Noctua NH-C12P
44
47
54
#7
#8

On our i7-965 platform, a somewhat different picture develops, with 1st and 8th separated by 9~13°C depending on the fan speed. The Megahalems stays on top, while the Scythe Mugen-2 and Noctua NH-U12P trail it only slightly, locked in a virtual tie. The Noctua is particularly impressive, performing only 3°C worse with the fan at 7V compared to 12V. The Ultra-120 eXtreme comes in 4th due to its slightly higher temperature at 7V; its tight fin spacing hurts it here. The downblowing Kabuto and NH-C12P tie for last place, with particularly poor performance at 7V compared to the competition.

Updated Results: Overclocked

°C rise Comparison: i7-965 @ 3.6GHz, 1.40V (Asus P6T SE)
Heatsink
Nexus 120mm fan voltage /
SPL @1m
i7-965 OC Rank
i7-965 Stock Rank
12V
9V
7V
16 dBA
13 dBA
12 dBA
Prolimatech Megahalems
50
53
59
#1
#1
Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme
51
56
63
#2
#4
Noctua NH-U12P
53
56
60
#2
#2
Scythe Mugen-2
53
56
62
#4
#2
Thermalright Ultra-120
56
60
67
#5
#6
Zalman CNPS10X Extreme
60
66
FAIL
#6
#5
Scythe Kabuto
62
70
FAIL
#7
#7
Noctua NH-C12P
64
73
FAIL
#8
#7

When the i7-965 is overclocked to 3.6GHz and overvolted to 1.40V, the difference between 1st and 8th expands from 8°C to 20°C at 9V. At 7V, some of the heatsinks aren't able to keep the processor cool enough, causing the CPU to throttle. This happens when any of the cores reaches 95~100°C (typically 75~80°C thermal rise). The CNPS10X Extreme and the two top-down coolers, the Kabuto and NH-C12P, couldn't handle the heat with the reference fan at 7V.

The Megahalems continues to dominate, with an even bigger lead over the #2 spot shared by the Ultra-120 extreme and NH-U12P. The Noctua gets the best of the U120E at 7V, while the U120E takes the lead at 12V. The race is fairly tight with the Mugen-2 just nipping at the NH-U12P's heels. The vanilla Ultra-120 is about 4°C worse on average at the #5 spot. The CNPS10X, Kabuto and NH-C12P are all significantly poorer, running hotter by double-digits compared to the Megahalems, and failing at the 7V level.

As an aside, it's no surprise that the strongest performers have sturdy, spring-loaded, bolt-through mounting. The Megahalem's superior mounting system (detailed in the original review) is certainly an important part of its excellent and consistent performance.



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