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

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POSTSCRIPT 2: 31 May 2010
A TEST PLATFORM FOR SMALLER HEATSINKS

It was always our intention to bring back the old socket 775 Pentium D950 platform to review heatsinks that are more suitable for midrange and lower power CPUs. This would be done when such heatsinks came our way. The impetus came in the form of Gelid Silent Spirit and Scythe Samurai ZZ heatsink samples.

We've already mentioned issues with keeping the VRMs on the old 775 test platform adequately cooled. So two other Intel chipset socket 775 boards were explored; both overclocking oritented, with massive heatsinks on the VRMs and the Northbridge. A week of experimentation with these board led only to frustration. The temperature monitoring on both boards turned out to be unreliable and unstable. The boards themselves were basically fine, but under long CPU/thermal stress testing, the monitoring chips seemed to go haywire, giving unreliable and inconsistent temperature readings.

At the end of the week, we decided to try a new route: An AMD AM3 CPU and AMD 785 chipset motherboard, the latter with large heatsinks for both VRMs and Northbridge chip. A few days of experimentation were enough to establish that this combination was stable, had the appropriate thermal load for our requirements, and provided consistent temperature monitoring. It has become our test platform for smaller and low profile heatsinks. The details are as follows:

Key Components in Smaller Heatsink Test Platform:

  • AMD Athlon II X4 630 AM3, 2.8GHz, 45nm, 95W TDP.
  • Asus M4A785TD-V EVO ATX motherboard. 785G chipset.
  • Kingston SSDNow V 30GB 2.5" solid-state drive. Chosen for silence.
  • 2GB Corsair Dominator DDR3 memory. 2 x 1GB DDR3-1800 in dual channel.
  • FSP Zen 300W ATX power supply. Fanless.
  • Arctic Silver Lumière: Special fast-curing thermal interface material, designed specifically for test labs.
  • Nexus 92 fan (part of our standard testing methodology; used when possible with heatsinks that fit 92x25mm fans)

Asus M4A78TD-V EVO board on our usual 2-tier open platform, with fanless PSU and SSD on lower level, and shunt resistor on AUX12V connector to monitor CPU power.

With a fanless power supply and a solid state drive, the test system is silent under the test conditions, except for the CPU cooling fan(s). At full load, the total system power draw is 132~140W AC, with the CPU and VRMs drawing 85~91W DC (measured at the AUX12V connector), depending on their respective temperatures.

Smaller Heatsink Test Platform:
Full Load Power Details
System
132-140W AC
CPU+VRM
85~91W DC

Normally, our reference fan is used whenever possible, the measured details of which are shown below.

Reference Nexus 92 mm fan
Anechoic chamber measurements
Voltage
SPL@1m
Speed
12V
16 dBA
1470 RPM
9V
12 dBA
1150 RPM

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • Extech 380803 AC power analyzer / data logger for measuring AC system power.
  • Custom-built, four-channel variable DC power supply, used to regulate the fan speed during the test.
  • PC-based spectrum analyzer: SpectraPlus with ACO Pacific mic and M-Audio digital audio interfaces.
  • Anechoic chamber with ambient level of 11 dBA or lower
  • Various other tools for testing fans, as documented in our standard fan testing methodology.
  • SpeedFan, used to monitor the on-chip thermal sensors. The sensors are not calibrated, so results are not universally applicable.
  • CPUBurn, used to stress the CPU heavily, generating more heat than most real applications.
  • CPU-Z, used to monitor the CPU speed to determine when overheating occurs.
  • Thermometers to measure the air temperature around the test platform and near the intake of the heatsink fan.

Noise measurements are made with the fans powered from the lab's variable DC power supply while the rest of the system was off to ensure that system noise did not skew the measurements.

CPUBurn is used to stress the processor, and the graph function in SpeedFan used to ensure that the load temperature is stable for at least ten minutes. The stock fan is tested at various voltages to represent a good cross-section of airflow and noise performance.

A few of the smaller heatsinks tested on the socket 775 system were retested on the new AM3 platform to establish some reference points. The ambient conditions during testing were 10~11 dBA and 21~23°C.

Reference Heatsink Performance:

Scythe Ninja Mini w/ ref. 92 mm fan
Fan Voltage
SPL@1m
Temp
°C Rise
12V
16 dBA
46°C
23
9V
12 dBA
50°C
27
°C Rise: Temperature rise above ambient (23°C) at load.

Arctic Alpine 64 w/ stock fan
Fan Voltage
SPL@1m
Temp
°C Rise
12V
28 dBA
45°C
22
9V
23 dBA
52°C
29
7V
17 dBA
57°C
34
6V
15 dBA
66°C
43
5V
12 dBA
69°C
46
°C Rise: Temperature rise above ambient (23°C) at load.

Xigmatek HDT-SD964 w/ stock fan
Fan Voltage
SPL@1m
Temp
°C Rise
12V
34~35 dBA
40°C
17
9V
26 dBA
41°C
18
7V
15 dBA
45°C
22
6V
13 dBA
50°C
27
5V
11~12 dBA
57°C
34
Xigmatek HDT-SD964 w/ ref. 92 mm fan
12V
16 dBA
47°C
24
9V
12 dBA
53 °C
30
°C Rise: Temperature rise above ambient (23°C) at load.

Scythe Big Shuriken w/ stock fan
Fan Voltage
SPL@1m
Temp
°C Rise
12V
28 dBA
44°C
22
10V
24 dBA
47°C
25
9V
20 dBA
48°C
26
8V
16 dBA
52°C
30
7.3V
11 dBA
59°C
37
Scythe Big Shuriken w/ ref. 120 mm fan
12V
16 dBA
46°C
24
9V
13 dBA
50°C
28
7V
12 dBA
55°C
33
°C Rise: Temperature rise above ambient (22°C) at load.

The new AM3 setup rounds out our CPU heatsink testing — at least for the forseeable future. The two test platforms should provide silence-oriented PC enthusiasts a wealth of information to choose an appropriate CPU heatsink for their requirements, whether it's for a hot cutting-edge system or a modest middle-of-the-road all arounder.

* * *

Discuss this article in the SPCR forums.



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