Intel LGA1366 Stock Cooler: Good Enough?

Cooling
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COOLING RESULTS

Intel Core i7-920 stock cooler
Fan Voltage
SPL@1m
Temp
°C Rise
12V
27 dBA
80°C
58
10V
21~22 dBA
86°C
64
9V
19~20 dBA
92°C+
70+
8V
16 dBA
N/A
°C Rise: Temperature rise above ambient (22°C) at load.
Dark gray boxes indicate testing was halted due to high temperature.

The i7-920 stock cooler performed very poorly on our test platform. Not only was the thermal rise high at both 12V and 10V, at 9V, the CPU exceeded 90°C, a few degrees away from overheating, prompting us to stop the test. Not surprisingly the i7-920 stock cooler is a complete failure as a quiet heatsink/fan, producing stable temperatures only with the fan generating more than 20 dBA@1m. Keep in mind, our test CPU is a i7-965, so the results should be a bit better on lower speed processors like the i7-920/930.

Intel Core i7-980X stock cooler w/ stock fan
Fan Voltage
SPL@1m
Temp
°C Rise
12V
43 dBA
63°C
41
9V
40~41 dBA
64°C
42
7V
34 dBA
66°C
44
5V
26 dBA
71°C
49
4.5V
15 dBA
75°C
53
4V
12 dBA
84°C
62
Intel Core i7-980X stock cooler w/ ref. 92 mm fan
12V
16 dBA
83°C
61
9V
12 dBA
92°C+
70+
°C Rise: Temperature rise above ambient (22°C) at load.
Dark gray boxes indicate testing was halted due to high temperature.

The i7-980X cooler, for obvious reasons, was a far better performer. At 7V and above, the thermal rise was very good — it would have been outrageous if it wasn't with noise levels well above 30 dBA@1m. At 5V it was 1 dBA quieter than i7-920 cooler at 12V, but beat it by 9°C. At 5V, there was a massive drop in SPL, but cooling suffered by only 4°C. At close to inaudible levels, it attained a thermal rise of 62°C above ambient, something the i7-920 cooler could not pull off without emitting more than 22 dBA@1m.

Our reference 92 mm fan did not perform as well. Though it was completely superior in subjective acoustics, its cooling proficiency with this heatsink was worse. At 12V/16 dBA, the thermal rise was 8°C higher than the stock fan at 4.5V/15 dBA. At 9V, we had to stop testing as the CPU temperature shot through the roof. Typically our reference fan improves performance on most coolers but in this case it was at a size disadvantage — the stock fan's blades are about half an inch wider than a standard 92 mm fan.

Comparison Charts

°C rise Comparison (stock fan)
SPL@1m
i7-920 cooler
Samurai ZZ
i7-980X cooler
Ninja Mini (ref. fan)
20 dBA
70+
-
-
-
19 dBA
-
-
-
18 dBA
-
59
-
-
17 dBA
-
-
-
-
16 dBA
-
-
-
55
15 dBA
-
63
53
-
14 dBA
-
-
-
-
13 dBA
-
-
-
-
12 dBA
-
-
62
61
11 dBA
-
-
-
<11 dBA
-
65
-
-
Dark gray boxes indicate testing was halted due to high temperature.

Despite its tightly spaced fins, at low fan speeds the i7-980X is a formidable cooler, at least compared to smaller aftermarket heatsinks like the Scythe Samurai ZZ and Ninja Mini. It more or less matches the level of performance attained by the Ninja Mini paired with our reference 92 mm fan, and beats out the Samurai ZZ by 10°C at the 15 dBA level, though subjectively, the Scythe fan sounds smoother. The Samurai ZZ catches up at lower noise levels though, displaying great staying power by dropping only a couple of degrees at an inaudible noise level.

There isn't much to say about the i7-920 stock cooler as it failed to cool our processor adequately below 20 dBA. Even if it was stable at 70°C above ambient at 19~20 dBA, it would still be more than 10°C worse than the Samurai ZZ and almost twice that compared to the i7-980X cooler.

°C rise Comparison (reference fan)
Heatsink
Nexus 92 mm fan voltage / SPL@1m
12V
9V
16 dBA
12 dBA
Cooler Master V8
(Nexus 120 mm fan)
46
(12V)
54
(7V)
Scythe Kabuto
(Nexus 120 mm fan)
51
(12V)
60
(7V)
Scythe Ninja Mini
55
61
Scythe Samurai ZZ
57
66
Core i7-980X cooler
61
70+
Dark gray boxes indicate testing was halted due to high temperature.

The i7-980X cooler falls well behind the Ninja Mini and Samurai ZZ when paired with our reference Nexus 92 mm fan. As we noted earlier, the larger wingspan of the stock fan makes it a much stronger cooler. The Cooler Master V8, and Scythe Kabuto, the worst tower and downblowing coolers we've tested that utilize 120 mm fans are included in the chart to give you an idea of how far behind the smaller heatsinks fall.



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