Swiftech Polaris 120 CPU Heatsink

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Heatsink Comparison Table

Single Fan CPU Coolers (ref. 120mm fan): °C Rise Comparison
Heatsink
Fan voltage / SPL @1m
12V
9V
7V
16 dBA
13 dBA
12 dBA
Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme Rev.C
38
40
43
Prolimatech Megahalems
38
41
44
Noctua NH-U12P
39
42
44
Scythe Mugen-2
39
42
45
Cogage TRUE Spirit 1366
40
42
45
Prolimatech Armageddon
40
42
46
Zalman CNPS10X Quiet
40
43
46
Scythe Yasya
41
43
47
Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme
40
43
48
Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus
41
44
48
Thermalright Ultra-120
42
45
49
Titan Fenrir
43
46
50
Scythe Ninja 3
44
47
49
Noctua NH-C12P
43
47
51
Zalman CNPS10X Extreme
43
47
53
Swiftech Polaris 120
46
49
54
Zalman CNPS10X Flex
45
50
54
Cooler Master V8
46
50
54
Scythe Grand Kama Cross
45
52
57
Arctic Cooling Freezer Xtreme Rev.2
49
52
58
Scythe Kabuto
51
53
60

The Polaris 120 ties the Zalman CNPS10X Flex for 15th place among large tower heatsinks, running the CPU about 8~11°C hotter than the leader, the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme Rev.C.

MP3 SOUND RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn't hear it from one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

The recording starts with 5~10 second segments of room ambiance, then the fan at various levels. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don't change the volume setting again.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Swiftech's return to air cooling is a disappointment for quiet computing enthusiasts. Despite its five massive direct touch heatpipes, the Polaris 120 delivered middling cooling proficiency at best, at least with low airflow. The stock 2500 RPM fan easily exceeds 40 dBA@1m at full speed, so obviously it wasn't designed to be a quiet cooler. The fan sounds much better at low speeds, but it doesn't really become quiet unless you get it down to close to about 4V. It also isn't terribly efficient, getting beaten handily by our reference Nexus fan at comparable noise levels.

One cause for the power low airflow performance might be how the sides of the fin stack are closed off — we don't recall ever seeing this on a higher performance heatsink. It forces the air to flow entirely through the depth of the fin stack, and it must cause significant airflow impedance at lower fan speeds. We also question the utility of the fifth heatpipe, as four of them easily cover even a LGA1366 processor, which has about the biggest heatspreader of any current CPU. It seems like a waste of materials and expense.

It would also help if the mating was tighter, as the outer portions of the base didn't get as much pressure as the center. Like Prolimatech and Thermalright's latest heatsink mounting systems, there is a metal bar strategically placed above the base that could exert extra pressure. In the Polaris 120, however, it is only used to keep the surrounding frame in place rather than actively making the mount more secure. This is a missed opportunity in our opinion.

While hardly a poor CPU cooler, as a low noise heatsink, the Swiftech Polaris 120 just doesn't cut it. The only situation where the Polaris 120 might be a good choice for quiet performance cooling is if your case is not wide enough to accommodate the majority of 160~165 mm tall tower coolers (the Polaris is only 151 mm tall). There are many cases, for example, that have a side fan above the CPU area that interferes with taller heatsinks. Otherwise, there are many better quiet high performance CPU cooling alternatives at and below the Polaris 120's street price of US$60.

Our thanks to Swiftech for the Polaris 120 heatsink sample.

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Articles of Related Interest

Zalman CNPS9900 MAX & CNPS5X CPU Coolers
Thermalright Silver Arrow Dual 14cm Fan Cooler
Noctua NH-C14 Dual Fan Top-down CPU Cooler
Thermalright Shaman 140mm Fan GPU Cooler
Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme Rev.C & AC Freezer Xtreme Rev.2
Scythe Ninja 3 & Scythe Yasya CPU Heatsinks

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