Review: Swiftech MCX478-V P4 Cooler

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November 8, 2003 by Ralf Hutter

Product MCX478-V Heatsink for Intel P4 CPUs
Manufacturer Swiftech
Market Price ~US$50

Swiftech has a long standing reputation for high performance heatsinks that feature aluminum cooling pins on a thick copper base. Their newest version, the MCX478-V, follows this design with a few improvements geared towards improving performance and usability.

As you see from the picture above, the patented Swiftech helicoid cooling pins are set into a fanned "V" pattern (when looked at in profile cross section) in the MCX478-V. Each pin is, in effect, bent outward. This has the effect of increasing the air gap between the pins, which should allow for more air to pass through the cooling fins, and improve performance with low-flow cooling fans. Swiftech claims that this pin configuration is optimized for fans as low as 22cfm.

The revised pin orientation also lets you use a 92mm cooling fan, without enlarging the base of the heatsink. This allows the MCX478-V to fit within the confines of the standard Intel heatsink retention bracket on any Intel P4 board. 100% compatibility is a big plus for any large-footprint and alternative mount heatsinks.

The MCX478-V even uses the stock Intel retention mechanism so that no removal of the motherboard is required. Earlier versions of Swiftech's P4 heatsinks had a proprietary retention mechanism. The springs, screws, washers and standoffs of the earlier Swiftech heatsinks made for a rather daunting installation process for many people. With the new MCX478-V, this is no longer an issue. The MCX478-V mounts to the stock Intel retention frame using a pair of chrome plated spring clips. I found it quite easy to mount this heatsink using the well-designed thumb tabs on the end of each mounting clip.

The base of the new MCX478-V is classic Swiftech, a giant 1/2" thick slab of copper. The workmanship of this base is excellent. The raised center area on the underside looks like it has been hand-polished and is the the best finished contact area that I've ever seen on a heatsink. I doubt that anyone could improve on this finish.

Swiftech has also come up with a new method of attaching the fan to their latest heatsink. Instead of screws or spring clips, they are using plastic pushpins, similar to what is usually found on video card heatsinks. Installing the fan on the MCX478-V was quite easy using these push-pins. Simply drop the pin through the flange of the fan and push down on the head to expand the legs underneath. No tools required and removal is just as easy.

I do have one minor quibble with these push pins. After installing and removing fans several times during testing, the pins started to stay in their expanded position, which made it quite difficult to insert them through the fan and bracket. I had to squish them back together with pliers in order to fit them through the holes. This is probably not an issue with the average user, who will probably replace the fan far fewer times than I did in the course of this review.

Along with the accessory pack for the MCX478-V Swiftech has included two sets of fan mounts that allow using either 92mm or 80mm fans. This is a nice touch because most heatsinks don't give you such options. Each mount sits at the corner of the heatsink and is attached by a Philips head screw. To change from one size fan mount to the other, just remove the screw, put either the 92mm or 80mm mounts in place and screw it down tight.

The Swiftech weighs in at a slightly hefty 620 grams, certainly higher than the Intel maximum of 450 grams but also quite a bit less than the 900 grams of the behemoth Zalman CNPS6500B-Cu or the 773 grams of the Zalman CNPS7000Cu. While not the lightest P4 heatsink made, it shouldn't stress the stock P4 retention bracket nearly as much as some of the heavier alternatives.

Specifications from Swiftech

  • CNC machined, C110 copper base, 3"W x 3.3"L x .500"H, flatness better than 0.0003", micro surface finish 8 or better.
  • 374 Helicoid Pins made of High Thermal Conductivity Aluminum Alloy, press fitted in the base.
  • Heatsink base dimensions 3"x3.3"x1.66"
  • Heatsink top dimension 3 3/4" x 3 1/2"
  • Weight: 22 oz (620g)

NOTE: There is also a review of the Socket-A (AMD) version of the Swiftech MCX478-V.

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