Review: Swiftech MCX478-V P4 Cooler

Cooling
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ON THE TEST BENCH

I decided to compare the MCX478-V to several other high performance P4 heatsinks that I had on hand, as well as the stock Intel P4 heatsink. I gathered together the MCX478-V, a Thermalright SLK900U, a Zalman CNPS7000AlCu and the stock Intel P4 heatsink and took a little trip across the hall to Hutter Performance Labs for testing.

I followed the SilentPCReview standard low-noise, low-airflow HS testing methodology as closely as possible. The reference quiet Panaflo 80mm "L1A" low airflow fan is used, at 12, 7 and 5 volts. This is the same model fan and voltages used in previous SilentPCReview HS reviews. The only variable is the cooling power of the HS itself; we're not comparing fans. The question we seek to answer is how well the HS does with a very quiet fan. The same quiet fan is used for most HS (the exceptions being models in which the fan is tightly integrated with the HS, such as the Zalman CNPS7000 and the stock Intel HSF).

For this test I also used the low airflow version of the 92mm Panaflo fan because both the MCX478-V and the Thermalright SLK900U have the provision to use these bigger fans. The theory behind using a larger fan is that it puts out more cfm at the same speed, or the same cfm at a slower (and quieter) speed. We'll see how well this theory holds up when we put these fans to the test.

Key Components in P4 HS Test platform

The P4 HS test platform is an open system not enclosed in a case.

Intel P4-2.4C Northwood core - Maximum power is 66.2W.
Intel 875PBZ motherboard - Intel 875P Chipset; on-die CPU thermal diode monitoring
Panaflo FBA08A12L1A 80mm DC fan
ATI Radeon 7500 passively cooled video card (AGP)
1024 MB DDRAM - Corsair XMS3200c2
Seagate 80GB Barracuda IV hard drive
Antec SL350S PSU
Arctic Silver Ceramique Thermal Compound
Two-level metal platform with rubber damping feet. Motherboard on top; other components below.
CPUBurn processor stress software
Motherboard Monitor 5.3.4.0 software to track CPU temperature and fan speed

Each heatsink was cleaned and installed on the test system as per the manufacturers' and Arctic Silver's instructions. Prime95 was then run for 8 hours to verify system stability and cure the Ceramique. The system was then shut down and not restarted until the next morning when the actual testing was done. The system was allowed to cool between tests for 30 minutes. Each test was run for 30 minutes even though all temperatures generally stabilized within 15 to 20 minutes. The reference Panaflo fans were mounted on top of each heatsink, blowing down.

Each heatsink was retested three times on consecutive mornings to check to the consistency of the results. All results were within 1-2°C of each other and the average readings are included in the charts.

Ambient temperature was measured at 71-72°F (22°C) over the entire series of tests. No tests were run unless the ambient temperature was at that reference level.

  • All temperatures in degrees Celsius.
  • Diode: Reading from P4-2.4C CPU diode via Motherboard Monitor.
  • Temp Rise refers to the difference between ambient temperature and the diode reading. .
  • °C/W refers to the °C of temperature rise per watt of heat dissipated by the CPU.

Fan #1: Vantec Tornado
Here are the results for the MCX478V with the supplied Vantec Tornado fan. This is the model TD8038A and is rated at 84 cfm, 55 dBA at 5700 rpm. This is Swiftech's reference "High Performance" fan for this heatsink. Needless to say it's not a fan that any sane Quiet PC enthusiast would have on his top 10 list but I chose to test it anyway. This is the first time I've personally used a Tornado fan so I was kind of intrigued to see how it performed and sounded.

Vantec Tornado fan (84 cfm, 55 dBA)
Fan voltage / RPM
12V / 5640
7V / -
5V / 2525
Idle temp
23°C
24°C
24°C
Load temp
33°C
35°C
38°C
Rise from ambient
11°C
13°C
16°C
°C/W
0.16
0.20
0.24
Comment
Super loud whine, air noise like a vacuum cleaner
loud whine, lots of air noise, like a quiet vacuum cleaner
medium whine, lots of air noise-like a 12V Zalman 7000 fan


It's certainly stellar cooling performance but at the expense of intolerable noise. Even at 5 volts, the Vantec Tornado fan is too loud to consider using in a quiet PC.

Fan #2: NMB 3110NL
The other fan that was included along with our review sample is an NMB 3110NL-04W-B20-D06. This fan is rated at 26.5 cfm, 22.5 dBA at 2150 rpm. This is Swiftech's recommended "Low Noise" fan.

NMB 3110NL-04W-B20-D06 fan (26.5 cfm, 22.5 dBA)
Fan voltage
12V
7V
5V
Idle temp
23°C
25°C
26°C
Load temp
40°C
49°C
59°C
Rise from ambient
18°C
27°C
37°C
°C/W
0.27
0.41
0.56
Comment
Lots of air noise, fairly loud whine
Medium air noise, funny electromechanical "buzz"
little air noise, low clicking noise and quiet whine

The NMB does a fine job of cooling at 12V and 7V but has too much mechanical noise and air noise to be a legitimate contender on this heatsink in a quiet system. At 5V the noise level is almost acceptable but the cooling performance is getting near borderline. I would not recommend this fan on the MCX478-V in a quiet system.

Fan #3: SPCR's reference Panaflo FBA08A12L1A
Rated at 24 cfm, 21 dBA at 1900 rpm, the 80mm low speed Panaflo is a fairly quiet fan at 12 volts but becomes almost inaudible when undervolted. It doesn't move a lot of air at lower voltages and doesn't work well in high back-pressure situations (like tightly spaced heatsink fins) so it'll be interesting to see how well it works with the tightly packed cooling pins of the MCX478-V.

Panaflo FBA08A12L1A fan (24 cfm, 21 dBA)
Fan voltage
12V
7V
5V
Idle temp
24°C
25°C
26°C
Load temp
42°C
52°C
67°C
Rise from ambient
22°C
32°C
45°C
°C/W
0.33
0.48
0.68
Comment
Slight whine and air noise
little air noise, very slight whine
no air noise, very slight clicking, very slight whine

The 80mm Panaflo does fine at the full 12 volts and pretty good at 7 volts but the 5 volt setting is just too much for it. 67°C is too close to Intel's 70°C maximum CPU temperature for comfort, especially considering that the temperature of this setup will surely go up by around 8-10°C if this test fixture was put into a typical case. The 80mm Panaflo is it's usual very quiet self on this heatsink and would probably be a good choice for the quietest fan solution on this heatsink.

Fan #4: Panaflo FBA09A12L1A
Next up is the 92mm version of Panaflo's low noise fan. It's one I use often in my systems. The specs of the FBA09A12L1A are 42 cfm, 27 dBA at 2100 rpm

Panaflo FBA09A12L1A fan (42 cfm, 27 dBA)
Fan voltage / RPM
12V / 2080
7V / -
5V / 760
Idle temp
25°C
26°C
27°C
Load temp
41°C
49°C
57°C
Rise from ambient
19°C
27°C
35°C
°C/W
0.28
0.41
0.53
Comment
mild/moderate whine, medium air noise
low whine and clicking, slight air noise
no air noise, very light clicking, very, very slight whine

The results of this fan are surprising compared to the 80mm version that puts out only 60% of the airflow. At 12V and 7V the 2 fans perform are very close, although the 92mm does have an edge. It's not until 5V that the 92mm Panaflo shows a clear superiority over its 80mm cousin. The 80mm Panaflo is quieter than the 92mm Panaflo at any voltage setting. The 92mm is very quiet but it has a slight clicking sound that seems typical of this model. This ticking noise is very quiet though, I can't hear from over a foot or two away or when the fan is running inside a case.

Swiftech MCX478-V Summary

The Swiftech MCX478-V does a fine job cooling the P4-2.4C with its 66 watt output, and has enough headroom to cool a 82W P4-3.0C with any of the tested fans at 12V. The MCX478-V outperforms Swiftech's claim of being optimized for 22cfm fans. The 2 Panaflos running at 7 volts put out around 15cfm and still give quite adequate cooling. This heatsink plus 80mm or 92mm Panaflo L1A at 7 volts will provide near silent cooling for most P4 systems. It utilizes the stock Intel retention bracket and is very easy to install. This makes it a near "Plug-n-Play" solution for cooling hot running P4 processors on a quiet PC.



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