Review: Swiftech MCX478-V P4 Cooler

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VERSUS THE COMPETITION

I chose the Zalman CNPS7000AlCu, a popular and well-reviewed hybrid aluminum and copper heatsink with a built-in 92mm fan. I also chose the Thermalright SLK900U, another popular choice of the Quiet-PC crowd, with the ability to mount either 80mm or 92mm fans. I used the 80mm and 92mm Panaflo low noise fans on the SLK900U. This is a head to head comparison of MCX478-V vs. SLK900U. Just for grins we'll also throw in the stock Intel P4 heatsink/fan that's included with the retail boxed processor. Who will come out on top? Well, let's see.

Each table is ordered with the best performer at full load on top. Note the rankings change from 12V, 7V to 5V. Neither of the Swiftech-supplied fans were included in this comparison. They are simply too loud for our standards.

Fans at 12V
HS + fan
°C idle
°C load
°C rise above ambient
°C/W
SLK900U + 92mm Panaflo
24
38
16
0.24
Zalman 7000AlCu
25
38
16
0.24
SLK900U + 80mm Panaflo
25
40
18
0.27
MCX478 + 92mm Panaflo
25
41
19
0.29
MCX478 + 80mm Panaflo
24
42
20
0.30
Intel HSF
26
46
24
0.36

The SLK900U + 92mm Panaflo ties for the top spot along with the Zalman 7000. These HSFs sound quite similar at 12V; both are too loud to consider in a quiet system. Actually, all these fans and heatsink combinations are too loud at 12 volts to consider in a quiet system. Maybe the 80mm Panaflo on either the Swiftech or Thermalright would be quiet enough for some.

Fans at 7V
HS + fan
°C idle
°C load
°C rise above ambient
°C/W
Zalman 7000AlCu
25
40
18
0.27
SLK900U + 92mm Panaflo
25
47
25
0.38
MCX478 + 92mm Panaflo
26
49
27
0.41
SLK900U + 80mm Panaflo
27
51
29
0.44
MCX478 + 80mm Panaflo
25
52
30
0.46
Intel HSF
27
55
33
0.50

Here the Zalman 7000 shines: Excellent cooling performance, fairly low airflow noise and no mechanical noise. With the 80mm and 92mm Panaflos, the MCX478-V and SLK900U are grouped quite closely together. If I was forced to choose and couldn't pick the Zalman, I'd go with either of the 80mm configurations. Both are quieter than the Zalman at 7 volts, but not by much. Neither cools nearly as well though. The clear choice here is the Zalman 7000AlCu.

Fans at 5V
HS + fan
°C idle
°C load
°C rise above ambient
°C/W
Zalman 7000AlCu
25
44
22
0.33
SLK900U + 92mm Panaflo
27
56
34
0.51
MCX478 + 92mm Panaflo
27
57
35
0.53
Intel HSF
27
63
41
0.62
MCX478 + 80mm Panaflo
26
67
45
0.68
SLK900U + 80mm Panaflo
29
68
46
0.70

The 5 volt area is what separates the men from the boys. The Zalman 7000AlCu is the only one I'd feel comfortable using at 5V. I might choose the 92mm Panaflo combos if I couldn't use the Zalman but I would not use any of the rest at 5 volts. They just don't have enough cooling ability at this slow setting. The 80mm Panaflo loses out over the 92mm cousin at 5 volts. It just doesn't have enough airflow at these slow speeds even though it is definitely the quietest fan at 5 volts. The Zalman 7000 is very quiet at 5 volts, it has next to no air noise and just a very slight mechanical buzz.

FINAL WORDS

So how do all these heatsinks shake out for quiet computing?

The overall "cooling vs. noise" champ has to be the Zalman 7000AlCu. Its cooling ability at 7V and 5V is outstanding, only a bit louder than the much poorer performing 80mm Panaflo combinations. All is not perfect though. It's rather large and there are installation issues with some motherboards. If the fan becomes noisy or fails altogether you can't replace just the fan, you have to replace the entire heatsink. It does bolt onto the stock Intel retention frame but some people seem to have trouble getting it mounted correctly.

The MCX478-V and the SLK900U are sort of tied for second place. Neither performs quite as well as the Zalman but both do an excellent job with the 92mm Panaflo and a decent job with the quietest fan tested, the 80mm Panaflo. With the super quiet 80mm Panaflo at 7V or lower, either would be suitable for a system with very good ventilation or perhaps for someone who isn't nervous running his CPU at near

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

maximum temperatures when the system is under load.

For ease of installation I would choose the Swiftech. As discussed in the earlier review of the SLK900, mounting it to the stock Intel retention bracket results in clearance issues between the fan mounting clips and the heatsink mounting clips if you are using a 92mm fan. For the most secure mounting and ease of operation, the SLK900U should be mounted by bolting it directly to the board which requires that the motherboard be removed from the case. The MCX478-V, however, is as easy to mount as the stock Intel cooler and performs just as well as the Thermalright. Theoretically the MCX478-V should have no issues with fit because it is contained entirely within the confines of the P4 retention bracket.

Is there a bottom line? Not really. These are all excellent heatsinks. Any of them would do a fine job quietly cooling a P4 system. One might be a little cooler, another a little quieter, another easier to install. It's pretty much down to individual preference.

Much thanks to Swiftech for the review sample and fans.

NOTE: Click here for a review of the Socket-A (AMD) version of the Swiftech MCX478-V.

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