Review: Intel's "High-End" P4 Cooler

Cooling

Jan 23, 2004 by Ralf Hutter, with Mike Chin

PRODUCT: Retail Intel P4-3.0C heatsink/fan

The heatsink/fan supplied with the stock Intel P4-3.0C processor is an upgraded version of their familiar all aluminum HSF that cools fairly well and isn't that noisy, as far as a "stock" fan goes. When Intel released their 3.06, 533KHz P4 processor, they also released a new, heavy duty HSF to go with it. It was specifically designed to cope with the higher thermal demands of the 81W 3.06GHz CPU. Apparently Intel figured the all aluminum HSF was not enough to handle this sort of thermal demand. This same cooler is included with the 800MHz, 3.0C and 3.2C models.

This cooler looks superficially like the standard all-aluminum Intel cooler from the top, but there are many differences. The newer cooler has a big chunk of copper bonded to the aluminum base. The copper face is not well polished but flat enough. It also has a different fin configuration than the older version: 41 closely spaced thin fins as opposed to the 17 much wider spaced, thicker fins of the older version.


It looks similar to the older Intel HSF on the right.


But note the bigger fan, the many thin fins...


...and big copper base.

The fan itself is substantially bigger and more powerful: the old one's fan blades measure ~55mm in diameter and has a 0.16A rating while the new one has ~68mm diameter blades and is rated for 0.37A. The former is effectively equivalent to a typical 60mm fan; the new one is closer to a 80mm fan.

One important similarity in the fans is the thermal speed boost feature discussed in our original review of the older HSF. When subjected to extreme heat, the old fan ramps up another 20~25% in speed. The newer one does the same, rising from a nominal ~3200 rpm to well over 4500 rpm when the temperature exceeds 60°C. It's obviously not meant to ramp up in speed on a routine basis, and must be something of a last-ditch fail-safe feature to avoid thermal catastrophe.

TEST RESULTS

Cooling

The unit was tested on a P4-2.4C system open-bench testing rig. The ambient temperature was 22°C. CPUBurn stress-testing software was used to achieve the load temperatures. All measurements were performed after temperatures stabilized, usually within 10-15 minutes.

Retail Intel P4 3.0C HSF
Fan voltage / RPM
12V / 3080
7V / 2400
5V /1820
Idle temp
26°C
26°C
28°C
Load temp
44°C
49°C
52°C
Rise from ambient
22°C
27°C
30°C
°C/W
0.33
0.41
0.45
Measured Noise (dBA@1m)
39
34
32
Comment
Loud whine, lots of air noise and clicking.
Low pitched whine, noticeable clicking/rattling.
Still not quiet, ticking noise and electric "hum"

Noise

The information in the Measured Noise and Comment rows above tell pretty much everything you need to know. This fan is noisy, and reducing the voltage doesn't really help all that much, in either the character of the noise (which is annoying) or overall loudness level. It was definitely not designed with low noise as a target.

COMPARISONS

The testing procedure and conditions used here are identical to those used in the Swiftech MCX478 review/comparison. This makes it easy to compare results.

I chose the Zalman CNPS7000AlCu, a popular and well-reviewed hybrid aluminum / 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. The Swiftech MCX478-V went in as well. Just for grins we'll also throw in the older stock Intel P4 heatsink/fan as well.

Who will come out on top? Well, let's see.

Each table is ordered with the best performer at full load on top. Note that the rankings change from 12V, 7V to 5V.

Fans at 12V
HS + fan
°C idle
°C load
°C rise
°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 3.0C HSF
26
44
22
0.33
"Old" Intel HSF
26
46
24
0.36

The Intel 3.0C HSF doesn't do badly at 12V, in an absolute sense, but is clearly outclassed by the aftermarket coolers, and sounds much nastier than any of the other coolers -- including the old Intel HSF. 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. Maybe the 80mm Panaflo on either the Swiftech or Thermalright would be quiet enough for some. The new Intel is completely unacceptable, noisewise. It is much worse than the old one.

Fans at 7V
HS + fan
°C idle
°C load
°C rise
°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
Intel 3.0C HSF
26
49
27
0.41
SLK900U + 80mm Panaflo
27
51
29
0.44
MCX478 + 80mm Panaflo
25
52
30
0.46
"Old" Intel HSF
27
55
33
0.50

The Intel 3.0C HSF does better at 7V, but is still the worst sounding of the lot. You might pick it over the SLK900U and MCX478 with the 80mm Panaflo L1A, but most silent enthusiasts would not.

Fans at 5V
HS + fan
°C idle
°C load
°C rise
°C/W
Zalman 7000AlCu
25
44
22
0.33
Intel 3.0C HSF
28
52
30
0.45
SLK900U + 92mm Panaflo
27
56
34
0.51
MCX478 + 92mm Panaflo
27
57
35
0.53
"Old" Intel HSF
27
63
41
0.62
MCX478 + 80mm Panaflo
26
67
45
0.68
SLK900U + 80mm Panaflo
29
68
46
0.70

The Intel 3.0C HSF improves its position yet again by virtue of its higher speed fan -- and remains the worst noisemaker.

FINAL WORDS

From a cooling performance point of view, the "high end" stock Intel HSF is a good product. Even at reduced voltages, it does a very good cooling job. However, from a noise point of view, the thing basically stinks. It's difficult to imagine that anyone who has a concern about noise could leave this HSF running in a system anywhere nearby. Unless, of course, the ambient noise is very high. If you modded the cooler so that the retention bracket could be used with a quieter fan, it might give you decent performance. This was done in the Silencing a P4-1.6A oc'd to 2GHz project. But in stock form, it is not recommended for silence seekers.

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