Sub-$20 CPU Coolers: A Reader's Roundup

Cooling
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Arctic Cooling Alpine 11 GT Rev. 2

Next up is a cooler that gets a lot of good press and is available for very reasonable prices in large online retailers. Plus, it says "Arctic Cooling" on it, that makes it great, right? Well...

The Alpine 11 GT is a conventional cooler. It's an extruded aluminum block, solid on the bottom with straight, full-length radiator fins reaching for the sky, and capped with a signature Arctic white frameless fan.

That fan is fairly small, and while it uses Arctic's characteristic upside-down fan mounting, it lacks the expected rubber vibration-isolation system that usually accompanies an Arctic cooler.

The cooler mounts using pushpins that are very similar to the ones we saw on the Intel cooler. Arctic very thoughtfully cuts a portion of the cooler's bottom plate to allow the heatsink to fit near close-mounted power capacitors, such as those present on the 45CMX.

Sound Characteristics

The first thing you notice after turning this cooler on, especially after using the Intel cooler is how... loud it is. Disappointingly, at top speed, it's markedly louder than the Intel, with a higher-pitched tone and a strange blade harmonic that sounds like it's coming from anywhere but the cooler.

The fan quiets down nicely, though, and by 1100 RPMs has stepped politely into the background.

The entire cooler isn't obnoxious, but it's a shame it isn't quieter than the stock cooler. A lot to ask for, with a smaller, faster fan than the Intel cooler, but, c'mon, it's Arctic Cooling!

Performance

This noise would be acceptable if the cooler's performance were up to par, but it just isn't.

Before I get into the numbers, I want you to know that I'm not an Arctic Cooling hater. My proudest gaming machine (an overclocked Socket-A Athlon XP-M) was very successfully cooled by an Arctic Copper Silent 2 back in the day. I again went to Arctic for that machine's successor, using an Arctic Alpine 64 Pro to push an Athlon II X3 435 to well north of 3.25 GHz. So it was natural that I'd select Arctic for my home theater PC.

As it turns out, Arctic really should have just left this cooler on the drawing board.

Idle temps were higher than the Intel cooler, doubtless owing to the cooler being made entirely from aluminum, which isn't as efficient a conductor of heat as copper. Load temps, both at quiet and loud, were the worst of the bunch.

Arctic Cooling Alpine 11 GT Rev. 2
Quiet
Max
RPM
Idle
Load
Rise
RPM
Idle
Load
Rise
1080
30°C
69°C
42°C
2064
29°C
58°C
31°C

Fortunately for Arctic Cooling, the Alpine GT has a bigger brother.



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