Arctic Cooling Freezer 4 heatsink/fan

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ZALMAN COMPARISON

The comparison with the Zalman prompted us to go back and examine the results of our recent re-testing of the Zalman 7000. Because the test bench used to test the Zalman was identical to the one used for the Freezer, the results below are directly comparable.

Zalman CNPS7000-AlCu
Thermal Conditions
Load Temperature
Rise from Ambient
°C/W MP
°C/W TDP
SPL (dBA/1m)
CPUBurn @ 12V
41°C
20°C
0.25
0.29
CPUBurn @ 9V
43°C
22°C
0.28
0.32
33 dBA/1m
CPUBurn @ 7V
45°C
24°C
0.30
0.35
CPUBurn @ 5V
48°C
27°C
0.34
0.39

A side by side look at the most salient data of the Zalman 7000-AlCu and the Arctic Cooling Freezer 4.

Fan Voltage (V)
SPL (dBA/1m) °C Rise from ambient
Freezer 4
Zalman 7000
Winner
Freezer 4
Zalman 7000
Winner
12
33
39
Freezer by 6
21
20
Zalman by 1
9
26
33
Freezer by 7
22
22
Tie
7
20
28
Freezer by 8
25
24
Zalman by 1
5
17
22
Freezer by 5
31
27
Zalman by 4

With fan voltage held constant, the Freezer 4 is quieter by a large margin but cooling performance remains close if not equal to the Zalman. In fact, probably the only statistically significant difference is at 5V.

To compare the qualities of the fans, we listened to the stock fans side by side in the lab. Subjectively, the Zalman sounds smoother; its noise is distributed more widely across the frequency spectrum and it lacks the buzz of the Freezer fan. However, the motor hum of the Freezer is lower in pitch, and drops out of audible hearing range between 5 and 7 volts. As the dBA measurements indicate, the Freezer's minimum noise level is well below that of the Zalman.

A more realistic comparison in terms of noise would be to examine the relative temperatures when the noise level is held constant. If this is done, the noise level of the Freezer is roughly equal to that of the Zalman at one voltage level lower. In this comparison, the Freezer appears to be the better cooler by ~2°C, but the difference is so small that it is really too close to call.

In the final analysis, the fact that the Freezer is essentially silent at 5V and provides at least a minimum degree of cooling is significant. The Zalman, for many users, is still audible at 5V. It so happens that 5V is the lower limit of the vast majority of fan speed controllers, so this means that without a fan swap, the practical low noise floor of the Zalman is 5 dBA/1m higher.

Another advantage for the Freezer for is that its side-mounted fan can allow the hot air from the cooler to be blown straight out by a back case exhaust fan, which may give it an overall improvement for case cooling. In counterpoint, the more common down-blowing HSF like the Zalman 7000 may help to cool the voltage regulators on the motherboard a bit better.

FINAL CONCLUSIONS

Arctic Cooling has succeeded in creating a low-cost, high-performance heatsink. Besting the Zalman 7000 for cooling at the same noise levels is quite a feat; the Thermalright XP-120 is the only other heatsink we have tested to do so. While the Thermalright beats the Freezer in terms of raw cooling potential, it utilizes a much larger 120mm fan and costs a lot more.

While we are unimpressed by the noise of the Freezer at its stock voltage, adding a Zalman Fanmate quickly brings it into championship territory. We would be very interested in seeing a Freezer with a thermally controlled fan in the vein of Arctic Cooling's Super Silent TC line.

The downside of the Freezer is that it is a package deal. Swapping the fan is a big job and, given the decent performance of the stock fan, probably unnecessary. However, this does mean that if the fan breaks or fails it cannot be replaced just any other fan. Additionally, the fact that the fan is mounted on the side of the heatsink may cause some difficulties with motherboards that position the HS so that the fan blows upwards. Blowing the hot exhaust air up towards a power supply with a bottom intake fan is best avoided, because the additional heat can and often does increase PSU fan speed, which in turn causes more noise. The high tension of the Freezer 4 mounting system is also a bit of a concern; a slight reduction in tension would be welcome.

We did not expect the level of performance that we got from this heatsink. While the Freezer is the top model from Arctic Cooling, we expected it to fall in the middle of the pack compared to the top models from other manufacturers. To achieve this level of performance with a heatsink priced at US$34 is an impressive feat. We expect this heatsink to become a favorite among the SPCR crowd. Recommended.

Pros

* Excellent cooling-for-noise
* Cheaper than most high-end coolers
* Fan tolerates undervolting well
* Heatsink performs well under low airflow conditions
* Hot air can be blown out the back case exhaust
* Lightweight
* Reasonable size

Cons

* Requires undervolting to reach maximum potential
* Fragile fan may be damaged in shipping
* Difficult to swap fan
* Side-blowing fan may not be compatible with all systems
* High tension of mounting system may damage CPU

Much thanks to Arctic Cooling for the Freezer 4 sample.

* * *

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