LS Cable SHS-X500 heatsink/fan

Cooling
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TESTING

Test Platform

  • Intel P4-2.8A The Thermal Design Power of this P4-2.8 (533 MHz bus) is 68.4 or 69.7W depending on the version. As the CPU is a demo model without normal markings, it's not clear which version it is, so we'll round the number off to ~69W. The Maximum Power, as calculated by CPUHeat & CPUMSR, is 79W.
  • AOpen AX4GE Max motherboard - Intel 845GE Chipset; built-in VGA. The on-die CPU thermal diode monitoring system reads 2°C too high, so all readings are compensated up by this amount.
  • OCZ DDRAM PC-3700, 512 MB
  • Seagate Barracuda IV 40G 1-platter drive (in Smart Drive from Silicon Acoustics)
  • Seasonic Super Tornado 300 (Rev. A1)
  • Arctic Silver Ceramique Thermal Compound
  • Two-level plywood platform with foam damping feet. Motherboard on top; most other components below. Eases heatsink changes and setup.


As advertised, the end of the heatsink hangs over the VRMs and airflow from the fan provides cooling for them.

Measurement & Analysis Tools

  • CPUBurn processor stress software
  • Speed Fan software to show CPU temperature
  • ThrottleWatch 2.01 to make sure CPU throttling did not affect thermal results.
  • A custom-built, multi-channel, variable voltage DC power supply that allows us to dial in the exact voltage to the fan.

Noise and airflow measurements were made with the fan powered from the fan controller while the rest of the system was off to ensure that system noise did not skew the measurements. The X500 was tested both with its stock fan and our standard 92mm reference fan, a Nexus. Airflow measurements were made while the fans were mounted on the heatsink; because of the higher impedance, they are lower than when measured in free air.

Load testing was accomplished using CPUBurn to stress the processor, and the graph function in SpeedFan was used to ensure that the load temperature was stable for at least ten minutes.

The ambient temperature during testing was 20°C. Ambient noise level for testing and recording was 18 dBA@1m.

TEST RESULTS

With the Stock Fan

LS Cable SHS-X500 with Stock Fan
Fan Voltage
Airflow
Load Temp
°C Rise
°C/W MP
°C/W TDP
Noise
12V
22 CFM
40°C
20
0.25
0.29
32 dBA@1m
9V
18 CFM
43°C
23
0.29
0.33
25 dBA@1m
7V
12 CFM
47°C
27
0.34
0.39
21 dBA@1m
5V
9 CFM
53°C
33
0.41
0.48
19 dBA@1m

Airflow: Measured in Cubic Feet per Minute mounted on the HS
Load Temp:
CPUBurn for ~20 mins.
°C Rise: Temperature rise above ambient at load.
°C/W MP / TDP: Temperature rise per Watt, based on CPU's Maximum Power (79W) or Thermal Design Power (69W) rating (lower is better)
Noise: SPL measured in dBA@1m distance with high accuracy B & K SLM

12V / 22 CFM: The measured noise of 32 dBA@1m was exactly what DCC rates the fan for, and a full 10 dBA higher than LS Cable's rating. We do not consider this level of noise quiet, although it is certainly better than some of its competitors.

Motor hum and turbulence noise were almost equal in volume. At times, they were joined by a sharp rattle, which could be eliminated by pressing down on the frame of the fan. Most likely, the source of the noise was one of the fins vibrating against a piece of metal, perhaps one of the screws used to attach the fan to the heatsink.

Cooling performance was quite good, on par with the venerable Zalman 7000 series with the fan at 12V. Some recent high-end heatsinks have surpassed this old favorite, but this level of performance is easily good enough for most AMD CPUs.

9V / 18 CFM: At 9V, most of the motor hum gave way to turbulence noise and a buzz. Occasionally, the mechanical rattle could still be heard, indicating that the level of vibration was high. This level of noise would be acceptable in a high-end system where there is too much heat to turn down the fans any further. Cooling performance remained quite good, although a hot system might struggle a bit if the ambient case temperature climbed too high.

7V / 12 CFM: At 7V, the fan spun slowly enough that the rattling noise could no longer be heard. The dominant noise was the buzz, while a small amount of turbulence noise could also be heard. In a noisy environment, the fan would probably not be heard, but there are fans that sound smoother at this level of airflow.

The cooling efficiency started to decline more rapidly at this point, although a well designed system could still cope with this level of cooling. Cooling a midrange Pentium Prescott is probably out of the question at this point though.

5V / 9 CFM: With the fan at 5V, the cooling performance got considerably worse. The noise level dropped near enough to the ambient level in our lab that it would probably be completely inaudible inside a computer case. Only a trace amount of buzzing could still be heard, and it was necessary to listen closely at a distance of one meter to distinguish it from the background.

Most users are likely to find that the ideal balance between noise and performance is somewhere between 5V and 7V. The measured SPL difference between 5V and 7V is not much, but there is a significant difference in the subjective quality of the noise. Cooling performance in the 5-7V range is likely to be borderline unless the system specifically designed to be low power, but if the system is not subjected to a prolonged load (like our stress test) the cooling should be adequate.

With the Nexus 92 fan

LS Cable SHS-X500 with Nexus Reference Fan
Fan Voltage
Airflow
Load Temp
°C Rise
°C/W MP
°C/W TDP
Noise
12V
17 CFM
44°C
24
0.30
0.35
23 dBA@1m
9V
13 CFM
48°C
28
0.35
0.41
20 dBA@1m
7V
9 CFM
54°C
34
0.43
0.49
<19 dBA@1m
5V
4 CFM
*
*
*
*
<19 dBA@1m

Airflow: Measured in Cubic Feet per Minute mounted on the HS
Load Temp:
CPUBurn for ~20 mins.
°C Rise: Temperature rise above ambient at load.
°C/W MP / TDP: Temperature rise per Watt, based on CPU's Maximum Power (79W) or Thermal Design Power (69W) rating (lower is better)
Noise: SPL measured in dBA@1m distance with high accuracy B & K SLM

*Test Stopped when CPU temperature hit 75°C

Our reference fan was chosen for its pleasant noise signature. It is an extremely low speed fan, and pushes less air than the stock fan. Unfortunately, the X500 doesn't do well with very low airflow, and cooling performance was really only acceptable above 9V. For some, this will be good enough, but those seeking a truly silent system will want to look elsewhere unless they have a very cool processor.

The main issue seemed to be airflow impedance. The airflow that the fan was able to produce on the X500 was less than it could produce on the Scythe Katana, for example. With the Nexus spinning at 5V, the total airflow was just 4 CFM. This was not enough airflow to cool our test processor properly, even on our open air test bench with an ambient temperature of 20°C. The CPU temperature reached 75°C at this level before we halted the testing to prevent thermal damage.

COMPARISON

The LS Cable SHS-X500 is quite similar to the recently reviewed Scythe Katana, so it makes sense to compare them side by side. Like the X500, the Katana is relatively inexpensive and lightweight. Both heatsinks use 92mm fans, and both were tested using our Nexus reference fan.

LS Cable SHS-X500 vs. Scythe Katana: Nexus Reference Fan
Fan Voltage
SHS-X500 Airflow
Katana Airflow
SHS-X500
°C/W MP
Katana °C/W MP
Noise
12V
17 CFM
20 CFM
0.30
0.34
23 dBA@1m
9V
13 CFM
14 CFM
0.35
0.37
20 dBA@1m
7V
9 CFM
11 CFM
0.43
0.42
<19 dBA@1m
5V
4 CFM
7 CFM
*
0.53
<19 dBA@1m

Airflow: Measured in Cubic Feet per Minute mounted on the HS
°C/W MP: Temperature rise per Watt, based on CPU's Maximum Power (79W)
Noise: SPL measured in dBA@1m distance with high accuracy B & K SLM

There is no clear winner with the Nexus fan. Between 9-12V, the X500 is a touch more efficient, despite lower effective airflow. As the fan speed drops, the effective airflow on the X500 drops more quickly than on the Katana. The end result is that at the lowest fan speeds (and noise levels), the Katana cools a touch better. The differences are very small, however, and in actual use, the Katana and X500 will perform similarly. When it comes down to a buying decision, the deciding factors are more likely to be price and availability than performance and noise. The more pleasant (or less annoying) noise quality of the Katana's stock fan may also be a factor

NOISE RECORDINGS

LS Cable SHS-X500 with Stock Fan:

MP3: LS Cable SHS-X500 - 12V - 22 CFM / 32 dBA/1m

MP3: LS Cable SHS-X500 - 9V - 18 CFM / 25 dBA/1m

MP3: LS Cable SHS-X500 - 7V - 12 CFM / 21 dBA/1m

MP3: LS Cable SHS-X500 - 5V - 9 CFM / 19 dBA/1m

Recordings of Comparable HSF:

MP3: Nexus 92mm Fan - 12V - 23 dBA/1m

MP3: Nexus 92 Fan - 7V - <19 dBA/1m

MP3: Arctic Cooling Super Silent 4 Ultra TC - 22 dBA/1m

MP3: Scythe Katana - 7V - 22 dBA/1m

HOW TO LISTEN & COMPARE

These recordings were made with a high resolution studio quality digital recording system. The microphone was 3" from the edge of the fan frame at a 45° angle, facing the intake side of the fan to avoid direct wind noise. The ambient noise during all recordings was 18 dBA or lower. It is best to download the sound files to your computer before listening.

To set the volume to a realistic level (similar to the original), try playing this Nexus 92mm case fan @ 5V (17 dBA/1m) recording and set the volume so that it is barely audible. Then don't reset the volume and play the other sound files. Of course, all tone controls and other effects should be turned off or set to neutral. For full details on how to calibrate your sound system playback level to get the most valid listening comparison, please see the yellow text box entitled Listen to the Fans on page four of the article SPCR's Test / Sound Lab: A Short Tour.

FINAL CONCLUSIONS

The LS Cable X-500 is a good choice for a quiet low-to-midrange system. It is lightweight, low profile and relatively inexpensive ¬ó all positive attributes for this market.

The included fan is a bit better than average. At 12V, it is quieter than many other stock heatsink fans, but it is not especially suited to undervolting because at lower speeds, it exhibits the annoying buzz typical of ball bearing fans. The balance between adequate cooling performance and low noise is rather narrow, but it can be achieved in the appropriate system. The mechanical rattle that could be heard occasionally at higher fan speeds was something of a mystery. It's hard to know whether this is an inherent design flaw or one that's specific to this sample.

Perhaps the best use for the X500 is as a replacement heatsink in a SFF system. Its light weight and low profile are both valuable traits in a SFF system. Of course, the specific design of the SFF case will determine whether or not the X500 is compatible, but its small dimensions might make it more compatible than most.

The most difficult hurdle for the X500 is probably not any technical deficiency. LS Cable is a completely new brand in the global heatsink market, and distribution seems spotty. At the time of writing, the X500 is available in Japan and Korea only. Taiwan will begin to see some units in the near future, but until the North American and European distributors are decided, neither of these markets will be served.

Pros

* Easy to install
* Light weight
* Low profile
* Relatively inexpensive
* Potentially quiet fan

Cons

* Some mechanical noise with high speed fans
* Availability questionable
* Not suitable for very low airflow situations
* Fan mounting slightly tricky

Much thanks to LS Cable for the SHS-X500 sample.

* * *

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