Asetek Vapochill Micro CPU heatsink/fan

Cooling
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COMPARISON

Three competing products were chosen for comparison against the Vapochill Micro: A Thermalright XP-90 with a 92mm Nexus fan, the Arctic Cooling Freezer 4, and the venerable Zalman CNPS7000-AlCu. All of these fall roughly in the same price range, and they all use 92mm fans. For the Vapochill Micro and the Thermalright XP-90, the reference Nexus fan was used; the Freezer and Zalman heatsinks both use proprietary fans that cannot easily be swapped, so the stock fans were used. Data for the comparison comes from our reviews of the respective products, which are linked to above.

Two comparisons were done: One with the measured noise held close to 22 dBA@1m, and another at 17 dBA@1m. These are very quiet levels; the latter is effectively silent under most conditions.

Comparison #1

Heatsink Comparison by Noise #1: 22 dBA@1m Target
Heatsink
Noise
Fan Voltage
°C Rise
°C/W MP
°C/W TDP
Asetek Vapochill Micro, Nexus fan
22 dBA@1m
12
25
0.32
0.36
Thermalright XP-90, Nexus fan
20 dBA@1m
12
22
0.29
0.33
Arctic Cooling Freezer 4, Stock fan
20 dBA@1m
7
25
0.32
0.36
Zalman CNPS7000-AlCu, Stock fan
22 dBA@1m
5
27
0.34
0.39

The competitors fall within a fairly tight 5°C range. The Thermalright XP-90 has a clear lead, but the Vapochill Micro is still competitive. These two heatsinks were tested with the same fan, so any differences in temperatures are related to the performance of the heatsink itself.

Comparison #2

Heatsink Comparison by Noise: 17 dBA@1m Target
Heatsink
Noise
Fan Voltage
°C Rise
°C/W MP
°C/W TDP
Asetek Vapochill Micro, Nexus fan
17 dBA@1m
7
38
0.48
0.55
Thermalright XP-90, Nexus fan
17 dBA@1m
7
25
0.33
0.38
Arctic Cooling Freezer 4, Stock fan
17 dBA@1m
5
31
0.39
0.45
Zalman CNPS7000-AlCu, Stock fan
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

The reduction in noise comes at the cost of airflow, which makes it a tough test for the heatsinks. The Zalman can't compete at this level; its stock fan cannot be made to run this quietly without resorting to <5V, which is beyond the scope of most users.

The differences between the remaining heatsinks are exaggerated with the drop in airflow. The XP-90 is the clear winner here, losing only 3°C compared to the first comparison. The Freezer 4 performance is not as good, but acceptable for a cool system. The Vapochill Micro can't compete. A 38°C rise in temperature is simply not acceptable. In a low airflow situation, there are clearly better options.

NOISE RECORDINGS

At least one recording was made of every Asetek fan we received. By and large, they all suffer from the same problem: They have a pronounced buzz when undervolted. To show how the duct affects the noise of the fan, three A/B comparisons with and without the duct were recorded.

Asetek Vapochill Micro:

MP3: Asetek Vapochill Micro, "Ultra Low Noise" fan - 5V - 9 CFM / 22dBA@1m

MP3: Asetek Vapochill Micro, "Extreme Performance" fan - 7V - 14 CFM / 22 dBA@1m

MP3: Asetek Vapochill Micro, "High End" fan - 8V - 15 CFM / 22 dBA@1m

MP3: Nexus 92mm installed on Asetek Vapochill Micro - 12V - 18 CFM / 22 dBA@1m

Duct vs No Duct:

A: Asetek Vapochill Micro, "High End" fan - 8V, Duct Installed / 22 dBA@1m
vs.
B: Asetek Vapochill Micro, "High End" fan - 8V, No Duct / 22 dBA@1m

Recordings of Comparable HSF:

MP3: Zalman CNPS9500 - 5V - 23 dBA@1m

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

MP3: Arctic Cooling Super Silent 4 Ultra TC, 22 dBA@1m

MP3: Scythe Kamaboko - 7V - 20 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 defining feature of the Vapochill Micro is the use of oversize heatpipes connected to a single reservoir at the bottom. This arrangement is supposed to transfer heat away from the CPU more efficiently than regular heatpipes. So, why doesn't it cool as effectively?

Transferring heat from the CPU into the heatsink is only one part of the equation. Once the heat has left the CPU, it has to be transferred to the air. The oversized heatpipes may be more efficient than regular heatpipes, but they don't help in dissipating heat from the fins into the air. The Vapochill Micro would do better with larger, more widely spaced fins that increase the rate of heat dissipation into the air.

The Vapochill Micro is not suited for use in a low noise system for three reasons:

  1. It performs poorly with low airflow (low noise).
  2. The plastic duct introduces an unwanted source of resonance.
  3. Proper installation forces exhaust heat for the CPU upwards into the power supply.

The first two can be helped by removing the duct and finding some other way of attaching a fan. But, even without the duct, the rippled fins still require a fair amount of airflow pressure. Turn up the speed high enough and any fan is noisy.

The third drawback is the dealbreaker. The power supply is a major source of noise in many systems. Forcing it to exhaust any more heat than necessary will mean that in many systems under load, the thermally-controlled PSU fan will spin faster.

Aside from performance and noise concerns, the Vapochill is well executed. With a high speed fan, its cooling performance is excellent. It's easy to install, lightweight, and is compatible with every recent CPU socket. The retail package is put together well, and the fan controller is the best we've seen bundled with a heatsink. Little touches like the offset position of the fins from the base suggest some careful thought went into this product. It's almost a shame to say that for SPCR, cooling performance at low noise is what counts in the end, and in this regard, the Vapochill doesn't quite cut it.

Pros

* Easy to install
* Included fan controller is good quality
* Cools chipset as well as CPU
* Light weight

Cons

* Noisy stock fans (all of them)
* Duct is flimsy and prone to resonating
* Doesn't cool well with low airflow
* Too many different models to choose from
* "Correct" installation blows CPU heat upwards into the power supply

Much thanks to Asetek Inc. for the Vapochill Micro sample.

* * *

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