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COOLINK FANS & FAN CONTROLLER
Like Thermalright and some other high end HS brands, Noctua does not ship with a fan. It is up to the user to select one; not an onerous task for most SPCR regulars. Coolink, on the other hand,
includes both a fan and a fan controller to reduce the speed and noise of the included fan. Coolink also supplies a PCI slot cover that allows
the controller to be accessible without opening the computer. The overall effect
is quite professional, and adds a lot to the value of the heatsink.
The fan controller, disassembled.
The fan controller comes in four separate parts:
- A four-pin Molex to three-pin fan adapter that provides the controller with
a safe +12V source
- A 100 ohm potentiometer that reduces the input voltage (the electronic heart of
- A PCI bracket
- A brushed aluminum knob
Assembling the controller is quite straightforward: The adapter is plugged
into a free Molex connector from the power supply, the potentiometer is plugged
into the adapter, and the fan is plugged into the potentiometer. The hardest
part is aligning the knob: It takes
a few tries to match the notch on the knob with the LH
dial on the bracket. The control turns with a smooth tension, and the voltage changes linearly
through the range of adjustment.
Fully assembled, at minimum output.
The fan controller was tested with
the two Coolink fans that came with the 120mm and 92mm models. The precise range of voltage adjustment depends on the fan
used, but most fans should be within a volt of the models we tested. The
controller was tested in three positions: Low (minimum voltage), High (maximum
voltage) and Medium (knob centered).
|COOLINK FAN CONTROLLER: Voltage Adjustment
Coolink X12-1600 (120mm)
Coolink X9-1900 (92mm)
Dual ball bearings and a rated top speed of 1600 RPM.
The fans themselves look exotic, with clear green blades in a fully transparent
frame. The plastic used to make the frame is very light and brittle, and they
feel quite fragile. On the other hand, the low weight means that less weight
is added to the heatsink when the fan is installed, which causes less stress
on the mounting mechanism.
The OEM for the fans is unknown, but they are listed as dual ball-bearing models,
and have fairly low current ratings, which suggests that they are low
speed models. The 120mm model is rated for 0.18A and 1600 RPM, while the 92mm
model is rated 0.10A and 1900 RPM.
Coolink also sells the fans individually. The stock fans are the fastest spinning
models for their size that Coolink sells. According to the product
pages for the fans,
Coolink sells 80mm and 92mm fans with a top speed of just 1100 RPM, and 120mm
fans rated at 800 RPM. Coolink was kind enough to send us samples of these as
well, so we will test them later with the fans included with the heatsinks.
The fan is installed with two wire clips that slot into the side of the heatsink.
The clips hook into the screw holes on the fan frame and are perfectly secure
when attached. However, because the clips attach to the near edge of the frame,
fans with closed corners (like some of the Nexus models) are not compatible
with the clips. This is similar to the problem with the clips for the Thermalright
XP-120, and we outlined a solution
to the problem in our review of that heatsink.
Fans with closed corners need to be modified for use with the included clips.
The Noctua seems to be designed for a very wide range of airflow conditions.
For the hardcore overclockers who want to suck every last drop of performance
out of the heatsink, two extra fan clips are included so that an extra fan can
be added in a push-pull configuration. But silencing fanatics also get their
due: Two adhesive silicone strips are included to provide some vibration damping
between the frame of the fan and the heatsink itself. This is a surprising,
though welcome, addition to the package; applying damping material to the heatsink
fan is fairly uncommon even among SPCR regulars.
Mounting hardware for K8 systems on the far left, Socket 478 in the middle,
and Socket 775 on the right.
Also included is thermal interface material, four fan clips, and two
silicone isolation strips.
A large bag of hardware is included in the box. It contains an enormous amount
of mounting hardware, two thirds of which will not be used. This
is what happens when a company wants "universal" mounting, but insists
on a unique installation system for every socket type. To make matters
confusing, some of the hardware is shared between different
sockets. For example, the two Intel sockets share a part that closely resembles
yet isn't quite the same as the equivalent part for K8 systems.
Noctua should have done a better job here. Either they should have reduced
the number of parts for each socket and made them clearly different from each
other, or they should have bagged each mounting system separately.
As it stands, there are three different types of standoff screws, two different
types of brackets for the mainboard, and two different types of brackets for
the heatsink. All of these can be accidentally substituted for each other, opening
up many possibilities for frustrated users who may end up damaging their system
trying to get things installed. User beware!
After you've sorted out which hardware you need, the next task is to
assemble everything. First, the stock retention bracket (for sockets that have
one) must be removed; the Noctua comes with its own mounting system. AMD systems
may use the stock baseplate, but Intel systems (like our test bed) require that
a custom baseplate be installed.
Intel systems must use two metal brackets as a base to secure these heatsink.
With the mainboard ready to go, preparing the heatsink is next. No matter which
platform you're using, you need to screw two brackets on to the side of
the heatsink. The precise brackets needed are platform-specific, so it pays
to be careful.
The way the brackets are screwed on is very poorly thought out. The most intuitive
way of installing them is on the bottom side of the heatsink, where they nestle
neatly into slight indentations in the base of the heatsink. Although it is
possible to install the brackets in this way, it is not the correct way
and it will not place the heatsink under tension when installed.
The correct way of installing the brackets:
The brackets go on the TOP side of the base, screwed in from the bottom.
The correct method is to screw the brackets to the top side of the base, so
that the heads of the screws are accessible from the bottom of the heatsink.
This places the brackets at the correct height above the mounting hardware on
the mainboard, which ensures that proper contact tension between the heatsink
and the CPU heatspreader is maintained.
The final step of installation is to screw the heatsink onto the motherboard.
For this task, two spring-loaded standoff screws are used. It is worth reiterating
that the proper screws are different for every socket type, and it is possible
to install the heatsink incorrectly if the wrong screws are used. The screws are
threaded through the brackets on the heatsink into the mounting hardware on
the motherboard. The screws should be tightened until they stop turning, at
which point the springs will keep the heatsink under tension. The pre-loaded springs are
the best part of the mounting system, as they make it impossible for the user
to overtighten the screws and place unnecessary stress on the motherboard and
CPU die. When it's installed, the heatsink is quite secure and probably safe to transport short distances by car or by hand. Shipping as freight is not recommended, however, without extreme caution.
Due to the nature of the installation hardware, the heatsink can only be
installed in one orientation which may not be the right one for optimal
system airflow. For example, I have purloined one of the review samples for
use in my personal system, but the way it fits on my motherboard has the fan
blowing towards the top of the case, not the back, as preferred. Our test bench
system also required that the heatsink be installed in this way. Only Socket
775 systems, with the square pattern of mounting holes, allow the heatsink to
be installed in any orientation.
For all heatsinks whose fan blows across the motherboard rather than down at it (i.e., almost all "tower" heatsinks), the ideal direction for the airflow is towards the back of the case where the heat can be easily evacuated by the case fan. If the CPU heatsink fan blows towards the PSU, the PSU can become unnecessarily hot, often increasing the speed and noise of its internal fan, and reducing the overall life of the PSU.
Another possible problem is that the larger model is very wide (124mm), which
may mean that the heatsink extends beyond the top edge of the motherboard in
some configurations. Noctua is obviously aware of the problem, as they note
gap required between the upper edge of the mainboard and the power supply in
the case is (depending on the position of the CPU socket on the mainboard) up
to 25mm." Many motherboard, case and PSU combinations will not provide a one-inch gap.
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