Noctua / Coolink Tower Heatsinks

Cooling
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COMPETITIVE COMPARISONS

The design of the Noctua / Coolink heatsinks puts them among heavyweight high-risers. The Scythe Ninja and Thermalright HR-01 are top "high-riser" performers, cost US$50 or more, and can potentially be used for passive cooling. So how do they all stack up against each other? Let's find out.

The other heatsinks were tested with a 120mm Nexus fan, so direct comparisons between the three heatsinks can easily be made. With the same fan, all the heatsinks are subject to the same amount of airflow, and produce almost the same amount of noise. The only variable is the rise in temperature, reported below.

Heavyweight Tower Heatsinks, °C Rise w/ Nexus 120mm fan
Fan Voltage
Thermalright HR-01
Scythe Ninja
Noctua NH-U12
Noctua NH-U9
(Nexus 92 fan)
12V
18°C
14°C
21°C
24°C
9V
19°C
16°C
22°C
26°C
7V
20°C
19°C
22°C
31°C
5V
22°C
25°C
36°C

So, how good is the big Noctua / Coolink? With the Nexus fan at 9V or above, it gives up 6~7°C to the Ninja, and 3°C to the Thermalright HR-01. This is quite significant. At the low 7V fan speed, however, its performance come much closer, within 2~3°C of either of the established competition.

There are other reasons to choose the Noctua / Coolink, especially once its market price comes down: Things like the spring-loaded installation and the fan controller included with the Coolink versions.

The smaller Noctua doesn't really belong in the heavyweight category. At best, its cooling performance is 10°C worse than the Ninja, which is very significant. A decision between the smaller Noctua and a Ninja is likely to be made on more than performance alone, however, so a direct comparison between the two isn't that relevant.

NOISE RECORDINGS

Noctua NH-U12 / Coolink U8-120-1600:

MP3: Noctua NH-U12 / Coolink U8-120-1600 - 5V / 20 dBA@1m

MP3: Noctua NH-U12 / Coolink U8-120-1600 - 7V / 22 dBA@1m

MP3: Noctua NH-U12 / Coolink U8-120-1600 - 9V / 26 dBA@1m

MP3: Noctua NH-U12 / Coolink U8-120-1600 - 12V / 31 dBA@1m

Noctua NH-U9 / Coolink U8-92-1900:

MP3: Noctua NH-U9 / Coolink U8-92-1900 - 5V / 18 dBA@1m

MP3: Noctua NH-U9 / Coolink U8-92-1900 - 7V / 21 dBA@1m

MP3: Noctua NH-U9 / Coolink U8-92-1900 - 9V / 24 dBA@1m

MP3: Noctua NH-U9 / Coolink U8-92-1900 - 12V / 29 dBA@1m

Recordings of Comparable HSF:

MP3: Arctic Cooling Freezer 4 (original version) - 7V / 20 dBA@1m

MP3: Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro - 9V / 20 dBA@1m

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

MP3: Nexus 120mm fan - 12V - 22.5 dBA@1m

MP3: Nexus 120mm fan - 8.8V - 19 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.

IN MY SYSTEM

If I were to buy a Noctua / Coolink heatsink, I would choose the smaller model. It's cheaper, smaller, lighter, and offers good enough performance for my rig. In fact, I snagged one of the samples for my own personal machine, where it's inaudible with a slow quiet 80mm Jamicon fan.

The Noctua replaced an Alpha PAL8150 that wasn't quite up to the task of cooling my Athlon 64 3800+ Newcastle quietly — even with the fan at full speed it was prone to overheating under long-term stress. The system is configured as follows:

  • Antec P180 case, with only the rear TriCool 120 fan, soft-mounted with rubber grommets, running at the Low speed
  • Soltek SL-K8T939FL Motherboard
  • AMD Athlon 64 3800+ (Newcastle Core, 89W TDP)
  • 2 GB generic RAM
  • NVidia GeForce Ti4600 video card, with cooling fan removed + Nexus 80mm fan @ 5V installed over VGA card with a Zalman FB165 bracket
  • BenQ DW1620 DVD burner
  • Enermax Noisetaker 325 power supply with all fans removed + Nexus 120mm fan @ 7V installed in PSU channel
  • 2 x Samsung Spinpoint P80 hard drives in lower chamber, one 80 GB (JVC motor), one 160 GB (Nidec motor)


Speedfan screen capture: Yes, the temperature scale reads 70, 80, 90°C...*

Once the Noctua was installed, I tuned the performance by using CPUBurn with the fan at 5V, then slowly increasing the speed until the temperature was at an acceptible level. The screenshot below shows the temperature increasing without bound with the fan at 5V. I then stopped the test for about 30 seconds while I turned the fan speed up a quarter turn (estimated voltage 6~7V). CPUBurn was restarted, and the temperature stabilized about 15°C below the threshold where it became unstable. At this level, the noise of the CPU fan is below the residual noise of my system.

* The thermal monitoring on this motherboard is odd. Of the two thermal diodes in the A64 processor, only the one that triggers an emergency shutdown at 125°C is accessible. This sensor indicates a true core temperature, and reads much higher than the nominal "CPU Temperature" we're used to seeing, which is an approximation of the temperature on the outer casing. As long as this temperature is kept under ~95°C, my system is stable even under very high, long term stress. So 82~83°C is good.

FINAL CONCLUSIONS

These Noctua / Coolink heatsinks are fundamentally fine products. The combination of a copper base, multiple heatpipes and many aluminum fins in a tower configuration has become something of a cliche, a well-proven one.

Although they are good performers, they're not quite as good as the best of the competition. This is especially true of the larger model, which is positioned to take on the champions in the market. But, they are still very good — good enough for my own machine.

Pros

* Very good performance.
* Excellent build quality.
* Actual mounting system is very good — better Ninja or Thermalright HR-01.
* Potential for passive cooling.
* Safe mounting system.
* Widely spaced fins make for good low-airflow performance.
* Good quality fan controller included (Coolink).
* Silicone strips allow fan to be damped.
Cons

* Bad stock fan (Coolink).
* Installation is confusing and error-prone
* Fan orientation not adjustable with K8 and S478 systems, which often end up with these HS mounted in the "wrong" orientation; Thermalright HR-01 has the same problem.
* Large and heavy (especially NH-U12)
* Little cooling for the VRM that surround the CPU socket on most motherboards.
* Possible compatibility issues in small cases

Much thanks to Noctua and Coolink for the review samples.

* * *

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