Microcool NorthPole XE Whisper heatsink/fan

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March 3, 2006 by Devon Cooke

Microcool NorthPole XE Whisper
Northbridge / S479 Heatsink
Sidewinder Computer Systems

Pentium M based systems have found a niche among quiet PC enthusiasts over the past year, with desktop-friendly motherboards from DFI and AOpen. The cool running yet powerful processor is a great start for a quiet PC, but there's one problem: Both of these boards feature noisy heatsinks that can't be easily replaced because of the unique form factor and mounting systems employed.

With most CPUs, finding a better heatsink is quite simple. The intense competition among aftermarket HS makers has created a buyer's paradise. Not so in this case. Not many people buy Pentium M desktop gear, due to the relatively high cost of both the motherboards and the processors. Only some of those people are going to spend even more money on an aftermarket heatsink. As a result, there's not much business opportunity in a specialized HSF for these Pentium M boards.

Against these odds, an Italian company called Microcool has released a heatsink called the NorthPole XE Whisper, specifically for the 915 chip based socket 479 boards from AOpen. How are they doing it? Quite simple really. The NorthPole XE is designed as a Northbridge heatsink, but Microcool includes mounting hardware that adapts the product to work as a CPU cooler on AOpen's 915-chipset Pentium M boards.

So the NorthPole XE Whisper is sold as a universal NB HSF, with special compatibility as a HSF for the AOpen 915-chipset socket 479 motherboards. With the accompanying hardware, it looks like it would also work as a CPU HS for the DFI socket 479 board,

For this review, Microcool's North American distributor, Sidewinder Computers, sent us a complete motherboard with two NorthPoles installed: One for the CPU and one for the northbridge.

Twin NorthPoles... an unforeseen geological event?

Microcool NorthPole XE Whisper: Feature Highlights (from Microcool's web page)
Feature & Brief Our Comment
Modular and compact design Modular = compatible with multiple mounting systems.
Active cooling for CPU and Northbridge Not normally a good thing ... but see the next point
Noise well below 18dB That's quite a claim. We'll have to see.
Matchless noise/computing ratio AOpen's stock heatsink isn't exactly tough competition
Superior construction materials Copper and aluminum.

Microcool NorthPole XE Whisper Specifications
(from Microcool's web page)
Overall dimensions 42 (L) × 42 (W) × 40 (H) mm
Cooler dimensions 40 (L) × 40 (W) × 19.5 (H) mm
Heatsink material Copper
Manufacturing technology Skiving
Number of fins 28
Sheath material Anodized aluminum
Connecting system Modular with screw brackets
Fan dimensions 40 (L) × 40 (W) × 15 (H) mm
Fan voltage 5~12VDC
Voltage control Based on temperature
Fan speed 1500~5000 RPM
Air capacity 2.5~6.5 CFM
Fan noise 12~18 dB
Fan mechanics Double ball bearing
Fan Connector Three-pole
Weight 180g
Warranty 3 years

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