Microcool NorthPole XE Whisper heatsink/fan

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NOISE RECORDINGS

Microcool NorthPole XE Whisper:

MP3: Microcool NorthPole XE Whisper, Idle - 24 dBA@1m

MP3: Microcool NorthPole XE Whisper, Load - 27 dBA@1m

Recordings of Comparable HSF:

MP3: AOpen Stock Heatsinks - 32 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 heatsink 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 NorthPole XE did not improve on performance of AOpen's stock CPU heatsink. Our Pentium M topped out at a relatively high 60°C, but it's important to keep in mind that the NorthPole is thermally controlled. The fan never even approached its rated maximum speed of 5,000 RPM, which means that it has been engineered to be quiet while sacrificing "extra" cooling efficiency. Lowering the CPU temperature would cost an increase in noise; as long as the system is stable, there is no substantial benefit to lowered CPU temperature.

Acoustically, when the processor is idling or under a light load, the baseline noise level of 24 dBA@1m of the NorthPole XE is a considerable improvement over the stock CPU cooler/fan, which measured 8 dBA louder. At high load, it's still better, but the advantage is not as great.

In some ways, the advantage of the NorthPole XE over the stock CPU cooler is a quirk of the AOpen motherboard: If the fan speed control feature worked properly, both the northbridge and CPU fans would have run slower and quieter, and there would have be little need for a quieter aftermarket HSF replacement. Simply adding a voltage controller such as a Zalman Fanmate to slow the stock HSF has about the same degree of noise reduction and the same price in cooling as a NorthPole XE. The big difference is cost, the Fanmate being available for just a few dollars, while the NorthPole XE is priced at $30.

The NorthPole XE makes more sense as a direct replacement for the northbridge HSF. It is far better than the stock NB HSF ? the intrinsic cooling power of the HS and the acoustic signature of the fan are both superior. The combination of the stock CPU HSF and the NorthPole XE for the NB performed best, both acoustically and thermally. If you're disappointed with the fan / noise control offered by AOpen or DFI socket 479 motherboards, the NorthPole XE may well be worth a try.

Pros

* Quieter than AOpen's stock coolers
* Secure installation
* Not too expensive
* Fan speed is self-regulated

Cons

* Fan shroud prone to resonance
* Too many parts / installation procedures
* Difficult to find
* Offset pads for CPU are too thick

Much thanks to Sidewinder Computer Systems for the NorthPole XE Whisper sample.

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SPCR Articles of Related Interest

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