Archive: SPCR's Unique Heatsink Testing Methodology

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Reference Heatsinks

So, there you have it. You've waded through four pages of theory, and, hopefully, you've learned something. We realize that hearing about the nuts and bolts of heatsink testing isn't everybody's cup of tea, so here's something for the rest of you: We've re-tested four of our favorite heatsinks so that we have a frame of reference when we test our first heatsink on this new test bed. So, here's a quick summary of how the heavyweights performed.

The four heatsinks tested were:

All of the heatsinks except for the Zalman (which has its own proprietary fan) were tested with our reference 120mm fan. The results are presented below:

Ambient temperature during testing was 21°C.

Reference Heatsink Roundup
Fan Voltage
Scythe
Ninja
Thermalright
XP-120
Thermalright
Ultra-120
Zalman
CNPS9500 LED
°C Rise
°C/W
°C Rise
°C/W
°C Rise
°C/W
°C Rise
°C/W
12V
14
0.18
25
0.32
15
0.19
13
0.17
9V
16
0.21
26
0.33
17
0.22
16
0.21
7V
17
0.22
28
0.36
21
0.27
16
0.21
5V
21
0.27
34
0.44
26
0.33
19
0.24

This is not the place for extensive analysis, but a few results stand out:

  • The Zalman appears to be the best performer... until you realize that its stock fan produces much more airflow and noise at the various voltage levels than the reference fan does. At full speed, this difference is 37 dBA@1m vs. 22 dBA@1m. The stock fan doesn't reach 22 dBA@1m until it is run at 5V...
  • The XP-120 is clearly outclassed, and was beaten soundly by the rest of the heatsinks. Its day is past...
  • As we saw in the review of the Ultra-120, it and the Ninja are very close. Except, this time, it was the Ninja that came out on top. Consider this a warning against making a big deal out of a degree or two.

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Articles of Related Interest

Recommended Heatsinks
SPCR's Fan Testing Methodology
Scythe SCNJ-1000 Ninja Heatsink
Thermalright Gets Back on Top with the Ultra-120

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