Arctic Cooling Alpine 7 Pro: The Alpine 7 Revisited

Cooling
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PHYSICAL DETAILS

The heatsink itself is about as simple as they come: An octagonal block of extruded aluminum topped by a fan. The fan is the most complex (and probably the most expensive) part of the package. It's not just a stock OEM fan pulled off a shelf somewhere either; Arctic Cooling has adapted one of their soft-mounted, frameless fans by adding simple plastic clips that hold it securely against the heatsink fins.


A simple extruded aluminum fin based topped by a frameless 92mm fan.

The fin block is slightly smaller than the original Alpine 7 because of the need to make space on the corners for the four pushpins. Thus, the block has been trimmed down to size and the overhanging fins that prevented pushpins in the original have been removed. A few fins have been added on either side so that the fan blades no longer hang over the sides, but this doesn't fully compensate for the surface area lost elsewhere.

The fins alternate between two slightly different lengths so that the fan's frame only makes contact with about half of the fins. This is probably to allow better airflow in between the fins. At the interface closest to the fan blades, the apparent fin spacing is double the width of the actual fin spacing further below, which might mean less impedance and less air turbulence (due to back pressure). We've seen alternating fins on other heatsinks, such as the Scythe Infinity and some older heatsinks, too, so the feature must be relatively effective.


Fins alternate between two different lengths.

The mounting system requires no assembly, but it can be disassembled for repairs or by the curious. It consists of two steel bars that screw into the bottom of the fin block. Each bar holds two of Intel's plastic pushpins. Installing the heatsink in a system is tool-free, and fairly easy to do. (Unlike many of the massive heatsinks we've tested, this heatsink stays inside the boundary of the four pins, so that that access to the pins from the top is unrestricted. This is critical for ease of use with the Intel push pins.) First time users may struggle a bit with knowing which way to keep the pins twisted (Intel's arrow markings can be a bit counterintuitive), but this is an issue with Intel's design, not Arctic Cooling's.


Standard Intel pushpins.

The base of the heatsink comes with a thick layer of thermal compound pre-applied. Arctic Cooling boasts of using their own high performance MX-2 thermal compound, but so long as there is something between the heatsink and the CPU, the exact thermal compound used is more or less irrelevant. For testing purposes, we cleaned off the MX-2 compound and replaced it with Arctic Silver Lumière as per our standard testing methodology.

The base is not especially smooth or polished; there are machining marks on the bottom of our sample that run with the grain of the aluminum in the base. As with the choice of thermal compound, the actual difference in thermal performance is pretty minimal.


A large square of pre-applied MX-2 thermal compound.

FAN

The fan is the most unusual part of the Alpine 7 Pro. It's a frameless 92mm model adapted from Arctic Cooling's Arctic Fan 9 PWM. The current rating is slightly higher at 0.15A vs. 0.13A, and the frame is adapted to fit on the fin block, but the fans are otherwise pretty similar. We've examined a 120mm version of the same fan and been somewhat unimpressed by the real-use effectiveness of all the low-noise design features. However, we thought better of the fan on the original Alpine 7.

For those who haven't seen them before, Arctic Cooling's fan have two features designed to reduce noise: A "frameless" design, and a mounting system that incorporates four soft rubber grommets to prevent vibration from causing resonance. It's a good system in theory, but in practice the whine of the motor is still the main source of noise at high speeds. At low speeds, turbulence and resonance are greatly reduced, so the anti-vibration measures tend to be unnecessary.

Nonetheless, the fans on Arctic Cooling coolers have been some of the quietest stock fans around, especially at low speeds. We expect the same excellent performance out of the Alpine 7 Pro.


The fan is mounted on a heatsink-specific frame.



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