ZEROtherm CORE92 Direct-Touch CPU Cooler

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Before thermal testing, we took some basic physical measurements.

ZEROtherm CORE92:
Approximate Physical Measurements
450 g
Fin thickness
0.34 mm
Fin spacing
1.54 mm
Vertical Clearance
43 mm (measured from the motherboard PCB to the heatsink's bottom fin)
Horizontal Overhang
N/A (measured from the edge of the heatsink to the top edge of our test motherboard's PCB)

Comparison: Approximate Fin Thickness & Spacing
Fin Thickness
Fin Spacing
Scythe Ninja 2
0.39 mm
3.68 mm
Thermalright HR-01 Plus
0.45 mm
3.15 mm
Noctua NH-U12P
0.44 mm
2.63 mm
Noctua NH-C12P
0.47 mm
2.54 mm
Prolimatech Megahalems
0.50 mm
2.00 mm
Xigmatek HDT-S1283
0.33 mm
1.96 mm
Cooler Master Hyper N520
0.38 mm
1.72 mm
Xigmatek HDT-SD964
0.33 mm
1.72 mm
ZEROtherm CORE92
0.34 mm
1.54 mm
Thermalright Ultra-120
0.45 mm
1.42 mm

Testing was done according to our unique heatsink testing methodology, and the included fan was profiled using our standard fan testing methodology. A quick summary of the components, tools, and procedures follows below.

Key Components in Heatsink Test Platform

  • Intel Pentium D 950 Presler core. TDP of 130W; under our test load, it measures 78W including efficiency losses in the VRMs.
  • Asus P5Q-EM motherboard. A microATX board with integrated graphics and short solid-state capacitors around the CPU socket, and a diminutive northbridge heatsink for maximum compatibility.
  • Intel X25-M 80GB 2.5" solid-state drive.
  • 1GB of Corsair XMS2 DDR2 memory. 2 x 512MB PC2-8500.
  • FSP Zen 300W fanless power supply.
  • Arctic Silver Lumière: Special fast-curing thermal interface material, designed specifically for test labs.
  • Nexus 92 fan (part of our standard testing methodology; used when possible with heatsinks that fit 92x25mm fans)

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • Seasonic Power Angel for measuring AC power at the wall to ensure that the heat output remains consistent.
  • Custom-built, four-channel variable DC power supply, used to regulate the fan speed during the test.
  • PC-based spectrum analyzer: SpectraPlus with ACO Pacific mic and M-Audio digital audio interfaces.
  • Anechoic chamber with ambient level of 11 dBA or lower
  • Various other tools for testing fans, as documented in our standard fan testing methodology.
  • SpeedFan, used to monitor the on-chip thermal sensor. This sensor is not calibrated, so results are not universally applicable.
  • CPUBurn P6, used to stress the CPU heavily, generating more heat than most real applications. Two instances are used to ensure that both cores are stressed.
  • Throttlewatch 2.01, used to monitor the throttling feature of the CPU to determine when overheating occurs.

Load testing was accomplished using CPUBurn to stress the processor, and the graph function in SpeedFan was used to make sure that the load temperature was stable for at least ten minutes. The stock fan was tested at various voltages to represent a good cross-section of its airflow and noise performance.


Stock Fan Testing

The stock fan is constructed of rigid, translucent plastic to scatter the light from two blue LEDs. Its blades have hooked leading edges and almost straight trailing edges, similar to the venerable Yate Loon D12SL-12.

Stock Fan Specifications
Manufacturer Power Logic Power Rating 2.4 W
Model Number PLA09225S12M Airflow Rating 56.7 CFM
Bearing Type Sleeve RPM Rating 900~2500 RPM
Hub Size 1.54" Noise Rating Under 19.5 dBA
Frame Size 92 x 92 x 25 mm Header Type 4-pin PWM
Weight 90 grams Starting Voltage 4.3V
The data in the blue cells is provided by the manufacturer; we measured the data cited in the green cells

Noise Level
34 dBA
2340 RPM
20 dBA
1510 RPM
16 dBA
950 RPM
15 dBA
690 RPM
11 dBA
450 RPM

Fan @ 12V: The fan was extremely loud, with a whiny, high-pitched drone and a heavy amount of turbulence. Very tonal.

Fan @ 9V: The noise level dropped off significantly. The fan's pitch lowered to a more tolerable hum. At this level the metal fan cover started to rattle from vibration.

Fan @ 7V: The noise level reached what we would consider 'quiet' though the hum from the fan's bearing was still noticeable. More annoying was the rattle of the top cover — tightening the screws reduced this dramatically.

Fan @ 5V: The fan was all but inaudible at one meter's distance. Up-close, the bearing was very clicky.

Overall the fan sounds like a typical translucent fan, harsh at high speed, and mildly agitating at low speed.

Cooling Results

ZEROtherm CORE92 w/ stock 92mm fan
Fan Voltage
°C Rise
34 dBA
20 dBA
16 dBA
15 dBA
11 dBA
ZEROtherm CORE92 w/ reference 92mm fan
18 dBA
13 dBA
11 dBA
Load Temp: CPUBurn for ~10 mins.
°C Rise: Temperature rise above ambient (20°C) at load.
°C/W: based on the amount of heat dissipated by the CPU (measured 78W); lower is better.

The CORE92's overall performance was surprisingly good with high airflow. With the fan at full speed, the CPU temperature was only 9°C above ambient, matching the lowest result we have ever achieved. Sure, the noise level was terrible but this is still an impressive feat for a heatsink equipped with a 92mm fan. When the fan voltage was reduced to 9V, the noise level was cut dramatically while performance only suffered by 3°C. Clearly the inclusion of a 2300 RPM fan was overkill.

At 7V the CORE92's fan measured 16 dBA — equivalent to our reference Nexus 120mm fan at 12V. Thermal rise at this level was 19°C, only a couple of degrees shy of the Scythe Ninja 2. At 6V, the difference in noise was negligible, but the CPU temperature climbed by 10°C. At this point the CORE92 started to perform more like a 92mm cooler. At 5V, the fan reached our anechoic chamber's noise floor and performance degraded by an additional 15°C.

Switching the fan to our reference 92mm model did not result in better temperatures, at least not until the fan was dialed back to the point where it was completely inaudible at one meter's distance. Despite the measured noise level, the Nexus 92mm fan sounded much better at 12V than the ZEROtherm stock fan until its speed was lowered to about 6V, though up close the difference was still noticeable. Unfortunately the Nexus fan simply doesn't generate the amount of pressure and airflow the CORE92 requires to perform well.

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