LGA775 Low Profile Heatsink Roundup

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These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn't hear it from one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

The recording starts with 10 second segments of room ambiance, then the fan at various levels. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don't change the volume setting again.


Scythe Big Shuriken: The best cooler of the bunch, in a league of its own. Not only did it claim a substantial performance lead, Big Shuriken easily has the smoothest, quietest fan. Our only but very serious complaint is the LGA775 stock mounting mechanism — it is a very poor choice given the tiny space between them and the main fin array above it. Installation is almost a guaranteed exercise in frustration unless you happen to be gnome.

Arctic Alpine Alpine 7 GT: The Alpine 7 GT is a fairly good choice for a small LGA775 cooler, especially if it is to replace one of Intel's low profile stock cooling units. At higher fan speeds, it is a step below the full-sized Intel heatsinks, but as the fan speed is decreased, its wide fin spacing gives it the advantage. Its fan is not the best, but at lower speeds it is fairly innocuous, especially compared to the competition.

Thermolab Micro Silencer: The Micro Silencer performs about the same as Intel's full-sized stock coolers with moderate airflow, but with low airflow its cooling capability takes a hit, to the point where it struggles just to beat its smaller brother, the Nano Silencer. Its fan is also poor acoustically, so it's not a worthwhile substitute for a full-sized stock heatsink.

Thermolab Nano Silencer: The Nano Silencer's height made Intel's Q9550 low-profile copper core cooler its only fair competition in today's roundup. Unfortunately, it only outperforms the Q9550 cooler at low fan speeds when cooling becomes severely compromised. That's like winning a race to see who can jump off a cliff first — it doesn't give it any real bragging rights. Its fan does sound slightly better, but it is easily drowned out by the sound of its most useful application: cooking bacon.

To be frank, except for the Big Shuriken and Alpine 7 GT, we wouldn't use any of the heatsinks tested today placed in a system on a desk next to us. Their poor acoustic qualities become noticeable with close proximity, whether you crank the fans way down or not. At one meter's distance, they sound adequate at lower fan speeds — you won't hear them unless you make an effort, your ears are sensitive, or you're in a very quiet room. Also, we would only recommend their use with 65W processors. The Shuriken is the only one that can adequately cool a 95W processor quietly.

Our roundup is by no means conclusive; there are many other low profile heatsinks out there. But it seems likely that the niche of a quiet yet effective low profile cooler is underpopulated at this time. If readers have any good candidates for our next low profile heatsink/fan roundup, let us know in the forum discussion thread for this article.

Our thanks to Scythe, Arctic Cooling, Thermolab, and Intel for the heatsinks used in today's roundup.

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