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 Post subject: Best top-down coolers H2/2009 - for i7 and high thermal load
PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 7:38 am 
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This is a work in progress.

Most core i7 boards have passive heat pipe cooling for chipset & VRM area. Regardless of this they tend to get very hot, especially in setups where overclocking, low air-flow inside the case, or side-to-side cpu cooling is used.

For this reason, this thread is dedicated to top-down coolers that, esp. ones that have a LGA 1366 (e.g. Core i7) retention mechanism. That is, heatsinks that work by allowing a downward airflow from the fan towards the cpu socket. This offers some auxiliary cooling for chipset, RAM and VRM and other related motherboard areas near the CPU socket. All this in SPCR spirit, so no leaf-blowers - or coolers that cannot be modified to be quiet.

NB! This is a mish-mash compilation of various reviews and by no means a replacement for a i7 top-down cooler round up by MikeC (hint!).

The top i7 top-down coolers at the time of writing this are probably:

XILENCE Black Hawk COPPER Edition
Link to non-copper version specs (at least weight is wrong: http://www.xilence-lab.de/News-Details. ... .html?&L=1
+ excellent cooling, even with Scythe S-Flex SFF21D fan, which can be swapped in place of the original fan. Surpassing AXP-140 and Kabuto in most cases even with S-Flex fan
+ apparently good assembly and retention, flat base
+ Low profile at 90mm. With the included fan it's 14.4 cm so should fit inside most tower cases, especially when the fan is swapped for a normal 120x120x38mm sized model
- massive weight, 1.2kg
- supplied fan very loud beyond 50% RPM (PWM controlled) & poor performance with original fan at 5V
- availability may be limited
- may have clearance issues with RAM and around socket area
c. 55€
! Do not confuse with the ordinary Black Hawk (non-copper edition), the efficiency of which is markedly inferior

Thermalright AXP-140
+ Very good cooling ability. May edge past Black Hawk Copper at higher air flows
+ Very low profile at 70mm (without fan)
+ good screw type retention mechanism, flat base
+ good availability
+/- does not come with a fan
- very low profile may cause issues with RAM modules and VRM heatpipes on some boards (check compatibility)
c. 45€

Scythe Kabuto
+ Good cooling performance at low volumes - edges past AXP-140 then (NB! see below)
+ Supplied with a good PWM controlled fan, Scythe Slipstream SY1225SL12LM
+ weight is decent at 730g (without fan)
+ less clearance issues as profile is not as low. Height is 132mm without fan
+/- Inconsistent thermal review performance. Some show it performing near par with AXP-140, some much less so (maybe not performing optimally at higher air flows)
- Scythe's pushpin retention mechanism
c. 40€

Noctua NH-C12P
+ Good low volume cooling, probably on par with Kabuto
+ good retention mechanism
+ low(ish) profile 114m, decent weight at 730g with fan
+ comes with a decent fan NF-P12-1300 (no PWM though)
- not quite the best performance
c. 60€

Scythe Orochi rev. B
? Cooling efficiency mostly still unknown, appears to lose to Kabuto in preliminary tests (?!)
+ good retention mechanism, no more pushpins
+ comes with a 140mm fan with 120mm mounting holes, Scythe Kaze Maru SY1425SL12L
+ can be changed to side-to-side fan orientation (from top of the case towards the PSU)
- very big at 120x155x194mm (WxHxD) and weighs 1.2kg, clearance issues with RAM
- very tall at 18.5cm with the included fan, may not fit most cases, even tower cases
- difficult to install
c. 50€

References:

Black Hawk Copper vs. AXP-140 (Kabuto tested earlier, did not perform adequately in X-bit Lab tests)
http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/cooler ... per_7.html

Black Hawk Copper vs. Kabuto vs. AXP-140
http://www.dexgo.com/index.php?site=art ... re&seite=6

Black Hawk - non-copper acoustics (assuming the fan is the same)
http://www.digitalversus.de/duels.php?t ... =3641&ph=5

Kabuto vs AXP-140 vs SI-128 SE vs. IFX-14
http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/cooler ... html#sect0

AXP-140 vs IFX-14 vs Muge 2 vs Megahalems vs True Copper vs NH-U12P
http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/cooler ... html#sect0

AXP-140 review - clearance pics
http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/cooler ... 140_4.html

Scythe Kabuto vs NH-C12P vs Zipang vs Samurai Master vs Ninja Mini
http://www.pc-experience.de/wbb2/thread ... adid=28790

Scythe Kabuto vs Megahalems vs Thors Hammer vs Black Hawk Copper - acoustics (with the supplied fan of each)
http://www.pcgameshardware.de/aid,68328 ... w=original

NH-C12P vs AXP-140 - using same Noctua fan, cpu temp (prosessorin lämpötila) and mobo temp (emolevyn lämpötila)
http://plaza.fi/muropaketti/artikkelit/ ... tailussa,4


Orochi rev. B
http://www.easycom.com.ua/data/cooler/0 ... 8/?lang=ru

All of the above are likely to equal or perform better than the current reigning SPCR top-down champion, Xigmatek HDT-D1284, in most airflow situations.

If you know of any other excellent top-down coolers with low noise and high thermal cooling, please post in this thread.


Last edited by halcyon on Thu Jul 23, 2009 1:40 am, edited 4 times in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 10:12 am 
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Unless you are planning on some serious over-clocking the Noctua NH-C12P will be quite OK, see http://www.pureoverclock.com/review.php?id=765&page=4.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 11:19 am 
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Thanks lodestar. I've modified the post to be more informative to others. I don't know how I missed Noctua NH-C12P originally. I'll add it. Thanks!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 11:42 am 
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Noctua do have a new model of the NH-C12P on the way (September/October?) it is the SE14 which is fitted with a 140mm PWM fan. See http://www.dvhardware.net/article36025.html.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 12:25 pm 
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Looks interesting. Nice to see that top-down cooler market has not been abandoned by heatsink manufacturers. I'll try to remember to add it when we get first reviews.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2009 1:24 pm 
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Not many users here favour top-down cooling anymore. I know of only a few members here who favour it: thejamppa, doveman, you and myself. :) Oh, and also Mats. How could I forget Mats?! :wink: We must be a special select group. 8) There are probably others, but I haven't discussed much with them.

Even MikeC and senior SPCRers said they favoured tower cooling and that exhausting heat outside of case through rear/top fan was their recommendation. Mike is not convinced that chipset heatsinks, VRMs and MOSFETS suffer as a result of no peripheral airflow, but he also states that it doesn't hurt to have the extra airflow flow onto them.

The argument against top-down cooling is that if the air inside the case is especially hot, the downward blowing fan will just blow the warmer air around at angles back onto the motherboard and in the case, and instead of cooling the components (the supposed benefit of top-down coolers), it spreads warm air back over and around it again. Whether this is entirely true, I don't know. Maybe in a hot environment or hot running system, it can have a negative impact. But the same can also be said of a tower heatsink setup as there is nothing to cool the motherboard's components (other than maybe a tiny bit of peripheral airflow through a guide or "spoiler as in Arctic Cooling Freezer and Xigmatek HDT-S1283) unless another fan is set up somewhere specifically for that purpose.

You have gone for i7 platform which does run hot, so I can understand your anxiety over the motherboard components. There are still a few good top-down coolers available but it is severely outnumbered now by high performance and heavy tower heatsinks.

Even though I am an advocate for motherboard components cooling, it is almost becoming a losing battle as fewer manufacturers put effort into top-down coolers anymore. Add to that the smaller range and availability of good top-down coolers and the high price for the best performing ones (Noctua!) and it is almost enough to make me switch to tower heatsinks next time around.

If someone can design a heatsink that can act as tower and top-down at the same instance, that would be a great idea. One fan to flow air out and another to flow air down. I think Scythe tried something similar with an angled heatsink, but it wasn't particularly great. Who knows? Could be something for someone to look into.


Edited to include Mats in The Super Awesome Elite Special Forces of Top-Downers Cooling
Here's your Badge, brother. Wear it with honour and do all that you can to defend the Top-Downers 8)


Last edited by Shamgar on Sat Jul 25, 2009 11:40 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2009 2:26 pm 
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Shamgar wrote:
The argument against top-down cooling is that if the air inside the case is especially hot, the downward blowing fan will just blow the warmer air around at angles back onto the motherboard and in the case, and instead of cooling the components (the supposed benefit of top-down coolers), it spreads warm air back over and around it again.

Well that's not because of the cooler design, it's a consequence of a bad computer case or build.
If the cooler gets air from the outside, or exhausts to the outside then the temps will drop, obviously, no matter if it's a tower cooler or not.
I don't think a top-down cooler with uncontrolled airflow should be compared with a tower cooler with controlled airflow...

By the way, I also prefer these coolers! :wink: Especially if they are not taller than a full size graphics card, even with the fan included.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2009 2:39 pm 
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Something I've always been curious about is how effective a bit of ducting would be with a top down cooler in a case with the Intel 'Thermally Advantages Chassis' would be. Either ducting the TAC intake area to the 120mm CPU fan or even reversing the CPU fan on a blow down cooler to make it a 'pull up' cooler that draws the air up through the cooler and then is ducted away to the Intel TAC hole which would be functioning as an exhaust instead.

Anyone ever tried anything like this?

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jul 25, 2009 12:02 am 
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Shamgar wrote:
Not many users here favour top-down cooling anymore. I know of only a few members here who favour it: thejamppa, doveman, you and myself. :) We must be a special select group. 8) There are probably others, but I haven't discussed much with them.


Well, it's nice go against the grain every once in a while, isn't it.

I have of course employed tower coolers with cooling flows parallel to the motherboard.

However, I wanted to try something different for the i7 build.

I also have a very stacked and stuffed case, even though it's maxi-tower. Never been able to achieve ordered air flows inside that, not even with tower coolers. So I thought I'd give this a try.

Currently I have XILENCE Black Hawk COPPER on order and depending on how hot the NB and mosfets get, I may have to upgrade those coolers to thermalright aftermarket heatsinks as well.

Now as to the NB and VRM cooling. In all tests I've seen, the CPU almost never gets as hot as the VRM area, often the NB gets also hotter. In this regard blowing even warm air over it through the cpu heatsink might actually help a bit. But as always, I believe the proof is in the (eating of the) pudding.

The case I use has air intake holes at the side of the case roughly at the position of the cpu socket. I've been wondering if could use that as an air intake place with a duct.

I'll report back when I get all my parts and can commence the build. It'd be nice to do it first with stock cooler and VRM sinks and again with top-down Blackhawk + Thermalright, but I'm getting old and I'm not sure I want to build this thing twice :) It would make for a nice comparison though.


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 25, 2009 8:09 am 
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Mats wrote:
Well that's not because of the cooler design, it's a consequence of a bad computer case or build.
If the cooler gets air from the outside, or exhausts to the outside then the temps will drop, obviously, no matter if it's a tower cooler or not.
I don't think a top-down cooler with uncontrolled airflow should be compared with a tower cooler with controlled airflow...

Okay, thanks for explaining. I am a "layman", not an engineer or technically minded person, so I can only offer my experience in a general or roundabout way.

Mats wrote:
By the way, I also prefer these coolers! :wink: Especially if they are not taller than a full size graphics card, even with the fan included.

Great! I will add you to the list of very cool people. How's that?

JamieG wrote:
Something I've always been curious about is how effective a bit of ducting would be with a top down cooler in a case with the Intel 'Thermally Advantages Chassis' would be. Either ducting the TAC intake area to the 120mm CPU fan or even reversing the CPU fan on a blow down cooler to make it a 'pull up' cooler that draws the air up through the cooler and then is ducted away to the Intel TAC hole which would be functioning as an exhaust instead.

Anyone ever tried anything like this?

Most cases I would consider don't have a T.A.C. so it's not something I could do. If it acted as an exhaust with a reversed fan, I can see how it could be as good as a front-back setup of a tower cooler.

halcyon wrote:
Now as to the NB and VRM cooling. In all tests I've seen, the CPU almost never gets as hot as the VRM area, often the NB gets also hotter. In this regard blowing even warm air over it through the cpu heatsink might actually help a bit. But as always, I believe the proof is in the (eating of the) pudding.

Some new boards based on i7 platform have quite good component cooling already, albeit many miss out on heatsinks on VRMs and MOSFETS. This shows at least the board makers anticipate potential overheating if heatsinks were not included. However this issue could be looked at further. Many people claim that board components can handle extreme temperatures by default, but even so, I would prefer it if their temperatures did not reach so high in the first place.

halcyon wrote:
I'll report back when I get all my parts and can commence the build. It'd be nice to do it first with stock cooler and VRM sinks and again with top-down Blackhawk + Thermalright, but I'm getting old and I'm not sure I want to build this thing twice :) It would make for a nice comparison though.

I wish you well with your build. I'm glad I and others here could be of help to you.


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 25, 2009 11:11 am 
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I favour indeed topdown coolers because even they're not top performer vs. tower coolers, the motherboard socket area's cooling does have impact.

2 out of my 3 machines are topdown cooled. Before Xigmatek I had all three machines topdown cooled but accessing ram and 4-pin CPU power cord was huge effort and when I got Xigmatek HDT-S1283 RS cheap I bought that and sold TR SI-128 SE to my friend.

But yeah, I think having lower temperature in mosfets, cpu area components, ram and NB is worth of few extra degree's in CPU.

Tower cooler might be more effective in my Solo. But I am very happy of my two topdown coolers. Scythe Zipang and Noctua C12P. Thermalright SI-128 SE was wonderful and excellent performer too.

Let us The Elite Top-downers know how the Xilence Blackhawk performs. It seems intresting cooler. And welcome to the small.... ( very small ) Elite Top-Downers ^^

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