Intel Reference Coolers
Our previous S775 group tests had only 1 reference cooler from Intel, the low end aluminum model with a rather noisy fan (at highest speed setting), with a bit of encouragement from our readers we decided to include more models this time around.
The 3 Intel coolers in for test are very similar looking, you’ll have to look closely to notice a difference:
The one of the left is the heaviest, with copper insert and extra height, also a fan with more fanblades. The middle and right one are quite similar from this angle, but a closer look shows you the difference:
Two of them have copper insert in the middle, the low end is full aluminum. However the copper insert is hollowed out to reduce weight and cost most likely.
You should notice a height difference between the middle and left one, the aluminium fins are higher on the left one, but the copper insert remains the same size. The fan on the largest HSF is lower profile and features more blades and lower incline, this should translate into more airflow at lower noise, depending on the RPM, compared the two other more similar fan designs.
Installed they all pretty much look the same, after pushing the 4 mounting pins down they click into place and all that’s left to do is to connect the 4-pin connector the PWM fan.
The advantage of the PWM (pulse width modulation) fan speed over normal voltage based is more accurately control, you can very gradually increase/decrease the fan speed without having any large bumps along the way; this translates into a more enjoyable experience when the system is under load and requires more cooling, as the fan will speed up incrementally in very small steps.
Most recent motherboards have a 4-pin CPU fan header, and through the BIOS you can set an ideal CPU temperature, MAX CPU temperature and let the BIOS handle the rest, speeding up and slowing down the fan when needed to keep the CPU temperature within the chosen range. The Intel reference coolers go a step further still, the fan has a small temp probe and reads the heatsink’s temperature directly to influence the fan speed; so even if you don’t go into BIOS and enable SmartFan control, the Intel reference Fan will speed up under load and slow down when the CPU is running idle.
This dynamic fan control is an excellent feature for the end user, but less practical for a reviewer to get repeatable results; since room temperature differs a lot between periods of the year (not talking about different climates yet) the noise/temperature results in July will not be the same as those in December, even if we accurately track the room temperature.
With the Intel reference coolers we noticed that they have a sweet spot for the CPU, meaning that at a certain temperature, the heatsink will try to keep the CPU temp stable, and when the load increases, the fan speed gradually goes up, so your system running in the summer with a room temp of 25°C will have a CPU maximum temperature of ~60°C, and in the winter in your colder 18°C room, the CPU temperature will still be ~60°C, the difference will be in the amount of noise your computer is making.
In our previous S775 roundup we included the dBA readings from the Aluminum Intel HSF under worse case scenario; what noise does it make at full speed. But that speed is not obtained easily, most of the time the fan will spin slower; in our tests today we include CPU temperature and noise results with the fan at “auto” setting (if you call it that) in a 22°C room. We also include “worse” case scenario numbers for each reference cooler; just in case you do intend to try and overclock your system, or you live in/move to a warmer area.
Enough with this rant on the Intel reference coolers, time to tackle the aftermarket products, Arctic Cooling is up first ->