Testing

The XP-120 heatsink was tested with two different 120mm fans on an open frame K8 test rig consisting of the following components.  The ambient room air temperature was maintained at 24°C ±0.5°C.  The CPU was loaded by running Folding@Home 24/7.  Several dozen temperature reading were recorded and averaged over 2~3 days for each test.

 

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  • Asus K8N-E Deluxe nForce3-250 motherboard
  • AMD Athlon 64 3200+
  • Seasonic SuperTornado 400 watt ATX power supply
  • (2) Corsair CMX512-3200C2  DDR RAM
  • ATI Radeon 9800 Pro
  • WD800JB IDE HDD
  • Sony 16X DVD, FDD
  • Windows XP Pro with SP1

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To facilitate taking accurate CPU temperature measurements I attached a very small Omega thermocouple to the side of the Athlon 64 IHS with Arctic Alumina thermal epoxy.  The measurement equipment used during testing included:

  • CPU/IHS — Barnant Model 115 digital thermometer (accuracy +/- 0.4º C)
  • Ambient air — Barnant Model 115 digital thermometer (accuracy +/- 0.4º C)
  • Extech Model 407736 digital sound level meter (accuracy +/- 1.5 dB)

In addition to the low speed 120mm Panaflo L1A fan, I also used a very noisy 120mm Delta SHE fan to see how the XP-120 would respond to different rates of airflow. 

  • 120mm Panaflo L1A (FBA12G12L1A) 69 CFM, 30 dBA
  • 120mm Delta SHE (AFB1212SHE) 152 CFM, 3700 RPM, 53 dBA

The following data is presented for comparative purposes only.  Your actual results may be different depending on the variables unique to your system (CPU, overclock, ambient temperature, case air flow, temperature monitoring, etc). 

 

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CPU — Temperature reported by Asus PC Probe utility (internal diode)

Tc — Temperature obtained with calibrated thermocouple attached to IHS

Delta T — Fully loaded Tc temperature rise above ambient

dBA — Sound pressure level recorded 3′ away (background ~30 dBA)

 

For comparison, here are the results from several other popular HSFs for the K8 platform and the stock OEM aluminum HSF that comes bundled with the Athlon 64 3200+.  All HSFs were tested on the same CPU under the same conditions.

  • Cooler Master Hyper 6 with 80mm CM variable speed fan and 80mm Vantec Tornado
  • Gigabyte 3D Rocket Cooler-Pro with integrated, variable speed, blower-style fan
  • Zalman CNSP7000A-CU with integrated Zalman variable speed fan
  • Athlon 64 3200+ OEM aluminum heatsink with 70mm fan

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A word of caution: each of these heatsinks incorporates unique designs and very different fan styles and sizes, which makes a direct head-to-head comparison difficult.  Obviously though, some coolers still stand out above the rest.

 

The Thermalright XP-120 produced outstanding performance while still maintaining noise levels well below 40 dBA.  Even with the 120mm Panaflo L1A operating at 7V (barely audible) the XP-120 was able to cool the Athlon 64 3200+ better than most other coolers could do at much higher noise levels.  Replacing the quiet, low-flow Panaflo fan with the much noisier, high-speed Vantec Tornado produced the best temperatures I have ever seen using an air-cooled heatsink.

 

I tested the XP-120 with the Panaflo fan blowing down and also with the fan blowing up and found no measurable difference.  I also tried standing the test rig on end (tower-style case position) and again found no measurable difference in temperatures.

 

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