Cooler Comparison Testing

Cooler Testing Methods

To best gage the quality of the system coolers under review, system CPU temperature and cooling system audio measurements were taken with the CPU idle and under load. To replicate CPU idle conditions, the system was rebooted and allowed to sit idle for 10 minutes. To replicate a stress system load, a combination of LinX and FurMark were run over a 1 hour period with LinX running for 500 loops with Memory set to All and FurMark running at 1280×1024 resolution and 2x MSAA in stress test mode. After each run, the system was shut down and allowed to rest for 10 minutes to cool down. Then the CPU heat plate was removed, cleaned, and remounted to the CPU with fresh thermal paste applied. This procedure was repeated a total of six times for each cooler – three times for the stock speed runs and three times for the overclocked speed runs.

Temperature measurements were taken directly from the CPU thermistors using RealTemp v3.70. For both the idle and load temperatures, the highest recorded value in the application were used for the run. Sound measurements of the system cooler where taken with the sound meter placed 3 feet away from the system with all other devices in the room silenced. The Sound Meter Pro applet on a Samsung Galaxy S3 mobile phone was used to measure decibel level.

CPU Stock Speed Testing

The CPU stock speed testing was conducted with the BIOS defaults set for the CPU and Turbo Mode disabled, equating to a 3.4GHz CPU speed, 1600MHz memory speed, and 100MHz base clock. The Intel SpeedStep functionality remained enabled for the duration of the testing to get realistic CPU idle performance conditions.

At stock CPU settings, all coolers performed well with the spread between the lowest and highest temps a mere four degrees Celsius. The H80i cooler had the highest fan noise because of its push-pull fan configuration with the H60 coming in with the least noticeable fan sound. In all cases, the fan noise was no more than a low hum.

CPU Overclocked Speed Testing

The CPU overclocked speed testing was conducted with known stable settings from a previous board review for the CPU and Turbo Mode disabled, equating to a 4.4GHz CPU speed, 1960MHz memory speed, and 105MHz base clock. The Intel SpeedStep functionality remained enabled for the duration of the testing to get realistic CPU idle performance conditions.

Board voltage settings were configured as follows:

  • CPU Core Voltage – 1.2750
  • CPU I/O Voltage – 1.150
  • DRAM Voltage – 1.6255
  • System Agent Voltage(SA) – 1.0850
  • CPU PLL Voltage – 1.7500
  • PCH 1.05 – 1.0995

In these tests, the cooler fan noise remained close to the reading measured in the stock testing with the H80i cooler exhibiting the loudest fan sounds. However, the H80i cooler was the only cooler out of the Corsair coolers tested to keep the system stable for the 1 hour duration of all runs (with the exception of the Swiftech Apogee HD-based cooling system that is). Both the H60 and H100i coolers had two out of their four runs complete successfully with the other two run resulting in benchmark test crash, system reboot, or blue screen. I was impressed that the H60 remained stable at all with its single fan configuration and thin profile radiator. At lower clock speeds, I have no doubt that the H100i and H60 coolers would be more than adequate to keep the system fully stable.  One thing to keep in mind is that the applications used in testing stress the system to excess, meaning that stability with them running ensures a fully stable system.  However, it also inflates the heat load that the cooler must dissipate because of the amount of work the CPU is forced to accomplish.

The theory behind the H80i's enhanced stability during this overclocking test was due to its radiator. While the H80i has a 120mm x 120mm radiator and the H100i has a bigger 120mm x 240mm radiator, the H80i's radiator is twice as thick as that of either the H100i or the H60. You can see this fact from the profile pictures shown with the H100i and H80i radiators sitting next to one another. The thicker radiator on the H80i gives the coolant more travel area and the heat more surface area for the radiator to do its job with. The thin profile of the H100i's radiator works against the cooler since the coolant is not given enough time and surface area with which to dissipate its heat load. This is further supported by the fact that the cooling potential of the H100i was not improved at all when running with a 4-fan setup in push-pull configuration.

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