Cooler Comparison Testing
Cooler Testing Methodology
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 on the Z77-based system, a combination of LinX and FurMark were run over a 30 minute 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. For the Z87-based system testing, Aida64 System Stability Test was used in conjunction with FurMark for 30 minutes per run. After each run, the system was shut down and allowed to rest for 10 minutes to cool down. Then the CPU cooler was removed, cleaned, and remounted to the CPU with fresh thermal paste applied. This procedure was repeated a total of nine times for each cooler – three times for the stock speed runs on the Z77 and Z87-based systems, and 3 times for the overclocked speed runs on the Z77-based system.
Temperature measurements were taken directly from the CPU thermistors using RealTemp v3.70. For the Z77-based systems, the highest recorded value for idle and load temperature were used for the run. Because of the volatile nature of the Haswell thermistor readings, the Z87-based system temperatures were measured in a different manner. For idle temperatures, the highest recorded value was used for the run. For load temperatures, a series of three values were recorded: the average (high and low) across all cores, the average (high and low) across the single highest core, and the high temperature. To measure these average values accurately, the RealTemp readings were reset 20 minutes into the run while the CPU remained at full load. This allowed the software to measure accurate load high and lows for all cores over the last 10 minutes of the run with the three measured values taken from these readings.
Note that the temperature values are reported as deltas rather than absolute temperatures with the delta value reported calculated as CPU temperature – ambient temperature. For all tests, room ambient temperature was maintained between 26-28C. 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.
Intel Z77-based Ivy Bridge System Testing
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.
With an Ivy Bridge CPU at stock speeds, the XSPC Raystorm EX240 kit performs very well in comparison to the Corsair liquid cooler and the Thermalright air cooler. The XSPC kit shaved a whole 5c off of the Corsair's temps, while lagging the air cooler by 1C. At the ambient temperatures used for testing (26-28C), this performance is very good and track well to performance expectations. While the Thermalright cooler performed best overall, the XSPC kit's performance is at an advantage because of its lower operating noise.
CPU Overclocked Speed Testing
The CPU overclocked speed testing was conducted with known stable settings from a previous board review for the CPU with 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
With the Ivy Bridge CPU overclocked, the XSPC kit performs even better in comparison to the Corsair Hydro 100i cooler, coming in a full 7C cooler. The Thermalright air cooler still maintains is lead, but that performance comes with the price of fan noise. The XSPC Raystorm EX240 still remains a better performer with all variables considered.
Intel Z87-based Haswell System Testing
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 3.5GHz CPU speed, 3.5GHz Ring bus 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.
Using the Haswell test system at stock speeds, we see a much different performance picture with the XSPC kit. While the XSPC kit beats the Corsair cooler by 4C against the average temperature across all cores, the gulf widens to 7C when looking at the maximum core average and absolute temperatures. The XSPC kit remains tight with the Thermalright cooler as well, keeping within a respectable 1-2C across the board even with the CPU idling.
With the exception of the Corsair Hydro 100i liquid cooler, the cooler's fan speed remained constant throughout the run. The Corsair unit's fans are dynamically controlled by the unit's internal logic board. The XSPC kit out-performed all the other coolers with its operation barely noticeable over the case fans from the Cooler Master HAF-XB test bench. From these results, you can easily see that the Thermalright's performance comes at a high price with respect to fan noise.