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Test Setup And Acoustic Measurements

Is It Worth Upgrading Your Stock CPU Cooler?
By
System Hardware
Hardware
Details
CPU
Intel Core i7-920 (45 nm, 2.66 GHz, 8 MB L2 Cache)
Motherboard (Socket 1366)
MSI X58 Pro-E
Revision: 1.1, Chipset: Intel X58 + ICH10R, BIOS: 8.3
RAM
3 x 2 GB DDR3-1600 Corsair TR3X5G1600C8D
System Drive
Intel X25-E 64 GB SSD
Graphics
Zotac Geforce GTX 260²
GPU: Geforce GTX 260 (576 MHz), Graphics RAM: 896 MB DDR3 (1998 MHz)
Stream Processors: 216
Shader Clock: 1242 MHz
Power Supply
OCZ EliteXstream 800W
OCZ800EXS-EU
Benchmarks
Performance Measurements
Prime95 v25.5
Core Temp 0.99.5
System Software and Drivers
Driver
Details
Operating System
Windows Vista Ultimate SP1
Intel Chipset Drivers
Chipset Installation Utility 9.1.0.1007
Intel Storage Drivers
Matrix Storage Drivers 8.7.0.1007


Results: Noise Level

We measured the sound level at a distance of 6” (15 cm) on the right side of the cooler, which is why we might be measuring noise closer to the fan than Zalman did when it specified 20-39 dB(A). The noise difference isn’t really significant when the processor is idle, as in that state both coolers are powerful enough to keep temperature under control. For this reason, the fans would not have to spin at high speeds and hence the overall result is quiet operation.

Things are different at full processor load. While the Zalman cooler is efficient enough to spin at slow rotation speeds (even though the Core i7-920 runs at peak load at 2.66 GHz), Intel’s boxed cooler becomes noisy as it rises from 39.7 to 46.2 dB(A), and it gets even noisier when cooling the same processor running 3.7 GHz.

Zalman’s CNPS 10X would make more noise than the Intel retail cooler at its medium or high fan speed settings, but it is capable of significantly more effective temperature reduction. Check out the next page for the temperature results.

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Top Comments
  • 32 Hide
    pirateboy , September 3, 2009 8:27 AM
    at least include numbers in degrees Celsius in your tables if you are serious about your article...I doubt more than half of your readers use Fahrenheit...maybe only the US and some other backward countries use it still?
Other Comments
  • 4 Hide
    Korok , September 3, 2009 6:23 AM
    answers the question fully
    nice article
  • 2 Hide
    Twoboxer , September 3, 2009 7:12 AM
    What was the ambient temperature during this test?
  • 0 Hide
    drealar , September 3, 2009 7:35 AM
    Short simple article.
    This surely gives me the answer to a question I had in mine.
    'Never buy bulky aftermarket cooler if I Never OC'.
    Cool, now my choices are down to lighter low-profile Zalman performance coolers which will still beat stock ones :D 
  • 4 Hide
    leafblower29 , September 3, 2009 7:50 AM
    I was able to overclock to 3.6ghz on my Phenom II 940's stock cooler.
  • 2 Hide
    dingumf , September 3, 2009 7:51 AM
    leafblower29I was able to overclock to 3.6ghz on my Phenom II 940's stock cooler.


    Enjoys your slightly higher temps
  • 1 Hide
    yellosnowman , September 3, 2009 7:55 AM
    good article on the zalman cpns10x but I would like to see a Thermalright 120 TRUE black with 2x NF-p12 :)  2 best fans with best heatsink
  • 0 Hide
    leafblower29 , September 3, 2009 7:56 AM
    dingumfEnjoys your slightly higher temps

    they aren't that much higher.
  • 2 Hide
    gti88 , September 3, 2009 7:58 AM
    I think, Hyper 212 is far better choice. Zalman's too noisy and twice more expensive.
  • 6 Hide
    Anonymous , September 3, 2009 8:08 AM
    some aftermarket coolers are geared toward superior cooling, others are geared toward silent or near silent operation.
    it's not clear how this test with one cooler can make such a point. you would have to test at least two coolers against the stock cooler. one with superior cooling, and another that is super quiet, at say a certain (entry level?) price range.
    this zalman cooler may be a good cooler, but is not an ace either in cooling or in silence.
  • 6 Hide
    ravenware , September 3, 2009 8:14 AM
    K

    A round of coolers would be more beneficial. Most of the readers on TH would immediately know the answer to the elementary question raised in the article...seems a little strange to propose the question and then only bench one aftermarket cooler.
  • -2 Hide
    tomvertommen , September 3, 2009 8:19 AM
    It would be nice to see a noise level comparison between the stock cooler and the CNPS10X Quiet.
  • 32 Hide
    pirateboy , September 3, 2009 8:27 AM
    at least include numbers in degrees Celsius in your tables if you are serious about your article...I doubt more than half of your readers use Fahrenheit...maybe only the US and some other backward countries use it still?
  • -3 Hide
    Anonymous , September 3, 2009 8:38 AM
    I still use an Intel stock cooler with really good results. But I added a metal X-bar to the bottom of it and screwed the stock cooler to this X-bar instead of using the springs. To my experience this makes a big difference.

    The motherboard bends too easily under the weight of the cooler and the springs. This reduces the pressure from the CPU to the cooler and gives poor heat conduction. Also the cooling elements of other components in the neighbourhood of the CPU on the Asus board had bad contact because of the sever bending of the motherboard.
  • 0 Hide
    anonymous x , September 3, 2009 8:39 AM
    pirateboyat least include numbers in degrees Celsius in your tables if you are serious about your article...I doubt more than half of your readers use Fahrenheit...maybe only the US and some other backward countries use it still?

    when you first go to tom's hardware you select your languages, and there are 2 english options i think. I wonder if it changes to celsius for other countries besides the US. Doesn't matter for me, I know both systems and can convert between them.
  • 4 Hide
    amnotanoobie , September 3, 2009 9:02 AM
    forestersome aftermarket coolers are geared toward superior cooling, others are geared toward silent or near silent operation.it's not clear how this test with one cooler can make such a point. you would have to test at least two coolers against the stock cooler. one with superior cooling, and another that is super quiet, at say a certain (entry level?) price range.this zalman cooler may be a good cooler, but is not an ace either in cooling or in silence.

    As much as I don't want to endorse another site, frostytech already has a list going (top 10 for performance, and a top 10 for silence):
    http://www.frostytech.com/top5heatsinks.cfm




  • -5 Hide
    Anonymous , September 3, 2009 9:33 AM
    Would like a vote on how many TH readers know aftermarket coolers are better for overclocking and how many dont!
  • 0 Hide
    anamaniac , September 3, 2009 10:08 AM
    How about comparing a TRUE and a CM V8 also?

    *Wishing I bought a TRUE instead of a V8*
  • 0 Hide
    Pei-chen , September 3, 2009 11:18 AM
    Wow, this is a Tom's classic article. You guys haven't reviewed heatsinks for so long.
  • 0 Hide
    verrul , September 3, 2009 11:23 AM
    wait zalman makes their money off their mid end silent cooling solutions not their high end ones. Always better to use aftermarket imo. I have wifey's comp running same x2 6000 be i am hers isn't overclocked but still we had to put an aftermarket zalman 7500 in this case cooler on it to help with the poor case airflow. She absolutely has to have the side on.
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