The Criteria - Cooling, Noise And Ease Of Installation
A cooler can receive a maximum score of 30 points in the tests, which are totaled from scores in three disciplines: cooling performance, noise and ease of installation.
The lower a cooler can keep the CPU's core temperature, the better its cooling performance. In this assessment, noise does not play a role at all. If, for example, a product is unable to cool the processor to the point where it does not have to throttle its clock speed, that cooler will receive 0 points. Of course, it is entirely possible that the same cooler could have no trouble at all cooling a processor with lower thermal power dissipation, but we specifically chose Intel's Core 2 Quad QX6850 for reasons explained above. Points are awarded separately for each kind of cooling, e.g. water, air, compressor, passive, etc. Thus, a passive cooler may score 10 points where a water cooler may only be awarded 8, even though the water cooler is able to keep the core temperature lower.
If the cooler's shipping box specifically advertises the product as "Intel quad-core ready", it automatically fails if it cannot back up this claim in practice. Some of the review candidates in the roundup are sold for use with lower thermal dissipation grades, and are marked accordingly on their retail boxes. These are tested separately on a Core 2 Duo processor.
We measure the noise produced by the coolers at a distance of 50 cm. Any sounds produced by the product, such as whirring, rattling and buzzing, are a component of the measurement. A passive cooler receives 10 points. If the noise is so high that it makes working on the PC impossible, or if it produces distracting noises such as a whine, it scores 0 points.
Under the heading called installation, we rate the ease of use when mounting and installing the cooler. A product cannot reach a score of 10 points if the motherboard has to be removed from the PC case for the cooler to be installed. If more than two hands are required for the installation of the product, meaning a second person has to assist, the product receives a score of 0 points - and this is not as rare an occurrence as you might expect.
These seemingly draconian evaluation measures are the response to the large number of coolers in this roundup. Otherwise, all coolers' scores would congregate somewhere in the middle ground. The final score is not exclusively a result of the individual disciplines' scores, either - sometimes, our overall impression of a product can't be expressed simply as a summation of the three test criteria alone.