For our CPU cooling tests, we use the same hardware, overclock and configuration for each test to minimize environment variables in testing. This allows for all results across all coolers tested on the platform to be viable as side-by-side examination for direct compare/contrast.
|CPU||Intel i9-10850k LGA1200 (Comet Lake), all 10 cores 4.6Ghz @ 1.190v (3.60Ghz stock speed, single-core boost @ 5.2Ghz)|
|Motherboard||MSI Z490 MEG Godlike (bios vers. 7C70v12)|
|Memory||Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB, 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4-3600|
|Storage||Corsair MP600 m.2 2280 NVMe, 500GB|
|Graphics||Gigabyte GTX 1050Ti|
|Power Supply||be quiet! Dark Power Pro11 1200w|
|Chassis||Corsair Graphite 760T|
|Monitoring||CrystalFontz CFA-633-TMI-KU, 4x Dallas One Wire WR-DOW-Y17 sensors|
|Fan Control||Corsair Commander Pro, 100%/50% PWM Speed profiles (liquid cooling pump always @100%, if applicable)|
|OS||Windows 10 Pro 64bit|
|Networking||Disconnected, not used|
|Thermal Compound||Arctic MX-4|
Data comparisons are based on data collected from testing performed on our new Intel i9-10850k system, including re-visiting many previously covered products which were originally covered on the prior testing platform, which pivoted around an i7-5930k (4.20ghz @1.20v).
All data reported for this article has been collected on the current Intel Core i9-10850K platform and will be maintained as like-for-like evaluation of ongoing cooling coverage.
Prime95 v29.4b8 (no AVX) is used for two-hour intervals, one managing fans at 50% PWM and the other at 100% PWM, with RPM measurements being taken every 3 seconds and averaged across the duration of each 2-hour capture. Omitting AVX instruction sets allows for accurate, 100% loads at chosen clock speeds, while allowing AVX instructions would provide higher (albeit unrealistic) synthetic CPU loads and excessive heat production, less indicative of real-world use.
This also allows for a greater range CPU coolers to be tested and compared without the need to configure the system differently for smaller coolers which may not handle the excessive thermal loads being generated during testing, while larger coolers might be better equipped to manage heat output produced by the i9-10850k.
While the test platform is quite capable of a 10-core overclock at 5.0Ghz and 1.265v, we were seeing 360mm AIOs struggle to keep core temperatures in check at lower fan speeds, providing insight that the enthusiast-grade i9’s need excellent cooling if the goal is overclocking.
HWInfo64 is used for real-time core temperature readout, thermal throttling alerts, motherboard power consumption, CPU speed and logging of data, while a CrystalFontz CFA-633-TMI-KU is used to monitor and later average both ambient room (2 probes) and motherboard voltage regulator heatsink (2 probes)
You are correct - it's incredibly difficult to beat the Noctua NH-D15, even though its an older cooler. It shows you how good it is and why EVERYONE is quick to recommend it if you can fit it into a case (and budget). It is also still $100, so again, we're looking at a market segment where someone is already spending large sums of money and 'wants to know what else is out there'. Not everyone wishes to opt for the same cooler just because it's been the benchmark for like....forever. This is also the same reason we have millions of flavors of ice cream, different car models in the same classification and why your local Foot Locker sells Nike, as well as Adidas .
Also have to consider that opinion is not the same as fact. Perspective is everything, and that all depends on your budget and goals. There is a huge trend in internet searches and inquiry about 'what is the best' (intersect of 'x', for example) when in fact, the question is 'what is the best but for minimal budget', making these types of questions not one of just being 'best' but also of 2-axis of evaluation ('X' against 'Y'). This does not apply to all, nor does it apply to all as a constant in every situation.
In terms of Threadripper usage - let's take for example our test system of a 2990WX and Gigabyte Aorus X399 Xtreme: The CPU is nearly $1900 alone. The motherboard is nearly $880. These are today's prices - March 31, 2021. High end TR4 system builders spending $2600+ on CPU/MB and would rather not have an AIO have options of only a real solid handful of powerful air-cooling options.
The IceGiant is large, but in terms of how large it is vs. the NH-D15, the IceGiant is more rectangular while the Noctua is more 'square' overall. Both are still huge.
And yes - it is heavy. By design it is significantly well-built and to be industrial-esque overall due to the roots of the parent company - one in which they've been applying this tech to large/heavy industrial and commercial machinery for quite some time. The prototype I tested was even larger (link to that is also listed) in the first paragraph. Always remember that there are backplates which distribute stress as well as the possibility that you can opt to have the motherboard horizontal if you'd prefer. No one is 'forcing' anyone to use a traditional/vertical case.
For noise - having a 360 AIO running fans at 100% can get pretty noisy, I have experienced this a lot in testing coolers over the past 4 years. This is why PWM curving is very important if you want to control noise levels.
Looks like the same result: This cooler can't really stretch its legs at anything below HEDT.
The Threadripper temps were higher on the Noctua due to saturating the heatpipes. That could be overcome by using thicker heatpipes; then the cooling is effectively limited by the ability of the fans to eliminate the heat. That can be achieved without all the extra weight of the Ice Giant.
Most 280's and 360's are cheaper, especially on sale. Im confused as to why the Darkrock pro was on part of the review then disapeared. That thing is $85 at newegg today in fact.