Heatsink technology has rapidly improved over the last few years. The introduction of heatpipes, use of large radius fans and the sophisticated mounting mechanisms have all aided these developments. One area that has remained unchanged is the way these products are tested. The old way has proven to be inaccurate, unreliable and careless for comparing one heatsink to another. Luckily things are about to change for consumers looking to find accurate performance information that scales across all of TweakTown's CPU heatsink tests.
Intel and AMD are currently in a battle to reduce their mainstream processors power usage and heat output. Enthusiast products such as the FX and Extreme lines seem to be exempt from the trend and have been increasing steadily. Overclockers have always looked to push their thermal envelope, sometimes reaching 250 watts of heat output when using phase change cooling units.
With this amount of heat output companies were required to produce heatsinks which could handle the additional load. Traditionally the answer has been to produce larger products but this has proven to be unacceptable because more copper and aluminum increases costs. The latest trend has been to collect the heat with pipes filled with fluid and move it to an area where larger fans can remove the heat. Processor heatsink fans started out at around 40mm many years ago and now 90mm and 120mm are becoming normal.
Even though processors and their cooling devices have evolved, the way in which they are tested has stayed the same for many years. Up to this point reviews have stuck to placing a cooling product on a CPU attached to a motherboard and use unreliable sensors to measure performance. Not only are the sensors unreliable but testing environments are uncontrolled as well. The air surrounding a heatsink plays as much of a part in the cooling device's performance as unit construction does, in some cases more so. This lack of control makes for careless evaluations since the performance can change not only day to day but even hour to hour. If you are trying to determine performance between multiple products then the old way is as accurate as rolling the dice.
Today we are going to introduce our readers to a new method of CPU heatsink testing and show how the system works by testing a pair of retail AMD and Intel heatsinks that will be used as a baseline for all forth coming processor reviews. To show the accuracy of the tests, these products were tested at different times of different days with different room ambient temperatures.