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CPU Cooler Testing and Methodology (October 2016)

By: Chad Sebring | Editorials in Cases, Cooling & PSU | Posted: Oct 28, 2016 4:42 pm

Thermal Paste

 

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As far as thermal paste is concerned, no matter the paste that may ship with the cooler, we default to using ARCTIC MX-2. We choose this paste for a few reasons. First, it is affordable and widely available across all markets. Secondly, it is easy to clean from the coolers and more importantly, the IHS between tests. Lastly, we like the way this paste spreads across the IHS, where many other pastes can be thicker or require a specialized application method.

 

We apply the paste in the same fashion for every cooler. After a good cleaning of the processor, we apply a dob to the center of the IHS, about half the size of a pea. We also apply four more dobs, nearer the corners of the IHS, slightly smaller than the one placed in the center. In our many years of testing, we do not get air trapped between the cooler and the IHS, and coverage is excellent. In fact, when we remove the cooler, the entire CPU IHS is covered, and we get just the slightest ridge of paste around the IHS where it has squeezed out any excess.

 

 

Overclocked Testing

 

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To obtain our overclocked settings, we made sure that this 6700K will pass 24 hours of AIDA64 and PRIME95 testing, which it does, and due to the increased temperatures with OCCT, we did not bother checking that test. At this point, we are still using the PWM control for the fans, but we have gone ahead and overclocked the processor. To get this chip stable at 4.6GHz as you see in the CPU-Z window, it requires us to set 1.325V to the CPU in BIOS, but in Windows, the reading is 1.335V at maximum. At this point, we left the XMP profile active, and while verifying all other voltages were in check, we did leave them on AUTO. For those who are curious, the System Agent is set to 1.168V, and the VCCIO is configured to 1.168V by default AUTO settings. Using AIDA64 voltage readings as well as the Monitor page in the BIOS, our ASUS Maximus VIII Hero does over volt slightly in all facets.

 

 

To obtain thermal results, we are running two tests this time, but both are running for 30 minutes of stress, and again the core temperatures are averaged to get the result we display in the charts. Audio results are captured in the same manner as they are for our Stock testing in our Overclocked PWM charts, but we will also offer another chart pair. For the last chart in both thermal and audio testing, we take one more trip to the BIOS, and in the Q-Fan controls, we change the profile to DC and set 100 percent to the headers. This way we can also see the maximum cooling potential of each submission as well.

 

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What you see here is the first of two results we obtained. Looking at the header of this chart, we have added "PWM" after the Overclocked Load heading, so that it is easy to see what exactly we were doing in this chart. This allows the coolers to do what they do, in a real-world scenario; as most consumers of aftermarket CPU coolers will be running their cooler in this fashion.

 

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Our second thermal chart for overclocked testing is what we offer with this chart. We made sure to add "12V" to the header, which means we are now running the fan or fans at full speed. While results on the last chart were a bit closer to each other, we hope the group widens in this chart, as it depends on both the fan and the cooler design, not the way in which the fans are programmed with their PWM fan curves.

 

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When it comes to noise levels when overclocked, we again will deliver two charts. This one is the "PWM" version in which we allow the fans curve to control the destiny of each cooler. For reference, the NH-D15 fans are spinning at 919 RPM, the NiC C5 fans are spinning at 1875 RPM, and the H80i GT fans are spinning at 1300 RPM in Quiet Mode, 1515 RPM in Balanced Mode, and 2246 RPM in Performance Mode

 

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In this "Overclocked 12V" chart, we are gauging the utmost in noise levels each cooler can produce. These results were obtained in the same manner in which we obtained all other sound measurements, but at this time, the Noctua fans were spinning at 1525 RPM, the Corsair in Custom Mode where we could set 100 percent to the fans were spinning at 2400RPM, and the Thermaltake fans were turning at 2073 RPM.

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