I'm accustomed to having heatsinks shipped to me in some pretty flimsy boxes or in a plastic container, but this one comes shipped in style. The heatsink is shrink-wrapped, and the container is custom made for this particular unit. The protection provided by the box alone will nearly guarantee a safe shipping to anywhere in the world!
The fan shipped with the test unit was the Melco 24-CFM 60mm fan that only puts out a pleasing 38 dBA of sound. They also sell this unit with the ever popular Delta 38-CFM fan that puts out a whopping 46-48 dBA of sound. Since I have a few Deltas sitting around my work area, I'll test out both varieties of fan and give you an idea as to the actual performance levels of this heatsink.
Something that I noted right off the bat is that the entire unit comes unassembled. That's not a problem, but it is unusual unless you've gotten an Alpha unit lately. The instructions provided, however, make the assembly a no-brainer. Between the written directions and the pictures included, putting it together was a snap.
The heatsink is all copper. It consists of a series of pins instead of the usual fins that go through a unit. There are a total of 294 pins on the sink and it measures in at 56mm x 58mm x 66mm with the fan installed. The copper construction will help dissipate the heat at a much better rate than aluminum will, so I am expecting better than average temperatures from it even before installing it.
The base of the heatsink was very smooth and buffed to a near mirror finish. This is a very nice feature to have right from the factory as it will save you a good bit of time in lapping the base for a better installation. Also it was nice to have no thermal pad glued to the bottom of the base. While I can understand why retailers use them, it's still a real pain to have to remove them when you're looking at getting the best performance possible.
I have never used a Melco fan before, so I didn't really know what to expect before testing. It is a standard 60mm x 60mm configuration, and from the information provided from Kanie, it has a 24-CFM airflow rating, emits 38 dBA of sound, and spins at 5400 RPM. Even though the sink itself is copper, I wasn't really expecting a whole lot out of a fan that has such a small amount of airflow potential. I have generally found that the slower fans tend to make a dramatic difference in the overall performance of the heatsink. To give a small precursor to the testing, let me just say that it surprised me.
The fan itself came with a 3-pin connector for installing it straight to one of the motherboard fan headers. Since it isn't one of the fast 7000 RPM fans, there will be no problems at all with this setup. It also has the third wire on the fan that allows for you to monitor the fan speeds through either the BIOS or software. This is handy for those who want to keep an eagle eye on their systems cooling.
One good thing that I noticed about the fan was that the decibel rating wasn't exaggerated. This fan really is quiet. After running sinks with the Delta fan for so long, I had to open up the case and peek inside just to make sure that the fan was actually running. It was a very pleasant surprise to have the system running and not making that notorious whining sound.
They say that with the good, you'll find some bad, and unfortunately this sink was no exception. Though it still seems minor to some, I just find it a minus to the product when you purchase a so-called high end heatsink and it doesn't have a fan grill installed. With systems running hotter and hotter all the time, additional fans are becoming more common on the inside of the case. These added fans need power, and the cabling can easily get caught in the fans that sit atop the heatsink. It just shouldn't be asking too much for a grill.
The Clipping Mechanism
Take a look at the clip folks. I have heard of more than one person who has managed to break off one of the studs used to hold your heatsink in place, and it's normally the center stud that gets the brunt of this abuse. Enter the solution to this problem. The clipping mechanism for the 294M uses all three studs on both sides of the socket!
Not only does it allow you to install the sink with a broken stud; it also gives a much more even pressure after it is installed. It took little effort to attach the clip to the socket studs, and once it was in place, there was no side to side movement of the sink on top of the processor. Once it's installed, you don't have to worry.