HSF Mini-Roundup - IntroductionIntroduction
It has seemed to me lately that many folks who used to be avid AMD enthusiasts have gone over to the Intel side of the processor war. What with the newer chipsets allowing for overclocking reminiscent of the old Celeron 300 days, it really doesn't come as much of a surprise.But there are still a large group of us who follow the ways of the AMD Athlon XP, and quality cooling is still as important now as it was when overclocking became a new buzzword within our little community.That said, we're going to take a look at a trio of coolers for the AMD range of processors and see what new innovations have come about in this latest batch of goodies. With all the emphasis on looks lately, we still need to take a hard look at the cooling capabilities of modern heatsinks.So sit back as we pit three coolers head to head and see where they come out of the fight. We'll look at the Scythe Arctic Cooling 2L
, the Vantec AeroFlow 2
and the Thermaltake POLO 735
HSF Mini-Roundup - ScytheScythe Arctic Cooling 2L
Though Scythe isn't an old name in the enthusiast community, they began making a name for themselves when they brought out the Kamakaze HSF a while back. It was a performance cooling solution that made many stand up and take notice. Their latest model appears to have moved more to aesthetics than performance, but it is still rated for processors up to the Athlon XP 3400+. It is pretty good since there isn't a processor of this caliber available yet, but it should be able to handle the stress we're going to put it through.
The fan of the Scythe unit is not attached in a conventional manner. Instead of being mounted with screws (allowing for us to remove it properly), it is adhered to the heatsink itself with what looks to be a silicon compound similar to what you would use in your bathroom.The fan is an 80mm type that sits 37mm in height, mainly due to the design and lighting effects that are built in. Yes, this is a lighted fan so will set off an enclosure with a windowed side panel. The fan spins at a maximum of 2800 RPM and emits less than 24 dBA at full power. And as you can probably tell by my description, you can control the fan speed.
This is accomplished by means of a simple 3-way switch that occupies an empty PCI slot. Since I like it when manufacturers keep things simple, I was happy to see nothing more complicated than HI, MEDIUM and LOW speed settings.
The heatsink itself is made of aluminum and has a copper base melded to the bottom. While the base didn't appear to have any flaws, it also didn't have much of a shine either.
The clipping mechanism looks to be pretty standard fare, but it attaches at an unusual angle. With the mainboard already installed in my system, I had to attach the clip from the back side (which also has a lip for a screwdriver). There was simply no room in the case to hook it up from the proper side of the cooler. But even so, there were no issues with slippage or seating when it was installed in this manner.
HSF Mini-Roundup - VantecVantec AeroFlow 2
Our next contestant comes from Vantec. This, I am sure, is a company name you will readily recognize as they have been in the business of enthusiast cooling for several years now. Their latest design was created to try to find a compromise between performance and noise.The heatsink itself is an aluminum type with an offbeat fin pattern similar to what we saw with the Thermal Integration coolers a while back. There is a copper core which rises from the center through the body of the sink. It is designed to allow the heat to travel through the copper core and then be dissipated by the aluminum fins. Let's take a quick look at what I'm talking about.
The copper core had a smooth finish but was not polished. In theory, this should work out pretty well since it did for the TI cooler, but this one utilizes a smaller fan so we'll see if the compromise paid off.Speaking of the fan, it is a smallish model measuring 70mm x 70mm x 20mm, spinning at 4000 RPM and putting out about 34 CFM airflow at a noise level of 35 dBA. I would have shown you a better picture of the fan, BUT...
I'm not sure who the rocket scientist is that came up with this brainstorm, but they ought to be shot. This type screw was designed for the automotive industry when backyard mechanics were taking away too much business from the professionals. They began using strange shapes requiring special tools that cost a large amount of money. Since many of these shade tree mechanics didn't want to purchase these special tools, they began taking their vehicles back to the professionals for maintenance. Now I don't know about you, but I can promise you that nobody, and I mean NOBODY
, gets under the hood of my PC besides me. Add to this the fact that I already have a tool with this pattern, I was even more surprised to find it didn't work because the small size of the head made it useless.
Power for the fan is accomplished by means of a 3-pin connector only. An adapter for a standard Molex would have been nice, but you shouldn't run into any problems as the power draw is only rated at 2.88 watts and 0.24 amps.
The clip of the AeroFlow is a bit old fashioned, but it worked flawlessly without tools. I was able to easily install the cooler without resorting to a screwdriver and the unit was firmly in place when I had finished. There was no excess movement at all once it had been hooked up.
HSF Mini-Roundup - ThermaltakeThermaltake POLO 735
Last but not least in our mini-roundup is the newest Thermaltake cooler. For those who might have been sleeping for the past few years, Thermaltake has made a living out of enthusiast cooling. While they have branched out into other directions lately, their core product line almost always still revolves around cooling of some sort.A quick glance makes you think of the recent Volcano 12 cooler (mainly due to the huge fan), but this isn't that model. Though very similar in design, the new POLO series is designed to be used on Athlon XP, Athlon 64, and Intel processors. It comes with all clips necessary to handle any or all of these cooling tasks.
The sink is the only all copper model in this roundup. But not only is it all copper, it is BIG! Measuring in at 82mm x 66mm x 49mm, it stands apart from most other coolers in its class. Of course cooper material and mass are two essential components in performance cooling, so we may just be onto something.For those worried about weight, the entire cooler (fan included) weighs in at a massive 708 grams (that works out to just over a pound and a half for you non-metric types). While I had no problems with moving the system around in my test area, I would strongly recommend the removal of this cooler before taking it to your next LAN event. It is entirely possible you will end up about six lugs short on your socket!
Since the theme of this cooler seems to be BIG
, it would be a shame if the fan didn't follow suit. Measuring in at 80mm x 80mm x 32mm, this behemoth spins at a maximum of 5500 RPM while putting out nearly 73 CFM airflow at a maximum sound level of about 48 dBA. Of course, with a fan this large you will find there are ways to keep the speed (and noise levels) lower when not needed.
As with most of the fans coming from Thermaltake these days, you have several choices for fan control. Above you will see this model comes with two different rheostat devices. You can either set one up in a vacant PCI slot on the back or give yourself control from the front by installing the 3.5" control panel in an empty floppy bay.If you prefer to let the fan do the thinking for you, there is a thermal probe included that allows you to have the fan speed automatically controlled. While this science is getting better all the time, I still prefer to make adjustments myself when it comes to fan speeds; particularly when it comes to cooling the processor.The final manner of fan speed control is no control at all. Place the included jumper on the fan and it will run at full speed at all times. This will be the setting used for our testing of this sink.
Moving to the base of the sink, we see it is basically the twin brother of the Volcano 12 model cooler. There are some light machine markings seen in the base, but the surface was smooth to the touch. Some lapping would do wonders, but as always, we'll test the cooler in the condition it comes to you.
HSF Mini-Roundup - TestingTesting
Testing of these heatsinks will be done in the same manner as we have previously used, but with an addition. While the database used for results are primarily done on an older Thoroughbred core processor, the Barton core with its overclockability has become too popular to ignore. So in addition to our normal testing, we'll also be running a 2500+ processor at 2.2GHz to see how it handles a more modern system.Let's take a look at the test system:Xoxide modified Lian-Li PC60 Case (supplied by Xoxide
)Soltek SL-75MRN-L Motherboard (supplied by Soltek
)AMD Athlon XP 1800+ ProcessorAMD Athlon XP 2500+ Processor @ 2.2GHz512MB OCZ PC3500 Platinum DDR Memory (supplied by OCZ
)Sapphire Radeon 9800 Pro "Ultimate Edition" (supplied by Sapphire
)Western Digital 80GB Hard DriveArctic Silver IIITesting conditions will follow my standard guidelines concerning coolers. Ambient temperature is kept at a regulated 21C and the cooling system will be tested in a closed case. The processor voltage was set to 1.8v and memory was set to 2.8v. Temperatures are measured at idle after 15 minutes of no activity, measured again after a rugged Quake III Arena Deathmatch, and a final time after a continuous demo looping of 3DMark2001. After these temperatures have been recorded, we'll boost the FSB to 145MHz and run it through the same series of tests. The moderate overclock of only the FSB will allow the processor to do the work and not share the load across the entire system.For the Barton processor the testing and settings will be identical to those listed above with one exception, the VCore will be set to 1.65v bringing the estimated heat output to just over 82 watts.Temperatures - Idle
The Thermaltake unit takes a healthy lead from the start, but considering the mass and the size of the fan, that isn't much a surprise. But let's go ahead and add a little heat to the picture and see what happens.Temperatures - 3DMark Demo
While the Scythe was able to do a better job handling idle temperatures over the Vantec cooler, that changed when we began allowing the processor to do its job. While the numbers aren't terrible, they are a bit higher than we're used to seeing with modern coolers. But even when overclocking the Thoroughbred processor, all coolers are able to stay under the 45 degree threshold I tend to use for quality cooling.Temperatures - Barton Processor @ 2.2 GHz
When I introduced the Barton test above, you'll recall I mentioned the estimated thermal output of a little over 82 watts. The Thermaltake monster just keeps plugging along as expected. Even the Vantec cooler maintained at a level that was expected with the higher heat output. The Scythe cooler, on the other hand, reached its ceiling as far as performance was concerned. While testing I began to pick up a few glitches along the way that pointed to heat problems, so I threw all the power I could at the processor loading it to run at as close to 100% as I could manage and began getting heat related reboots and system lockups. This is something to keep in mind if you plan on using an enthusiast rig.
HSF Mini-Roundup - ConclusionConclusion
When it comes right down to it, you have to make some firm decisions where your cooling is concerned. Several years ago it wasn't even necessary to cool a processor and a system could pretty much be fan free. With the advent of more powerful systems, active cooling simply had to be utilized to make a stable platform. Enthusiast rigs, being driven to the utter limits of the performance spectrum, require even more thought where cooling is concerned.So do you want something that is quiet or do you want something that looks good? There are several choices for either outlook and many of them are becoming very pleasing to the eye. So where do YOU want to be in terms of cooling and noise?If you're leaning toward a moderate overclocking for your system, then the Vantec is the clear winner in that particular category. It offers decent performance and will easily handle the rigors of modern systems without creating a noise level that scares household pets. In this same category, the Scythe offers good looks but marginal performance. With a test system clocked at 2.2GHz (the same speed as a modern 3200+ processor), it just wasn't able to provide a steady diet of heat dissipation that is vital to your rig.If you're more of the "I want the best" mentality, then you'll do well to look at the Thermaltake beast. For best performance you'll probably want to invest in some good earplugs, but it manages to do a fine job with all cooling chores no matter the level of stress. It does allow for lower fan speeds, but you will see a certain degradation of performance once you get to a low fan speed. This is because the slow fan speeds just can't get the heat away from all that copper. So be prepared for some noise, but also some exceptional cooling.Once you have made the decision regarding what type of system you want, you can go about picking the right cooler. It really just depends on your own personal tastes and desires.Scythe Arctic Cooling 2L Rating - 7 out of 10Vantec AeroFlow 2 Rating - 8.5 out of 10Thermaltake POLO 735 Rating - 9.5 out of 10 and TweakTown's "MUST HAVE" Performance Award