IntroductionA few weeks ago we looked at the Sunbeamtech Core-Contact Freezer, our first crack at a heatpipe to Integrated Heat Spreader (IHS) direct contact CPU heatsink. In retrospect, nothing other than the base was very remarkable; at least nothing that would lead us to believe anything other than the contact point would cause such great performance. The fan used from Sunbeamtech was a silent type that does not push a large amount of air, and this only confirmed that direct heatpipe to CPU technology is more than just a marketing tool.Today we will be looking at another direct contact cooler, this time from SilenX. The SilenX iXtrema IXC-120HA2 is very similar to the SBT CCF; they even share the same mounting hardware. While the two are similar, they are not identical. The SilenX version is more robust, giving us the option of using two 120mm fans (one on each side of the fins). This is a feature that SBT did not include with their offering. SilenX, just as the name implies is about quiet computing, and going dual fans should not be a problem with noise output given the fans acoustic rating. One look at the company's website and it is clear that SilenX prides itself on just how silent their products are. Actually, every product they sell, from heatsinks to power supplies are geared towards quiet operation. This puts the company in a strong position with the media center crowd and also those of us that have just outgrown massive power hungry systems. Today we are going to put the SilenX Xtrema IXC-120HA2 through our thermal chamber and see how it compares to the Sunbeamtech Core-Contact Freezer and all of the other CPU heatsinks we have tested in the past.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
All of the buzzwords are present in the specifications list for the heatsink and the fan. For the heatsink, we see a copper base and aluminum fins to dissipate heat. Not listed on the spec list is the four U shaped, oversized (8mm) heatpipes that contact the CPU directly. The fan for the SilenX iXtrema IXC-120HA2 is 120mm and rated for 36 to 84 CFM at 900 to 1700 RPM. That is a pretty wide range for the volume of air being pushed by the iXtrema ICX-120A2 fan, and it will be interesting to see what happens on our decibel meter when cranked up to 12 volts. The fan does use Fluid Dynamic Bearings, a technology that is used to reduce acoustic levels while providing longer fan life.After looking around quite a bit, I was finally able to find the cooler for sale at Acousticpc.com for 59.95. SilenX has several retail and e-tail companies that sell their products and the IXC-120HA2 is relatively new so I am sure it will not be long before their larger partners like Fry's, Newegg and Micro Center start carrying the newly released product.
Right from the start SilenX tells you what their new cooler is all about; cool, quiet operation. At the bottom they state that the cooler is designed for gamers and overclockers. Several other product statements are also made right on the front of the box.
The side shows a trio of product images from the features list and describes what they do.
The back of the box has the list of specifications and CPU compatibility chart.
There isn't much listed on the other side other than the RoHS logo meaning that the product meets the requirements for this standard.
Once opened up I found that the cooler is well protected against damage by a formed plastic casing.
Deja vu; the cooler is neatly identical to the SBT CCF, only the fins appear to be different.
From the side the differences start to stand out, you can see the channel in the fins that allow for two fans to be installed, one on each side of the fins.
Here we see that the pipes go all of the way to the top of the coole,r but they don't protrude past the top fin.
From the top you can see that the top fin is also a cover for the heatpipes. In the past I heard from several case modders that they would love to get rid of unsightly heatpipes sticking out of the top of their coolers.
With the fan installed you can see that the fins do not stick out past the fan much. Also, the fan is a little unconventional; the fins protrude into the center circular hub to grab just a little bit more air.
The cooler uses the wire hanger method and SilenX includes enough hangers to mount two fans on the cooler.
Here we see the meat and potatoes of the cooler, the contact area. As you can see, heatpipes do not polish up well but our previous testing proved that it didn't matter too much for performance. I am still amazed at how flat the base actually is and the heatpipe to aluminium alignment.
The aluminium is there to secure the mounting mechanism to the cooler. From the factory it is setup for both Intel and AMD operation since the same bracket is used for both.
Accessories and Documentation
Accessories and Documentation
The mounting hardware is pretty straight forward and you do not have to remove the motherboard to install the cooler for Intel or AMD configurations. The IXC-120HA2 comes with a fan speed adjustment that is setup for internal use. There are also four wire fan hangers from the factory so you are all setup to add an extra fan if you choose to.
The instructions list six easy steps for installing the cooler. Everything is covered including the way to mount the cooler with the heatpipes facing the proper direction.
Test ResultsTweakTown uses a different method for testing CPU heatsinks which allows for an even playing field across all product tests. We feel that by using the same ambient temperature and strict lab-like testing procedures we are able to accurately compare one product to another. More information on our testing procedure can be found in the T.E.C.C. article here.
The moment of truth for the SilenX IXC-120HA2, and as you can see the cooler is a real performer. We have tested other coolers that perform a little better so let's take a look at the acoustic footprint and see how quiet the cooler is.
Here we see that not too many coolers are quieter than the IXC-120HA2, and when you add in the performance numbers we see that the SilenX flagship is a well rounded product offering good performance at low acoustic levels.
Final ThoughtsEven though SilenX is coming from a Chinese ODM manufacturer, SilenX is doing a good job making the design their own by attaching an attractive top and including a high quality fan. The fin design allowing the use of two fans is also a nice feature for those looking to push their CPU with overclocking. The cost is the only drawback for the IXC-120HA2. At nearly 60 US Dollars, it costs more than double the ZEROtherm Zen FZ120; our current price/performance leader. The IXC-120HA2 does perform better, but you are going to pay a premium for it. Now that we have tested two direct contact CPU coolers, it is clear that the first test was more than a fluke and that this technology will give a CPU cooler an instant performance boost. I am sure that direct contact coolers will eventually become as common as heatpipe coolers. SilenX got in on the ground floor and will no doubt continue to be a leader evolving the technology, making them a company to keep an eye on.
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Chris Ramseyer started his career as a LAN Party organizer in Midwest USA. After working with several computer companies he was asked to join the team at The Adrenaline Vault by fellow Midwest LAN Party legend Sean Aikins. After a series of shake ups at AVault, Chris eventually took over as Editor-in-Chief before leaving to start Real World Entertainment. Look for Chris to bring his unique methods of testing Hard Disk Drives, Solid State Drives as well as RAID controller and NAS boxes to TweakTown as he looks to provide an accurate test bed to make your purchasing decisions easier.
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