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Alpha PAL8942 Review

Most of us who have been using the AMD line of processors have long ago figured out that cooling is essential. But with the new interest in the Intel line mixed with the overclockability of the new Northwood processors, this idea is becoming a larger part of the Pentium Power System. Come join Asher "Acid" Moses as he takes a look at the Alpha PAL8942 HSF. It's time to see if the Alpha coolers can do for Intel what they have long done for AMD.
@TweakTown
Published Thu, Apr 25 2002 11:00 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:25 PM CDT
Rating: 95%Manufacturer: Alpha

Alpha PAL8942 - Introduction

IntroductionOver the past few years, overclocking has gone from being an insane past-time, only practiced by a handful of informed people, to an "art" that is the hobby of thousands of people all over the world. Whole websites and communities have been formed with their main goal being to teach people how to overclock their computers as well as to evaluate the latest cooling solutions on the market as they come out. People have gone to pretty crazy measures to ensure the cool running of their processor. These include water-cooling, vapor-phase cooling, and even liquid nitrogen cooling! However, these extreme cooling methods are not widely used yet. This is because, firstly, they are difficult to install, and secondly, they are often too expensive for the average user. For this reason, air-cooling is the most common cooling method used in computers at the moment. Today we are taking a look at a new heatsink/fan unit from Alpha, the PAL8942. The PAL8942 was designed to support the Socket 478 Pentium 4 and uses a similar design to its highly successful Socket A counterpart, the PAL8045. Are Alpha's Socket478 heatsinks as high performing as their successful Socket A range? Read on to find out!

Alpha PAL8942 - The Heatsink

Taking A Closer Look- The HeatsinkThe PAL8942 has dimensions of 80mm x 90mm x 42mm, which is much larger than what we are used to. The reason for this being that it has to be mounted using holes in the motherboard which are placed quite far away from the CPU socket.
The heatsink was manufactured using Alpha's famous "forging" technique. Its base features a copper inlay, which greatly increases performance due to the fact that copper is a better conductor than aluminum. You may be thinking "why isn't the whole heatsink made out of copper then?". The reason for this is because copper is also a lot more expensive than aluminium, and much harder to machine. Sticking out from the base is a plethora of pins. The reason why it was manufactured this way, instead of being one large block of aluminum, is because the more pins, the greater the surface area, and if you increase the surface area, it will result in increased performance.
Alpha have anodized the PAL8942 black. Most of Alpha's heatsinks feature this black coloring and it is important to note that the only difference between an anodized and a non-anodized heatsink is its looks. Anodizing a heatsink won't increase or decrease performance whatsoever.

Alpha PAL8942 - The Fan

- The FanAlpha usually ship their heatsinks off to resellers without a fan, so it is the reseller's job to supply a number of fans for the customer to choose from depending on what they intend to do with the heatsink. Obviously, people who want maximum cooling performance would benefit much more by having a larger, more powerful fan than a smaller, quieter fan.Our PAL8942 unit came from the kind folks at Coolerguys. Due to the fact that TweakTown is mainly directed at the hardware enthusiast or overclocking crowd, it is no surprise that our unit came with the largest, most powerful fan available. This was none other than the Delta 80mm x 80mm x 38mm Ultra High Speed Fan that pushes a massive 68CFM and runs at 4900RPM.
Performance does come at a cost though, and this cost is an increased noise level. The fan has a sound output of 48.5dba which is comparable to a 747 taking off or, more practically, a vacuum cleaner. Well, I might be exaggerating a little there, but the truth is that this unit is very loud; much louder than the stock Intel unit we used as a comparison. However, those looking for maximum performance have no choice but to put up with the noise as you won't get any better performance by installing a smaller, quieter fan.

Alpha PAL8942 - Installation

InstallationThe PAL8942 is mounted differently than most Socket478 heatsink/fan units, in the sense that it does not make use of the conventional mounting mechanism provided with most motherboards. Instead, it is screwed directly into the motherboard using the four mounting holes around the CPU socket. While this is a great method of ensuring that the heatsink is seated correctly and will not fall off, it may become a hassle for some of you because you have to remove your whole motherboard (or motherboard tray) to install/uninstall the unit.The unit itself has to be manually assembled, however, this is not too difficult and shouldn't take any more than five minutes of your time. Firstly, you have to screw the provided standoffs into the four motherboard holes surrounding the CPU socket. Then you place four small springs into spaces in the heatsink and screw it (the heatsink) down onto the standoffs. After the heatsink is in place, the fan can be installed. All you need to do is place the fan shroud on top of the heatsink and then the fan itself goes on top of that. Then it's just a matter of screwing the fan into place, plugging it into your motherboard and you're ready to go.This may be difficult to understand in text, however, Alpha supplies a small booklet with the cooler that explains to you, with pictures, exactly how to install the unit.

Alpha PAL8942 - Testing

Testing- Test SystemProcessor: Intel Pentium 4 2GHzMotherboard: DFI NS70-ELMemory: OCZ 256MB PC2100 DDR SDRAMVideo Card: Prolink Pixelview GeForce3 XX-PlayerHard Disk: Quantum Fireball Plus LM 15GB 7200RPMCase: Lian-Li PC65Operating System: Windows 2000 ProfessionalSoftware Used: Winbond Hardware Doctor- TemperaturesTo measure temperatures I used Winbond's Hardware Doctor application that comes bundled with most Abit motherboards. I measured idle and full load temperatures, and SiSoft Sandra's burn-in feature was used to make sure the processor was running at full load. I then compared these results to my stock Intel heatsink/fan unit that comes with the Pentium 4 processor.
These results certainly prove that if you are an overclocker or just like to keep a cool system, you should always upgrade from the stock cooler that comes with your processor. The Alpha PAL8942 managed to significantly outperform the stock Intel cooler in both idle and load conditions. The largest performance increase, however, was seen under load where both units are really pushed to the limit.

Alpha PAL8942 - Conclusion

ConclusionOverall, I was very pleased with the Alpha PAL8942. It performed quite admirably and was a significant improvement over the stock Intel cooler. That said, this performance certainly does come at a cost. The fan supplied with the cooler was very loud and you should really hear it for yourself before purchasing the unit with such a large fan. Most resellers give you a wide variety of fans to choose from, however, the smaller, quieter fans will obviously give you slightly less performance.At a price of US$39.95, the Alpha PAL8942 is certainly one of the cheaper Socket478 coolers out there, with the reason for this being that it is made mostly out of aluminium. The bottom line is, if you're an overclocker and are looking for one of the best air-cooling solutions out there for your Pentium 4, you really can't go wrong with the Alpha PAL8942.- Pros* High performance* Relatively low cost* Copper insert in base* Fairly easy to install- Cons* Installation requires you to remove the motherboard* Fan is very loudRating - 9.5/10 and TweakTown's Editors Choice Award

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