It seems that every time you turn around, someone has another HSF to offer. To be honest, it is getting harder to tell which are good and which are not. Come join Mike "Darthtanion" Wright as he takes a look at the Cooler Master HAC-V81 HSF, or XDream for short. Our friends in Hong Kong have thrown together another in a long line of sinks, but this one costs a lot less than some others available. Could this low cost cooler be right for your rig? Lets find out!
IntroductionCooler Master has been around for many years producing items for the cooling of your PC; since 1992 in fact. Though they started off as a manufacturer of heatsinks that generally ended up in the OEM sector, they have recently become involved with the Enthusiast crowd. They have also gone beyond simple cooling and delved into the enclosure market as well, but that is a story for another time.To this end, we have come to one of their latest products, the HAC-V81 HSF unit which has been dubbed "XDream". This heatsink includes knowledge and research garnered from a ten year program and they have what they claim will "become an instant classic" in air cooling. Pretty large goals in mind, so let's get down to business and see if this new cooler has what it takes to earn a home within your system.
XDream HSF - The Cooler
The first thing you notice about the sink is that it is made of aluminum. While all-copper models were the rave not too long ago, a lot of manufacturers have been going back to a hybrid design using the cheaper aluminum and a central copper slug. Maybe the lower overhead costs are driving this concept, but I do wish that more would continue with the full copper design.Be that as it may, what we have is still a large mass of aluminum that still does a very passable job dispelling heat away from the processor. It measures in at 80mm x 69mm x 45mm and consists of 21 fins that go through the sink itself. The use of aluminum will help keep weights down and ensure that you will have no problems with the stability of it when using a clip to hold it in place.The Base
As I hinted to above, this cooler is a hybrid model that uses aluminum as the main sink material and also includes a copper slug in the middle. Since the copper is a better conductor of heat, it can do a much better job of passing that heat upward from the processor core so that the attached fan can get rid of it.The base itself is very smooth, but lacks the polish that some use. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, however, since I have found that several of these pretty bases have had a lacquer added to make it shine. This takes away from the copper's thermal qualities and can actually inhibit heat dispersion. Not so with this one, it is smooth and will require very little work on your part to get it looking like a mirror.The Fan
The fan is a Cooler Master model that measures in at 80mm x 80mm x 25mm and has a variable speed rating. This has become quite the fad lately and it is a very welcome one. We'll talk about how the variable speed thing works in a bit, but first we'll check in on the other features of this fan.The model used in this unit is a 12v fan that spins at speeds between 2500RPM and 4800RPM while producing upwards of 62-CFM airflow. The company claims a top noise level of 46dBA, but I'm not convinced of this figure. While I don't have any sound meters to physically measure the noise output, I do have an ear that isn't nearly as offended by this fan's maximum speeds as several others on the market. It is even quite a bit quieter than the popular Thermaltake fans that are often used.Also of note is that a simple device has been added; a fan grill. Nothing fancy, but then it doesn't need to be. Just something there to keep your wiring out of the spinning fan blades. After all, finger mend but wiring costs money.The Clip
When I first saw this clip I thought that it had a good look to it. The tab on top is large enough to actually use without having to resort to a screwdriver and the hinge is smartly placed on the front side. But then I installed the HSF and had to think twice about it.You see, the metal used in this clip was very soft and pliable. If you're the type user who throws a cooler on and leaves it there, then you'll do fine with this one. But if you're more like me and are always playing here and there, those coolers have a tendency to have to be removed. When a piece of metal is bent several times, it becomes very weak. This appears to be the case with this clipping mechanism. The operation is wonderful, but the material really needs to be a bit sturdier.Adjustable Fan Speeds
With the processor speeds going through the ceiling, cooling has become more challenging of late. It has been a common adage that if you want decent cooling, you need to also equate in a lot of noise. Remember those 60mm Delta screamers? It almost sounded as if your case was asking for clearance to lift off!But Power Users have rebelled against these high-speed fans that put out so much noise and gone with alternative fans. With the larger size of the 80mm units you can spin them at lower speeds but still attain workable airflow rates. But what happens when the processor speeds keep rising? The fans have to keep spinning faster to get the temperatures down. Such is the case with this model. The fastest speed is 4800RPM and while not totally outrageous in noise levels, it still manages to get your attention.Enter the ability to adjust the fan speeds. The method used for this cooler consists of a panel that fits into any empty PCI slot on the back of your enclosure. It is simple to install and simpler to use. Once it is in place, just give a quick twist to the knob and you'll be able to hear the difference.So if you're just doing some writing, office applications, listening to music or whatever, then you can keep the speeds of the fan at a minimal level and also keep the noise down to earth as well. But if you get a hankering for a Fragfest, then just crank up the fan and you'll get cooling levels more in line with a performance rig. It is as simple as that and the external accessibility is a very welcome addition.
XDream HSF - Testing
TestingNow for what we've been waiting for, cold hard numbers. The tests performed on this cooler will follow my standard guidelines for determining cooling performance on a heatsink. This will consist of measuring the temperature at idle, after a grueling Quake III Deathmatch, and finally after a looping run of the 3DMark2001 Demo. Once these results have been tallied, I'll boost the FSB to 145MHz and run the tests again. While not an aggressive overclock, it will serve to show how well this cooler does under both normal and overclocked conditions. Ambient air temperature is a stable 21C throughout tests and voltages are set at 1.8v for the processor and 2.6v for the memory.But before we start looking at the results, it might be a good idea to see what the test bed system consists of...Xoxide modified Lian-Li PC60 CaseEPoX 8K9A2 MotherboardAMD Athlon XP 1800+ Processor512MB Crucial PC2700 DDR MemorynVidia Reference Ti4200Seagate Barracuda 40GB Hard DriveArctic Silver IIITemperature - Idle
Not too shabby so far. We're only about 1.5-2 degrees off the Swiftech monster, but we've only been sitting here idle so far. Lets crank up the heat just a bit now.Temperature - Quake III Arena
We're still knocking in results that sit just 1.5 degrees off the MCX462+ cooler. This isn't turning out just too badly so far.Temperature - 3DMark2001 Demo Loop
Another test and another result tally of 1.5 degrees higher than the MCX cooler...again. Though the XDream won't break any records, it is managing to provide us with some very solid results in the cooling department. The consistent results also say that the fan attached to this HSF is working at a very stable pace. Whether running default speeds or overclocked, the cooler is performing its assigned function admirably.
XDream HSF - Conclusion
ConclusionAfter all tests were complete, I can say that I was fairly impressed with this heatsink. When I saw the aluminum body, I was not expecting this level of cooling from the XDream cooler. It was a pleasant surprise to be wrong in this instance.Another little piece of information that may make this an even sweeter proposition is the price tag. I found one listed at NewEgg for a paltry US$15! That's right, we're talking cooling potential that in the same ballpark as the mighty Swiftech MCX462+ at a third the price. This makes things look even more interesting, don't you think?But of course the sink isn't without faults. The clipping mechanism was a big disappointment since it is highly possible that you'll break it in the future. And a fully copper sink would have been nice as well, but the results are still not too shabby.Bottom line...If you happen to be in the market for a heatsink that gives very workable cooling, adjustable fan speeds that are externally controlled AND happen to be looking for this item for a small amount of cash, then look no further than the Cooler Master HAC-V81 HSF. You certainly won't be disappointed with the temperatures you get, but you might want to save a few dollars for replacement clipping mechanisms.- ProsExcellent cooling prowessVery smooth baseAdjustable fan speeds- ConsClip metal is very flimsyAluminum housingRating - 9/10
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