You know, it seems to me that I remember when things first started with Xigmatek; I was told that there were certain things that were going to set these guys apart from all other companies. From what I can recall there was a specific comment made to me that the guys who got together to start up Xigmatek were tired of working for companies that keep building on the same line of products and don't come out with much in the way of innovation or design. Rather these companies would keep trying different wigs on the same pig, passing it off as something new and improved.
I guess I would get the concept of calling this a Dark Knight cooler, but I already have issue with just the naming. The Dark Knight SD1283 this new cooler is not. In reality this is a Xigmatek Balder that has had a special coating applied all over it. What was wrong with calling this cooler the Balder Night Hawk Edition since that is in reality what this truly is. I will give Xigmatek some credit on using the hardware from the Venus which we never saw, even though it is a take on a three year old design I've seen from Prolimatech years ago.
With my personal rants out of the way, I still will urge you to continue reading, as the Dark Knight SD1283 Night Hawk Edition has its plus side to it too. Getting past the confusing name, you will get a cooler with a coating like I have not seen on any other cooler. They did finally move to some good mounting hardware and as you will soon see on the results page, this is a respectable cooler.
Hang with me as I try to bring this cooler to you in a way that you don't just see it as a spray painted Balder.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
As I mentioned, even with the Dark Knight naming, Xigmatek starts with the Balder, keeping the same three 8mm heat pipes, the direct touch of the pipes to the IHS and the same fin arrangement and shape. This tower cooler is 159mm tall and only 50mm deep without the fan. The pipes are made of copper, the fins and base plate are made from aluminum and the entire thing is spray coated with a specially formulated ceramic coating that leaves a flat black finish to the entire cooler.
The fan that accompanies the Xigmatek DK Night Hawk Edition is the A1225H12S which just so happens to sport the same exact specifications as the 120mm fan with white LEDs that came with the Balder. This fan is capable of delivering near 90 CFM of airflow with a pretty good static pressure rating. This is accomplished with 12V running through the fan and the blades turning at near 2200 RPM. Xigmatek lists the feature that this cooler will accept a dual fan configuration and even includes the fans mounts to do so; I just wish they had included the fan in the kit.
The Xigmatek Dark Knight SD1283 Night Hawk Edition is currently available at three locations via a quick search with Google shopping. Since the cooler was just released the first week of May this is really good news. In that search I found the cooler is listed at Newegg.com for $49.99 plus $4 to ship it. So for essentially $54 you can have this tower cooler in your machine looking all flat black with the glow of four white LEDs coming from the fan to look at through your window. Considering most of the coolers we have seen lately, this price is very good compared to all of the others, in fact the Cooler Master TPC 812 is the only one which is really close in pricing.
With that in mind, let's get through the packaging, product images and the mounting of the Dark Knight Night Hawk Edition so we can get to the abuse and see just how well this cooler can stand amongst the rest of the coolers I have tested.
The front of the packaging is pretty busy to look at and absorb all of the information provided here. At the top is a look at the cooler inside along with the mention of "stealth technology" above the cut-away that allows a glimpse at the fan. At the bottom there is an image of a stealth fighter and the features listed to the left of it.
On this side there are two images of the cooler, one from the top and the other with the cooler lying on its side to show the black coating applied and the H.D.T. base.
The back displays the specifications chat most prominently, but at the bottom is a brief explanation of the ceramic coating technology along with a pair of images to show how the rough surface dissipates heat over the traditional aluminum fin.
The last side of the packaging houses more images of the included cooler to show again the coating, the hardware used to mount this cooler and what the cooler will look like if you buy another fan to do a push/pull configuration.
Upon opening the box you are immediately given the hardware bag as it sits in a cut out portion of the inner foam that supports the cooler below it.
The high density foam is in two sections. One layer of what surrounds the fan on the outside edges. This is why there is a cover laid over the fins with the second layer of foam surrounding five sides of the cooler body.
Xigmatek Dark Knight SD1283 Night Hawk Edition CPU cooler
The fifty-two fins, the three 8mm heat pipes and the aluminium base are all sprayed with ceramic thermal coating that leaves the cooler with a textured, flat black appearance like I have yet to see on any other cooler. This is what leads to the connection to "stealth technology".
From the side of the cooler you can see the center section is closed off while both the leading and trailing edges of the fins are left to allow a bit more air to "suck" into the cooler. It also allows for a bit of blow-by in the outlet of the cooler, but if you were to add a second fan that is negated.
From the top there is no mistaking this is a Balder cooler with the distinct shape of the fins. To tell you the truth, I'm not really sure which I like better, flat black or shiny nickel plating. The texture of the cooler will show scratches as it leaves whatever drug on it behind, as I found out with its use. So be careful what you may accidentally touch this cooler with.
After the cooler is sprayed it gets the base milled to remove the excess from disrupting the H.D.T. design of this base. For shipping purposes there is a sticker to protect the base that must be removed prior to its installation.
Since the valleys and gaps of this base are wider at the sides and really only about two-thirds of the heat pipes make full width contact to the IHS, you don't want to put the TIM on the CPU, but rather on each of the flat pipes, that way you don't "lose" TIM in all the gaps.
Here is the fan that is tasked with pushing air through the ceramic coated fins. This fan has a black frame and seven blades and the frame holds four white LEDs. This fan is PWM controlled and has a 4-pin connector to plug into the motherboard.
The fan fully covers the stack of fins. In fact, it hangs below and stands proud of the top of the DK Night Hawk Edition cooler. The focuses more of the fans air flow path on to the fins taking full advantage of the near 90 CFM this fan provides.
With the addition of the fan we have now jumped to a 77mm thickness of this cooler. If you plan to add another fan, you will take this measurement to 104mm. To be honest, seeing the cooler from this angle, I would have appreciated a solid black fan frame more than this translucent one supplied.
Accessories and Documentation
The hardware shown here includes the fan mounts at the top left with a package of TIM placed below it. The middle bag contains the Intel and AMD hardware for mounting the hardware to the board and the cooler to this hardware. There are shorter screws used for LGA2011 that are in the bag on the right.
Above the thumbscrews and washers we just looked at, you need to install a pair of the cross braces and they are marked for Intel or AMD and that leaves the mounting bar in the middle that holds the cooler to all the hardware.
Before you mount the cooler with the center bar seen here, be sure to place in the inserts, otherwise your nuts that secure this will dig right into the recessed aluminum holes.
The backplate is universal. Flip it one way and you are ready to use it with AM2 and up on the AMD side and if you flip it over you can install it with any Intel since LGA775. Speaking of the Intel mounting, you will notice three holes on each of the tabs; the plate actually will sit crooked for certain socket installations.
The paperwork sent along with the Dark Knight Night Hawk Edition is the User's Manual and the warranty information. The warranty info covers the two year plan, while the manual takes you step by step through the installation for either AMD or Intel processors. There are drawings and good explanations to guide anyone through the install, pretty painlessly I might add.
Installation and Finished Product
To get the motherboard ready you need the correct side support rails, in this case for Intel and mount the thumbscrews with threads on both ends through a washer and them into the backplate. To keep the support bars in place you need to use the thin thumbscrews for securing these.
The backplate is a plastic composite material and is not conductive, so no plastic stickers or foam layers are needed here. As I mentioned, you need to tilt the backplate depending on the socket, but allowances are made for the socket screws so that this can sit on an angle.
The recommended application style of TIM has been applied down the center of each of the three H.D.T. pipes. This way you get an even layer across the pipes and won't lose much needed TIM in the larger gaps instead of spreading correctly if you were to apply a dollop to the IHS.
At this point you set the cooler on the CPU and lay the mounting bar across the base. Allow the screws from the side supports to go inside of the sleeve in the cross bar and then tighten down the large nuts with the provided wrench.
Looking at the DK Night Hawk Edition from the top shows that this cooler is slim and doesn't take up much room, nor does it encroach too much on the memory or the PCI-e slot.
Even from this angle, without getting as close as I am about to in the next image or two, you can already tell there is no issues with running dual channel on a motherboard, even if you have taller heat spreaders on them.
If you own naked sticks like I do, then you will have no issues populating all four slots as the cooler sits a few millimeters taller than the PCBs do.
From this angle you can see that the Dark Knight just encroaches on the closest memory slot. Again I had no issues populating the slot with my sticks, but even something like Ripjaw heat spreaders will rub on the front of the fan.
I thought you might want to see what the Dark Knight Night Hawk edition cooler looked like while operating. Here it is with the fan powered at 12V and the white LEDs glowing with full intensity.
Test System and Thermal Results
I would first like to thank HIS and GIGABYTE for supplying products for me to test with.
Testing for the CPU coolers is done with the use of RealTemp to ascertain temperatures, Intel Burn Test to deliver the load to the CPU and CPU-Z to verify the CPU speed and the voltage being used in Windows.
For the "stock" runs, it's more of a plug and play setup where the PWM of the motherboard is in control of the fans speeds for both the idle and load results. For the overclocked runs, I load the CPU at 4.5GHz and idle results are obtained with 7.5V to the fans while the load run is set to deliver 12V to the fans.
For the sound testing results, I obtain those while I am controlling the voltage at 7.5V and 12V as well. Sorry for the change in the charts again, but I got the full effect of AVX support and 104 Gflops now, so the older results don't directly apply to the results I get now.
With the motherboard in control of the fan for both idle runs, I wouldn't expect much different results that what the Xigmatek delivered, it settles in the same as the rest of them.
The load testing is really good for a tower of this size. Considering it is smaller than the CM TPC812 at stock and at overclocked results is saying something. It also doesn't fall far behind the much more expensive and much larger Thermalright submission either.
Noise Level Results
37 dB audio results aren't all that bad; in fact this is slightly better than the original Dark Knight results and finishes in the top third of the list.
It also seems to have done a single dB better than the Achilles, but does much better than most other Xigmatek submissions up to this point. 52 dB is definitely audible, but not so much that it gets annoying and makes you wish for a more silent fan to replace it with.
While I may still think this is a rehash with a cool coasting applied and introduced under a name that is a bit misleading, in the end I really think the cooler has won me over.
I mean if I started reviewing coolers this year, hadn't already seen the Balder and wasn't into the large coolers that other manufacturers are offering, this sleek looking cooler does hang with the competition well for the size of it and with more money left in your pocket if you went with this latest submission from Xigmatek. From beginning to end, I was really left only grasping straws that I had already seen this design, from Xigmatek and under a different name. Essentially at this point if the word Balder had been used I would have nothing to complain about at all.
In more specific terms, the mounting was relatively easy to use and with the thin build of the Night Hawk Edition of the Dark Knight, using the supplied wrench to secure the cooler was easy to do. The rest of the install was basically thumbscrews and some rubber fan mounts that work as intended with no issues to speak of either.
As for the performance and sound levels, well it kept up with the much better appointed CM TPC812 with less surface area, due to the flat black ceramic coating. As for the noise levels, well they are better than any Xigmatek cooler I have tested in the past and the noise levels didn't get out of hand while accomplishing this. There is also the huge benefit that this Xigmatek cooler doesn't cause much of an issue with your memory and that is an issue with most others on these charts.
The one thing that will get most buyer attention is the relatively low cost of the Dark Knight Night Hawk Edition cooler. Most of the coolers tested along with this Xigmatek are in the $80-100 price range and on an even plain is the Cooler Master. Tying the results of the TPC 812 is something that sort of made me think something was wrong, but multiple runs, even a retest of the CM cooler showed me these results are spot on. Considering you can get this cooler delivered to your door for around $54 dollars, I can't see many buyers passing up this option in tower cooling.
It has the looks, the price and the performance to make it well worth your attention, even if it isn't exactly and entirely "new", Xigmatek is onto something with this design and ceramic coating combination.