First off, if you came here looking for the same old boring test specification found at other sites that publish Heatsink reviews then you’re in the wrong place. We at Skinnee Labs are not here for publishing fluff pieces, we aim to provide an in-depth look at every product we test… including air coolers. So what you will see in our specification is every little piece detailed, clarified and as many variables eliminated as humanly possible (minus an environmental test chamber). After all, we want to know how well each product performs and where to spend our money as well… we are enthusiasts just like you are. With my little soap box paragraph out of the way lets cover the methodology.
We test each air cooler in its “stock” form, that includes the mounting system shipped with the cooler and stock or provided. After stock testing, common/universal fan testing begins. We do this so you can see the “out of the box” performance as well as a direct comparison to all other coolers tested. Once the cooler is mounted, preliminary runs are started in order to find the best orientation (ie: fans parallel or fans perpendicular to socket arm) for the full logged test runs. Our preliminary testing is a shortened version of the full runs, and the data of these preliminary runs are thrown out since they do not meet the requirements for data comparison. For each mount, the cooler is completely removed, cleaned of TIM and remounted, the chip is also cleaned. Once both are clean, TIM is reapplied using the 2 grains of rice method. The test run begins as soon as the machine reaches the desktop and the load and monitoring applications are configured for the run. We follow the multiple mount test methodology for all coolers, this helps to eliminate mount variation in our data calculations as well as bring to light any difficulties in properly mounting the cooler to the chip.
Sensors are deployed on the intake and exhaust of the cooler, the intake provides the Air In temperatures and exhaust provides the Air Out temperatures. Core temperatures are monitored and logged using the on-die DTS sensors. We do not modify the CPU IHS in any way, as this completely changes the IHS and therefore does not represent ‘real world’ environment (I could go on about this, but I will spare you from my rant). Various fan speeds were preselected for the common/universal fans (Scythe Gentle Typhoon 1850) that were used for every cooler. In the case where a fan(s) is included with the cooler, the fan will be used at full RPM in addition to attempts at a minimum RPM setting as well. All single fan runs have the fan in push configuration. To note, not all included fans will be able to run at a minimum setting.
Now, lets that the overall methodology and go into details on the test procedure. Three (3) mounts are performed for each given fan speed. Each of the tests is conducted in identical manner to all others. The processor IHS and heatsink are cleaned using GooGone on a paper towel, followed Arctic Silver cleaning agent #1 applied to the chip and cooler then wiped with a coffee filter, finally cleaned by surface preparation with Arctic Silver #2 and coffee filter wipe. Thermal Interface Material (TIM) is then applied to the IHS using the blob method, where the blob is the size of 2 grains of rice. We do not spread the TIM out on the chip, mount pressure from the cooler will spread the TIM on its own. The cooler is then mounted onto the IHS using the stock instructions; I follow the factory instructions as that is what the majority of users would do upon purchase and installation. If additional experimental tests are performed, the same mounting and cleaning methods are followed. Any and all variations from the factory instructions are detailed in the tests notes. Once the cooler is mounted, cables plugged back in, fans connected, machine is booted and in windows, WinTest is configured followed by the custom settings in Prime95 and the test run is started.
Each test run is 60 minutes long with a 30-minute warm-up and 30 minutes of data used for calculations. A 30-minute warm-up gives adequate time for the CPU to reach maximum temps under load. After each run, files are copied to a network share and the machine is shutdown for the cleaning and mounting process to begin.
Below is list of all of the tools, gadgets, goop and hardware used for testing.
One final item to note: For comparison purposes I selected the Noctua NH-U12P as the baseline standard of Air Coolers. I made this selection prior to the beginning of testing Air Coolers and for a couple different reasons. We already had the Noctua NH-U12P on hand before the bulk of Air Coolers started arriving and the Noctua comes with stock fans in addition to supporting 2 fans in push/pull and has a the best cross comparison capabilities.
There you have it, the full test methodology and specification. Without further delay, lets move on to the performance results…